Which Strength Training Program is Best?
Cruise the internet and you will find at least several dozen videos hailing the latest and greatest way to get strong. Each one claims to have the final answer to super-strength. And each of these has many followers who can attest to how strong they have become using a particular program.
The reality is that there are many ways to become strong. If you are a beginner, almost any program will work for you … for awhile. If you introduce resistance training to someone who has never lifted, they have no choice but to get stronger. First, because they are improving the neural pathways to the muscle and then because they are increasing the size of their muscles. At some point, your training will reach a plateau. To continue to improve your strength, you must follow the basic principles of strength training.
Muscles have to be challenged to change. Muscles have to lift more resistance than they are used to in order to adapt by becoming stronger. This is the first principle of strength training and is known as the Progressive Overload Principle.
The body responds specifically to how we train. If we train with heavy weights and low reps, we will be better at lifting heavy weights for low reps. If we train with light weights and high reps, we become good at lifting light weights for many repetitions. This is the Principle of Specificity – We get better at the things that we practice.
To continue to make progress, workouts need to vary. You can increase the weight you lift, increase the number of repetitions or reduce the time between sets to provide variety to your workout. Over time, if you do not change your workouts, usually a period of several weeks, the body will adapt to the same stimulus and stop changing. This is when you need to change up your program.
The Principle of Variation does not mean changing your sets, reps and exercises every workout to confuse your muscles. Muscles do not get confused! They respond to a stimulus and adapt based on the type and intensity of the stimulus. Constantly changing your workouts does not give the body time to adapt to the training stimulus and your strength results will be minimized with this approach.
Everybody is different and will experience different results from strength training. Different limb lengths, genetic potential, mobility and stability, nutrition, sleep and recovery are some of the factors that influence how a person responds to strength training. The Principle of Individuality shows that a training program must be designed specifically for each person based on their individual needs.
Once your strength training goals have been reached, you may want to stop training or cut back on the how hard you are working out. Training produces results as long as we train consistently. The Principle of Reversibility demonstrates that when we stop training, our bodies start to lose strength over time. Strength gains can be kept by using the Principle of Maintenance, but we must train hard enough to provide adequate stimulus to our muscles. Reduce the amount, intensity or number of training sessions to maintain your gains.
The best programs for anyone who has passed the beginner stage of lifting is to follow the principles of strength training:
Progressive Overload – Increase the weight, sets, repetitions or decrease rest time between sets
Specificity – Train for your goal. If pure strength is the goal, most of your workouts will be with heavier weights and lower reps. If you are training for shape focus more on higher rep sets and lower weights.
Variation – Change your workouts when you body starts to adapt. This usually takes 4-6 weeks depending on your age, how long you have been training and how hard you train.
Individuality – Results will vary from person to person. Learn what works best for your body and your goals and train accordingly.
Reversibility and Maintenance – If you stop training, you will start to lose strength over time. To maintain gains, train enough to provide the stimulus to keep your muscles strong.
The next time you are surfing the internet looking for a great strength program, keep in mind the basic principles of strength training to reach your goal and do not be taken in by programs based on hype and pseudo-science.
Strength for Life provides strength training programs based on real science and years of experience designing programs which produce results.