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Getting into strength training…

It can seem pretty daunting, intimidating and overwhelming when you’re not too sure what to do. I hope once you finish reading this blog post today, that you’ll feel a bit more confident in starting your journey.


Why should you get into strength training?

I feel strength training is often put in a box of only being useful if you want to get big and strong. Although a valid point, it is extremely useful for fat loss, sports of all kinds (including endurance sports) and it can also be utilised in training with/around an injury.

You also have mental health, confidence, quality of life and other physical health benefits too.


The oldest client I’ve worked with was in their 80s. Granted, we scaled things back, but strength is relative, we did strength training! So, no excuses on being “too old” please.



How do you get into strength training?


1. If you want quicker & more sustainable results whilst you learn a lot along the way, get a coach!...

Let me give you an example: You can learn how to maintain and repair your own car or you can take it to a mechanic who has more experience, more expertise and will save you a lot of time.

That being said this isn’t a MUST and there are a lot of free resources out there, but I do highly recommend it as it takes a lot of the trial and error out of the equation.

#TrustMyCoach is a great place to start and of course I'm going to recommend this as it's a great initiative! Find a coach that you get on with and that walks the walk.


2. Nutrition…

Nutrition requires a bit more attention and can’t be covered in a blog post, but here’s a few pointers.


The specific diet you do doesn’t matter. What does matter is calories & protein. You can make near enough any diet work in your strength journey so long as the calories & protein are there. You ideally want your nutrition to be based around your food preferences so it’s easier to stick to, all you need to do is alter it to meet your calorie and protein targets.


If you want to build strength, although it can be done in a deficit, it’s not something I would go out of my way to recommend. Maintenance or surplus is advised.


With protein ideally you want to consume 1.6-2g of protein per KG of lean body mass every day. Less than this isn’t ideal and more than this would be better utilised in the form of carbs.


If you do want to have more of a conversation about this point (or any of the points in this blog), shoot me a DM on Instagram @TheMarkMethod :)


3. Being a beginner is a good thing!...

Chances are, if you’re new to strength training you’ve not been in much contact with the strength community. The strength community is the kindest and most helpful community I’ve ever had the pleasure of being part of. Surrounding yourself with those that have similar goals and are likeminded will definitely help you in your journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you’ll have more of an understanding of different approaches.


When you are new to strength training, what you do isn’t as important as when you get more experienced. Meaning you can get a lot of good progress from very basic things. This is also where a lot of habits will be formed, so you want as many good habits as possible early on so that you have less to correct at a later date.

The more experienced you are, the slower you tend to progress and the more specific you need to be to get said progress.


A lot of people don’t like to be beginners because they feel lifting lighter weights doesn’t look as good as heavier weights and that brings me to my next point…


4. Tissue Tolerance - What is it and why is it important?...

If you google Tissue Tolerance you’ll probably get a different definition but I define Tissue Tolerance as the amount of fatigue that your muscles, tendons, ligaments and nervous system can handle.


I don’t believe there should be fear on doing certain movements but more of caution on load especially with movements you aren’t used to.


When I very first touched a barbell (MANY years ago) I weighed 63kg/139lbs. I was given a hand off on the bench, the empty barbell and the moment my spotter let go, I shook like a leaf! I couldn’t stabilise this 20kg barbell as I had nothing on me. I couldn’t get many reps so I ended up having to start lighter than that with dumbbells. My point here is, my tissue tolerance would have been very low and had I jumped straight into lifting heavier, as my body couldn’t stabilise the weight, chances are the risk of harm would have been higher.


When you are demanding more of what your tissues can tolerate, this is typically when injuries can occur. It might not be instant (if anything it rarely is) but it’s not something you want to push too often.


I feel I should touch on “injury prevention” claims. If a fitness professional claims they can “prevent injuries”, that would be incorrect and misleading, you unfortunately can’t. You can take steps to manage rest/load/intensity/stress based on your fatigue and this reduces the likelihood of an injury but there’s so many variables that no fitness professional can fully control.

HOWEVER, you can delve into strength training, manage fatigue and build a stronger and more resilient body. One of the many strength coaches I have learned from, the late Louie Simmons (R.I.P) had this summarised perfectly “WEAK THINGS BREAK”. As you get stronger, so does your Tissue Tolerance and the amount you can demand of your body.


5. Putting a plan together…


FREQUENCY

The best frequency is whatever you can best adhere to, but I’ve found x2 per week per muscle group works for a lot of people. I personally like Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower splits but that’s just me. When programming clients some prefer Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs, others prefer Full Body x2 per week, again it is completely down to you, what you can fit in and what you can recover from.




