I love strength training. I love the mental and physical results I get from strength training, how I feel after strength training, and helping others learn to strength train. The benefits are endless with strength training including but not limited to improved body composition (more muscle, less fat), improved mental focus and clarity, improved mood, improved feelings of confidence and competence, and improved overall quality of life.
So to help you reap all the wonderful benefits strength training has to offer, I am going to show you how to create an effective strength training workout. Of course there are a wide variety and styles of strength training. The type of strength training workout I am going to show you how to create today is time efficient and promotes both improved strength and improved body composition, which are the primary goals of the majority of women I work with. I will explain what types of exercises to choose, how many reps/sets, how often you should lift, what weights to choose, all of it! Just sit back, listen up, and take good notes.
Include all 5 fundamental types of exercises/ movements.
When designing a full body strength training program, it is important to include all five types of these exercises to ensure all major muscle groups are worked. The five fundamental movements are:
Lower body knee dominant movements
Lower body hip dominant movements
Upper body push movements
Upper body pull movements
Below are a few examples of all of these types of exercises/ movements. This is not an all inclusive list, but a great place to get started:
Lower body knee dominant movements: emphasize the anterior part of lower body (quads and core): Squat variations, lunge variations, weighted step ups, leg press
Lower body hip dominant movements: emphasize the posterior part of the lower body (glutes, hamstrings, core): Deadlift variations, good morning variations, weighted hyperextensions, barbell hip thrusts
Upper body push movements: emphasize the anterior part of the upper body (pectoralis, biceps, anterior deltoids, core): Push ups, bench press variations, military press,
Upper body pull movements: emphasize the posterior part of the upper body (trapezius, lats, posterior deltoids, core): Rowing variations, pull ups, Dumbbell pullovers, lat pulldown variations
Core Exercises: emphasize the core muscles: Heavy carry variations, palloff press, plank variations
2. Perform 5-12 Repetitions (reps) per set.
Sticking to 5-12 reps per set per exercise will help you increase your strength while also promoting maintenance/ growth of lean muscle mass. Think of it as a continuum. On the lower end of 5 reps per set, there is a greater focus on improving strength because you are able to lift more weight, although you will still promote muscle growth. At 12 reps per set, there is a greater emphasis on muscle growth and less on improving strength, although you still get some strength benefits.
Muscle is metabolically “expensive”, which means that the more of it you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This is what promotes fat loss. Those with more muscle mass also tend to be stronger individuals. So, it is a good idea to preserve the muscle you have and even grow more if one of your goals is fat loss or improved strength.
3. 3 training days per week is ideal, but not required.
You can get great strength and body composition results by doing full body strength training three days per week. You will also see results with just one or two days per week if you are just starting out, so start with what makes sense for you. One day is better than no days.
4. Perform 3-5 sets per exercise.
The number of sets for an effective workout are going to depend on your training age, or how much experience you have lifting. If you have less than a year of lifting experience, 3 sets of each exercise is most likely more than enough. If you’ve been in the game for a little while, 4 or 5 sets may be more appropriate.
5. Choose a challenging weight selection.
Regardless of the amount of reps or sets you do, select a weight for each exercise that leaves you with 1 or 2 “in the hole.” You could do 1 or 2 more reps in the set if you really wanted to with the selected weight. This is a challenging enough weight to stimulate change.
6. Follow the same workout program for about 4 weeks before switching things up.
Following the same workout regimen for 4 weeks will allow your body to adapt and make changes in strength and body composition. The key to this though, is to try to progress your workout every week. Try to progress your training by increasing the weight by 5-10 pounds each week, or by increasing the amount of reps you do at the same weight.
7. Work in supersets.
A superset is when you pair two exercises back to back with little rest in between. Using supersets will make your workouts more time efficient and increase the intensity of your workouts. Depending on your lifting experience, you can do upper/lower body supersets that pair an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, upper body supersets that pair two upper body exercises together, and lower body supersets that pair two lower body exercises together. Most people will benefit from upper/ lower body supersets, so I would recommend this type of superset for beginners to intermediate lifters.
8. Sample Workout
Now that I’ve taught you the guidelines I follow for creating a full body strength training workout, I’m going to show you an example of what this looks like. See the chart below for a sample workout.
Perform all A exercises in a superset with the prescribed rest. Do the same for B and C exercises.
I hope you found this full body strength training how-to guide helpful in figuring out your next workout! Shoot me an email at Brie@brieogletree.com and tell me what you thought/ additional questions you have about full body strength training!