Success with Strength Training
By Jesse Cannone CFT, CPRS, SPN
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  Strength training is the most effective way to turn your body into a fat burning machine and stay in great shape! It is the most productive form of exercise there is! In order to be successful with strength training there are some basic principles that must be followed if you want to receive the many benefits which strength training has to offer! The three most critical factors are progressive overload, intensity, and recovery.

  Progressive Overload simply means that you must force your muscles to work harder each time. That means you can't use the same weight every workout, regardless of how many sets or reps you do. The best way to do

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  this is by attempting to increase the resistance / weight used and, or increase the number of repetitions performed at each workout.

  Intensity is also very important. You must force your body to increase its strength. For example, if you typically do 3 sets of 10 reps on the leg press at 115 pounds, and your legs are capable of doing 16 reps, why is your body going to make any improvements? Your body will only add muscle if you force it to work at a higher level than it is used to. The most effective way to overload your muscles is to perform one or two sets per exercise, and continue each set to muscular failure. That means continuing each set until no more repetitions are possible. Challenge yourself!

  Once you have overloaded the target muscle group you must then allow for proper recovery and over compensation. This means you must rest long enough to allow for recovery of the targeted muscle group, the nervous system, refill glycogen stores (Energy stored within your muscles), and also allow enough time for the muscles to make improvements or increases. This process takes time. Generally, it takes between 2-7 days to recover from a strength workout! The harder you work the longer it takes your body to repair. Don't short-circuit your progress by strength training too often!

Basic Guidelines for Successful Strength Training

  • Strength train no more than three times per week!
  • Perform 1-2 sets per exercise!
  • Choose 1-2 exercises for small muscle groups and 2-3 for large muscle groups. (ex. 2-3 exercises for legs, back, chest, and 1-2 for arms, shoulders, etc.)
  • Choose no more than 8-10 exercises and work hard on them! Always keep a record of all workouts! Take each set to failure or fatigue!
  • Perform each exercise SLOWLY! Force the muscle to do the work -- NOT momentum!
  • As soon as you see a slow down in progress it's time to make a change to your program!

  Below are some sample workouts and frequently asked questions regarding strength training.

Full-body Workout 1-2 times per week (approx. 30-40 mins.)

  • Lat Pull-Down 2 Sets Chest Press 2 Sets Leg Press 2 Sets
  • Lateral Raise 1 Set Bicep Curl 1 Set
  • Triceps Pushdown 1 Set Leg Curl 1 Set
  • Leg Extension 1 Set

Upper/Lower Split 2-3 times per week (approx. 25-40 mins.)

  1. Upper
  • Seated Row 2 Sets
  • Shoulder Press 2 Sets
  • Lat Pull-Down 1 Set
  • Pectoral Fly 1 Set
  • Lateral Raise 1 Set
  • Bicep Curl 1 Set
  • Tricep Pushdown 1 Set
  1. Lower
  • Leg Curl 2 Sets
  • Glute Machine 1 Set
  • Leg Press 2 Sets
  • Leg Extension 1 Set

Frequently Asked Questions

Question. How do I lose the flab on the back of my arm or my spare tire?
Answer. It is physically impossible to only lose fat in one area. What you can do is decrease body fat by burning more calories than you consume. Increase muscle tissue with strength training and burn more calories all day long, even while you are sleeping!

Question. How often should I strength train if my goal is to burn fat?
Answer. 2-3 times per week would be great! You will build muscle tissue, which burns calories 24 hours a day, and you will decrease the chance for excess calories to be stored as fat!

Question. What if I don't want to bulk up? I just want to tone.
Answer. If it were that easy to bulk or get big nearly every guy in the gym would be huge] Women generally don't have the genetic potential to build large muscles due to hormonal differences. Plus, don't forget that adding muscle tissue to your body is a good thing! It makes everything you do much easier, reduces the chance for injury, and increases your metabolism!

Question. How many sets and repetitions should I do?
Answer. This will vary depending upon your goal. If you are training to increase strength, due fewer sets but higher intensity (1-2 sets to failure per exercise). If training for muscle size, perform multiple sets (2-4 sets, but only 1 to failure). The number of repetitions will vary also depending upon the speed at which you move the weight and your goals. In general, shoot for 8-12 reps.

Question. What are the benefits of strength training?
Answer. Strength training, if done correctly, can make some major changes to your body and mind! Here are just a few:

  1. Increased Metabolism
  2. Increased Strength and Flexibility
  3. Increased Muscle Tone
  4. Reduced Stress Levels

  For more information on how you can maximize the benefits of strength training, please call me at
(240) 731-3724 or e-mail

  Jesse Cannone is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and best-selling fitness author. Sign up to receive his free email course, Muscle Building Tips which is full of powerful tips and techniques for maximizing strength and size.



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