Strength Training 101

Eat right and lift heavy.

Cake Weight Loss

If there’s one constant thing we say across Nerd Fitness,
it’s that if you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or just look
better than ever for an upcoming event, the two things you must do
is eat right and lift heavy.

In this series on Strength Training, we’re going to
cover ALL the things you need to know:

training equipment

Finding the Right Gym

Where do I start?

How much weight should I be lifting?

How to Squat Properly

How to do an Overhead Press

How to do the Deadlift safely

How to a do a bodyweight row

We’ve touched
on most of these things a few times before,
gone over your diet
, and shown you some


but we haven’t really gone into great detail.

Today that changes.

This is the first in a series of articles from NF Lead
Female Coach Staci,
covering all things strength training:

Oh, and she can probably lift more than you. Here she is
easily deadlifting 400+ lbs at bodyweight of 150 lbs:

A post shared
by Staci Ardison (@staciardison)
on Oct 11, 2017 at 5:01pm

Staci has been part of Nerd Fitness for the past 7
years, and is now the lead female trainer in our 1-on-1 Online
Coaching Program

Our coach gets to know you, builds a program based on your
experience and goals, will check your form on each movement (via
video), and keep you accountable and on track!

You can learn more about our coaches and schedule a free
call with us by clicking the image below:

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the amazing
world of Strength Training!!!

Why strength training?


First of all, lets face it: Putting everything else
aside, life is EASIER when you’re strong.
 Carrying groceries? One trip. Children to carry? No problem. Car
stuck in the snow? Push it out with ease.

Plus, whether you’re 100 lbs overweight or just need to lose
the last 15, strength training is one of the most effective ways to
burn fat and build muscle.

Lifting has been shown to halt and even reverse
sarcopenia – the reduction of skeletal muscle that
occurs as we get older  – which helps us stay independent (and
out of a nursing home) and live longer.

But in addition to making life easier, strength training has a
lot of great benefits right now.  Here are just a few:

Look Good Naked: Strength training helps you
lose weight (and body fat) in a few different ways.  First, it
helps you retain the muscle you have while eating a calorie deficit
and losing weight.

Second, strength training has a much greater level of excess
post-exercise oxygen consumption than aerobic exercise.  What
does this mean?  When you finish a workout, your body needs to do
a lot of work to replenish itself in order to bring itself back
to a normal state (the way it was before you worked out).  This
takes a lot of energy, and some studies have shown that it can
boost your metabolism for up to 38 hours after you finish your

Not only that, but strength training can help increase your
metabolism by speeding up your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).  This
is because it takes your body more calories to maintain muscle than
it does to maintain fat.  Estimates are that for every 1 lb of
muscle you gain, your RMR goes up 30-50 calories!

Makes You Healthier: If you’re looking for a
workout in which you get the biggest bang for your buck, strength
training is it. Strength training increases bone density, builds a
stronger heart, reduces your resting blood pressure, improves blood
flow, halts muscle loss, helps control blood sugar, improves
cholesterol levels, and improves your balance and coordination
(turning you from
, to

You’ll Feel Better: Not only will you find
yourself with more energy and confidence, less stress and anxiety, and a
overall mood
, but you’ll actually begin to think better
(resistance training has been proven to help increase cognitive
). And while training too close to bedtime can be a bad
idea, exercising earlier in the day has been proven to help prevent
and insomnia. I even improved my posture – when I
started lifting, I was 5’4”.  Now I’m 5’5.5”.

Prevents disease and degenerative conditions
: Heart
disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women;
Strength training helps correct issues relating to cholesterol,
high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity – all
factors for heart disease. Cardiologists are even starting to
recommend strength training for people who have suffered a heart
attack as little as three weeks after the attack. Who knows, maybe
one day your cardiologist will tell you to do some “cardio” and
he’ll be referring to strength training!

Strength training has also been proven to help manage and
improve the quality of life for people with
, Osteoporosis,

Parkinson’s Disease
, Down Syndrome,
who have
recently had a stroke
, have
had a spinal cord injury
, cancer
and clinical

In addition to ALL of the above, strength training is
fun! Whether you are looking for the most effective 20-30
minute workout (to stay fit and look great naked), or are looking
for a competitive sport that you can really get into, strength
training can help you meet your goals. It’s easy and fun to see
progress as you strength train, almost like
leveling up
. And if you’re looking to improve in other areas
(a sport, traditional cardio, or an activity like rock climbing),
strength training is an easy choice!

