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Basic Strength and Muscle Weight Training Program

The Only Program You May Ever Need

By

Updated May 27, 2014

Dumbbell Curl

Dumbbell Concentration Curl

(c) ADAM

This is one in a series of regular weight training programs. Each program is optimized for a specific outcome including general fitness, weight loss, body shaping and sport-specific programs.

Basic Strength and Muscle

The Basic Strength and Muscle program is not just for beginners: you should use it if you want a formalized and precise program following casual experience with weights. As the name implies, it's an all-round program for basic strength and muscle building. This could be used in off-season training if your sport has elements of strength, power and strength endurance, which fits many sports. Consult your coach to ensure it doesn't conflict with other training priorities. Training programs are always most efficient when tailored specifically for individuals and their goals.

It’s worth reading the introductory weight training information before starting this program, or any program for that matter. The exercises use the standard free weights and equipment found in most gyms. All exercises can be done at home if you have the appropriate home gym equipment. A medical examination and clearance is wise if you've been sedentary for a lengthy period. Take care with injured or dysfunctional joints. Get medical advice before starting weight training if this applies to you.

The basic program includes:

  1. Warmup
  2. Squat (or leg press)
  3. Bench press (or chest press)
  4. Deadlift
  5. Crunch
  6. Seated cable row
  7. Triceps pushdown
  8. Lat Pulldown
  9. Overhead press
  10. Biceps curl
  11. Cool down, stretch

The Warmup

Warm up with ten minutes of aerobic exercise. This can be with treadmill walking or jogging, stationary bicycle, cross-trainer or stepper machines. Extend this to thirty minutes depending on requirements for fat loss. In any case, I recommend at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise at moderate intensity three times each week for all weight trainers in order to promote aerobic fitness. It need not be done at the same time as the weights session.

Warmups are important to get blood flowing to heart, lung and muscles and lubricating (synovial) fluid loosening the joints ready for action. Each weights exercise should include a warmup with light weights and practising the same form as for the workout weight. Sixty per cent of your workout weight is about right for warmups. Stretching is not so important before exercise and is better performed after exercise. Some light stretches will do no harm.

The Exercises

If you have little experience of weight training and free weights, you may wish to start with the machine leg press instead of the squat, especially if you're not accompanied by a trainer, helper or spotter. Even so, there is no reason to be intimidated by the squat exercise. It need not be done in a squat rack or power cage with the big bar and free weights to begin with, although squatting with the bar alone is a good way to practice form. Dumbbells or small-bar barbells or a Smith machine can provide reassurance for the beginner. The same applies to the racked bench press with heavy bar, which can be substituted with dumbbells or lighter barbells. The key is not to lift too heavy too soon.

Sets, Repetitions and Starting Weight

You will start with 1 set of 12 repetitions for each of 9 exercises for the first week. At workout session 8, you should have progressed to 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise. The weight you choose to start with will be sufficient to perform a set of 12 repetitions to failure with good form, which means that the twelfth repetition is pretty much the most you can do without resting. This is called 12RM (repetition maximum).

Various formulae exist for calculating what this starting weight should be, but I find it just as easy to trial different weights until you get to that limit. If you’re new to fee weights, this helps familiarization as well. Try an obvious light weight, for you, to warm up and then upgrade to something heavier for the workout set. By the third set you should have settled on the 12RM weight. If not, just move on and upgrade the weight next session.

The rest period between sets is variable according to your goals. For strength rather than muscle size (hypertrophy), longer rests are required – preferably about two minutes or more. For hypertrophy and elements of muscle endurance, shorter rest usually works best – around 45-90 seconds. Considering that this program is designed for a combination of strength and muscle building, you will rest for one minute if possible. Longer rests between sets are sometimes problematic in busy gyms but a longer interval than one minute is fine if that's what you require to continue.

When you see something like: Squat: 150x3x12, 60 seconds, it means 150 pounds (or kilograms depending on the source) for 3 sets of 12 repetitions with 60 seconds rest in between sets.

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