By Addison Maille on February 9, 2019

A Simple and Complete Guide to Strength Training


This article is not meant to be a how-to article for advanced athletes nor is it intended to show you the best way to become a bodybuilder. This article is designed to tell you what you need to know in order to get functionally strong. Functional strength should be at the core of all fitness goals no matter the sport, sex, or age of the person seeking better fitness or better health. There is not an athletic oriented activity that isn’t made better and safer with good functional strength, even walking. Period. There is literally no exception to this rule. You can even take this to the extreme end of the spectrum is a condition usually found in advanced cancer patients called cachexia. This is the wasting away of muscle tissue and it is the single greatest predictor of all-cause mortality in cancer patients as well as a similar condition called sarcopenia (gradual muscle wasting over time) general population at large. If you have very little muscle mass and no strength to speak of, you are significantly closer to death and will have a much lower quality of life. But if you are strong you will be much more resistant to mental decline including Alzheimer’s as well as nearly every chronic disease.

Here is a short incomplete list of all the different things that strength training improves:

  1. Improves Resting Metabolic Rate
  2. Improves Physical Strength
  3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity (helps manage Type II diabetes)
  4. Improves Cardiovascular Health
  5. Reduces Blood Pressure
  6. Improves Blood Lipids (Cholesterol Panel)
  7. Improves Bone Density
  8. Enhances Mental Health
  9. Can Help Reverse Aging Factors
  10. Improves Hormonal balance
  11. Improves Immune Function

Just go online and start reading all the different articles about strength training and health if you want more. But I warn you it will take a while to work your way through them all.

The true purpose of this article isn’t to shame you or scare you into strength training. That being said, I do believe that it’s the most effective form of exercise for health. Instead, this article is designed to explain what strength training actually is, how it works, and what you need to do it effectively and safely. This is the article that I wish someone would have written years ago when I started strength training. I hope you enjoy and learn from it in a way that improves your life and the life of those you care about.

The best exercise for you is the one or more you’ll do consistently over time!

Choosing the exercise you like isn’t that terribly hard if you have some sense of yourself. You need to start exercising in a way you like and that has some commonality with your goals. This is because very few people seem capable of exercising in a way they hate, let alone mildly dislike for even a short period of time. And the professional and elite athletes that can probably don’t need to read this article. Even many professional athletes can be seen cutting corners on the exercise and lifestyle habits that would most benefit their performance because of how much they dislike them. The takeaway here is that exercise that isn’t enjoyable rarely ends up being sustainable. Try and develop a passion for an exercise you already enjoy. And if you choose exercises you don’t like to try and do them as rarely and efficiently as you can. And while you suffer through exercises you don’t like, keep trying new things to replace it. Whether it is a new exercise or a new sport, there are many ways to skin a cat and odds are there’s a way to achieve the goals that you like. Just remember to add enough monotony or novelty to your exercise regimen to keep you interested and enjoying it from week to week. In doing so you will get the benefit of exercising while likely enjoying it as well.

And don’t worry too much if that means your form of exercising isn’t what any given expert calls the healthiest one you can do, even if that means you don’t perform resistance exercises. Moving around and exercising is far healthier than any sedentary lifestyle. So don’t feel bad for going on long walks rather than intense cardio or weight training. Remember that this is a lot like complaining that the salad you now eat for lunch instead of a Big Mac isn’t healthy enough. Sure it could be healthier with a better choice of salad dressing or replacing the conventional lettuce with organic lettuce. But the much bigger and more important point is that you are now eating a salad for lunch instead of the Big Mac. Tweaking your exercise routines to better improve your health is something you can do overtime. Don’t turn it into a sprint to the perfect exercise program. And besides, odds are you will require time to try out different exercise formats such as yoga, running, weight lifting, and so on before you really find a good balance that works for you. While the focus of this article is strength training, I’m pretty sure the world’s oldest recorded human being Jeanne Calment always chooses to be active on her terms, not according to what all the doctors told her to do.

