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Strength training is a form of exercise that is centred on building muscle, strength and endurance, usually through the use of weights and r...

Introduction to Strength Training Introduction to Strength Training

Introduction to Strength Training

Introduction to Strength Training

Strength training is a form of exercise that is centred on building muscle, strength and endurance, usually through the use of weights and resistance. 

It can be quite an intimidating journey to start on because when we think about training with weights, we often picture bulked-up men straining against a set of giant dumbbells. But anyone can take up strength training, and remember that everyone can go at their own pace (obviously, before you embark on any new exercise regime, lifestyle change or diet, you should always consult your doctor first). You probably shouldn’t jump straight to the big weights, either. You can make amazing gains from bodyweight exercises to begin with before adding more resistance.

After a few weeks of strengthfocused training, you’ll soon start building rock-solid abs, see some awesome gains and begin sculpting parts of your body that you never really thought about before. Using weights also keeps your body burning calories long after you leave the gym, so is great for people trying to lose some weight. This method of exercise will build lean muscle while losing body fat, it can help to strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of injury in general because you’ll be stronger all over. Some studies have also revealed that many people feel more positive about their body after taking up strength training, plus it has been found to boost mood and helps eliminate feelings of worthlessness.


If you want to take strength training seriously, we’d recommend approaching a personal trainer. If you are determined to go it alone, though, make sure you set a realistic starting point for your abilities and give yourself rational goals.

There are no rules on how often you should strength train or for how long, but it’s important that you listen to your body and also let it recover. If you are feeling fatigued, we’d recommend calling it a day and at first leave at least a day between each session. Consider starting with a short and simple programme that works out all muscle groups, as this will help to build a strong foundation for you to progress from.

As you increase weights and resistance, strength training can be dangerous if you aren’t doing it correctly. If by rep two of 10 you are struggling, you need to use a lower weight. In a 10-rep set, you should start to struggle around rep eight or nine – if this is happening, then you have chosen a good weight. As you get stronger you’ll be able to increase the weight.

Warming up before your session is extremely important, as it will mean that your muscles are less susceptible to injury. A light jog to the gym might be enough, but you should always do some dynamic stretches to get your blood pumping and muscles warm.

Another important thing to focus on when you are training is form. Good form means that you’ll get more from the moves that you are doing and avoid injuries. Before you start increasing weights, make sure your form is on point. Gyms are full of mirrors, so position yourself where you can see into one, or record yourself and watch the video back. Pay attention to your posture, make sure that you move with purpose and are using your muscles as opposed to momentum to drive the weights. Don’t hold your breath while you are exerting yourself, either – exhale at the hardest part of the exercise to fuel the movement.

Although we want you to approach strength training with care and safety, you should also make sure that you are constantly challenging yourself and ensure that you have goals to aim for. Just don’t overexert yourself. After six weeks or so, change up your routine and make it harder. Modify weight, amount or reps, choose new exercises or even change the order that you perform them.


REPS Short for repetitions – reps are the number of times you complete a single exercise before taking a rest.

SETS Completing a specific number of reps of a single exercise is called a set.

SUPERSET During a superset, you perform two or more exercises back to back followed by a rest period.

MUSCLE ENDURANCE TRAINING This involves performing repeated contractions with muscles or muscle groups for an extended period of time.

MAXIMAL STRENGTH TRAINING The ability to exert force on an external object like a barbell-based exercise – this would usually be just one rep.

EXPLOSIVE POWER TRAINING Combines strength and speed to increase your power. The goal is to be able to move heavy weights very quickly

Muscles explained 

Learn about six key muscle groups and the exercises to work them


This is a large thick muscle in the dorsal part of the upper arm, and the main function of the tricep is the extension of the elbow joint.


Connects the front walls of the chest with the bones in the upper arms and shoulders. The pectoralis minor and pectoralis major are found on either side of the breast bone. The pectoralis major aids with abduction and depression of the arm as well as rotation. The pectoralis minor aids in drawing the shoulder downward and forward.


The abdominal muscles support the trunk, and together with your back muscles, keep your body stable and protect your spine. They allow movement and hold your organs in.


This is a large thick muscle in the dorsal part of the upper arm, and the main function of the tricep is the extension of the elbow joint.


The biceps muscles are located in the front part of the upper arms and are connected to the arm bone. When contracted, the biceps pull up the forearms and rotate it outwards.


These are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks that help your body to stay upright; the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The maximus creates the shape of your butt and works when you raise your thigh, rotate your leg or thrust your hips forward. 


Sticking to a steady routine is key to working out. Here’s what you should need to keep in mind

The most important part of any workout plan is to have a goal that you can work towards and a means of measuring your progress week by week. Try your best to pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve.

