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[Guide] Part 3: Finding the Right Workout for You – Strength Edition

by | Nov 19, 2019 | Training

In my experience as a coach, I have found there are two types of people in this world.

Those who ONLY do cardio.

Those who ONLY do resistance training.

Very rarely do you come across someone who lands in the middle of that spectrum. If anything, it’s more common to find someone not even on that spectrum.

Just as I mentioned in Part 2, skipping one component altogether isn’t doing you any favors. You’re definitely missing out on some potential there.

Now, I’m the first to admit that cardio is not something I gravitate toward. If you know me really well, you know I only run when I am REALLY mad. However, I understand that

if the stronger my cardiovascular system is, the stronger I am as a lifter.

Well, for all my weight-hating friends, the reverse is also true. The stronger your muscles are, the stronger you are as a runner or endurance athlete.

Now, I’m well aware of the counterarguments running through your head, so here’s what I have to say:

  • It is in fact a different energy system, but they ALL work together.
  • Resistance training does NOT cause permanent tightness of your muscles.
  • You do NOT need to max out.
  • Lifting does NOT give you bulky muscles that will slow you down.
  • YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED IT.

If you’re someone who created all those counterarguments, you’ve probably read about or just tried the run training style for you in the past. This blog is here to break down the different types of strength, setting up your training split, and how to set your exercises in the right repetition schemes.

If you’re someone who already loves resistance training, give it a thorough read and find out some tips to improve or get more out of your training sessions.

Types of Strength

So you want to get stronger, huh?

What does that mean? What would getting stronger look like to you?

Strength is a very broad term.

According to Merriam-Webster, strength is the ability to resist force or attach or one’s capacity for exertion or force.

The right program must be built in order to build strength and see results, and the right program can only be made when you’ve identified the specific type of strength you’re looking to build.

Here are 7 types of strength:

Agility

This type of strength is one’s ability to control, decelerate, accelerate, and generate muscle force in multiple planes of movement.

Think of this as your ability to move an object from one location to the next.

Training for agile strength is great for strengthening muscle and connective tissue throughout the body, which in turn reduces one’s risk for injury or damage.

While this is thought of as training primarily for athletes, it is important to be able to move in a variety of planes and directions in everyday life.

Endurance

This type of strength relates to one’s ability to contract and relax muscles for extended periods of time.

Training for this relates to improving aerobic efficiency in that improving one’s strength endurance capacity relies on the ability to better provide oxygen and nutrients to and remove waste in the working muscles.

Training for strength endurance is great for endurance athletes; however, it’s also important for you the general population. This type of training helps to improve posture and overall stability of joints and one’s ability to perform repetitive movements throughout the day.

Explosive

Explosive strength relates to one’s ability to generate a maximal amount of force in a short amount of time. Think of this as how quickly tension and force can be utilized during the range of motion of muscle group.

Strengthening muscles in this format improves reaction time, resiliency of muscle and connective tissue, and the ability to activate type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers.

Maximum

This method of training looks to improve the ability of a muscle or muscle group to recruit and engage all motor units to generate maximum tension against an external object or form of resistance.

Improving your strength in this area helps you to lift and move objects in your day-to-day life as its focus is to improve the ability of your fast-twitch fibers to generate high levels of force. In addition, its great for improving overall bone density and strength as well as the production of muscle-building hormones.

Relative

Relative strength measures the amount of force generated per unit of bodyweight. This can be accomplished by improving the magnitude of force production throughout the body (general strength) as well as reducing total body mass.

The goal of relative strength is not weight loss. The goal is to improve your ability to recruit motor units and muscle fibers as well as improve the neuromuscular efficiency (how quickly your nervous and muscular system communicate).

Speed

Speed strength relates to the rate of force generates during high-speed movements.

This training involves primarily light resistance to bodyweight exercises performed as fast as possible.

Again, this is not beneficial for only athletes as it improves overall reaction time and the speed and ability at which your muscles are able to contract and relax.

Starting

Starting strength relates to your ability to produce force at the beginning of a movement from a stationary position. The goal is to build strength by removing momentum and pre-stretching or loading.

This type of training looks to improve the overall rate of force production and improve one’s ability to move from a stationary position.

Training Split

Dependent on your goals, it’s possible you’re looking to build strength in more than one area; however, knowing which areas and how you’re looking to build strength allows a program to be pieced together and organized in the proper exercise order.

The order of exercises and desired strength results allows you to determine your training split, better understood as the number of days you train.

Now this list is not all inclusive, but it does hit the biggest and most common training splits. Here are 6 different training splits you could utilize.

Full Body Split

Number of Training Days: 3 or 4

What: Workouts that include full body compounds or exercises to target each muscle group during a single training session.

Week Breakdown

Pros:

  • Variable and enjoyable
  • Allows you to target each muscle group while you train
  • Great for strength specific
  • Improves your metabolism and caloric burn
  • Allows you to easily monitor volume
  • The most adjustable and adaptable training style

Cons

  • Not the ideal training split when training for hypertrophy
  • Difficult to focus on the mind-muscle connection
  • Volume may be TOO low for someone at an advanced level
  • Programming for balanced volume can be difficult

Upper-Lower Split

Number of Days Training: 4

What: Keeps a training day focused on a specific half of the body (upper or lower), and alternates between the two to monitor volume, variety, and recovery.