If you must choose only one type of exercise to engage in and you are indifferent to which one, then it should be strength training.

The reason strength training is so incredibly effective for the long term health of the body is that it engages your muscles, joints, bones, and cardiovascular system in ways that keep them in good working order. Strength training can also actually improve mobility and flexibility when done correctly. Many of its benefits cannot be had in any other type of exercise. Steady-state cardio, like marathons and long bike rides, doesn’t do anything for your joints and bone health and usually has a very limited effect, if any at all, on the body’s overall strength. It even tends to have a very limited effect on metabolism which is why many people perform cardio in the first place. And since I mentioned cardio, strength training can actually be modified in many different ways to produce intense cardio as well. Examples of this are classic circuit training and Crossfit. Put in more simple terms, if you want cardio from your strength training, then do your lifts/movements with ever shorter rest periods in between. And as long as your weight training sets are done intensively, regardless of rest times in between, you will get some cardio benefit. If you are breathing hard I guarantee you you’re getting some kind of cardio.

There are also a ton of different physiological effects of strength training that improves overall health relative to mortality. It is important to note that muscle size isn’t as good as a predictor as strength, mainly because outside of having enough muscle to be relatively strong, having more muscle than that doesn’t necessarily improve lifespan or general health although it doesn’t seem to hurt either. A good way to see this is to think of someone that looks muscularly fit but not anyone that cares about bodybuilding. Recreational bodybuilding, a hobby rather than an obsession, is just fine so long as one doesn’t start using crazy diets or drugs to do it. The people that take strength training to the extremes like elite bodybuilders and powerlifters are usually the ones that do the most damage.

Strength training is also one of the best forms of exercise to help with fat loss. It does an extremely good job of maintaining lean muscle tissue while the body is metabolizing fat. After the brain, heart, and diaphragm skeletal muscle is the most metabolically expensive tissue in the body. As such, maintaining your muscle mass and even growing it is the most effective way to lose fat and keep it off. And because all forms of intense weight training work the cardiovascular system there are improvements to cardio health for someone that is otherwise sedentary whereas most forms of cardio do very little for overall muscle mass and some even hurt it.

Now before you start googling or doing YouTube searches for the best strength training for fat loss there are a few things you should know first. Cardio for fat loss is not nearly as effective as weight training and is less effective in women than in men despite the number of women doing cardio for fat loss vastly outnumbers men. This article will probably offend some people but it contains 80 scientific references and is the most well researched I’ve ever read on the subject. Ironically metabolic resistance training, commonly called MRT, is often touted as the best form of resistance training for fat loss despite the surprising lack of evidence one way or the other. The large number of women doing MRT and in the Crossfit community is further evidence of this disconnect. In short, before you start trying to rethink your entire workout for fat loss, I think most people need to take a moment and learn what real strength actually is and how it works. Regardless of what your goals are be it bodybuilding, water polo, or backpacking in the wilderness, making certain, you have good overall strength will allow you to perform at a higher level and be less prone to injury. Even marathon runners can benefit from heavy weight lifting. This combination of benefits isn’t possible with any other single form of exercise.

The 7 Motions of Strength

So is there a correct way to strength train? The answer is yes but it’s probably not the yes you think it is. Before you decide on what type of strength training program to choose such as free weights vs machines, barbells vs dumbbells, resistance bands, bodyweight, etc. there are simple criteria you should start with. As the title of this section eludes to the human body is designed to produce strength in 7 basic types of movement. Here is a list of all 7 and definitions of what they are. Each exercise that is listed in each movement type is a link to a YouTube channel that does a good job of explaining and showing you examples of exercises that perform each of these 7 basic movement types.

