Health and fitness: Strength tips for beginners |

Health and fitness: Strength tips for beginners

Kyler Crouse
Special to the Tribune

When people start an exercise program they usually have a lot of questions. What exercise should I do? How much weight should I use? How many repetitions? Although the answer is frequently: It depends based on the person needs and goals. The following are some good tips for most people looking to get going this new year.

Compound exercises: Basically you can split exercises into two groups. Isolation exercises are ones that target a specific muscle group such as biceps curls or using the leg extension machine. These types of exercise are good for bodybuilding and in a rehabilitation setting; however, for most people looking to get stronger, stick to compound exercises like push-ups, lunges, chin-ups and squats. These exercises use multiple muscle groups at once and thus require more energy and that is good for fat loss. They also allow for more weight to be used, which is good for strength gains.

Periodization: Periodization is a systematic approach to weight training that varies training volume and exercise intensity. One of the most common forms is linear periodization progression. This plan progressively increases the weight used while decreasing the total number of repetitions. For example, the first week would have the athlete perform 12 reps at a moderate weight. The next week the athlete would perform 10 reps and add a little weight, and the third week, eight reps at a heavier weight. This method is used to increase strength and size while insuring the athlete does not train too much, which can lead to a decrease in performance or even injury.

Progressive resistance: Progressive resistance is arguably the most important variable in a weight-training program. In order for the body to respond and adapt, an adequate amount of stress must be applied. If an individual does not continue to challenge the body, the body has no reason to get stronger, build lean muscle or increase performance simply because the body is accustomed to the stress.

A simple way to start a progressive resistance program is to determine how much weight you can lift 15 times. Then use that same amount and stay between 10- 12 repetitions, your 15 rep max. The last couple of repetitions should be challenging, but you should be able to complete them. Do not train for failure. Once you feel like the last few on the last set were easy, add more weight.

Multiple sets: What is so special about three sets? Well, the scientific literature shows that multiple sets are more effective. A study by Kramer and colleagues, “The effects of single versus multiple sets on strength”, tested 42 male subjects to determine if there was a difference and, if there was one, was it significant? The results showed that all the subjects had a significant increase in squat strength during the 14-week study, but the groups that completed multiple sets had about 50 percent better results in strength than the single-set group.

A four-week strength training program to improve the squat has an athlete squat 100 pounds for three sets and 12 repetitions for the first two weeks. On the third week, they would squat 110 pounds for three sets and 10 repetitions. On the final week, they would squat 120 pounds for three sets of eight reps. After the final week, the athlete can then pick a new exercise to try and get stronger at or repeat the same program using more weight. These basic strength-training principles have proven to be effective and safe not only for beginners, but for advanced lifters as well.

Consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program and if you are unsure how to properly perform any exercise, seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.

— Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in performance enhancement and rehabilitation after injury. Visit for more information.

Support Local Journalism

Your support means a better informed community. Donate today.