FIRST Guidelines to Improve Muscular STRENGTH

In my last post, I wrote about using the FIRST guidelines for improving muscular endurance.  Now we’ll focus on improving muscular strength.  Muscle strength is defined as “the ability to exert a maximal amount of force for a short period of time“.

We all need muscle strength for most activities of daily living.  Lifting the groceries, picking up your child, or housework.  If you’re interested in improving your muscle strength, you can easily create a program following these guidelines.

FIRST guidelines for Improving Muscular Strength

Frequency:  When you strength train at a high intensity, it causes considerable microtrauma to the tissue which usually takes about 72 hours for recovery.  If you perform total-body workouts, two sessions per week would be advised.  If you like to do split routines, be sure to take at least 72 hours between workouts for the same muscles.  An example of a split routine would be to work chest, shoulders, and triceps on Mon and Thurs; Tues and Fridays work the upper back and biceps; Wed and Saturdays would be legs and trunk.  *Please note that the 72 hour waiting period is recommended when you are strength training at a high intensity using close to your maximum resistance*

Intensity:  In the beginning stages of training for strength, you can be successful using a wide range of weightloads.  However, for the best strength improvement, it’s advised to use weightloads between 80-90% of your max resistance.  Performing one to three reps with more than 90% of your max is very effective for developing strength, but this isn’t recommended for the average person.

Repetitions:  Training for muscular strength requires fewer reps than when training for muscular endurance.  When using higher weightloads, you aren’t able to perform as many reps.  In most cases it is suggested to complete four to six repetitions to improve muscular strength.  When you can complete 7 reps, it’s time to increase the weight by about 5%.

Sets:  Improvements in muscular strength can be gained with both single-set or multiple-set training.  It’s a good idea to start with one hard set of each exercise and increase when you feel comfortable.  Muscular strength programs typically do not go beyond 3-4 sets of each exercise.  Keep in mind that longer rest periods are needed in between sets.  Two to five minutes of recovery are advised between sets of the same exercise which means workouts will take longer.  Luckily, single-set programs can be just as effective for improving strength.

Type:  As with training for muscular endurance there are several options for muscular strength training.  Although, free weights and standard machine exercises are favored when your goal is to develop more strength.

Increases in muscular strength coincide with increases in muscular endurance, but it’s more important to focus on training intensity when your goal is to improve strength.  Split routines or total body strength training routines are both effective.  It’s mostly a matter of preference and lifestyle.

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The progress one makes varies from person to person.  It’s not realistic to automatically increase your workload each week.  If your repetition range is 4-6 per set, once you can complete 6 reps with proper technique you can then increase the weight by about 5%.  Then start back at 4 reps and work up to 6 reps.

Using these guidelines is a very efficient way to improve muscular strength.  Both muscular endurance and muscular strength are important for overall physical fitness.  The FIRST guidelines are fairly easy to follow and can be very helpful when creating your program.

Do you prefer total body training or a split routine?

 



4 Responses to FIRST Guidelines to Improve Muscular STRENGTH

  1. my trainer has me doing more reps and lighter weights to build endurance. I also have the tendency to bulk up quite quickly when I use heavier weights.

  2. Debbie says:

    With the population I train (mostly 70 and over) I tend to focus more on muscular endurance, as that also gives strength benefits. Most just want to be fit for life (oh, and golf, there’s that 🙄 Which of course adds power to the mix.).

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