Lower Body Push: This is the basic motion that is created when you get up from a seated position, when you climb stairs, or when you are pushing a car with a dead battery. It is the act of pushing your body weight and possibly extra weight away from the ground (aka against gravity). The examples of exercises that properly accomplish this are squats, lunges, Bulgarian split squats, box jumps, Step-Ups, and wall sits with many variations of each as well as many other exercise examples that will also accomplish this movement type.

Lower Body Pull: This is the act of pulling heavy things off the ground such as furniture, children, boxes, etc. This is one of the few movements that are difficult to do with only body weight as you can’t pull yourself off the floor. Good exercises for this type of movement are deadlift, kettlebell swing, single-leg deadlift, Jefferson curl, kettlebell deadlift, sumo kettlebell deadlift, along with many more variations not mentioned here.

Upper Body Horizontal Push: This is the act of pushing weight perpendicularly away from your torso or pushing your torso away from the ground. The two most common ways this is done is through the pushup and bench press (be careful with the bench press as it is actually one of the more technical movements despite its deceptive simplicity). There are literally over a hundred variations of pushups and there are also many types of bench presses like bench press w/ dumbbell and incline bench press w/ dumbbells.

Upper Body Horizontal Pull: This is the motion you create when you pull something towards your chest such as when you are bent over and weeding when you are pulling a piece of furniture or equipment toward you, and when you are rowing whether it is on a machine or in a boat. Examples of exercises that do this well are dumbbell rows], bent over rows, seated cable rows, kettlebell rows, T-bar rows, along with many variations of each. With rows in particular you can often change the type of grip, the width of the grip, and the angles at which you pull to get different variations.

Upper Body Vertical Push: This is anytime you are pushing weight above your head. Many people think that this type of functional strength might be more important than the more popular bench press style movements due to how often you find yourself trying to lift things over your head or lower them from a high starting position such as off the top level of a shelf. Good examples of this are the overhead press, seated shoulder dumbbell press, seated one arm Arnold press, kettlebell shoulder press, and the pike pushup. As with all the previous exercises, there are many variations of these exercises.

Upper Body Vertical Pull: This is the kind of motion that is most classically demonstrated by the pullup. Normal people do this anytime they are grabbing something or someone to help them get off the ground and will usually use it anytime they attempt to climb something. This is why people that are nervous about heights will often exhaust their upper body as they climb the ladder rather than their lower body, they are squeezing and pulling on the ladder really hard with their upper body and their upper body is no longer accustomed to that much pulling. Good exercise examples for this are the pullup, chin-up, lat bar pull down with dozens of variations for each of these three exercises.

Trunk Rotation: The last movement the human body is designed to generate power in is by twisting the torso and hips. This move is most commonly seen when someone throws a ball, swings a bat, throws a punch or even a frisbee. In fact, agility, like the type needed to change directions abruptly, requires that you twist your core in order to generate torque. The secret is in understanding that the torso and hips together produce the twist, not the torso alone. Good exercise examples of this are the torso twist, landmine trunk rotation, and seated torso twist. Don’t use the hip rotation machine as it isn’t good for your back and doesn’t lead to functional strength.

The seven critical elements of all effective strength training programs

As you undoubtedly have realized, there are a 1001 ways to effectively strength train. As long as they incorporate these 7 elements of an effective strength training program you will get stronger and healthier as a result of your strength training. Let’s look a little more closely at how you can ensure effectiveness for each one.

  1. Good Technique is the best tool you have for improving your functional strength and not getting hurt. Most people make the mistake of thinking that they can lift heavier weights by cheating. This is only ever true in the short term. Long term, if you want to maximize your strength gains regardless of goals, you will be served by using good technique, quite possibly without exception. Just don’t get too lost in the myriad of variations for any given exercise. Find effective exercises that you can perform with good mechanics that don’t hurt your joints and you’ll be off to a good start.

