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Strength Training

Submitted by: John Benson






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We will begin our article with some detailed terminology which you should be familiar with if you hope to pursue strength training.

Our body movements are controlled by skeletal muscles. Tendons attach them to adjacent bones. They function to result in movement at the joint where the two bones meet. Muscles are capable of contracting when their muscle fibers shorten which cause movement in either direction. Where the muscle is placed across the joint determines direction of movement. Muscles that result in the same type of movement at a joint are called synergistic, whereas muscles that act in opposition are known as antagonistic. There are various types of muscle contraction, some of which are detailed below:

Isotonic Contraction

In an isotonic contraction, the tension within the muscle remains the same throughout the motion, which is to say the force of the contraction remains constant. This is also called the positive portion of an exercise movement. There are two aspects of isotonic contraction, concentric, and eccentric. Concentric contraction occurs when the muscle fibers shorten as tension develops. At the onset of the movement, the actin and myosin filaments have tremendous pulling force. Thus you will be stronger in the initial phase of most movements. Toward the end or near the peak of contraction, the ability of the filaments to slide toward each other reaches a limit and strength weakens. An eccentric contraction is the type of muscle contraction that involves lengthening the muscle fibers, such as when a weight is lowered through a range of motion. The muscle yields to the resistance, allowing itself to be stretched. Here the actin and myosin slide away from each other. The level of force generated is much higher in the eccentric phase as opposed to the concentric phase. This is due to the added friction in the eccentric portion. Concentric aspect is a form of muscle contraction that occurs when muscle fibers shorten as tension develops. Eccentric aspect is a contraction that involves lengthening the muscle fibers, such as when a weight is lowered through a range of motion. The muscle yields to the resistance, allowing itself to be stretched. This is the age of the focused eccentric contraction. Too often bodybuilders focus their attention only on the positive motion (concentric) and pay little attention to the negative motion (eccentric). It is a matter of common sense to perform the lowering of resistance with at least as much focus and effort given to lifting the same weight.

Isometric Contraction

Isometric contraction is a muscular contraction not accompanied by movement of the joint. The muscle is neither lengthened nor shortened but tension changes can be measured. Due to the lack of visible muscle shortening, there is no movement of the actins. The term ?dynamic tension? was used by Charles Atlas to refer to this term.

Isokinetic contraction

Isokinetic contractions can refer to either a concentric or eccentric contraction. Isokinetic contraction occurs at a set speed against a force of maximal resistance produced at all points in the range of motion. This contraction type is performed under controlled same - speed conditions.

Our ability to adjust to various movements of the body in response to changes in the environment is brought about by the proprioception system, due to the system's sensitivity to movement and body position. This system provides the body with ongoing feedback.

Muscle Adaptation in Strength Training

With systematic training, changes in both structure and physiology will take place, as well as adaptations in the body. These adaptations are visually reflected in size and definition of the body's muscles. The extent of these adaptations are dependent on the demands the athlete places on his or her body throughout training. If the volume and intensity of training is significant, significant adaptation will result.

It is of importance to note that recreational strength training is only helpful to the bodybuilder or recreational athlete providing that it forces the body to adapt to the stress of the training. To do this, it is important to place a greater demand on the body than it is normally accustomed to. If the training volume and intensity does not surpass the threshold necessary for adaptation to occur, the effect of said training will be minimal or even completely insignificant.

Many different systems of the body adapt to strength training. This is done in a variety of different ways. The most important to a bodybuilder is the actual muscle developed on the body, but this is certainly not the only type of adaptation. Bones will get stronger or weaker, depending on the volume and intensity of the training, and the central nervous system becomes much better at recruiting muscle fiber for action.


