Beginners Guide to Strength Training

Beginners Guide to Strength Training

The glory of training for strength cannot be undermined. There is truly something to be said for the state of bliss you get when you are in the zone - lifting heavier and heavier, week by week, and seeing the muscle pack on.

The golden era of bodybuilding saw rise to strength training like never before. Times were simple, you lifted heavy every week and tried to stay clear of injury.

Amazingly, the 21st century has brought  greater advancements in strength and recovery that leads athletes to train harder, faster and smarter.

A balanced strength program provides structure and monitors progress along the way. Training for strength is not necessarily about how good you look, but rather how fit you really are.

In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of strength training, the nutrition you’ll need, and actionable steps you can take to start building a stronger, healthier body.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is not just picking heavy weights up and putting them back down. Strength training is a term we use to describe an overall goal of making advancements in weights, sets, reps and variable intensities.

Strength training is defined by your specific goal. Here is an example of goals oriented to various types of strength.

Scitec Athlete


Example #1

Joe is overweight, but is not concerned with weight loss, rather his goal is to put on muscle and slowly decrease in weight as needed. Joe has been training on and off for a year.

GOAL: Hypertrophy.

Hypertrophy is a term we use to describe the increase in the size of muscle cells. Joe would train with high resistance (heavy weights) sets, low reps and relatively easier intensities (more rest and faster bar speed). He may only train 3-4x each week. Joe’s goal is to always lift as much weight as possible - which is why he would need to rest frequently.

Example #2

Brandon is an average build. He has been the same size for the majority of his life and is looking to put on some muscle mass without all the weight that comes with traditional mass training programs. Brandon has never worked out before.

GOAL: Volume.

Volume training is perfect for newcomers to the gym as the results come quickly and the injury rate is very low. Volume training requires low resistance (low weight), high repetitions, high sets and a very easy intensity.

This type of training will teach Brandon how to exercise properly, activating each muscle properly before he moves onto a traditional strength training program.

Both programs are catered to the athletes specific goal. Strength training alone does not replace a poor diet. No one can outwork a bad diet!

Free Bonus: Never miss Leg Day with this workout. Squats are the king of all lifts for a reason.

Why Train for Strength?

An important question for anyone who is thinking about starting strength training.The simple answer is that life is better when you are stronger.

Remember the last time you needed to carry in the groceries, or pickup the bag of dog food at the store. Training for strength makes these basic functions far easier.

Not only will everyday tasks become easier, but strength training has actually been shown to reverse the effects of muscle loss as we age. This means you stay more independant and out of a nursing home for longer.

The benefits of Strength Training

  • Live longer
  • Increase Vitality
  • Freedom to eat more calorically dense meals
  • Looking Great
  • More energy throughout the day
  • Longer and deeper sleep
  • Improved posture
  • Lower anxiety
  • Stronger immune system

The reality is our body was built to lift. We were built to get stronger, faster and stay in optimal shape. Our body thrives in a state of exercise. Within weeks of training for strength your muscles will start to swell up, retain more water and start to heal and grow larger to meet the demands of exercise - all while improving the overall function of your heart and internal systems.

Strength Training and Nutrition

Nutrition is perhaps the most important aspect of any well balanced strength training routine.

Unlike many bodybuilding style routines, training for strength has a specific goal of maximal power, rather than optimal physique. In the process of training for strength you will see major advancements in your overall body composition, yet this is not your main goal.

Delicious pot roast with veggies

This means our nutrition is catered towards performance over body composition. Carbohydrates become a primary addition to our diet, clean protein ingestion - essential, and lower fat intakes are recommended.


Carbohydrates, such as whole grains, oats, vegetables and fruit are a crucial component of your diet when training for strength. These carbohydrates are digested and metabolised into glycogen - a energy substance for muscles to work effectively.

Without adequate amounts of carbohydrates in your diet you will lack energy and struggle to perform under the bar. Most strength experts will agree that you should eat 35-50% of your diet from carbohydrate sources that are high in fibre.


The most talked about nutrient in the fitness industry for a reason. Protein ingestion is crucial to your success in strength training. Protein works to stimulate a process called muscle protein synthesis which puts you in an anabolic state - enabling you to recover after a workout.

Protein provides branched chain amino acids that enable muscle growth and immune response. Training for strength, your diet should contain no less than 25% total calories from lean protein sources like chicken, fish, beans and legumes.


Fats are a difficult nutrient to advocate on a strength based program. Yes, they enable the regulation of hormones, allow for greater nutrient absorption and have many other functions - yet high intakes of fat may not be the best option if your goal is to build muscle and lift as much weight as possible.

Strength training is completed with moderate intensity and shorter workouts. The fuel for this type of exercise comes from the carbohydrates in our diet rather than fat.

A diet consisting of 10-20% of its caloric intake from predominantly unsaturated fats is most recommended to enable growth and strength.

Free Bonus: Never miss Leg Day with this workout. Squats are the king of all lifts for a reason.

Principles Of Strength

Now that we understand what strength training is and how if affects our overall nutrition let's break down the most important principles of strength in order to optimize your training.

Principle #1: Train with Periodization

Periodization is a term used to describe the amount of stress you place on the muscle during cycles of strength training.

You cannot work hard week in and week out - you'll need to train harder some weeks, and rest more other weeks.

This allows your body to recover and helps prevent injury.

Principle #2 - Progressive Overload

This principle comes into play when we have long-term goals. Say your long term goal is to bench 315. Working up in weights with compound exercises can be broken down into a science.

Man bench pressing heavy weights

Here is a simple method for progressive overload. Start with Rep and Set schemes of 8x3, with an easy tempo (bar speed) and 90 seconds rest between each set.

DAY 1 (Week 1-2)
Flat Bench Press


After 1-2 weeks of performing this exercise with the same reps and sets as seen above, progression will come with increasing the weight and cycling the set scheme.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to change your workout to a 6x4 rather than a 8x3. Your workout would then look like this.

DAY 1 (Week 3)
Flat Bench Press

This does not increase the total rep count in any way.

You are still completing 24 total repetitions - broken down into four sets with more rest.

Increase the weight at 6x4 for 1-2 weeks using this set scheme and then bounce back to an 8x3 pattern for the same weight the following cycle.

Principle #3 - Recovery

Most people who step into a gym completely avoid proper warm up and cool down - not to mention off-day recovery.

Exercise is inherently stressful for your muscles and body!

Without proper rest and recovery you will ride the fine line of health vs injured. Take time to warm up, stretch working joints through full range of motion and cool down slowly after exercise.

On off-days, utilize your shower tub and make an ice bath. Cryotherapy, or ice therapy has been shown to reduce swelling and accelerate recovery. Remember, your recovery is all in effort to get back into the gym as quickly as possible - don't skip recovery sessions.

How to Get started

Getting started on a strength program is dependant on your goal. Remember the two examples we discussed at the beginning of this article? The difference between Joe and Brandon was the goal and experience working out.

Start off Slow

Start slow, with lighter weights. Don't even think about going heavy for at least the first three to four weeks of training. Your goal should be to program each movement - especially your big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, good morning) properly before you start to pack on the weight.

Record Your Results/Lifts

Measuring progress is perhaps the most important aspect to a complete workout program. Without progress markers in strength training you have no way to understand if you are getting stronger or wasting your time.

Have Fun

At the end of the day exercise is supposed to be fun. Don't take it so seriously that you forget to stop and appreciate the body you are creating.

Checkout our Mass Training Guide

Starting strength training can be difficult. That's why we created a unique mass training guide for all levels and goals.

Free Bonus: Never miss Leg Day with this workout. Squats are the king of all lifts for a reason.
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