Strength training is the foundation of any well-rounded fitness program. It doesn’t matter if you run, bike, swim, do yoga, or any other sport there is out there to participate in. Strength training has to be in your fitness routine somewhere. A solid strength-training program will provide an array of benefits in as little as twice a week, 30 minutes for each workout. Now, if you really want to put on some muscle and burn body fat to gain the physique you REALLY want, I suggest a little more, but I realize that people simply like to be involved in other areas of fitness. In this case, the minimum effective dose will work well.
So, why is strength training so important? For one, it is the fastest way to build muscle tissue. No matter who you are, what you do, or how old you are, you need to at least maintain, or gain muscle tissue. As we age, our body naturally wants to lose muscle tissue. For you folks that are 40 and above, your goal should be to keep all the muscle that you have if you want to increase longevity, stay strong, move the way you need to, and yes, keep your metabolism rocking. By strength training the whole body, you increase protein synthesis (build muscle), and release anabolic hormones naturally (testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1) to keep you feeling young and strong.
Now, you would think that since strength training is so important to overall health and performance, why isn’t everyone doing it? Why don’t they make strength training a priority? Well, I think it is because they simply don’t know what to do. With so much exercise info smashing into our face on a daily basis, we usually pick what looks fun, or do what our friends said was working for them. That is fine, I am good with that. You just need to understand that strength training is so beneficial, and can be a part of any and all fitness programs. It does not have to be difficult, and you really only need 6 different movements in your strength training routine.
You can do all the bicep curls, burpees, ball slams, triceps pushdowns and calf raises in the world, but they will never produce the results these 6 movements will. These movements will provide the fundamentals of workout success. You will improve your functional strength, build muscle, increase your work capacity, lose body fat, and improve your quality of life.
Over the years, I have made some workout programs so complex, way too complicated to follow, and unrealistic for my clients that wanted to do other things than just lift weights. If you are someone that is a runner, cyclist, swimmer, tennis buff, or yogini, this program is perfect for you. In just 30 minutes, two times per week, you will fill in the gaps of your training program, improve your craft, and reduce the risk of injury. Not to mention, look better naked.
Without further or do, let’s take a look at your workout combo options.
Squatting, swinging, and carrying heavy weight are all fantastic methods to put on muscle and torch body fat. Combine them all into one workout, and you have a bulletproof workout to ensure that you gain strength and transform your physique in no time.
Goblet Squat – Popularized by legendary strength coach, Dan John, this has become the sidekick of the traditional back and front squats with the barbell. The goblet squat is very useful when you want to do some extra lower-body work, but need to give the joints and nervous system some recovery time from heavier loaded squats. They also help improve mobility in the hips, thus helping you out with other lower-body movement patterns. They feel good on the joints, and hammer your quads in the process.
The offset kettlebell squat is great for working the core and balancing out the body.
The double kettlebell front squat is the hardest of the three, and will demand every single ounce of effort from your body to complete.
Kettlebell Swing – The kettlebell swing (KBS) is great for strengthening the entire backside of your body; the perfect complement to the goblet squat for total lower-body development. They also allow you to perform them at higher reps, making them a great fat loss tool. The ballistic motion of the movement also helps increase power development. The KBS is your all-in-one fat loss, muscle building, endurance boosting, and power enhancing exercise. If I had to pick one of the six exercises as my go-to, the KBS is it.
Note: Only perform the 2 KBS if you have experience with swinging bells.
Loaded Carries – Another exercise popularized by Dan John, loaded carries will build your grip, arms, and core, and teach you to maintain a high level of force output for extended periods of time. Carries are the bridge between being strong and having great strength capacity. The loaded carry has been the missing link to many strength and conditioning programs around. The amount of work capacity it demands is incredible. Simply carrying heavy weight in various ways (above the head, rack position, farmers carry, suitcase carry) will wake up some the core and upper-body muscles that you never thought that you had.
If you want to learn more about the beauty of the loaded carry, please read this article by Gray Cook.
Related: Best Muscle Building Supplements
The Squat, Swing, Carry Workouts
I have developed three different combos that are sure to hit every major muscle group in the body in different ways.
Perform 5 rounds of the following circuit. Your goal is NOT to put the kettlebell (s) down until you finish the prescribed number of reps for each movement in the circuit. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.
5 goblet squats
15 kettlebell swings
40-meter goblet hold carry
5 offset kettlebell squats each side
15 kettlebell swings each arm
40-meter suitcase carries each arm
5 double kettlebell front squats
15 double kettlebell swings
40-meter farmers carry
Perform this workout 1-2 times per week. To start out, just perform one of these complexes per workout, once a week. When you improve these movements, you can combine them with a push, pull, lunge workout, and complete the combo in 30 minutes.
Push, Pull, Lunge
We could get away with just the squat, swing, carry combos and experience great results. The push, pull, lunge combo adds variety to the workouts and helps improve your upper-body strength. This combo will hit every possible muscle in the body.
In life and sport, we push things horizontally in front of us, and vertically above the head. These two movements will provide plenty of stimuli for the shoulder, chest, and triceps. If you do them right, you won’t need any isolation exercises, such as triceps work and shoulder raises. Push-ups, dumbbell bench press, and the 1-arm kettlebell press are the primary three that we will use.
Just like the fundamental human movement of pushing, we pull things towards us horizontally and vertically. All of the back muscles must be worked in order to keep the shoulders healthy, improve posture, and balance out the upper-body. Chin-ups, 1-arm dumbbell rows, and inverted TRX rows will be the focus.
The lunge is an exercise that has been in every fitness circle around. From group fitness folks, to boot campers, the lunge is an exercise that seems to pop into the programming. Unfortunately, this exercise is harder than people make it out to be. While it looks like an easy exercise, it is actually an intermediate, maybe even advanced movement for many people. The funny thing is that hardcore lifters wrote off the lunge as a “soft” exercise.
Well, the verdict is in the middle. The lunge is a great fundamental exercise that has great carryover to athletics, builds great stability in the hips, core and knees, and works a ton of muscles at once. Remember, the more muscle worked at one time, the better the fat loss and muscle building capabilities. We will focus on the reverse lunge, walking lunge, and lateral lunge.
The Push, Pull, Lunge Workouts
There will be 3 different workouts. Perform 3-5 rounds, depending on your level. Just like the squat, swing, carry workout, pick only ONE (1) circuit per workout.
10 TRX rows
10 reverse lunges each leg
Add weight when the reps are too easy.
8 one-arm dumbbell bench press
8 one-arm dumbbell rows
8 lateral lunges
All sets are done for 8 reps each side.
5 one-arm kettlebell overhead press each arm
5 chin-ups or pull-ups
10 walking lunges each leg
Make Strength Training a Priority
Improving your strength base should be something you make important in your workouts. It doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t take a ton of different exercises. Focus on the fundamentals and focus on doing them well. The results will follow.
Justin Grinnell is a strength coach, personal trainer, nutrition enthusiast and owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. You can follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @JustinGrinnell4 or check out his website grinnelltraining.com