“Strength is the master quality.” Want to move better, without pain? Get stronger. Want to get faster? Get stronger. Want to gain explosiveness? Get stronger. Some level of strength is required for almost any endeavor. Whether you need to hit home runs for a living, or just need to be able to pick up your child without back pain.
People often ask “Can’t lifting weights be dangerous?” Absolutely. If applied incorrectly, lifting weights will leave you injured and nowhere near your goals. But don’t write it off just yet! If you take the time to consider a few key principles, you can guarantee the work you put in will keep you healthy, free from injury, and ready for whatever task might be thrown at you. Skimble Trainer Paul Corsaro provides 4 strength training principles to get you started.
1. Quality, Not Quantity
You’ve seen it in the gym, you’ve seen it floating around on social media… The “personal best” lift. In a bench press, the bar drops a few inches, bounces off the chest and doesn’t get locked out at the top. Squats don’t get anywhere close to parallel. It looks like someone’s back might snap in half during a deadlift. While tracking your training load is important, tracking your form is CRITICAL. Sure, you may be able to lift a few more pounds with poor form, but what happens when that poor form results in an injury? What happens when that injury keeps you from any sort of physical activity for months?
For every single lift you perform, concentrate on the quality of the lift over the actual amount of weight lifted. Be mindful of your technique, make sure the last repetition of a set is as good as the first repetition. Don’t let pride or ego get in the way of being healthy. Display patience, treat training as practice, enjoy the results of skill improvements in every session, and be amazed at the results down the line.
2. Train All the Major Movement Patterns
“Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.” I’m sure many of you are familiar with this saying. How about “Friends don”t let friends skip hinge practice?” That’s a new one, isn’t it? It’s helpful to break down strength training movements into 5 different patterns:
- Squatting – squats, lunges, step-ups, etc.
- Hinging – deadlifts, kettlebell swings, RDLs, etc.
- Reaching – presses, overhead carries, push-ups, etc.
- Pulling – rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, etc.
- Resisting movement through your midsection – plank, plank with arm lifts, contralateral limb raises, etc.
A well-rounded strength training program should address all of these categories. Certain goals may need more emphasis on some categories over others, but every category should be trained in some capacity. Addressing these fundamental movement patterns builds a solid foundation. You wouldn’t want your house to have a shaky foundation, would you? The same applies to your body.
3. Leave a Little in the Tank
The results of your training stem from what you do in a session, not how you feel after a session is over. It’s easy to feel like you wasted your time if you finish a workout and aren’t gasping for breath, laying in a pool of sweat, or walking out of the gym with wobbly legs. Every now and then, it’s good to push past your limits. But if you do it every day, you’re asking for trouble. Training to utter failure every session impairs recovery, increases the risk of injury, and can negatively impact the rest of your training week. Push yourself and get a good session in, but respect the breaking point. Don’t get near it every time.
4. If It Hurts, Don’t Do It
“Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body” …or it could be a signal that you are slowly fraying your rotator cuff into uselessness. Far too often, people ignore pain for what it is: a signal that something is wrong. This could be technique or something amiss inside the body. If you experience pain during a certain movement, it’s in your best interest to find a variation of that movement that doesn’t cause pain. If you suspect your form is incorrect, reach out to an expert for some advice or coaching. If the pain persists, lay off that movement until you can see a clinician who is trained to deal with pain. Training through pain may show others that you’re tough, but it may also mean you won’t be training for much longer.
The First Steps
If you enter “Strength Training Tips” into Google, you’ll get millions of hits. There’s a lot of noise out there, and trying to find specific tips is difficult. What routine is the best? How many sets should I do? How many reps should I perform? Honestly, I can’t give you a concrete answer. Everyone is a little bit different, and different protocols work for different people. A specific tip that worked for someone else may be extremely effective for you, or it may not work at all. Utilize these basic principles and experiment! Find something you enjoy and try to get a little bit better every day. Take your first steps down the road to strength.