  2. Intensity is another critical element. This doesn’t mean you take every exercise to failure (meaning you are so tired that you attempt and fail to perform the last rep or reps). But, it does mean that every exercise is done with intensity so that you are using close to all the strength you have for that exercise to perform that set whether it is 3 reps or 20. You should walk away from most every working set (all sets that aren’t warm-ups or cool-downs) feeling like you worked hard during that exercise. And remember that intensity in strength training doesn’t mean you are out of breath after every set. It just means that you used nearly all the strength you could relative to that particular exercise. The bigger compound movements will tend to leave you sweating and breathing a little or a lot harder (like heavy squats) while the lighter lifts will tend not to make you sweat or breathe as hard (like bicep curls).

  3. Changing rep ranges simply means that rather than always doing 8–10 reps per set, you vary those ranges to as low as 3–5 reps, and as high as 15–20 reps and higher. Classically people will tell you that the lower rep ranges are for power, the middle rep ranges are for hypertrophy (increasing muscle mass), and the higher rep ranges are for endurance. In truth, for general strength gains, it is usually best for people to cycle through all three rep ranges. And understand that higher rep ranges are good for a different kind of hypertrophy than the middle rep ranges but none of these rep ranges will build what most people think of as endurance. And it is also critical to remember that none of these rep ranges will lead to runaway muscle growth. So if you are worried about developing bulky muscles (I’m mostly talking to the ladies that always seem to ask this question) don’t be. this is not a problem that just happens to unsuspecting lifters. More on this later.

  4. Full Range of motion is a critical element of any good functional strength training program. Any direction and range of motion your joints are designed to move in is also a range your muscular-skeletal system is designed to be strong in. But even if you have the range of motion in your joints, if your muscles aren’t used to moving in that range then they won’t have functional strength in those end ranges. This is partly why many guys have a reasonably heavy squat as long as they don’t have to go all the way down to the true bottom of their squat. If you ask that same person to lie down flat on their back and then assume the bottom squat position with their legs in the air you can easily see that they have the range of motion to do a full squat. It’s the lack of strength required to lift a heavyweight from that position that is the limiting factor. For many of you this means you will have to reduce the weight you are using, and that is fine. Your functional strength gains in both the muscle and joints will increase as a result of this even if the weight on the barbell is less.

  5. Adequate volume is critical to strength gains. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of volume. We know that the more advanced a lifter becomes the greater amount of total volume they can produce and the greater amount of volume they need in order to grow stronger or bigger. But we also know that volume is a continuum with some people needing a lot of volume and others needing very little, even if they are both equally advanced lifters. There is also the idea of goals, lifestyle, and many other factors that might make a person more or less interested in attaining the highest level of functional strength possible for their biology. It should also be stated that volume is more important for muscle size than muscle strength but both size and strength will still be sensitive to changes in volume. You also have to take into account what type of lifting you are doing. The X3 Bar resistance band bar system and ARX are two types of exercise equipment that actually don’t require more than one set for a given exercise per workout. You should also think about your biology’s ability to handle more volume before you just start adding more sets. Are you eating enough, sleeping enough, and can your connective tissues handle the added volume, just to name a few of factors you must account for. Like so many elements of strength training, it ultimately comes down to what works best for the individual.

No Weights, No Cardio
  1. Consistency is another element of strength training that is critical even if it is often misunderstood. Strength training really only works if it is done consistently over time. But how frequently that has to be is a giant question mark for many. So let’s look at what the best evidence tells us. The heavier the load and or higher the volume the less frequent one can train. There is also good evidence that novice lifters only need to train strength in a given area of the body once a week while the more advanced lifters will benefit more from multiple times per week. And yet, most of the world’s strongest man competitors (guys that are between 300–450 pounds) can only train heavy deadlifts once every 2 weeks because of how taxing it is on their bodies. The ARX machine only requires one workout for 10–15 minutes once every 7–10 days for whole-body strength training. The only reliable truth is that you must be consistent over time. What that consistency looks like is really up to you.

