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Strength Training/Conditioning

The term “strength” covers a range of physical qualities that you may or may not be familier with. We can break these qualities down as follows, pure strength, endurance, power, strength or power endurance. Whether you are a competitve athlete or someone who wants to be fit and healthy and be in better shape then keep reading this page beccause these qualities are as important you you as they are for athletes.

Most people join a gym to get fit lose weight and improve their health and mistakingly neglect one of the most important aspects of physical fitness and that is strength training, strength is not jus about that Olympic athlete demonstrating amazing feats of strength but is also about a mum repeatedly picking up a toddler, or a builder carrying bricks up a ladder or a soldier being on patrol for hours and then being strongh enough to do his job in a fire fight, in essence it’s about everyday life.

Strength development must follow certain guidelines to ensure improvement and a strong body and mind, we must first understand the definitions of strength to implement those guidelines correctly.

Strength is the maximal amount of force that a muscle or muscle group tha generate in a particular movement pattern in a specific movement velocity (Knuttgen and Kraemer 1987). Strength denotes an efficent communitication between muscle fibres and the nervous system and when these two elements are working effectivley together the exerciser will be stronger. A proper Strength development training program makes the muscles and nerves communicate better n and an exerciser should start to see benefits from this type of training in about 4 weeks.

Absolute Strength is the ability to lift a weight once withlittle or no regard as to how fast it is lifted, this in essence is what most people perceive as strength demonstrated when we see a huge weight being lifted off the ground quickly. Absolute strength is raw and natural quality however absolute strength can be developed with a proper strength development program.

Functional Strength is quite simply having enough strength to do what you need to do through out your working day. The concept of Functional training is to train the body as an integrated system focussing on movement patterns over individual muscle groups.  If you compete in long distance running events, what is functional for you will be very different than a mother with young children who just wants to be able to carry our daily tasks and keep the household running.  This is not to say that you can’t get very strong training for function.  In my opinion this is the best way to train for most people.

Strength Endurance refers to staying power or the ability to endure long periods of high intensity strength efforts.  It is the ability of an athlete to have as much energy left at the end of the first half as he did at the start of the event/game.  Think of performing mulitple squats or press ups with minimul fatigue, it takes the right training to accomplish that.  It is as important for football players, mixed martial artists & rugby players as it is for anyone trying to get through a long, hard day at work.  Strength endurance enables the muscles to do just a “little extra”.

People usually think of endurance as long distance running, cycling or any type of aerobic exercise.  Whilst that type of endurance training is beneficial for your heart & lungs and can have a positive effect on your mental state, that forms only part of the endurance picture.  A person or athlete possesses true endurance when he has the aforementioned attributes and the ability to perform repeated bouts of strength movements.  This is true endurance.  Mixed Martial artists, triathletes and long distance runners do endurance training but that is only part pf the endurance picture, the real key to sports performance is the capacity for strength endurance.

Strength Development – The Basics

Quite simply to get strong you need to lift heavier loads than your accustomed too, if you can lift 10kgs and it feels easy then lift 12kgs. It doesnt matter whether thats with barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight or kettlebell, the main factor in developing strength or any componant of fitness is the intensity at which you train, it should be hard enough to overload your body but not so hard that it causes injury.

The general loading theoryfor strength development is 80 – 95% of 1RM (rep max) with a rep range of 1 to 5 reps with the number of working sets between 2 and 5. Remember you are training and whilst it is useful to do a 1RM test it is not essential and you can work by feel, feel means if the weight fels heavy it is heavy so  if you can lift a given weight for a maximum of 8 reps then  it is best to keep your rep range to 5 reps. If you can lift a weight for 5 reps then the training reps would be 3 reps, in both cases when the weight starts to feel light try do a couple of extra reps, if it still feels light increase the resistance.

Another important factor in strength development is rest and recovery and in is very common to have rest periods of one to two minutes between sets with rest periods between heavy workouts usually being 24 to 48 hours. However as lifters become more advanced rest periods can be compressed, also you can do lighter and less intense workouts between heavt days to allow the body to recover properly.

When training heavy its important to use proper form and a spotter or training partner who is focussed on the same goal as you, concentrate on total body multijoint lifts that allow the body to recruit a variety of muscle groups. Lifts such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, pressing and pulling movements that make your body work as an integrated unit.

Developing Stregth – Endurance

When developing pure strength we keep the weight heavy and reps low, however when trying to develop strength endurancekeep the reps high, usuually between 10-20. The movements are the same, squats, presses, rows etc. The weight should be heavy enough to complete the desired number of reps with some difficulty. Remember, Try between two and five sets. I recommend keeping it to around two or three sets per exercise. You don’t need to train every exercise in a workout this way. It is OK to train some movements for pure strength and then one or two movements for strength endurance. Life and sport are made up of multiple energy system requirements so  training should mimic that. Try between one and two workouts like that per week for a few weeks. It really depends on what you are training for. If it is for a competition then plan accordingly so that you go into the event fresh and not “overtrained”. If it is to get in shape then try this type of workout a couple of times per week for a month or so. The training is grueling so use common sense. Mix things up and listen to your body. If something hurts then modify your training or take a break. If you are still in pian/discomfort get medical help. Add this type of strength development to your training program and you will definitely feel more overall endurance and vitality both on the playing field and in your daily life.



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