In one of my recent articles, we have talked about how to choose equipment for a home gym. In this one, I would like to give you some tips as to what movements you may incorporate into your training routine with the acquired equipment. Everything below is based on my personal experience.
As a reminder, I am in my 50s, and I developed my strength training scheme taking into account the characteristics of my age. However, this does not mean that the proposed scheme is not suitable for other age groups. You just need to figure out the optimal weight for your workouts.
One of the many important features of the scheme below is that it doesn’t drain all juices out of me. On the contrary, though I do feel fatigued, I also feel fulfilled after my workouts.
Friends, I hope you understand that it takes time, concentration, patience, and discipline to get your body in proper shape. In our case, this is 25 weeks – that is, approximately half a year. But do not be intimidated by the duration of the program, especially since you don’t need to do a lot to achieve results.
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Why Proper Form Is Important In Strength Training
Strength training form is essential for three main reasons.
- Proper form will protect you from injuries. With improper technique, even light loads can be dangerous, especially if you are actively working your spine.
- Without solid form, you won’t be able to accurately determine your working weight. Remember that you can have great physical strength to lift weights, but without good technique, your strength will work against you, increasing the risk of injury.
- With proper form, you’ll see more effect from your training.
Determining How Much To Lift
Now, how heavy should you lift?
Well, this depends on your goals.
Weight is picked by the number of reps you want to perform, and how many reps would be right for you depends on what you are training for:
- Strength. 1 to 5 reps.
- Muscle growth (hypertrophy). 6 to 12 reps.
- Endurance. 13 and more reps.
Now, what do we mean when we say, for example, that you should do 12 reps in an exercise? This means that you should do the exercise until you no longer you can maintain proper form.
Again, what proper form is depends on your goals. If you are looking to develop speed, then you would want to end the set when you can no longer move the weight reasonably quickly. If you want to develop strength or grow muscles, you should stop when your form starts breaking down from fatigue.
These are simple rules of thumb that you should follow to build a program correctly for your own demands. You’ll need to do some trial and error, but my tips should be able to help you.
As for the number of sets, it tends to be from 3 to 5. More doesn’t necessarily mean better because excessive training may lead to overtraining. On the other hand, if you train too little, you may not see any results.
So again, give the number of sets some trial and error and determine what delivers the desired effect and fits your schedule.
At the moment, I personally do 5 sets for 5 reps, increasing weight by 5 kilograms every 5 weeks. This seems to work for me, but it won’t necessarily work for you – we are all different, after all.
A Set Of Basic Strength Exercises
Below is my three-day split in detail. I’ll explain the logic behind my selection of exercises and give a few tips to hopefully help you get more out of your training sessions.
Day One – Chest Workout
I like to begin my chest session with the bench press. This is a compound exercise intended to help you gain muscle mass and strength across your entire pushing muscles – the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Then, you should switch to more targeted chest exercises. I do the following:
- Dips and high cable flies for my lower chest.
- Low chest cable flies and inclined dumbbell presses for my upper chest.
The bench press hits the chest hard, but since the bar limits the movement of your hands and doesn’t allow you to fully leverage the adduction motion, which is the primary function of the pecs. Cable flies and dumbbell presses allow you to hit areas of the chest that are inaccessible with a bar.
Dips don’t quite fall in this logic, but they allow me to target my lower chest.
This program generally takes me about an hour and a half to complete. It’s enough for my schedule and fitness needs, but feel free to adjust it based on your own demands.
Day Two – Leg Workout
My go-to exercise for legs is the squat. This is a tough exercise avoided by many, but it’s arguably the best movement for building leg strength and increasing muscle mass.
Squats require an impeccable form, so be very careful. Some people are also not in the health to perform squats – fortunately, there are a few good exercises that can replace them.
If you have the equipment at home or in the gym, try hack squats and/or leg presses. You may do them after squats to really fatigue your legs, or you may use them to replace squats. They more or less load the same muscle groups as regular squats, but they are easier on your back and core.
Try lunges as well – these put relatively little stress on the back while working the entirety of your legs.
You may also use a leg extension machine for your quads, but I personally don’t like that thing. It seems to put more pressure on the knees. Besides, it’s an isolation exercise that targets quads, which is a problem because I can’t stay at the gym for hours. I prefer to hit multiple muscles with one compound exercise – like squats – rather than do several isolation movements to hit several muscles individually.
The same goes for leg curl machines (used for training posterior chain muscles).
After leg training – which is usually limited to squats and either hack squats, leg presses, or lunges for me – I switch to shoulders.
My main shoulder exercise is the standing strict press (also called military press). This is an excellent compound movement for the shoulders, but it’s easy to do wrong. Particularly, many people overextend their spines in an effort to help the lift with their chest – don’t do this if you want to grow your shoulders and avoid injury.
And speaking of injuries, make sure to keep your core tight during the strict press. Believe it or not, this exercise is very taxing on the abs and back. I also feel that the movement gets easier when I tighten my core muscles.
After the strict press, I do dumbbell presses to finish off my deltoids. I follow dumbbell presses with isolation movements to work my lateral deltoid (lateral raises) and rear deltoid (primarily face pulls).
Day Three – Back Workout
The basis of my back workout is the deadlift. I like the conventional deadlift with a more clean pull-like technique – I keep my hips low to increase leg drive. This is how my anatomy allows me to perform this exercise more efficiently.
The deadlift is exceptionally demanding on muscle strength and stability and should be performed with caution. Don’t load excessive weights on the barbell, or you’ll be running a risk of injury. You won’t injure yourself over one workout, but if you maintain poor form through months and months of training, you probably will soon start noticing persistent pain in your lower back.
After 5 sets at working weight, I move to back exercises:
- Barbell/dumbbell rows.
- Lat pulldowns.
- Cable rows.
In conclusion, I would like to note purely individual factors such as:
- Complementary exercises you use.
- Duration of training.
- Diet and nutrition.
One’s set of complementary exercises depends on personal preference and capabilities. If you have a small home gym, the availability of exercise equipment may be limited. However, if go to a commercial gym, you may be able to perform a much wider variety of exercises.
The duration of training depends on the intensity of the exercise, on the physical capabilities of the athlete, and, oddly enough, on one’s mood. As a rule of thumb, train for one to one and a half hours, keeping in mind your schedule.
Finally, diet is probably the most personal question about strength training. It should be noted that there are a lot of recommendations on this issue that in the end may not suit you. With that, you should develop your nutrition plan on your own, taking into account your activity and goals. Some people train to lose weight, while others aim to increase muscle mass.
But do remember the golden rule of weight loss – you need to achieve calorie deficit by training more, eating less, or both.