  2. Variety (this one is optional) is more important for not getting injured and increasing a high degree of power output than it is for hypertrophy. The human body was designed to move often and in many different ways. If you keep repeating the same motions under resistance, even with good technique, you can start to increase the likelihood of getting injured because the connective tissues used for that exercise can have a tendency to get worn out (this concept will be more true for some than others). You may also see a plateau in the gains from your workouts if you do the same thing over and over again. But don’t buy into the whole muscle confusion which makes you think you have to change your workout all the time. You don’t. The real reason you may need to add variety for strength gains is that once the larger muscle groups get real strong from classic movements like squats and bench presses, they may begin to stall in their ability to get larger and/or stronger if the supporting smaller muscle groups aren’t growing as well. Your nervous system is really good at sensing instability and if it senses that a large muscle group is getting too strong for the surrounding muscles to stabilize then it will likely limit the growth of that muscle. Any given muscle group can only exert as much force as the platform it’s working from (your body) can tolerate. Variety also doesn’t necessarily have to come from the primary lift. It can also come in the form of auxiliary lifts which are often designed to strengthen weaker areas of the body.

Full body training or using what are called “training splits”?

Another aspect of strength training that is often misunderstood is the idea of training different body parts on different days versus doing full-body training every day you are in the gym. The science is really clear, do full-body training if you want to see maximal gains from the time you spend in the gym. Some athletes need to use specific muscle spits (this is when you do chest one day, legs another, and so on), some lifters need to use splits due to extreme time limitations relative to the duration they can spend in the gym during a single session (think 30 minutes or less each gym visit), and some people get a psychological benefit from doing training splits where they can more heavily focus on specific areas of the body. But for 90% of most exercise enthusiasts, full-body training is simply the superior form of training to maximize the benefits of strength training. Here is a great 6-minute video where it’s discussed in greater detail.

What you should think about before doing core exercises

First, let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with core exercises when done properly. After all, the core muscles are what support your torso during larger heavier compound movements. The much greater problem with core exercises is that they are done either too often or have become an entire body of exercises of their own (think of workouts of 30 minutes or more entirely dedicated to just the core). Core strengthening should comprise a very small amount of your strength training program if done at all. The reason for this is two-fold. First, any strength program that claims to take immense numbers of sets, reps, and time to fatigue what are rather weak muscles of the stomach area that already get used stabilizing heavy compound exercises is silly on its face. There is also the problem of how to train some of the deeper muscles in the core such as the transverse abdominis which sits under your obliques and abs and is likely the most important muscle for core stabilization. Most classic core exercises like sit-ups don’t even train the deepest core muscles. So far, what little actual science has been done on these important deeper core muscles suggests that classic movements like the overhead press and deadlifts do a better job of targeting these muscle groups than do most core centered movements. And please remember that this article is about functional strength, not creating a visible six-pack. One or two exercises designed for the core 2 or 3 times a week is all you need for good core strength should you decide you need a stronger core. It just isn’t that complicated and shouldn’t be done as a primary lift or primary focus but something you do at the end of your strength training session and oftentimes you can work out the core with other lifts and bypass core training altogether. Lastly, core training doesn’t have to be about sit-ups all the time either, anti-rotation training, planks, side planks, and these crazy advanced planks are just a few of the examples of alternative exercises to the sit-up.

Last word about the core is about your lower back muscles (spinal erectors being the dominant muscle group). These do make up a really important aspect of core strength but are only necessary to build up if you aren’t doing exercises such as kettlebell swings, squats, deadlifts, and other free weight lower body push and pull exercises that would naturally strengthen these muscles without the need to isolate them.

What is the best rep range for strength training?

