Strength training is an essential component of a well-rounded training programme, regardless of your main training goals. Whether your reasons for training are to improve aesthetics, reduce bodyfat, move faster over a short distance, become a more efficient endurance athlete, reduce general aches and pains or simply to improve general health, strength training in some form is a must.
Different coaches may have different approaches to suit the specific outcome for the athlete, but the fundamentals of strength training remain the same across board.
Why Train for Strength?
I’m often asked why. Why do I need to strength train, if my goal is (to drop body fat). In reality, benefits of strength training are huge, to anyone looking at improving any aspect of fitness. These Benefits (if implemented properly) can include:
Improved strength (surprisingly)
Improved body composition (more muscle and less bodyfat!)
Reduced injury risk
Reduced risk of illnesses including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis, as well as everyday illnesses such as colds.
Better movement patterns
Improved metabolic rate
Improved athletic performance (in both power and endurance events)
And many, many more. But let’s discuss some of the above.
1. Weights change your body composition for the better. The best way to a lean physique is to incorporate a healthy nutritious lifestyle and resistance based training. Why? Weight training will help you lose fat. More muscle means more calories burnt at rest. To much aerobic work can reduce your metabolic rate, which is why weights based training is more important than too much aerobic exercise.
2. Strength training can increase endurance in athletes and everyday gym goers.
This is done in several ways, by improving movement economy, and making adaptations to the muscle cells, improving the bodies capacity to transport oxygen to the muscle cells.
3. Strength training can result in improvements in sports performance
Whatever the sport, strength training would be a key part of the training routine to maximise performance. In addition to protective benefits against injury (discussed in the next section), strength is a fundamental part of vital performance components such as acceleration, deceleration, speed and agility, as well as endurance at higher force outputs.
This means the athlete can start, stop and change direction faster, and maintain a high “game pace” for longer. These actions tend to be the critical periods in sport, and can be the difference between winning and losing.
For most sports, these high power movements (and the ability to repeat it with short rest over a competitive duration) are more important than the ability to maintain a slow pace.
4. Injury prevention. Strength Training helps improve the strength of tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones. The stronger muscles and tendons help keep the body in proper alignment and supports the joints and bones under impact.
A Strength training program will help strengthen weak areas and balance the body for sporting and everyday activities.
Muscle imbalances are one of the main components to focus on, because if one or muscle groups are not as strong as it’s supposing muscle group then this can be susceptible to injury risk. A balanced strength training program will help cut out all of these risks.
It must be stressed here that the benefits associated will be maximised by working with qualified coaches and trainers. Strength training has huge benefits to most people. However, incorrect implementation of strength training can lead to reduced performance, increased injury risk, increased illness and fatigue.
Types of strength training
Powerlifts and multi joint high force movements.
Squats, Bench presses, Deadlifts.
These lifts include the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. However, in this context, we will discuss the lifts in addition to the derivatives (such as power clean, high pull, etc). These lifts are great (and could be argued essential) to a programme looking at developing power. The full body, high force, high velocity, plyometric and eccentric loading included in these lifts makes them an ideal method of strength training to transfer into sports performance. This will be discussed in more detail in a later blog.
A potential drawback of these lifts is the technical competency required to maximise the benefits of the lifts. As always, safe technique is essential. BUT sometimes, the “effective” part of “safe and effective training” gets lost. Training technique alone may be fine in some context, but to maximise benefits, we need to be able to produce high force.
This means a relatively high load. Here is where using the derivatives for the lifts can be a great asset. It allows for this high load work, without too much time being spent on technique (Eg. Working on a high pull and power clean instead of full clean).
Who should strength Train?
In short, strength training can benefit anyone looking to improve health, body composition or performance. Again, they key is making it appropriate! It is important to consider a young athlete with a low training experience will not train the same as an older athlete with high experience competing at their prime, who again may train different to the same age/ experience athlete from a different sport, or recreational exercise enthusiast.
However, implemented correctly, strength training can improve body composition, exercise performance, health and reduce injury risk across all athletes and fitness enthusiasts, regardless of age, experience, gender or goals.
Exercise Selection. In my opinion, the best exercises for strength are the big compound movements (multi joint) exercises.
My personal favourite exercise selection would be:
1. Deadlift (Posterior Chain exercise working hamstrings, glutes, lower back, upper back and Abs).
2. Back, Front Squats & Split Squats (All these place great focus on the Quadriceps, hamstrings, Glutes depending on depth and again the core muscles).
3.Pull ups & Barbell Rows (Pull movements, when it comes to upper body place great emphasis on the upper back muscles). The lat’s, rhomboids and trapezius groups. As well as a great lord on Grip and forearm strength.
4. Bench Press, Dips & Overhead Press (these pressing or pushing movements place tension through the pectoral, deltoid, and tricep muscle groups).
There are many different variations of these exercises to suit individual needs and goals. Please seek qualified experienced advice!
Any questions? Please leave in comments box 👍