If you want to start lifting heavier weights, a full-body strength workout is a MUST to add to your routine. And you don’t need to go overboard on the number of exercises to get it done.
When you’re looking to get stronger, the exercises you choose and how you program your workout become particularly important, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, C.P.T., owner of Strong with Sivan, tells IFBNewsfeed.Org. As for the exercises that’ll help you get stronger, the best bang for your workout buck is going to be big, basic compound movements—think squats and rows rather than leg extensions or bicep curls. Because these exercises activate large muscle groups, you’re also going to be able to load them up with more weight than you would for moves that isolate smaller muscles.
Then comes how you program your workout. If your goal is to build full-body strength, straight sets—where you complete one set, rest, then go back to the same exercise for one or more work-rest periods—are going to be a better way to accomplish that than circuits, where you go from one exercise to the other without resting, says Fagan. Circuits keep your heart rate up (and add a cardiovascular boost), but they don’t give you the recovery you need to lift heavy weights set after set.
This brings us to our next point—a really important one. When you’re strength-training with the specific goal of getting stronger (rather than for general fitness, or to build muscle or endurance), you need to rest longer than you may think, says Fagan. That’s why in the full-body workout she created below, you’ll be resting a full two to three minutes after each set.
“You should rest enough so your heart rate goes back to baseline,” Fagan says. “The goal is for you to feel like you are very close to almost full recovery here, in order to feel like you can repeat the same amount of reps at the same amount of weight for three or four rounds.”
Speaking of reps, if you’re training for strength, you’ll also keep these lower than you normally do with circuit workouts. Generally, if you’re training for pure strength—say, if you’re a powerlifter—you’ll keep the reps really low, in the less-than-five range. In the full-body strength workout, Fagan created, though, you’ll up that rep range just a bit, to the six-to-eight range. This can be safer for exercisers who aren’t super familiar with lifting close to their max, but it’ll still tap into that strength-building process.
“It’s important to recognize, though, that the three benefits of strength training for your muscles—strength, hypertrophy (or muscle building), and endurance—exist on a continuum”, says Fagan. So when you’re completing 15-plus reps in a circuit workout, you’re primarily working your muscle endurance, but you are gaining some strength and muscle too. Similarly, while strength is the main goal with this workout, you’ll also be earning some muscle-building and endurance benefits in the process.
When you keep the rep range lower, these moves are going to feel intense,which means a few exercises go a long way. This full-body strength workout, for instance, contains just five moves. But because it works all the major movement patterns—squat, hinge, push and pull—you’ll be getting a super-efficient routine that hits your quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, chest, and back muscles. So yep, pretty much all your muscles will be feeling this.
Ready to really work on some strength? Here’s how to get started.
What you need: A pair (or more, if you want to use different weights for different exercises) of dumbbells that feel “heavy” for you. The amount of weight varies per person, but you should choose a weight that’s difficult for you during your last couple of reps. If you’re using a weight where you feel like you can eke out two more, but that last one would take you to failure, that’s a good weight choice to use for this, says Fagan. You may also want an exercise mat for comfort.
- For the farmer carry, walk for the prescribed distance below. Rest as needed. Complete 3 sets total.
- For the remaining exercises, complete 6 to 8 reps of each move. Rest 2 to 3 minutes. Complete 3 to 4 sets total. Then move on to the next exercise.