Lifting weights on a regular basis boosts muscle strength, takes stress off your joints, revs up metabolism, improves balance, and increases your fitness level like nothing else.
In fact, regardless of your athletic ability or age, lifting weight is key for lowering your injury risks, improving your mobility, and boosting your performance.
I can go on and on about the importance of strength training. But you get the big picture. The benefits of strength cannot be dismissed, no matter what your training goals are.
However, do you actually know how to do it?
Do you know how to make a well-rounded plan?
A well-rounded strength routine will help you refine your body and build by targeting the weak points and stressing certain hard-gain areas.
The Good News
You can actually figure out the best exercises for your body and change up your routine—without the assistance of a coach or a personal training certification.
Designing your strength plan is not only straightforward, but it’s important. It gives you purpose. Otherwise, it’s like venturing down new territories without a road map. You’ll likely get lost sooner or later.
In today’s post, I’m going to teach how to design an intelligent, well-rounded strength training program that will get you the results you’re after.
By applying the simple principles shared below you won’t need to spend your hard-earned money on a good coach—and we all know that the good ones are worth their weight in gold.
But first things first, let’s take a look at the main muscle groups you need to train on a regular basis.
Your Muscle Groups
The human body is a complex machine. It has anywhere from 640 to 850 muscles—that may seem like a crushing number of muscles to consider, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.
Here are the major ones:
- Calves and
- The heart.
How To Get Started
There are many ways to start strength training. The abundance of choices makes the endeavor both exciting and intimidating.
Here are the most common options:
Target Muscle Groups
Most people get started with strength training the classic way: by targeting muscle groups. The body is usually divided into its primary muscle groups (the ones mentioned before) and trained accordingly.
This is also easy to follow a plan that can produce results, especially when applied in a bodybuilding program.
Shared below are some of the most common exercises you can do to perform specific muscle groups. As a rule, make it your goal to target your entire body through the course of the week.
Do the shoulders/arms and legs workouts on consecutive days, if possible. Then take a day off or cross-train, then do the chest workout, rest another day, then perform the back workout, take a day off, then repeat the entire cycle.
Do at least five to seven separate exercises that target the main muscle groups. That includes your shoulders, back, chest, hips, abs, and legs. Perform 10 to 12 reps for each exercise.
- Chest: Push-ups, bench press, incline dumbbell press, wide-grip dip, and cable crossover.
- Triceps: Pectoral flies, dips, triceps pull-downs, overhead press, body-up, and close-grip barbell bench press.
- Biceps: bicep curls, hammerhead curls, alternate hammer curl, barbell curl, cable preacher curl, and concentration curls.
- Back: Pull-ups, chin-ups, pull-downs, back-rows, deadlift, wide-grip pull-down, and dumbbell row.
- Shoulders: military press, shoulder raises, Arnold press, hang cleans, and overhead press.
- Legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back): deadlift, squat, leg raises, calf raises — lunges, one-legged squats, box jumps, good mornings, step-ups, and lying leg curl.
- Core (abdominals and lower back): planks, side planks, air bike, butt-ups, abs roller, ball crunches sphinx, mountain climbers, hanging leg raises, and so on.
- Heart: Sprints, Tabata protocol workouts, circuit training. Running, swimming, and other related cardio exercises.
Target Movement Patterns
If you’re serious about making the most out of strength training, forget about exercising specific muscle groups.
This method has actually many drawbacks such as contributing to muscle imbalances, general movement deficiency and poor developed technique patterns—all which may hinder you from reaching your full strength potential.
Instead, focus on targeting movement pattern variations. By doing so you’ll be able to reduce your injury risk and make your training as efficient as possible.
The fact is, regardless of your fitness goals, your routine won’t be complete without targeting these six basic movement patterns on a regular basis
Training movement patterns can also ensure that you hit every muscle group in your body without exception. That’s a good thing if you ask me
Here are the main movement patterns:
Once you master these basic movements, everything else will come easier and every strength session will become far more efficient. That means faster strength and performance gains, no matter what fitness goals you are chasing in the gym.
By doing so you’ll realize that there’s virtually an endless number of exercises that fall into these basic patterns—and that’s the true elegance of designing your own strength routine.
Virtually every exercise you perform at the gym will be based on these movement patterns, in one form or the other, and a well-rounded strength-training plan should target all of these areas.
You might target several movement patterns in a single session; you might also choose to focus on for an entire strength workout. That largely hinges on your training frequency, fitness level, and training goals.
Examples of Movement Patterns & Exercises
Don’t know what exercises target which movement pattern? Don’t worry, I got you covered.
Besides each pattern, you’ll find examples of ideal exercises with video links.
These recommendations are also catered for trainees who might only work out at home, therefore, might be only relying on their body weight for resistance or a set of dumbbells or kettlebells.
- Bodyweight squat
- Back squat
- Goblet squat
- Front squat
- Bodyweight Romanian deadlift
- Kettlebell swing
- Stiff leg deadlift
- Dumbbell Romanian deadlift
- Barbell deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlift
- Trap bar deadlift
- Barbell rack pull
- Walking lunge
- Goblet lunge
- Split lunge
- Reverse lunge
- Back foot elevated split squat
- Front foot elevated split squat
- Single leg deadlift
- Barbell bench press
- Dumbbell bench press
- Overhead press,
- Floor press
- Barbell overhead press
- Dumbbell overhead press
- Single-arm dumbbell overhead press
- Lat pulldowns
- Inverted row
- Chest support row
- Barbell bent-over row
- renegade row,
- bent over row,
- inverted row,
- TRX row
- Single-arm dumbbell row
- Farmers carry
- Overhead carry
- Mixed grip carry
- Front-loaded carry
- Unilateral farmers carry
Choose a medium to the heavy load that will fatigue you by roughly 8 to 10 reps. If you’re starting, finish two to three sets. As you get fitter, shoot for four sets. Just don’t forget to warm up first before you start throwing weights around.
Of course, rep count will depend on the type of exercise the trainee is doing and the amount of resistance he is using.
How Much Rest?
As a rule, aim for at least one minute of rest between each set. The heavier the weights, the lower the reps, and the longer the trainee ought to rest between each set. This helps the muscles rest and gather back strength for the next set.
Constantly Upgrade Your Routine
As a rule, make progress on every workout. It doesn’t have to be a huge step, but at least strive for gradual progress. Failure is not a death sentence—at the very least, it means that you have done your best.
Performing the same strength session every week will keep your body in the same place. You’re also placing the same stress on the same muscles, joints, and connective tissues every time you work out, which may increase your injury risk.
You can make your strength routine more challenging by:
- Increasing the number of reps or sets for a given exercise
- Choosing different exercises—or advanced variations of the ones you’re already doing
- Switching the order in which you perform the exercises.
For example, when you start breezing through a set of 12 hammer curls, either add another set of repetitions to your routine or simply ramp up the load used.