The body is a paradox- in order for it to become stronger, it must first be broken down through a challenging workout! This post focuses on how strength is built, and gives you a simple framework for designing your strength-training program. It’s not as difficult as it may sound! You can have your Strength Training Plan ready before your next gym visit.
Muscle Physiology 101
After a weightlifting session, the muscles say “hey, body, we need to step up our game. In order to do that, I’m going to need you to repair my muscles to be stronger”. And then the body says back, “Game on! Let me just repair these little tears in the muscles that you created by lifting weights, and as a result you’ll get stronger, and your muscles will get bigger”. Muscles are made of up of building blocks called fibrils. These fibrils get small micro tears when the body is challenged beyond it’s normal range of strength. An example of this would be during a weightlifting session at the gym. The body strains to complete the lift, and that strain is what cases the micro tears. If you’ve ever woken up after a challenging weight lifting workout and had a hard time moving, that’s due to these tears (and likely some lactic acid buildup). When the muscle repairs itself, it grows back stronger and ready for more challenges.
Build your strength training program
In order to gain strength you will first need to develop a strength-training program. The best way to build strength, of course, is to lift weights! We will walk through program design step by step right here, right now. Time to get your flex on!
Step 1: Plan how many days per week you can go to the gym.
If you’re not sure, 3 days per week is a good place to start. Plan on spending about 45-60 minutes at the gym in each session.
Step 2: Determine what body part(s) you would like to workout on each day of the week.
Keep in mind that your muscles will need 24 hours to recover post workout- so give them a break before training the again. Many people like doing a split routine. Here’s an example:
Day 1: legs
Day 2: chest, shoulders, arms
Day 3: back, obliques, core
Step 3: Select about 6 different lifts you would like to complete during each workout.
This can increase as your body adjusts to lifting.
Step 4: The order in which you complete your lifts matters.
Order the lifts by starting with the ones that work the largest muscle groups (for example, the quads) first, and then working to smaller muscle groups after (for example, the calves).
Step 5: Use a basic framework for building strength.
Plan on completing 3 sets of each specific lift, and complete 8-12 repetitions for each lift. Be sure to take about a 1 minute break between each set before moving on to the next.
Step 6: Be sure to include a 5 minute warm up before you begin lifting, and a 5 minute cool down / stretch at the end.
Of course you’ll want to warm up and stretch the muscles that you will be using during the lifts.
Step 7: Write down your entire plan, including each day, and the full week, on your phone or a planner.
That way when you go to the gym you can follow the plan as a roadmap and know exactly what to do. If you’re not familiar with the gym, use this exercise library to look up how to do each lift with proper form.
Here’s an example workout that follows the basic framework that we just covered:
Sample workout: Leg Day
Warmup: 1 minute jump rope, 2 minutes body weight squats, 3 minutes jog on treadmill (5 minutes total)
Squats with barbell 3 sets of 12 repetitions (1 minute break between each set)
Deadlifts with barbell 3 sets of 12 repetitions
Leg extension machine 3 sets of 12 repetitions
Seated hip thrusts with barbell 3 sets of 12 repetitions
Donkey kicks no weight 3 sets of 12 repetitions
Calf raises with barbell 3 sets of 12 repetitions
Stretch: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves. (5-10 minutes)
The body will become stronger as it is challenged through strength-building exercises. When lifting weights, the muscles often develop micro-tears. Once those tears repair, the muscles grow stronger and larger. You learned how to design your strength building program by following a basic framework.
BONUS: 5 minute video: What Makes Muscles Grow? By Jeffrey Siegel
About the Author
Aimee Frazier’s mission is to empower individuals with the tools and resources needed to live their healthiest life. As a Coach she has partnered with hundreds of clients in achieving their goals by facilitating empowering conversations about their goals and providing them with research-proven tools and education. Aimee is the owner of Emerge Health Coaching. She has her B.S. degree in Health and Human Kinetics.