Principals of Strength Training


Every movement we make—from walking to driving—involves our muscles. Muscles are unique. They have the ability to relax, contract, and produce force. They are metabolically active, meaning that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body uses at rest and during exercise. Your muscles are highly responsive to strength training, which helps them to become larger and stronger.

What is strength training? Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance for the purpose of strengthening the musculoskeletal system. What are the benefits of regular strength training? Regular strength training increases the size and strength of the muscle fibers. It also strengthens the tendons, ligaments, and bones. All of these changes have a positive impact on your physical fitness, appearance, and metabolism, while reducing the risk of injury and decreasing joint and muscle pain.

Muscle is metabolically-active tissue. This means that the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is while at rest. So, strength training is an important component of weight loss and weight maintenance.

Follow these four principles of strength training and you’re guaranteed success.

1. The Tension Principle: The key to developing strength is creating tension within a muscle (or group of muscles). Tension is created by resistance. Resistance can come
from weights (like dumbbells), specially-designed strength training machines, resistance bands, or the weight of your own body. There are three methods of resistance:

a. Calisthenics (your own body weight): You can use the weight of your own body to develop muscle, but using body weight alone is less effective for developing larger muscles and greater strength.

b. Fixed Resistance: This method of resistance provides a constant amount of resistance throughout the full range of motion (ROM) of a strength training exercise.

c. Variable Resistance: During exercises with variable resistance, the amount of resistance changes as you move through the range of motion.

2. The Overload Principle: In order to build strength, your muscles must work harder than they are accustomed to. This “overload” will result in increased strength as the body adapts to the stress placed upon it. Everyone begins at a certain level of strength. To become stronger, you must regularly increase the tension (weight or resistance) that your muscles work against, causing them to adapt to a new level. As the muscles respond to an overload, they will grow in size and strength.

3. The Specificity of Training Principle: This refers to the fact that only the muscle or muscle group you exercise will respond to the demands placed upon it. By regularly doing bicep curls, for example, the muscles involved (biceps) will become larger and stronger, but curls will have no effect on the muscles that are not being trained (such as your legs). Therefore, when strength training, it is important to strengthen all of the major muscle groups.

4. The Detraining Principle: After consistent strength training stops, you will eventually lose the strength that you built up. Without overload or maintenance, muscles will weaken in two weeks or less! This is the basis behind why individuals lose muscle mass as they age—because they are detraining by exercising less frequently.