Last month, I wrote about how to get strong and why we need it. I focused on the mechanics of how strength training works (this article can be found here). However, there was a gaping hole in my article as word count timed me out. The missing element was, well, what on earth do we do to get strong?
Understanding the mechanisms by which we get strong is fine, but how do we go about it? The nutritional equivalent of this would be how understanding the physiology of digestion is one thing, but knowing what to put on your plate is another.
Today's article will teach you what to put on your plate.
With strength training for beginners, I like to keep it simple. In life, we push stuff, we pull stuff, we squat (bend mostly at the knee), we hinge (bend mostly at the hip), and we twist. All we need to do is target these five fundamental patterns, and we have most elements of strength covered.
Push: The push motion involves driving weight away from your body. This simple action can be the foundation for developing strong shoulders, triceps, and chest muscles.
Beginner: Wall Push-Up
Stand facing a wall, place your hands flat against it, and push your body away. As you gain strength, increase the angle to make it more challenging.
Intermediate: Standard Push-Up
With hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and feet together, lower your body down and push yourself back up. Ensure your body forms a straight line. Start from your knees to begin with if it’s too difficult from the feet.
Advanced: Bench Press
For the bench press, you'll need a bench and a barbell. Lie back and press the weight upwards, engaging your chest.
Pulling actions engage the back, biceps, and shoulders. These movements involve bringing weight towards your body or pulling your body toward a weight.
Beginner: Band Pull-Apart
Hold a resistance band with both hands in front of you. Keep your arms straight and pull the band apart, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Focus on keeping your shoulder blades low, and not letting your shoulders hitch up towards your ears.
Intermediate: Inverted Body Row
Using a Smith machine or TRX bands in the gym, lie beneath the bar or handles. Pull yourself up, keeping your body in a straight line.
Advanced: Pull-Up or Chin-Up
Grab a pull-up bar with palms facing away (pull-up) or towards you (chin-up). Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. This is a tough movement to do, and gyms often have machines that can assist you to help build up to it.
Squats primarily target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They replicate the natural motion of sitting down and standing up.
Beginner: Chair Squat
Stand in front of a chair. Lower yourself down until your buttocks touch the chair, then stand back up.
Intermediate: Bodyweight Squat
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as if sitting in an invisible chair, then return to standing.
Advanced: Barbell Back Squat
With a barbell resting on your upper traps, descend into a squat, maintaining an upright chest and then drive back up.
The hip hinge focuses on the posterior chain, particularly the glutes and hamstrings. This motion is akin to bowing or bending forward at the hips.
Beginner: Glute Bridge
Lying on your back with knees bent, push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground.
Intermediate: Kettlebell Deadlift
Stand with a kettlebell between your feet. Push your hips back keeping your back straight, grasp the kettlebell, and stand up by extending your hips.
Advanced: Barbell Deadlift
With feet hip-width apart, bend and grasp a barbell, keeping it close to your shins. Push through your heels, engaging the glutes and hamstrings to stand.
Rotational movements or twists work the obliques and help in stabilising the spine. They're essential for movements in daily life.
Beginner: Cable Woodchop
Using a cable machine, set the handle high. Stand sideways, grasp the handle with both hands and pull it diagonally across your body to the opposite knee.
Intermediate: Standing Band Rotation
Anchor a resistance band at chest height. Stand perpendicular to the anchor point, grasp the band with both hands, and rotate your torso away.
Advanced: Seated Russian Twist
Sit on the ground, lean back slightly, and rotate your torso side to side, hold a lightweight to make it harder if you want to.
To build these movements into a workout, just pick one exercise from each pattern, and do three sets of each, with a 90-second rest in between each set. At least one of the sets should feel very hard, meaning that you push as much as you can; this is the thing that stimulates strength improvements in your body. Doing this once a week is enough, but two or three times a week is better.
You’ll notice that some of these movements require a gym. It is entirely possible to build a strength routine at home with little or no equipment, but I do think gyms are a more efficient place to get strong. Gyms are very welcoming and ask your friends to see where they go.
Of all the elements of fitness, strength is the one that is most likely to reduce your risk of injury, and this is why I am so interested in it as an osteopath.
While there is a growing trend of strength and fitness in the modern world, many of my patients still don't practice strength training on a weekly basis. This article will be the place I send them when they don't know where to start. And as with all these habits of health, starting is the most important part. If pain or injury are holding you back, we can help in my clinic with our team of osteopaths and sports massage therapists. We all love to help people build their fitness routines to help their wellbeing.
And until next time, have a healthy and happy week! 😊🙏