Before you get started, take pictures of your body – you don’t need to show them to anyone, but they will help you to see changes and progress in your body. Measure the circumference of your chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves and upper arms – do this every week or two to monitor changes. Also, weigh yourself once a week.

Now think about what days you will commit to working out and decide on how to split them. If you are new to this kind of training, we’d advise planning to work out three days a week. It is also important that your workout programme reflects your goals. Consider focusing on different muscles or groups on each workout; train your back and biceps one day, chest and triceps on another, then your legs and shoulders on the third. If you were planning on working out for more than three days in a week, consider a corefocused day as well as a cardio day where you don’t push heavy weights.

Once you know how you’ll split your workouts, it is critical to make a solid plan for each one that includes what exercises you’ll do, and how many reps and sets you’ll do as well as how much you’ll rest between them.

Finally, you must also know how to progress. Make sure that you vary your workouts and make them incrementally more challenging. Consider increasing reps and/or sets as well as the weight that you’re lifting.

Five rules of strength training

RULE 1 Warming up is important You may not feel like you need to warm up, but as you progress and push weight and intensity up, your body will need a warm-up routine more than ever. Start each session with some dynamic stretching, a few bodyweight squats, lunges and walkouts to get started.

RULE 2 Prioritise your hips Not every move will come from your hips, but mastering the ability to generate explosive power through this area of your body is a key part of strength training and is transferable to pretty much everything you do with this type of exercise.

RULE 3 Focus on form If your form is off then there’s just no point in doing the exercises. Take time before you start building up the weight that you are lifting to nail down the fundamentals of each move. Foot placement is critical with this.

RULE 4 Focus and be confident If you go into a heavy lift with wandering focus or a lack of confidence, then you’ll have just set yourself up for failure. Remain focused and believe in your abilities. A strong belief in yourself will come from building up your strength and mastering form.

RULE 5 Rest days are important Once you are in the swing of things, you might feel like rest days are lazy and should be avoided. But this is wrong: they are absolutely crucial. Even if you don’t feel tired, your muscles and bodies need at least one full day of rest a week.

Build strength

Master these basic moves to start improving your strength


Start with bodyweight squats until you are confident that your form is correct. Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart, engage your stomach and glute muscles before lowering yourself down as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. Your hips should go backwards with your knees remaining over your feet. Hold your hands in front of your chest to help with balance. Straighten your legs up, squeezing your glutes as you do, and repeat. To build strength, hold a kettlebell or dumbbell to your chest as you perform this move – or squatting with a barbell will take this to the next level.


Begin with bodyweight lunges until you are confident that your form is perfect. Start standing up straight and then step forward with one foot until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle. If you can, allow your back knee to brush the floor. Now push up through your front leg and return to the starting position and repeat either on the same leg or alternate. If you don’t feel stable and are wobbling slightly, then try widening your stance. Take this move to the next level and build strength by adding in dumbbells or kettlebells – either hold one to your chest or one in each hand by your sides


Here we’ll talk you through a barbell deadlift. Put the lightest plates that you have onto a barbell to raise it off the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Position the bar so it is over the centre of your feet when you look down. To find your hand position, run your thumbs down the outer part of your thighs until they touch the bar. Bend your knees so that your shins touch the bar. Lift your chest and straighten your lower back. Take the tension out of the bar, take a deep breath and stand with the weight. Hold, then return the bar to the floor by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.

Glute bridge

A glute bridge is, unsurprisingly, great at working your glute muscles. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Next, lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders are positioned in a straight line. Squeeze your glutes firmly at the top and keep your abs drawn in. Hold this pose for a couple of seconds and then gently return to the starting position. Now repeat. You can take this move to the next level by putting a resistance band around your legs above the knees and when your drive your hips upwards, push your knees outwards against the band simultaneously.

Renegade row

This move requires a pair of light dumbbells or kettlebells – start with a lower weight than you think to begin with. Get into a press-up position with a weight in each hand. Brace your whole body and raise one of the weights while supporting yourself on the other. Pull your elbow straight back and pause when the weight is alongside your torso. Return to the starting position and complete the move with the other arm, now repeat. Your hips should stay still. If they are moving too much, make sure your core is engaged and consider a lighter weight. If the full press-up position is too much, you can drop down to your knees.

Dumbbell clean and press

Start with two dumbbells on the floor and your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at your hips, pushing them back and bend your knees. Grip the dumbbells and draw shoulders back and down, push feet into the floor and squeeze abs and glutes. Extend hips and knees to get the dumbbells moving up. As they pass your knees, shrug shoulders, squeeze glutes and use the momentum to get them up in front. Thrust elbow forward so you catch the weights at shoulder level, bending your knees. Tuck tailbone in, brace core and press the weights up overhead. Reverse the motion.