Traditionally you are told that 2–5 reps are for power, 8–10 reps are for muscle hypertrophy (I.e. muscle growth) and 15–30 reps (or more) are for endurance. The simple truth is that for functional strength training it is best to cycle through all 3 rep ranges from time to time. If you have joint problems that make either a higher or lower rep range difficult in a given lift then feel free to move that lift to a rep range that doesn’t lead to pain or injury (and believe it or not sometimes joints respond better to heavier lifts than lighter ones). It is the cycling through these different rep ranges that you will get the best strength and muscle gains.

But don’t fall into the trap where you worry about getting too strong or too bulky. This isn’t a problem that just happens to you. Getting large muscles like those found on bodybuilders takes years of consistent, intense, high volume training and that’s even if you are taking steroids. The same is true for extreme power. You won’t accidentally become an elite level powerlifter either. And since we are on the subject of the myth of unwanted muscle growth, women can do all the same lifts as a guy and it won’t suddenly make her look like a dude. She will just become a much fitter woman. Extreme size and strength are results that people must specifically work for over a long period of time, not results that happen as an unexpected unwanted byproduct.

I will include the one exception to this rule for the science nerds out there which is the exceedingly rare genetic mutation of one or both of the genes that produce the muscle growth inhibitor called myostatin. In people with one of these mutations (meaning that they produce very little myostatin), they will build muscle almost as easily as people that are genetically predisposed to becoming obese can put on fat here is a case of a 3-year old that is already strong enough to do a pullup and here is an ASAP science video for a good quick understanding of myostatin.

What is the best lift for each of the 7 motions of strength and how often should I change my exercise routines?

There is no single best exercise for a given movement. What I did when I listed all the different exercise types for each motion of strength was to give the exercises that produce good functional strength. This is why nearly all the exercises listed are based on tried and proven methods of using free weight and body weight. Just look for variations on those exercises if you want more options. The secret is to find at least two or three, preferably several, exercises that work well for your body in each motion of strength and then cycle through them as needed. Less experienced lifters don’t need to cycle as often because their body is still getting used to strength training. More experienced lifters will usually need to use a greater variety of exercises as their bodies will need a greater amount of stimulus to grow stronger. They will often need to pay more attention to more obscure muscle groups than a novice lifter. Remember that gains in strength only happen when your body is in the process of adapting to a different exercise, volume, frequency, and/or heavier weight. Once it has finished adapting, the gain in strength will hit a plateau. Also remember that gains in strength will naturally start plateauing as a given lifter gets stronger because he or she will be getting closer and closer to the genetic ceilings of what their body can adapt to. And if you aren’t sure if your an advanced lifter then the answer is most likely a “no.”

What role does age play in strength training (as well as mobility/flexibility)?

Between the ages of 30–40 is where most people will hit their limit on maximizing their strength potential relative to their genetics. But this is relative to their absolute number, not their relative number. A 50 or even 60 year old man or woman that has never strength trained a day in their life can still achieve strength levels higher than at any other time in their life because they never actually get anywhere near their absolute genetic limit for strength and fitness. In fact, very very few people ever actually begin to scrape the true ceiling of their strength potential as the amount of training and lifestyle changes required to do so usually require a decade or more of dedicated training. As we get older we tend diminish in our mobility, flexibility, bone density, and other physical traits, not to mention any injuries we picked up along the way. These problems, more so than actual age, can often hinder a person’s ability to effectively strength train. Fixing these problems will often require people to seek out qualified practitioners of such things as chiropractors, physical therapists, doctors, and personal trainers if the problem is severe enough. If the problem is less severe, often just adopting programs that naturally start loosening up problematic areas such as ankles, hips, posterior chain, spine, shoulders and other problematic areas. For more see this video for a great program that hits virtually everything that you can do both on the day of your workout to improve your overall flexibility and mobility.

Does a full-body training session have to do 7 different exercises each time?

