Gyms and Fitness Clubs

Structuring Strength Training Exercises Into a Program


Now that you're schooled in the variety of strength training exercises available, let's look at how to put everything together into a program.

There is no one right program. We all have different needs, desires, goals and health histories that require analysis before an effective program is designed. For example, do you think the same training program would be given to a person who has had lower back surgery as for someone who is training to run a marathon? The answer is no! Programs need to be designed on an individual basis. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I get frustrated when I hear about people following programs they get from magazines. What can be even more frustrating are the people writing them. People are led to believe that just because a program is found in a popular fitness magazine it will work for them. This is not always the case. People need to be careful what they start. I guess, in the writer's defense, these programs are written with the intent that people who decide to try them know whether or not they are capable of performing the exercises.

Training Tip: A strength training program should be customized based on your health history, needs, and goals.

Beware, just because a program is written by someone from a fitness magazine doesn't mean it will work for you. Be careful what you read make sure you are physically ready for it.

With that said, I'm going to make some suggestions for putting together a general strength training program you can try, providing you can answer yes to the following assumptions.

The first assumption is that you already know how to perform the particular exercises chosen. Second, that you have no history of injuries or ailments that require specific concern (i.e., surgeries, heart disease, diabetes, joint conditions, etc.). Finally, that you are looking to just get started with a strength-training program and have no real specific needs but to get in shape.

If you answered yes to all of these, then the following suggestions will be helpful to you. However, you must keep in mind that eventually changes will need to be made.

A strength-training program should consist of exercises that work each of the major muscle groups. These include shoulders, chest, back, arms, midsection and legs. A group of eight to 10 exercises will generally cover all the areas of the body. I would suggest that you perform two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise.

A repetition is, for example, one bicep curl or one leg press.

A set is a group of repetitions. If you perform two sets of eight to 12 repetitions you are actually lifting the weight 16 to 24 times with a short rest in the middle.

I would suggest a one-minute rest interval between sets. This will allow for adequate recovery.

A question I often get is, "Should I do eight or 12 repetitions? Why is there a range?" The range of repetitions is there to monitor progress. You want to pick a weight with which you can correctly complete at least eight repetitions but not more than 12. If you are able to perform more than 12 repetitions, you need to add more weight. It's very important that you try to increase weight as soon as performing 12 repetitions becomes easy for you.

What happens in this instance is that the body adapts to the stimulus and it doesn't see the need for change. You need to create a new stress as often as possible. It is the adaptation to the stress that creates the change you desire.

I would recommend you strength train three non-consecutive days per week. However, if you are still feeling sore and are scheduled for another workout, rest another day. Your body is telling you that you are not fully recovered. Listen to it! The biggest mistake people make is that they do too much. Believe in the power of rest. It's important.

Training Tip: Change your exercise program every eight to 12 weeks to insure progress.

Although I recommend strength training three non-consecutive days a week, this is not the only way to do it. If you train different muscle groups, it is acceptable to strength train on consecutive days. Individual needs and goals will determine what is best for you. As I mentioned earlier, adequate rest is important regardless of your training style.

Strength training is a valuable tool when trying to get in shape. It is great for people of all ages; however, caution must be taken depending on your age and health history. Take the time to learn how to perform strength-training exercises properly. It will save you a lot of time, frustration, and potential injury.

It's important to remember that the recommendations I made are very general. A program can be changed in many ways. Variety can be sought in the form of changing exercises, repetitions, sets, rest intervals, frequency, and duration of the repetition plus many more.

It's crucial to remember, when designing a strength training program, to look at your own individual needs and desires. Then you can design, or have a personal trainer design, a program best fit for you.