Hypertrophy is the scientific term denoting an increase in muscle mass and an improvement in relative muscular strength. Hypertrophy is induced by placing an "overload" on the working muscles with various techniques during a bodybuilding workout. Hypertrophy is the most visible sign of adaptation. It is the enlargement of actual muscle size. This is caused by an increase in the cross-sectional area of the individual muscle fibers. The converse of this term is atrophy, which results in the shrinking of muscle cross-sectional area due to inactivity. Hypertrophy is further broken down into two sub categories:

Short-Term Hypertrophy: Short term hypertrophy lasts only a few hours and is what bodybuilders refer to as "The Pump". This pump is the result of fluid accumulation in the muscle tissue. An increased amount of water held in the intracellular spaces of the muscle make it look larger than it had been prior to training. This water returns to the blood within a few hours after the workout is complete, and this pump disappears.

Chronic Hypertrophy: Chronic hypertrophy is the result of structural changes at the level of the muscle tissue. This is caused by either an increase in the number of muscle filaments or their size, and as a result, the effects are much longer lasting than the effects of short-term hypertrophy as described above.

Successful strength training is based on important training intensity principles. Some of the more important principles are described below:

Variation in Training

Due to the adaptiveness of the human body, certain exercises and routines will elicit a smaller and smaller effect on the body (expressed in terms of muscular development) as they become more familiarized in your training. Several methods to ?shock? the body into new growth include the following:

(1) Train with more weight than usual.

(2) Do more reps or sets.

(3) Speeding up your training.

(4) Cutting down rest time between sets.

(5) Doing unfamiliar exercises.

(6) Changing the order of your exercises.

Individual Differences

Since no two people are alike, it is very important to be aware of your genetic limitations and how you react to training. There are various factors to consider such as athletic ability and background, eating habits, gender, metabolism and perhaps most important of all, training adaptation potential. As a result, training programs and diets need to be designed for individuals, and not for masses, especially if attraining peak strength and fitness is your goal.

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Develop Tendons First

Building strength in tendons is different from conventional bodybuilding and requires specialized techniques. Although strength of tendons is largely an inherited factor, there is still much a bodybuilder can do to develop strength in those areas. Tendon strength can be improved by training. Although strength of the ligaments and tendons are not the only factor in strength training and building, it is a very important one. Strength training programs designed to strengthen the ligaments and tendons can directly benefit bodybuilders in their conventional bodybuilding programs. It should be obvious that developing strong tendons in ligaments will directly result in being able to lift more weight in other exercises. Larger muscles result as well.

Heavy tendon training does not break down massive amounts of tissue, making the body handle the rebuilding job with ease. Aside from simply training, proper nutrition is essential for tendon building. When you begin to strength your tendons, start slowly. Begin with light weights and try to progress at a moderate rate. Do not increase your workout intensity until you are comfortable with it and certain you can do so safely. Tendons and ligaments will need time to adapt to the exercises and gain the coordination necessary to perform them successfully. Experiment if necessary to find out what is best for your body. You may find your strength gains coming very quickly with this type of training.

Tendon Building Routine

Exercise Muscle Group(s) Description Sets Reps
Partial Deadlift Lower Back, Forearms, Upper Back To perform this exercise, arrange a heavy barbell on a pair of strong boxes at a height where a partial deadlift can be started from 4-6 inches above your bent knees to the straight-legged position. With your back straight and your head to the front perform the partial deadlifts. Opposite handedness for grip is preferred, ie, one hand facing forward and the other facing back. 3-4 4-6
Partial Row Forearms, Shoulders, Biceps, Back With the same boxes applied as above, lift a heavy barbell from them and stand straight, holding the bar in front of your upper thighs as you begin the exercise. Raise the bar no more than six to eight inches in front of you. A minimal amount of sets and reps is preffered. 3-4 4
Supine Press Lockout Chest, Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders, Wrists, Elbows Arrange a barbell on a pair of boxes so that when you're lying on your back, under the weight, you will have a 6-8 inch distance to press the weight. You may wish to put a mat underneath for the comfort of your back. Take a wide grip of the barbell and press it upwards. 4 4
Hyperextension Lower Back Position yourself face down across a hyperextension bench, with your heels securely in place to the supports. Clasp your hands across your chest or behind your head and bend forward and down as far as possible. From the position in. Come back until your torso is just above parallel. 3 10
Six-Inch Squat Knees, Lower Back, Quads For this exercise, you need to perform it using a proper squat rack. The reason for this is because the danger of the bar not being properly supported is far too great to risk. Stands must be directly below the loaded barbell at all times. With the bar approximately six inches lower than your shoulders, load the bar with considerably more weight than you are accustomed to squatting with for full repetitions. Position yourself under the bar with your back straight and your knees bent. Then, straighten your knees and lift the weight off the rack. Wait for a brief period, bend your knees once again a few inches, and straighten your legs once again. 5 5

