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A Realistic and Effective Strength Training Program

Many weight lifters often don't have the most effective work out regime possible. This is due in part to so much conflicting information out there regarding strength training programs. If you happen to be sedentary and then start a weight lifting program even if you're doing everything wrong you'll probably end up gaining a little strength. However, if you want to maximize your time in the gym in order to achieve maximum benefits, then you need a plan.

This article will outline how you can achieve superior strength gains by spending no more than 2 hours in the gym per week.

First, you need to consider the muscle groups than you plan to exercise. Although there are literally hundreds of different strength training regimens, a program that works the upper body in one session and the legs in another session works well for most people. The routine looks something like this:

  • Monday: upper body
  • Wednesday: legs
  • Friday: upper body
  • Saturday: legs

The exact days don't matter too much, as long as you work each part of the body twice per week and allow adequate recovery between sessions.

Keep in mind that each workout is only 30 minutes long. This is important for a few reasons. First compliance. If you know that you'll be in and out of the gym in a half hour, you're more inclined to go. If your typical workout is 1 hour long, think of how many gym sessions you'll skip because you don't have an hour to spare or don't have the motivation or energy to spend that much time exercising. Almost everyone can spare 30 minutes.

The second reason why the 30-minute timeframe is important is to maximize muscle growth. People who rest for 5 minutes between sets are doing little to increase muscle hypertrophy. Rest periods of 1 minute between sets are ideal since this period allows you to lift relatively heavy weights while maximizing the enzyme levels that allow muscles to grow. Lastly, if you keep your recoveries to 1 minute, you will keep your heart rate high and most of your workout will actually be aerobic, thereby providing the benefit of strength and cardio all in one 30-minute session.

Now, the workouts go something like this:

Upper Body:
  • Dumbbell press 3 x 10
  • Deadlift 3 x 10
  • Dips 3 x 10
  • Lat pull down 3 x 10
  • Incline dumbbell press 3 x 10
  • Bent-over rows 3 x 10

Lower Body:
  • Squat 3 x 10
  • Hamstring curl 3 x 10
  • Leg extension 3 x 10
  • Lunge 3 x 10
  • Calf raises 3 x 10
  • Seated calf raises 3 x 10

That's it! 18 sets in 30 minutes. No slopping around 1 minute rest between sets. As simple as this routine looks, it actually employs several advanced principles of exercise physiology that ensure maximal muscle benefits. First, you will notice that the exercises are ordered as such: 3 sets of pushing, 3 sets of pulling, 3 sets of pushing, etc. This routine is superior to banging out all 9 pushing sets at once and then switching to pulling. After you complete 3 sets of dumbbell presses, your pushing muscles will be tired but your pulling muscles will still be fresh and they will be somewhat lengthened. When a muscle contracts, the antagonist muscles the muscles opposite to them lengthen. A muscle can generate more force when it is stretched compared to if its not. And since you'll be able to generate more force with each set, you'll be lifting more weight, which will ultimately result in greater muscle growth.

Try this experiment if you still have doubts. Go into the gym and do as many dips as possible. Then, a few days later, go into the gym and start with 3 hard sets of lat pull downs, rest for a minute of two, and then do as many dips as possible. It is guaranteed that you'll see a noticeable improvement in dips after doing the lat pull downs beforehand.

You will also notice that each set specifies 10 repetitions. This means that you should select a weight where you reach failure at 10 reps. If you can do 14 reps, then you should increase the weight. Strength training regimens of less than 10 reps increase muscle strength, but have lesser benefits for muscle growth. In addition, sets of more than 10 reps are effective at building muscle endurance, but have little impact on muscle growth.

You'll see that there are no exercises specifically for the biceps, triceps, or shoulders. Many people devote entire hour-long weight lifting sessions to these muscles when, in actually, these muscles are getting a tremendous workout in the above regimen since the exercises are mainly multi-joint exercises. If you devoted another entire workout to them, then you would never be able to recover in time to lift heavy weights on your chest and back day which is a much more important workout than concentrating on small muscle groups. Furthermore, this would require an additional day at the gym, which would make maintaining a regular routine more difficult.

Finally, the exercises in the routine above are traditional exercises. There's nothing fancy about these exercises, but they are very effective. If for some reason, you can't do one of the exercises (for example, knee pain with squats); feel free to substitute another exercise in its place. The important thing to remember is maintaining the number of sets, the number of repetitions, 1-minute recoveries and alternating push-pull exercises. Over time, you will notice that this program is among the most effective strength training programs around because it is easy to follow and results in gains in muscle strength and muscle growth.

Finally, you strength training regime should be coupled with proper nutrition. Plenty of foods rich in natural whole food vitamins should be consumed and include fruits and vegetables that are rich in plant based nutrients called phytonutrients . Whole grain products should be consumed and include whole grain breads, muffins, pasta and other whole grain flour products.

Plenty of lean protein is advised along with healthy fats such as olive oil and walnut oil. Don't forget dried fruits and the wide array of nuts that offer healthy fats and protein as well. A shot of additive free aloe vera juice in a protein smoothie provides concentrated natural enzymes and immune system health benefits.

A proper diet and the above outlined workout will go a long way to helping you amplify your strength-training regime.

Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND

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