Sometimes we just assume everyone knows how to strength train. Today I want to look at the basics that we so rarely talk about. It's the basics that help set you up for success.

Stephanieruns Fitness

March 31, 2019 Newsletter

Strength Training Basics

Do you strength train? As you probably know I believe that strength training will make you a stronger, faster more efficient runner. However just telling people to start strength training doesn't set you up for success. I often see questions on twitter about strength training which made me want to cover the basics of strength training for you. There's no shame in not knowing the basics. The basics will however help set you up for success as you start on your strength training journey. I have talked about strength training basics before talking more you can read that issue here. If there is more you want covered let me know. Knowledge is power!

A question I get asked and see quite often on social media is what's the difference between a set and a rep. A set is a group of exercises. you might have anywhere from five to seven or even more exercises in your set. A rep, which is short for repetition is the number of times you'll complete each exercise. So you might have three sets of twelve reps which means you'll do each exercise twelve times and repeat that set of exercises three times.

Another very common question is about the order of exercises. I often see on social media people asking if they should do the one exercise, lets's say squats to make it easier, all at once before moving on to the next exercise. My recommendation is to go through all the exercises, rest and then do your next set. If you were to do three sets of squats before moving on to lets say deadlifts, you'll exhaust your quads and most likely complete the last few repetitions with poor form defeating the purpose of completing them. You need to allow your muscles a bit of rest before coming back to that exercise.

That leads perfectly into the question of how much rest you need between sets. This is a question where I can give a recommendation but you really need to listen to your body. Usually two to three minutes is enough time to recover enough to go again, however you might need a bit less or more recovery time. You don't want your body to completely cool down but at the same time you want to give your body a little bit of rest so you're not exhausted. I'd suggest starting around the two minute mark and checking in with your body to see if you need more or less.

Athletes who are new to strength training often don't know where to start. Do you do machines, bodyweight, classes or free weights. The key when you're starting out is form. Ideally you want to seek out an expert to help you start a strength training routine. If that's not possible you might be able to get a tutorial on the weight machines at your local gym. They might even have a machine circuit you can do. if you're going to use free weights I'd recommend using them in front of a mirror so you can correct your form. I find when you put people in front of a mirror with weights they are able to self correct their form. Strength training is one area where it pays dividends to pay a personal trainer for an hour or two of time to learn a routine. You can plan to follow up every four to six weeks until you have a good grasp on strength training.

Here are some of my strength training recommendations.

  1. Try to get in two strength training workouts a week. you can either split up the body, eg) upper body one day and lower body another or do two full body workouts.
  2. Work opposing muscle groups during a workout. This one can be tricker if you're new to strength training but it's important to help ensure you don't have muscle imbalances which could lead to an injury. Opposing muscle groups are muscles that work together, eg) your quads and hamstrings or biceps and triceps. When you workout both in the same workout you don't have to remember at your next workout which muscles you worked on.
  3. Do a mini fitness test when you start strength training so you have something to compare with to see how you're progressing. I've covered fitness assessments in the past. If you need ideas check out the link to my past newsletter issue.
  4. Every four to six weeks you should be assessing where you are with your strength training. Do you need to increase the weights? Do you need to change out your exercises? We always want to be improving and challenging ourselves we need to review our exercises in order to do that.
  5. Ask for help when you need it. Sometimes we need a little bit of help and that's okay. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Not asking could lead to injury which could bench you from exercise.

If you have questions about strength training let me know. I'd love to cover your questions on strength training in a future newsletter issue.

Weekly Challenge

I haven't had a weekly challenge in a while. I wasn't sure if you guys were enjoying my weekly challenges but I thought I'd bring one back for this week. Send me a tweet @srunsfitness and let me know what you think of my weekly challenges. If there's a specific challenge you want to see let me know. I love creating content that you want!

For this week's challenge we are going to do a circuit. This is where you'll do each exercise for a set amount of time not number of repetitions. You might have heard this called HITT, high intensity interval training. Now I don't believe all your workouts should be at a high intensity but HITT can give you a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you have a short amount of time to workout in.

This week on twitter I asked if you preferred track Tuesday or running on Tuesday.  A lot of you told me that you preferred taco Tuesday so I'm naming this workout Taco Tuesday Intervals. Here it is!


Do each exercise for 45 seconds moving on to the next exercise right away. After completing all the exercises rest for two to three minutes before completing the set again for a total of three time. Don't forget to start with a warm up. Bring your heart rate up with walking, stair climbing or sun salutations before adding in some dynamic stretches. You always want to be well warmed up before doing a HITT workout.

Exercises: complete each one for 45 seconds

  1. jump squats
  2. single leg deadlift with weights
  3. burpees
  4. dips
  5. bicep uppercuts 
  6. russian twist

After completing three sets be sure to bring your heart rate down with light walking, don't just stop. After you've brought your heart rate down be sure to stretch. You can also foam roll anywhere that needs it.

Let me know how you like this Taco Tuesday Challenge by tweeting me @sunsfitness

Getting Help

I think sometime we are hesitant to ask for help when we need it. However when it comes to strength training asking for help and assistance can save you injury and stress. So where can you go to get help with strength training? I'm going to list my recommendation in my order of preference.

  1. Personal Trainer. A Personal trainer is a great place to start for strength training help. They live breathe and know strength training exercises, form and modification. Getting help from a personal trainer doesn't mean you need to commit to hours of training. Most trainers will let you pay for an hour or two to help you with strength training. They are also able to design a plan for you. There's really something to be said about having in person assistance with your strength training.
  2. Virtual Training. There are lots of personal trainers out there who also do skype or video personal training sessions. If you have a trainer in mind that you mesh with, or it's hard to find someone in your area this is a great option. It's also great if you have young kids or a busy work schedule and want help with working out. You can have an expert virtually at your house to help you.
  3. Your local gym. Most gyms will have a familiarization session for the machines and weights at their gym. You can sign up for a time and a staff member will take you through the machines and show you how to use them. This is fantastic for beginners.
  4. A friend or family member. You might just be lucky enough to have a skilled friend or family member who can help you with strength training exercises. They might also be able to double as a workout buddy.
  5. A mirror. Failing all of the above do your strength training exercises in front of a mirror. This will allow you to check on your form, and self correct your form. You'd be surprised how much you can self correct with a mirror.

Bottom line you don't need to do this on your own. Ask for help when you need it. There are always options out there that work for you and your budget. 

****FLASH SALE****  Use the coupon code 'birthday' to save 30% off any training plan in my Training Peak's store. This code is valid until April 1, 2019. It's a great chance to start a new plan!

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Stephanieruns Fitness

461 North Service Rd West
Oakville Ontario,  L6M 2V5 - Canada

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries or damages as a result of the above content.