Getting Strong – The Pathway Explained

What is Strength training?

Strength training typically involves heavy compound lifting, at an intensity of 70- 100%, of an individual’s 1 repetition maximum, for any given exercise. In between exercise sets, rest can be up to 120 seconds long- to allow the anaerobic energy system enough time to restore itself before moving onto the next set. Physically strong individuals are capable of moving more weight, they have a higher percentage of muscle mass, and greater bone and ligament densities. The purpose of my blog is to discuss the benefits and considerations involved with getting strong.

 

Benefits:

The benefits associated with strength training are versatile, and can cater for almost any fitness goal. For example, if weight loss is a priority, getting strong will help with this, because strong individuals have a greater percentage of lean muscle mass- musculature which is more metabolic. As a result, the calories which come in from food are being burnt at rest, before exercise begins. If the goal is more advanced, such as improving athletic performance, strength is beneficial because it co-exists with speed- a component of fitness applicable to almost any sport played in the modern era.

 

Training Periodisation:

Because strength training is done at heavy intensities, which puts the body under significant physical stress, a weight lifting foundation of fitness must be established first. This initial foundation of training, can take up to 12 weeks, and is dependent upon individual factors (joint mobility, injuries present, age, gender etc.). Gradual overloading of the body throughout this phase, which should be done by following a structured training program, will allow for the muscular and skeletal tissue to safely adapt to the stressors of weight lifting. Having these adaptations will give the body a capacity to handle the relative intensities involved with pure strength training at the 12th week mark.  Below is a table which illustrates the necessary four-week cycles of training, in the lead up to pure based strength training.

 

Meso – Cycle Training Examples:

 

  Weeks 1 – 4 Weeks 5 – 8 Weeks 9 – 12 Weeks 13 – 16
Training Type Structural Balance Functional Hypertrophy Hypertrophy Strength
Repetition Range 8 – 12 8 – 12 8 – 10 6 – 8
*Intensity (% of 1 RM) 50 – 60 60 – 70 65 – 75 70 – 100
Rest Duration (s) 60 60 60 90 – 120
Focus Improve mobility and establish a sound lifting technique. Improve mobility and increase weight each week (accumulation). Lift heavier while maintaining technique under fatigue (accumulation). Utilise rest breaks in between sets to lift heavy (intensification).

 

*Note- (% of 1 RM) is the percentage of a 1 repetition maximum for any given lift.

 

An Alternative Training Approach:

 It’s worth noting that strength can be unlocked without necessarily pushing heavy weight at 70 – 100% of a 1-rm intensity. Poliquin (2006) states that it can in fact come from improving the range of motion at a given joint. Tight muscles are dysfunctional, therefore by improving range of motion, so does the potential for the nervous system to effectively recruit the cells within a given muscle to produce a force; push or pull in a weight lifting circumstance. More force results in more weight which can be moved, hence greater strength.

 

Important Considerations:

Other training aspects that should be taken into consideration with regards to getting strong include: sleep hygiene, stress management, and diet. These training aspects directly affect what Poliquin (2006) refers to as an overall “base level’” of health. The human body is made for survival, and will therefore prioritise a healthy base before any external demands are placed on it. Lack of sleep, high stress and a poor diet are direct red flags with regards to burning out, particularly when paired with exercise. If you’re keen to find out more with regards to setting a healthy foundation for strength training, get in touch with us at Absolute Balance from our experienced team of Exercise Physiologists.

Jeremy Boyle

Exercise Scientist

 

 

References: 

Pearl, B. (2005). Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Sports. Shelter Publications, Inc.

Poliquin, C. (2006). Poliquin Principles: Successful Methods for Strength and Mass Development. Poliquin Performance Centers.

Stone, M. H., O’bryant, H. S., Schilling, B. K., Johnson, R. L., Pierce, K. C., Haff, G. G., & Koch, A. J. (1999). Periodization: effects of manipulating volume and intensity. Part 1. Strength & Conditioning Journal21(2), 56.