Ok, ok.  Enough already.  Is there anyone who
SHOULDN’T strength train?

Honestly, I did a lot of research on this one, because I wanted
to find a single group of people who should not strength train.  I
even found studies on how strength training can be beneficial for
 Not to mention it can be safe for children,
, and pregnant
 Obviously, you should take a break from strength
training if you’re injured, and always check with your doctor
before you start any sort of strength training program, but
it’s natural for us, as humans, to move around and carry

Primary objections to strength training

bodybuilder magazines

But I’m so old!
This can’t be safe!

We hear this from 30 year olds and 60 year olds alike…and,
like “I don’t have
,” it is a big fat lie! Even
for the frail elderly, studies have shown that
drastic results
are possible in just 10 weeks of weightlifting
(for both men and women in their 70s through their 90s). In fact,
weight training has also been shown to
delay Alzheimer’s
stave off dementia.
So, if you think you might be “too
old,” you’re probably the exact type of person that SHOULD be
strength training!

But my focus is on (running) (basketball) (quidditch)
and I need to stay slim!

Studies have shown that strength training actually increases the
endurance of your muscles

In fact, resistance exercises not only help to tune up an out of
shape nervous system and increase the activation of motor units
within your muscles, but also helps increase their overall

If you’re worried about overall size, remember: there are many
types of strength training, and size and strength don’t always go
hand in hand. We’ll get into more detail on this in a minute.

I don’t want to get bulky

Ladies!  The images of “bulky” women that you are conjuring
up are from bodybuilding magazines. This is one of the biggest myth
surrounding strength training. When I started strength training, I
didn’t get bulky,
I got lean
, And I’m no outlier, I’m just one example of
the rule: Women who strength train get strong and lean, not bulky.
 Like Veronica, who got damn strong and
certainly lean

Or Bronwyn,
who turned into a powerlifting super mom

That “bulky” look in women does not happen by mistake or
overnight – we simply do not have the hormones necessary to get
there on our own. To achieve this look, women have to eat
incredible amounts of food and consume incredible amounts of drugs.
When we strength train normally, without these supplements, we end
up looking like

We’ll be talking more about strength training for women in a
later article, but for now, just remember that everything in this
article applies to both men and women.

I’m fat. I need to lose weight first.

Great! Start with strength training 🙂 When you’re
overweight, my guess is that you want to be preserving the muscle
you have while losing the majority of your weight through fat. With
strength training, your overall weight loss may seem slower, but
you will lose inches faster. Strength training increases your
metabolism; as long as you’re still eating in a deficit, you’ll
lose weight.

It’s boring

We’ll be talking more about this later, but for now, just give
it a shot! In strength training you can see your progress so
clearly that as you can do more and more, you’ll also be rewarded
by seeing your strength progress from level 1 to level 50! If you
aren’t a fan of the downtime, put on a book on tape or throw on
your favorite
while circuit training to ensure you’re always
moving (instead of sitting and waiting in between sets).

Is that enough for us to convince you?  Awesome.

If you read the above and said to yourself “Hell yeah, I’m
ready to get started. Let’s goooo!” You’re in the right

I want to send you our free guide, Strength Training 101:
Everything You Need to Know, so that you have specific plans to
follow and know how to do every exercise confidently! Grab it free
when you Join the Rebellion with your email in the box below. I’m
excited for you to get started.

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!

Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

I identify as a:


Muscles and strength training

Man Balance

Before we start actually lifting anything, the
first thing we need to do is have a basic understanding of how our
muscles work.

Our muscles are made up of many smaller muscle cells, more
commonly known as muscle fibers.  They’re long and cylindrical,
and about the size of a single strand of hair.  Muscle fibers are
comprised of myofibrils surrounded by sarcoplasm.  (This is the
super short version – if you’re looking for more detail, check
out this

We’ve got about 642 skeletal muscles, and they all work
together to help our bodies move.  For example, when you bend your
arm, your bicep contracts and your tricep does the opposite
(elongates) in order to let your elbow bend.   Every muscle in
your body works alongside  the other.

We also have different types of fibers within our muscles, which
help determine what type of training we respond best to.