No and you don’t even have to go to the gym. If we assume that you are going to do a full-body workout when you go to the gym, you actually can do this with as little as 2 exercises provided they are the right ones. In the case of doing it in only two movements, you have to use the kettlebell swing, and the Turkish get-up (a warning that this exercise is very complex, having a total of 10 movements up and 10 movements down requiring excellent shoulder mobility). If you are much more of an outdoors person and don’t care for the gym then try this full-body calisthenics workout that will easily cover all 7 motions of strength (and you can easily pick and choose from this workout and create your own as well). Remember that both of these options and hundreds if not thousands of variations like it can be done in your home, or at a very basic local park. And if you haven’t already guessed it, you can do a number of different workouts using a minimum or maximum amount of equipment in your home, local park, local gym, or a more advanced gym. The choice is entirely yours. Just make sure whichever setting you choose that it is the best one for you and your lifestyle.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the X3 Bar in this list which does allow you to do incredibly effective strength training from your home or office requiring only 10 minutes a day 4–6 days a week and can fit in a drawer or cabinet when you aren’t using it. But you will have to add a trunk rotation and pull up variation on your own and cost is pretty steep at $499 or higher.

Free Weights, Body Weight, Resistance Bands, and Machines.

Here there is no question, free weights and/or bodyweight (which is really just a form of free weight) are much better at producing functional strength than machines and resistance bands. And contrary to what most novice and older lifters seem to think, machines will actually have a tendency to create problems because they have fixed movement paths that often don’t correspond to your biomechanical preferences. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some good uses for machines and bands as well. The trick is to look at what your goal is and choose the one that best suits your needs. If you have no idea how to perform a given lift safely with free weights then machines are probably better until you can be taught properly. And there are a handful of exercises that actually do work better using machines. Machines are also quite good for specific rehab purposes which is actually what they were originally designed for. And when bands are used correctly with the right system they can be quite effective. They can also be combined with free weights to create something called accommodating resistance.

Like so many aspects in the fitness world, there is no one size fits all. But if you are in doubt and you can perform the same lift using either free weights or machines and be free of pain, then free weights will tend to give you the best results over time and actually make you more resistant to injury (if you use proper technique). Check out this video for a better idea. Bands can also be used for a better result than can machines but it needs to be used with a system like the X3 Bar exercise band bar system. By themselves they cannot be used for heavy load-bearing exercises safely because it gets difficult to keep your joints in a safe position.

No Weights, No Cardio

Another benefit to the free weights is that it will naturally increase your grip strength, core strength, and auxiliary muscles like rear delts, brachialis, and hip flexors just to name a few as where machines usually will do little to nothing to increase those important aspects of your fitness. Free weights also train your nervous system in a far more functional way than machines do. The ability to coordinate different muscles together to produce complex movements using several different joints at once, what is often referred to as compound movements, is what makes free weight strength training programs so functional. After all, this is exactly what you do in the real world when you help your family or friend move boxes, furniture, children and so on. Machines will often dumb down the work required of your nervous system and supporting muscle groups such that you do little more than just push or pull on a handle that activates large muscle groups to make the machine move. Machines will also have a much smaller release of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is a key factor, particularly for the elderly in growing and maintaining strength.

Ultimately you have to find the right strength training option for your biology

If you didn’t already figure this out after reading this article then allow me to really punch this message home. There is no one size fits all and there never will be. Your strength training routine(s) must cater to your biology, your goals, and your lifestyle. Much like a healthy diet and healthy sleep, the more work you put into finding what works for you the better your life and health will be. This is not a short journey and no matter how long you study and perfect your methods your body will not remain static over time. You must always be on the lookout for ways to change or improve your strength training as the circumstances of your life change. Whether you are just looking to better execute your day to day chores or want to climb a mountain, strength training really can and will help you get there. Functional strength training is a lifelong pursuit rather than a one time home purchase and when you understand and live that you will experience greater fulfillment for the rest of your life. Good luck and thank you for reading.

Optimize Your Health Through Science

Sign up for our newsletter to get a regular dose of science-backed tips, tricks, biohacks, and more.

By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy & to receive emails/texts with updates.