3 Must-Do’s for Strength Training

By Mark Malhiot, CPT –

T he first thing most people think of when someone mentions strength training is some huge guy bench pressing some impossible weight or deadlifting a car.  Make no mistake –  those guys do strength training, and they are incredibly strong.  But for most people, strength alone is not the goal. Not all strength training is created – or designed to be – equal. The term strength training should encompass muscular strength, muscular endurance and functional strength. Flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning are important as well, but since they don’t directly involve strength training, we’ll leave them out for today and define each of the first three.

1 – Muscular Strength

Muscular strength is basically your maximum weight attainable for a given motion.  The best way to get good at something is to do that something.  In the case of bench press, for example, if you want to bench more weight, you need to work with heavier weights most of the time.  There is no shortage of little tips and tricks to developing a stronger chest, from performing negatives, where you load the bar with more than you can press, have help lifting it, then slowly lower the weight on your own, to using 2 x 4’s between the bar and your chest to work a specific portion of your range.  But at the core of the program, you will be lifting heavy weights with ample rest between sets.

That begs the question: Which one is right for me? Of course, it depends on your personal goals and your reason for strength training, but the simple answer is that they all have a place in a well-rounded fitness and strength training program. They are the pillars of physical fitness.

The challenge is that most people only use one type of strength training because they are afraid that doing anything else will yield a result that is not desired.  The most common example is when women shy away from working on their muscular strength because they think they will get “too muscley.”  Ladies, put your minds at ease; most women simply don’t have a high enough testosterone level to promote large muscle growth.  And, the small percentage who do probably already know it.  In all honesty, most men don’t have a high enough level for massive muscle growth, but both genders will derive benefit and increased strength.

2 – Muscular  Endurance

Then there’s muscular endurance, which is how many times you can repeat a given motion with a given (lighter) weight.  Again, following the model of doing what you want to get good at. Individuals wanting or needing muscular endurance are spending most of their time using lighter weights, performing higher repetitions and taking less rest between sets.

Conversely, a lot of guys don’t want to “waste time” using lighter weights with higher reps because “that’s not how you get big,” but they, too, can and do benefit from changing up the routine and spending at least a portion of the time working on their muscular endurance.

As for the functional strength work outs, behind all of the different movements and motions, its beauty lies in the fact that if you train muscles, you can miss certain muscles.  If you train movement, all of the muscles used for that movement get involved and benefit.

3 – Functional Strength

The functional strength camp contains people who need strength for specific movements, like athletes who need to be able to use explosive movements to swing a bat or golf club, or need to knock a 265 pound linebacker out of the way. Their programs will definitely include plyometric or explosive movements similar to the type needed for their sport.

The bottom line is if your goal is physical fitness, you should incorporate all three types of strength training into your routine.  You will get stronger, leaner and be able to move better.  Whether you are a man or a woman, strength training will not transform you into something that you are not.  It will transform you into a better you, and isn’t that the best possible outcome?