May 112010

Many people seem to make a common mistake when setting out to do strength training – for some reason, a lot seem to be under the impression that simply working out at the gym is training your body’s strength. But that’s wrong – in fact, if you want to develop muscle strength, you’ll have to set up a vastly different workout routine than if you were going for regular bodybuilding. There’s a subtle difference in the way muscles need to be strained in order to grow them larger, or to make them stronger.

First, you should understand the difference between having large muscles, and having muscle strength – and subsequently, understand what’s so different in working out for both purposes. In regular bodybuilding workouts, you’re actually hurting your muscles – working them to a level of exhaustion so that they need to repair themselves afterwards. The general idea is that the repairing process always produces a little extra muscle tissue, which builds up over time.

Strength, on the other hand, comes from your mind to a larger extent. For example, those of you who have some background in martial arts or boxing will surely have noticed how people with a lot less weaker-looking muscles are able to throw devastatingly powerful punches. It’s not just proper technique – it’s also the ability so send more powerful nerve impulses to your muscles, stimulating them more harshly. The general idea behind strength training is to decrease the number of repetitions you do, and increase the weights you’re training with – this way, your body and mind can get used to the idea of controlling the muscles more strongly.

That’s the first major step you’ll have to take. After you’ve increased your weights and decreased the sets/reps, make sure you leave enough time to rest inbetween the consecutive sets – this will give your muscles more time to recover so you’ll have them in a better-prepared state afterwards.

That’s another important point to make – when working out for the purpose of bodybuilding, you’ll be training your muscles to absolute exhaustion, until you’ve strained them a lot. On the other hand, this will actually be detrimental to your progress in strength training – if you train to exhaustion, your muscles will deteriorate towards the end of the exercise, and your mind will again be used to sending out weak impulses.

For the same purpose, avoid forcing yourself to finish the set when you feel you can’t – this works for bodybuilding where you’ll want to strain your muscles as much as possible, but in strength training it will only slow down your progress, so avoid it at all cost.

Remember to do your exercises frequently enough, too – but also leave enough days for your muscles to rest. Generally you’d want something like a 3-4 day workout routine with 2-3 days of rest spread inbetween them.

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