The most common fiber types are:

Slow twitch (or Type I fibers) are
used for aerobic exercises where we need to convert oxygen into
fuel over long periods of time. They are very resistant to fatigue,
but do not move very quickly. These help for things such as running
long distances.

Fast twitch (or Type II
fibers) fire very quickly, but also fatigue quickly, so
they don’t last long.  It gets a bit more complicated, because
there are actually two types of fast twitch fibers. Type IIA fibers
have some endurance qualities (used for things such as longer
sprints). While Type IIX fibers are our “super fast” fibers,
used only when a super short burst is needed (like a 100 m sprint
or a really heavy lift).

Every person has a different percentage of fast twitch and slow
twitch fibers, which is why some people tend to be naturally better
at running distances than sprinting, or better at longer sets than
short ones.

What is hypertrophy?

muscle hypertrophy

Most people believe that we can increase the amount of muscle
fibers we have by weight training.  In reality, we’re only born
with a specific amount of muscle – by strength training, we
don’t actually increase the number of muscle fibers, but we
increase the size of them, increasing overall mass. This is called

Now, there are a few types of hypertrophy. When someone
normally just says “hypertrophy” they are most likely referring
to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy focuses on increasing
the amount of sarcoplasm, the non-contractile fluid found in your
muscle. Up to 30% of your muscle’s size is attributed to the
sarcoplasm, so focusing on this type of hypertrophy helps build
overall size.

Myofibril hypertrophy focuses on
strengthening the myofibril, the contractile part of the muscle.
 In this type of hypertrophy, you are strengthening the actual
muscle fiber, so it helps you build super dense, strong

Transient hypertrophy is the
temporary increase in muscle size that happens during and
immediately after weight training due to fluid accumulation in the
intracellular space, that you probably know as “the pump”.

So in summary, if you want to focus mainly on building super
strong dense muscle, you want myofibril hypertrophy.  If you only
care about your muscles getting bigger, focus on sarcoplasmic.
 Transient hypertrophy is temporary and will appear alongside with
both types.

When you strength train you’re basically doing two
things to your muscles:

Breaking down the muscle tissue so that your body
will heal and rebuild the muscle back stronger. You see, our body
hates being told it can’t do something. When you break down your
muscle fiber it comes back stronger; when you try to do that thing
again, it will succeed.
As you start to increase the repetition (rep) range,
you increase the glycogen storage in the muscle. This is where you
get your increased size from.

What does this mean for me?

It means that there’s a lot more to do with strength training
than just lifting things. You need to be training differently,
depending on your specific goals.

Now I don’t want you to go into information overload and
not end
up in the gym
.  So, we’re going to break it down for you
NOTE: This chart is from
Practical Programming for Strength Training
by Rippetoe and

Rep (Repetition) – One movement through a
range of motion and back again. One full squat, dropping below
parallel and standing back up again is “one rep.”

X Rep Max – The heaviest load you’re able
to successfully complete for X reps. So for example, a 1 Rep Max
(or 1RM for short) is something so heavy that you can only complete
one rep of that weight. A 10RM you can only complete 10 reps of –
you would fail on the 11th.

Looking at this chart, if you want strength
(myofibrillar hypertrophy), you’re going to want to keep the reps
low and the weight heavy.

If you’re looking for size, which you get mainly from
sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, you’re going to want to keep the weight
lighter and the reps higher.

Now, one thing to understand is that each of these elements are
NOT exclusive – when you train in a higher rep range you’re not
JUST getting size, you’re also getting strength.

This is why I never understand why girls who don’t want to
“get bulky” are told by trainers to do 3 sets of 10-12 (or 5
sets of 1,000 reps of bicep curls with a 1 lb pink dumbbell). While
it’s difficult for women to gain any sort of size lifting in ANY
rep range, if we were trying to gain muscle size, that’s EXACTLY
what we would want to do (as it would be causing sarcoplasmic

Personally, I wouldn’t worry TOO much about all of the stuff
above, especially if it starts to overwhelm you!

After all, we want you to be CONFIDENT and not
overwhelmed, as the sooner you start strength training, the sooner
you learn the ropes and start to make progress! We cover
all of this in our free guide, Strength 101: Everything You Need to
Know, along with free workout plans – grab all the goodies fo’
free when you join our worldwide Rebellion with your email in the
box below!

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