What are good strength-training guidelines?

Start slow and light, choose a weight you can lift for 12-15 repititions,by the time you get to rep 10 or 12, the weight should be more difficult to work with, if not, go ahead and increase the weight slightly. Work your entire body, there is no such thing as spot reduction. Start with one exercise per body part, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs and abs. 1-2 sets of 12 to start, then progress to more reps each week. Increaseing repititions and not weight is extrememly important to those new to strength training. This routine gives your ligaments and tendons time to strengthen and prepare for heavier weights. Use the correct form for each exercise, for instance when performing a chest press, keep your lower back flat and in contact with the bench (no arching) feet flat on the floor throughout the movement. Using improper form will cause muscle imbalances and can cause injury. If you are not sure of the proper form you might want to consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions.

Chris Embry
Strength training guidelines include:

- Focus on compound barbell exercises such as Squats, Bench Presses, Deadlifts, Barbell Rows, Overhead Presses, and Power Cleans.  These exercises work multiple muscles that not only lift the weight, but stabilize it as well.

- Stick to a lower repetition ranges between 3 - 8 reps.  These allow you to focus on your form.  Form tends to breakdown as you get tired during higher rep sets. In addition, you can increase the amount of weight added to the bar more often when you are doing lower reps.

- Ensure your program is progressive.  Try to increase the weight or the number of reps you do during each workout.

- Eat more.  Strength training is a strenuous activity and can takes its toll on your body.  Make sure you are recovering by giving your body enough quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and essential fats to grow and adapt.

Strength training guidelines include:

1. Start slow and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. This will help alleviate excessive soreness when you begin a resistance training program and prepare your body for more intense workouts down the road.

2. Never strength train the same body part on consecutive days. Give your muscles at least 24-48 hours rest between workouts.

3. Always maintain proper form and technique. If the weight is too heavy to lift correctly, opt for a lighter weight. You will get better results and greatly reduce your chances of injury.

4. The last few repetitions should be difficult to lift while maintaining proper form. For example, if you chose to perform 12 repetitions then reps 11 and 12 should feel rather heavy. If the weight is easy to lift you’re not adequately challenging your muscles.

5. Ask a certified personal trainer for assistance if you need help learning how to use free weights or strength-training machines.

6. Always re-rack your weights.

7. Certain exercises such as the Bench Press require a spotter.

8. Give yourself plenty of room to perform free weight exercises. Stay clear of obstacles and other patrons.

9. Do not drop the weights.

10. Stop if you feel pain during an exercise.

11. When starting out, perform strength-training workouts twice a week targeting every major muscle group. As your fitness improves the frequency and volume of your workouts can increase.

12. Don’t forget to breathe; avoid holding your breath. This can cause dizziness, fainting, and raise your blood pressure.

Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
Whether you're using dumbbells or a weight machine, keep in mind that the weight needs to be heavy enough to fatigue your muscles after 8 to 10 repetitions.
Here's a good progression for both beginners and experienced exercisers to follow during strength training:
  • Begin with 1 or 2 sets per exercise, 8 to 10 repetitions per set, at
           least two times a week. Take no more than 20 to 30 seconds in
           between sets. You may find you can't make 8 to 10 reps in the
           second set, but that's okay; it's evidence you're working hard
           enough in the first set to produce changes in your muscles. As
           your strength improves, you'll eventually make the reps.
  • After about four weeks, reassess. If you're making all your sets
           easily, add another. Also check your weights. Are they heavy
  • Keep reassessing every four to six weeks, and when you're ready for
           a new challenge, add another day. Your ultimate goal: 3 sets of
           each exercise, 8 to 10 reps, every other day.
The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

More About this Book

The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...

Never train alone.

If you are a beginner, hire a professional.

Keep good posture. Form is everything.

Don't over train. This is counterproductive. Overtraining happens when you train the same body parts consistently in the same manner and the muscle "gets used to" doing the work.

Don't train to failure. You should always be able to do at least one more rep. When you get to that point...stop and rest. Allow your muscles time to regroup and then continue.

Pick a weight that you can handle. You should be able to do 8-12 quality reps continuously.

If you cannot safely lift the weight then opt to do bodyweight exercises. They are just as effective when done correctly.

Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training

There are some general guidelines that you want to follow.

  • If it feels too heavy, it probably is too heavy for you to perform the exercise properly.
  • Targeting certain areas is not good; instead focus on the full body, performing exercises that require the use of many muscle groups. Many of these exercises replicate everyday movements.
  • Remember to breathe, exhale on a push or pull and inhale on the return.
  • Set a goal and progress your way to it. What you do not want to do is start out with 3 sets of 15 reps. Start slowly, 1 set of 8-12 reps per body part (or 3-4 exercises if performing full body) and gradually increase intensity and volume as your body adapts. This will allow both the physical body to adapt to your new program and also allow you to mentally accept the challenge and stick with it. It all starts with education.
  • Read up on the topic and seek the help of a professional if you have never performed strength-training exercises. You want to start out performing exercises correctly because you can hurt yourself if you perform exercises improperly.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Don't drop any heavy weights on your head. Or toes. Also…

  1. Do one set of each exercise (two if the exercise only works one side of the body at a time). You can increase to two (or four) sets of each exercise as your progress.
  2. Train at threshold: Use the 8-12 rule. For each exercise, choose a weight light enough that you can lift 8 times in the given exercise, but heavy enough that you can't do it more than 12 times.
  3. Do not lock your legs or arms. Straight legs and straight arms do not mean that they should be locked.
  4. Suck your abdominals in when doing all exercises. That will lead to a stronger mid-section and better posture.
  5. Breathe. Exhale when you're pushing or pulling the weight, and inhale when you're releasing it back to the starting position.
  6. Discretely admire self in mirror whenever possible.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

More About this Book

YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...
The following are guidelines for strength training:
  • How often: 2 to 3 days per week, with a day off between sessions to let your muscle recover.
  • How long: Begin with 1 exercise set per muscle group, with 8 to 12 repetitions per set. Build up to 3 sets per muscle group. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
  • How hard: Strengthening activities should be done to the point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help.

Continue Learning about Strength Training & Exercise

Strength Training Tips for Beginners
Strength Training Tips for Beginners
Sometimes it's hard to know how much weight is enough when you're a beginner trying to start a strength-training program.  Rule of thumb: Don't start...
Read More
How long of a break should I take before working the same muscle group?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
The amount of rest needed between strength training days for a given muscle group depends on you...
More Answers
Easy At-Work Exercises for Nurses
Easy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for NursesEasy At-Work Exercises for Nurses
No time for the gym? Tone trouble spots during your shift with these moves.
Start Slideshow
4 Strength-Training Tips
4 Strength-Training Tips

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.