Strength & conditioning training has become more and more popular over the last 10 years through some of the following factors:
- Greater awareness of the dangers of sedentary lifestyle factors and recognition of general strength training as a good remedy for that problem.
- A general fitness industry shift away from cardio machines to a variety of strength training routines and methods.
- The popularity of CrossFit. It may not be for everyone, but it made group strength and conditioning training cool again for everyday people.
- Greater awareness among the endurance community (runners, swimmers, triathletes, etc.) that they needed stronger muscles and greater mobility.
- Sports teams in Ireland now use S&C coaches and the general public hears about them on a regular basis. “Did you hear the Mayo footballers stole away the Tipp hurlers S&C coach?! ….”
So how does a regular Joe or Jane go about approaching a simple strength training program?
- Firstly, train under an experienced coach ideally. A gym or a coach will give you a routine and structure that beats training by yourself (and training with poor technique, possibly).
- Train at least twice per week. Three times would be great, but twice is adequate for a beginner, particularly if they are doing other activities such as walking, running, tag rugby, tennis once per week, swimming etc.
- Train compound movements. What does that mean?! Well, train your full body using exercises that move more than 1 joint group at a time. Examples: Squats, Deadlifts, pressing, lunging. Again, ideally get a good coach to show you.
- Pair movements together, called super-sets. We like to pair squats with pull-ups or a row/back movement, and deadlifts with benching or push-ups. Simple but effective. Do them back-to-back, then rest and repeat for a few sets.
- Don’t worry too much about being exact with sets, reps and %’s. If you are moving, you’re winning! For beginners, aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Then, after around 8 weeks, start doing 5 sets of 5 reps. Aim to add a kg or so to the barbell every week.
- Top your session off with safe sprint training on row machines or bikes. You can also do short, sharp runs if it feels ok for your joints, but be careful to build your tolerance gradually. Beginners: work for 1 minute on, 1 minute off. As you become fitter, sprint for ⅓ rd. of the time you rest (e.g. sprint 20s, rest 60s). As you get sharper and more advanced, then sprint for ⅕ th or 1/6th of the time you rest (i.e. 10s of intense movement, 50s rest).
- If you have the luxury of more time, then absolutely add in some simple movements like curls, extensions, dips, planks, calf raises, etc. But I would stress that these should only be done when you have done the BIG BANG exercises first.
Remember, when in doubt keep it simple and just move. You’ll find that strength training helps to provide body confidence, better movement quality and better overall health. So, what are you waiting for?!