Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Missing Element: Part III

The ground work has been laid and if I've done my job, you now have a basic understanding of the importance of strength training.  And if I haven't done my job, take my word for it and try the darn exercises and experience the benefits for yourself.

As I mentioned yesterday, you don't need fancy machines or a lot of equipment to start getting stronger.  I'm going to give you two tracks to choose from.  The first we'll call "Novice Track" and the second we'll call "I've Done the Stuff in Novice and am Ready for More (More)".  Please note:  Don't jump ahead to the More option unless you've actually done (and are competent with) the movements in Novice Track.

I lied a little yesterday.  I said we'd focus on four exercises.  This is true.  But in the Novice program I'm proposing, we're not doing all four of those movements, we'll save a couple for the More Track (hey, it will give you something to look forward to). 

Novice Program
Summary:  You'll do these exercises two times per week.  You'll do 10 repetitions of each and do three sets each session.  The focus should be on good form, not how fast or how many you can do. 

Exercise 1: Body Weight Squat
The squat is a fundamental human movement.  If you lived in a developing nation you would spend much of your day in a squat.  In the developed world chairs have ruined our squats and we are worse for it.  But you're going to correct that and start to squat because squatting makes you stronger in every way.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so watch this video and then start squatting.  But please, focus on deep squats.  Friends don't let friends squat high.

Exercise 2:  Push-Up
Everyone should be able to do push-ups.  Every. Single. Person.  If you haven't done a push-up since grammar school, you may need to modify and start on your knees.  This is totally acceptable.  After a while you'll get stronger and can advance to standard push-ups (on your toes).  Here's a standard push-up with progressions shown.   

Exercise 3: Pull Ups
There are few body weight movements that are as effective for building strength as the good ol' fashioned pull up.  Start doing them.  If you can't do an unassisted pull-up, try using resistance bands for support or a machine at your fitness center.  You can even do "jumping pull ups" (stand with your forehead at bar level and then pull yourself over the bar while jumping). Worst case scenario would be to substitute a lat pull-down, but this is a poor substitute. 

Exercise 4: Sit Ups
Strong abs are key for many of the movements we do in More Track.  Start doing sit ups.  Remember them, you hated them in elementary school too.  I'm not including a video, you know what they look like.

Sample Week of Novice Track
You can do your sets of exercises across (all your squats, all your push-ups, etc) or you can do the format I prefer:

10 squats, then 10 pushups, then 10 pull ups, then 10 sit ups.  Repeat 3 times
Do this two times per week.  It's not a race, focus on good form. 

When you have done this format for a couple weeks, try to progress.  Continue to add more repetitions to the exercises while still maintaining good form.

More Track
Once you feel comfortable with the above mentioned exercises and can do each with good form and relative confidence, it's time to progress and add some new exercises and additional weights.  For this program you still have two strength days, but you will be doing two sets of different exercises:  The squat and the press (day 1) and the deadlift and bench press (day 2).

Day 1: Squat and Press
Nothing makes me happier than squat and press day.  Nothing.  Soon you'll feel the same.  If you've never back squatted before, I strongly urge you to start with a goblet squat.  All you need is a dumbbell.  At first, that dumbbell can be light.  You'll hold it to your chest, and squat in the same manner you did in Novice.  But you've added weight (thus making it harder).  Here's a video.  They use a kettlebell in the video (and you can do) but most of us are more familiar with the dumbbell.    As you progress, your dumbbell should get heavier.  Once you feel proficient with the goblet squat, you can advance to the back squat (which will require additional equipment in the form of barbells and a rack.  You'll need a gym for this).  If you never want to back squat, stick with the goblets, you're still way ahead of 99% of Americans. 

After you do your squats (yes, do them first) you'll do your presses.  I recommend the standing press.  You can again start with dumbbells or with a barbell.  Choice is yours.  Form remains the same. Check it out. 

Day 2: Deadlift and Bench Press
The deadlift may be completely foreign to you, but I'm betting my life savings you know what the bench press looks like.  The deadlift is basically picking-up weight from the floor and standing tall.  Similar to our previous exercises, starting with dumbbells is advisable.  For the deadlift, maintaining good form is critical. Check out the DB deadlift here and with barbells here

After the deadlifts, do your bench press.  I'm not showing you a video, everyone knows how to bench press.  Start with dumbbells.

Sample Week of More Track
Day 1:  3 sets of 10 squats then 3 sets of 10 presses
Day 2:  3 sets of 10 deadlifts then 3 sets of 10 bench presses

And there you have it.  Once you learn the movements there is no limit to how strong you can get.  You can change the exact number of reps and sets over time and be sure to add weight (if you want to get stronger, which you do).  To my knowledge, the world record in the back squat is 1,268 lb and the world record in the deadlift is 1,015 lb.  When you get close to these numbers let me know and I'll take credit for your training.

Posted by Rachel L. May, M.S.
Adjunct Faculty, College of Health Sciences


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