Strength Training Basics – Part 1

Strength Training Basics – Part 1

Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance to build or retain muscle. Strength training is essential because it helps:

  1. Increase muscle mass (lean body mass)
  2. Increase the body’s metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. This aids significantly in long-term weight management.
  3. Increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis (loss of bone minerals) when done consistently
  4. In the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure by strengthening the heart.
  5. Strengthen the lower back and alleviates lower back pain.
  6. Boost energy levels and improves your mood.
  7. Enhances the tone and shape of muscles, so you look good!
  8. Improves balance, stability and your capacity to perform every-day functions
  9. Enhance immunity and improve brain health and cognitive functions.

Safe and effective strength training practices are founded on an understanding of the elements of proper form, loading basics, and programming elements as well as a basic knowledge of major muscle groups. These are further described below and here.

The Three Elements of Proper Form: Sequence, Speed, and Range

Strength training exercises generally fall into two categories: compound and isolation. A compound movement uses a combination of muscle groups and joints, for example the squat, which works the core (a group of muscles that stabilizes and controls the pelvis and spine), muscles at the back of the of the lower legs and thighs, the glutes and lower back all at the same time. In contrast, an isolation exercise is targeted and works one joint and one specific group of muscles. For example, bicep curls work only the biceps and use the elbow.

Sequence: The correct order is to start with the larger muscle groups and compound movements and work towards the smaller muscle groups and isolation movements. This allows you to use better form to do the most demanding moves when you’re least fatigued. You will use better form on your bench press if you do that before fatiguing the biceps with biceps curls.

Speed: Control of movement during each exercise is very important. A reasonable training pace is one to two seconds for the lifting (concentric) portion of the exercise and three to four seconds for the lowering (eccentric) portion of the move. Fast, jerky movements should be avoided. They place undue stress on the muscle and connective tissue at the beginning of the movement, substantially increasing the likelihood of an injury. Fast lifting also cheats you out of some of the strength benefits. When lifting at a fast pace, momentum (not the muscle) is doing a good deal of the work. 

Range: Full range of motion is an important component of proper form. Each exercise should be taken through the complete range of joint movement in a slow controlled manner, with emphasis placed on the completely contracted position. If a weight is so heavy that you have to jerk, bounce or swing to get it to the top of the movement, it’s too heavy. Your form is compromised. Full range of motion movements contract and strengthen the muscle you’re working (the prime mover) and stretch the opposing (antagonist) muscle. This contributes to both muscle strength and joint flexibility.


Mr. Douglas Bamweyana is an Assistant Lecturer, Sports Science, Department of Biochemistry and Sports Science. He has a BSc. Sports Science (Mak), MSc. Sports Biomechanics (Loughborough University - UK), an MBA (Univ. of Nicosia) and is currently a PhD Student. His research interests include optimizing human performance, human movement variability and engineering and computer simulation modelling. He is a CAF A Licensed Coach and FUFA 1st Division Licensed Coach. He is President - Uganda Society of Sports Science and Physical Education (USSSPE).

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