EXERCISE SELECTION

When you look at programming whether it’s one that has been made for you or one you’re putting together yourself, here is a typical set up…

Warm up: Increase heart rate, increase body temperature & start using muscles you’ll be using as well as supporting muscles

Compound barbell movement(s): Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press

Compound barbell variation(s)

Compound bodyweight movement(s) with assistance if needed: Pull Up, Dip, Push Up, Lunge, Split Squat

Accessory: Everything else

Cardio

This isn’t the only set up you should/could do, but I’ve found it to be quite effective.


The warm up can be a walk on the treadmill, some muscle activation, mobility work or even the movement you are warming up for e.g. squats.

I like to pick a couple of movements that I can chuck together to increase my heart rate and see how stable I feel that day (which can also highlight how fatigued you are). An example of this is before squatting I like to do a couple of sets of Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzTms14JpHI and Walking Lunges. If I feel a bit unstable, as I work through my chosen warm up exercises and my warm up sets of squats, I’ll likely feel a lot more grounded in my squats than had I not warmed up at all.


RANGE OF MOTION (ROM)

This will tie into the intensity point I’ll be making later, but if you have to sacrifice range of motion in order to lift more weight, chances are you aren’t ready for that weight yet.


I’m not against partial ROM, but I do think full ROM when you are first starting is important.


Only challenging part of your ROM means you will get stronger in said part. If ever there is a time that requires more ROM the difference in strength might be significant. It is why when people are used to doing a 1/4 squat then attempt more depth, that extra inch can feel like an extra 40kg on the bar.


In my approach I also find that doing full ROM in movements means there isn’t a need to spend 20mins doing mobility/stretching within your sessions (unless clients ask for it or could benefit from implementing some).


SETS x REPS

As a beginner, higher reps will be a good place to start. Referring back to tissue tolerance, less load for higher reps is easier on your body as well as it’ll give you more practice in the movement patterns 3sets of 10reps is 30reps worth of practice, but 2sets of 20reps is 40reps worth of practice. That said, the load should reflect the rep range.

The main compound lifts you’ll hear 5 reps as a standard, it’s quite a good place to start as it gives you some practice in lifting heavier loads. As you won’t be doing as many reps it’s worth implementing a slower tempo. It gives your muscles more time under tension, your technique tends to be better as it isn’t rushed and I find it makes people more consistent with positioning over time. 3secs down, 2sec pause, quick up works good for most movements.


REST

Warm up sets around 60seconds, working sets of compound movements/variations anything between 2-4mins depending on intensity, bodyweight & accessories around 1.5-2.5mins depending on intensity


SCALING MOVEMENTS

In short, start by picking a variation you are comfortable doing.


If I was to work with someone who has never barbell squatted in a session we’d do a box squat, barbell box squat and then barbell squat. Most of the time we’d cover this in the first few minutes of the session with the client squatting proficiently but if you wanted to do smaller jumps to match your confidence here is what I’d recommend for squatting…

Box Squat, Goblet Box Squat, Goblet Squat, Barbell Box Squat, Barbell Squat


EXAMPLE DAY

So how this may look in a day might be…


Warm up w. 60secs rest

Single Leg RDLs 3x15per side

Walking Lunges 3x15per side


Main Lift w. 2-4mins rest

Tempo Barbell Back Squats 3x5


Accessories w. 1.5-2.5mins rest

1.Dumbbell RDLs 3x8-12

2a.Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats 3x8-12

2b.45° Hip Extensions 3x8-12

3.Sled Drags 3x30m


1. Intensity

This is something that a lot of people tend to fall short on. I’m not saying everything should be to failure but it’s quite common for people to hit the rep number and stop before getting to any fatigue. It is why having a rep range can be quite useful to push the extra reps out. If you hit the top end of the rep range, maybe it’s time to increase the difficulty of the exercise. And on the other end, if you are barely making the lower end of the rep range, maybe the weight you have chosen is too much for now.


Push yourself, make yourself feel like you have accomplished something in your session. This is one of those good habits I talked about earlier. A lot of the beginners I have worked with feel so much more sure of themselves and confident in their own abilities at the end of their first session, all based on how hard they worked, you’ve got this.



So in summary, start with the basics, don’t be afraid to ask for help whether it’s the strength community or one of the #TrustMyCoach coaches and most importantly, have fun!


Thanks for reading and I hope this helps ;)


Mark Nesbitt


@TheMarkMethod

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