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The following chart is based on a caloric breakdown of 40/40/20 for the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, respectively. For those wishing to seek more information on their caloric needs, please visit our page on basal metabolic rate.

High Calorie Diet for Mass and Strength
Bodyweight (Pounds) Protein (Grams) Calories From Protein Carbohydrates (Grams) Calories From Carbohydrates Fat (Grams) Calories From Fat Total Calories
90 135 540 135 540 30 270 1,350
100 150 600 150 600 33 300 1,500
110 165 660 165 660 37 330 1,550
120 180 720 180 720 40 360 1,800
130 195 780 195 780 43 390 1,950
140 210 840 210 840 47 420 2,100
150 225 900 225 900 50 450 2,250
160 240 960 240 960 53 480 2,400
170 255 1,020 255 1,020 56 510 2,550
180 270 1,080 270 1,080 60 540 2,700
190 285 1,140 285 1,140 63 570 2,850
200 300 1,200 150 1,200 66 600 3,000
210 315 1,260 315 1,260 70 630 3,150
220 330 1,320 330 1,320 73 660 3,300
230 345 1,380 330 1,380 77 690 3,450
240 360 1,440 360 1,440 80 720 3,600
250 375 1,500 375 1,500 83 750 3,750
260 390 1,560 390 1,560 86 780 3,900
270 405 1,620 405 1,620 90 810 4,050
280 420 1,680 420 1,680 94 840 4,200
290 435 1,740 435 1,740 97 870 4,350
300 450 1,800 450 1,800 100 900 4,500


For some good examples of protein sources, check out the table below. Try to find good protein sources. Avoid meats which are fatty, and trim visible fat, as well as removing the skind before cooking. Rather than frying meat, broil, poach or grill it. Also consume protein sources which have a high biological value.

Protein Ratings
Eggs (whole) 100
Eggs (whites) 88
Chicken / Turkey 79
Fish 70
Lean Beef 69
Cow's Milk 60
Unpolished Rice 59
Brown Rice 57
White Rice 56
Peanuts 55
Peas 55
Whole Wheat 49
Soy beans 47
Whole-grain Wheat 44
Peanuts 43
Corn 36
Dry Beans 34
White Potato 34

Good Food Choices
Type of Food Best Food Choices Worse Choices
  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Leafy Greens
  • Corn and Peas
  • Carrots
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Fruit Juice
  • Lean Beef
  • Skinless Chicken Breast and Fish
  • Ground Beef and Dark Meat Chicken With Skin
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • White Rice
  • Pasta
  • White Bread

Maximize Muscle Gains Through Protein Timing

Protein Timing
Time to Consume What Protein to Consume Quantity to Consume (Grams)
2-3 Hours Post Workout
  • Whole Food Animal Protein
  • Whole Food Complex Carbs
  • 40
  • 80
15 Minutes Pre-Workout and During Workout
  • Whey Protein Powder
  • Maltodextrin / Glucose
  • 20-40
  • 40-80
Immediately to One Hour After Workout
  • Whey Protein Powder
  • Glucose
  • 40-50
  • 40-100
One Hour After Post Workout Meal
  • Whey Protein Powder
  • Maltodextrin / Glucose
  • 40
  • 40

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Margaria, R. (1972, March). The sources of muscular energy. Scientific American, 226(3), 84-91.

Merton, P.A. (1972, May). How we control the contraction of our muscles. Scientific American, 226(5), 30-37.

Bomba, Tudor O., Cornacchia, Lorenzo J. (1998, March). Serious Strength Training (11).

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