Week Breakdown

Pros:

  • Not an overwhelming amount of training days or time
  • Easy and effective ways to increase total volume
  • Ideal amount of frequency hit
  • Improved focus on the mind-muscle connection due to isolation
  • Allows for flexibility and adequate rest

Cons

  • The focus on a specific area can increase soreness and recovery time, which may prove to be too much for a beginner.
  • Not easily adaptable for a rotating or fluctuating schedule where there’s uncertainty on training days

Upper-Lower-Push-Pull-Legs

Number of Days Training: 5

What: A training split comprised of a maximal effort day (heavy day) for each half of the body as well as days for muscle building and growing (hypertrophy).

Week Breakdown

Pros

  • Significant increase to total volume without adding significant stress to the nervous system
  • Achieves ideal amount of frequency to balance gains and recovery
  • Allows you to prioritize strength improvement and muscle growth
  • Improved mind-muscle connection and allows for specialization

Cons

  • Can prove to be too many days and hours in the gym
  • The focus on a specific area can increase soreness and recovery time, which may prove to be too much for a beginner.
  • Not easily adaptable for a rotating or fluctuating schedule where there’s uncertainty on training days.

Push-Pull-Legs

Number of Days Training: 6

What: Divides training based upon the method or manner muscles are targeted.

Week Breakdown

Pros

  • No question on adequate volume
  • Improves mind-muscle connection
  • Adequately targets intensity, frequency, and volume
  • Allows for specialization and can help to break plateaus

Cons

  • Can prove to be too many days and hours in the gym
  • High volume can significantly increase soreness and recovery time
  • Can put you at a greater risk for injury without intelligent programming

Bodybuilder Split

Number of Days Training: 6 to 7

What: A training split that targets one specific muscle group or area for an entire training session.

Week Breakdown

Pros

  • Great for physique competitors or “gym bros”
  • Improves the mind-muscle connection
  • Allows specific targeting of weak points

Cons

  • Frequency is too low
  • Decreases volume while increasing soreness
  • Not necessarily beneficial unless you are using anabolics

CrossFit

Number of Days Training: Varying

What: This is a modality or method training and not an actual training split. It targets full body movement through strength and Olympic lifting while also incorporating cardiovascular training.

Pros

  • Allows for full body training during every training session
  • Can allow for varying levels of intensity
  • Frequency can be dependent and varying with your schedule

Cons

  • No guarantees on frequency or the ability to target all muscle groups
  • Not meant for novice lifters without coaching
  • Can increase soreness and risk of injury

Rep Ranges

Now, the great part about learning and understanding the different training splits is that you’re able to adjust based on your goals and progress. You are never locked into one training split. If you start a training program and midway through you realize it’s just not working for your schedule or getting you the results, your coach should be able to adjust and modify.

That does not mean a coach will necessarily scrap and change your entire training split because a change could come from something as simple as changing the number of sets and repetitions.

Just as there are different definitions of strengths and a number of training splits, there are different set and repetition styles that can best set you up for success with your goals.

We could get really specific in the breakdown of rep schemes, but that can be saved for a separate blog in the future. Let’s start by breaking down the general breakdown of sets and reps.

Muscular Endurance

This allows you to train your muscles to work for extended periods of time. While this does specifically target your endurance form of strength, it builds a base strength and actually opens you up to a greater potential for all other forms of strength.

Target Reps: 12 to 20+

Number of Sets: 2 to 4

Load or Weight Lifted: Light

Rest: 30 to 45 seconds


Target Population:

  • Endurance Athletes (Runners, cyclists, swimmers)
  • Physique competitors
  • Everyone! – This should be included in everyone’s training style to improve certain postural and stabilizing muscle groups.

Muscular Hypertrophy

Training for muscular hypertrophy means you are looking to specifically target and build on the size of your muscles. Specifically, this targets those training for maximum, relative, and starting strength, but again, is a great base and contributor to greater results for all forms of strength

Target Reps: 8 to 12

Number of Sets: 3 to 5

Load: Moderate to Heavy

Rest Time: 60 to 90 seconds

Target Population

  • Physique Athletes (Bodybuilders)
  • Individuals training for aesthetics
  • Everyone! This should be included for everyone looking to build general strength for daily activities and movements.

Muscular Strength

Training for muscular strength means you are looking to strengthen specific groups of muscles or the whole body without concern of muscular size. This is again great for training maximum, relative, and starting strength, but is a great base for agility, speed, and power strength.

Target Reps: 5 to 8

Number of Sets: 3 to 5

Load: Heavy

Rest Time: 60 seconds to 2 minutes

Target Population

  • Strength Athletes (Weightlifters, football, hockey)
  • Individuals looking to “get strong”

Muscular Power

This method of training looks to specifically train and improve one’s one rep max or explosiveness. Muscular power targets agility, explosive, maximum, and speed strength/

Target Reps: 1 to 5

Number of Sets: 2 to 5

Load: Heavy

Rest Time: 90 seconds to 2+ minutes

Target Population

  • Power Athletes (Powerlifters, CrossFit, Strongmen/women)
  • Explosive Athletes (sprinters, jumpers)

Now you know all about the different types of strength, training splits and organizing your workouts, and the number of sets and reps – what’s left?

DOING IT!

Here’s the deal, if you’re still lost and confused about how to do or set up your strength workouts (or ANY TYPE of training for that matter), find yourself a coach. It saves you time, money, and frustration by learning how and what to do in your workouts.

The reality is that the best program is the one you’re going to stick to and if you ENJOY and UNDERSTAND your training program the likelihood to reach your goals skyrockets.

So what are you waiting for?

About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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