You should be well acquainted with the principles and practices of weight training and have at least three to six months of conditioning under your belt, with a program similar to the basic strength and muscle program, before attempting this program.
Please note that this is a generic program designed to provide a template for building strength. You should always consider using the services of a personal trainer or strength coach to individualize a program based on your goals, existing fitness level, access to resources, and time available for training.
What does basic strength accomplish?
Basic Strength is a weight training program designed to prioritize strength, rather than muscle size and definition (bodybuilding) or muscular endurance. Still, a program like this will build some muscle size and endurance because of the amount of work done.
Who can benefit from the basic strength program?
This weight training program is for anyone who wants to get stronger for functional purposes, personal development, weightlifting, sports, or for activities where strength is a priority. An individualized program written specifically for you by a competent gym instructor or strength coach in the discipline of your choice is the best way to move to the next level, which can include serious competition.
Feel free to customize this training plan to suit your goals while adhering to the core principles of strength development: heavier weights, fewer reps, and more rest between sets. For example, a workout might look a bit different for a 50-year-old woman wanting to build strength compared to a 20-year-old soccer player preparing for the upcoming season. However, the basic principles would be the same, only the details of the training program would be different. The older person may feel more functional doing squats with dumbbells than with barbells and discs, for example.
Strength is developed by lifting relatively heavier weights with a longer rest period between sets. This differs from bodybuilding and strength endurance programs, which tend to use lighter weights with less rest between sets. Everything is relative, of course, and many bodybuilders lift a lot of weight compared to those who train less. Lifting heavy weights instead of light weights improves the response of the nervous system and its stimulation of nerve fibers.
The program outline
This strength program is deliberately simple in design to suit the widest range of users possible. Keep in mind that strength training is hard work due to the higher intensity workload. If you’re used to doing strength and resistance training or toning with light weights and higher reps, then strength training may come as a surprise. Work up to this with the basic muscle and strength program of three sets of 12 repetition maximum (RM) repetitions.
Number of exercise sessions: 20; two or three each week, as appropriate.
Exercises included: Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Bench Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Cable Row, Triceps Kickback, and Arm Bicep Curl. The first six exercises are basic compound strengthening exercises that work multiple muscle groups. The last two are isolation exercises that included targeting important arm muscle groups in the performance of compound exercises and for complete and balanced development. The legs do not need additional work apart from the squats and deadlifts included in the program, as long as good technique is practiced.
You must calculate, by trial and error, a weight for each exercise that allows you to do five maximum repetitions (RM). This is the stage where you can’t do another rep without resting. You have to be able to continue for five sets. Exercises like squats and deadlifts are very demanding with heavy weights, so don’t expect too much too soon. Try to choose a weight that allows you to complete all five sets and reps.
Sets and Reps
In contrast to the basic strength and muscle program of three sets of 12RM reps, this strength program uses five sets of 5RM reps followed by three sets of 5RM reps in any consecutive session. This applies if you do two or three sessions each week. Simply alternate how much you lift each session to give your body a break. On the lighter day, you can add an extra 20 minutes of cardio to round out the session, if you like.
You need adequate recovery to get the most out of a strength program. After eight sessions, do just one session in the next week and the same after the next eight sessions to allow your body to recover. Depending on how you adapt to the load of heavy squats and deadlifts, it is an option to adjust the number of sets to less than five to help with recovery at any time.
Rest period: Rest at least two minutes between sets, if possible.
Exercises in the Program
Eight exercises are included in this program. All major muscle groups are worked with compound and isolation exercises.
Works mainly in the quadriceps (thigh) and the glutes; the hamstrings and inner thigh muscles are involved, depending on the shape and position of the feet. Feel free to use barbells, plates, or dumbbells. Dumbbells can be hung at your sides or strapped to your shoulders. The weights can rest on the shoulders behind the head (back squat) or in front, although the back squat is the standard. The basic squat form is similar for all methods used, with minor adjustments to the position of the barbell or dumbbells. The most important form reminders are:
• Don’t lean forward or get too close to the ball of your foot; keep your knees past the line of your toes.
• Keep your spine straight, not curved, as you lower and raise.
works the triceps (back of the arm) and the pectoral muscles of the chest. A dumbbell press on an adjustable bench can be substituted for a more formal rack bench press, though you’ll need to go back to lift heavier weights. Use a spotter, if necessary. As you move an adjustable bench further into the upright position, the shoulder deltoid muscles become more engaged.
Works the hamstrings, quads, back, neck, glutes, arms, and abdominal muscles with varying intensity. The deadlift is a great all-around exercise for bulking up, but it requires some really hard work. You can do full lifts from the ground and then lower yourself back down under control, resting for a few seconds and repeating. Or, you can lower the weights to shin level without letting go and then repeat. A straight back is key to the safety of this lift, and you should work up to 5X5 using light weights. A proper warm-up is mandatory for each session. This is usually done with very light weights or even a bar with no weights.
It works the muscles of the shoulders and triceps. Done correctly, it also engages your abdominal muscles as you prepare for the lift. This exercise can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, sitting on a bench or standing, or with a shoulder press machine.
Lat pulldown machine
Works the muscles of the middle and lower back the biceps, and the muscles of the lower arm.