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A Beginning Athletes Guide To Strength Training!

In the past I had dabbled in weight training, running and swimming with little results, largely because of poor diet and ignorance.

There are several ways an athlete can prepare for competition, but they will not be effective unless all necessary steps are taken. As with any physical training, whether resistance or endurance, there is one major factor that will affect your results. That is your will to work out seriously and continuously. If you cannot push yourself, training will become pointless and ineffective.


As an athlete, your strength is more important than appearance. For example, if you only perform arm exercises in an attempt to have "big guns" then you are forgetting that nobody ever scored a touchdown by flexing. A high-intensity workout that promotes muscle growth to all parts of the body is important. Different sports require the usage of some muscle groups more than others, as an example, soccer requires leg strength more than the arms. In building speed, vertical leap and explosion plyometrics is highly significant. Plyometrics were first used in training by the Eastern European BLOC countries for Olympic competition. It has now become a common workout for professional and amateur athletes. Plyometrics are the training of the "springs" in your muscles to a point in which they immediately expand after they have contracted. For example, as a basketball player drives to the goal to slam-dunk the ball, on his last step he unloads the "spring" the second he touches the ground. The result hopefully will be him jumping high enough to slam-dunk the ball. Performing plyometrics along with a running program will maximize the results.

When you decide you want to add plyometrics to you strength training program it is important that you know of some basic exercises and technique. For most plyometric exercises a plyo-box is needed. Most plyo-boxes have adjustable legs that can change from about 14-to-22 inches. When designing your plyometric workout you need to have two things in mind. One: What are your goals? And Two: How long do I have to achieve my goals? It is obvious that you won't drop a second off your 40-yard dash time in a week, so be realistic.

Figure out your problem and use the chart below to figure out which workouts will be used to meet these goals. The best book for learning more about plyometrics is definitely Donald Chu's Jumping into Plyometrics.

Aerobics are the conditioning of your heart and lungs by strenuous activity. Conditioning the heart will not only reduce heart problems in the future, but is also makes short-term activity like a football practice not as tiring to the heart. Conditioning the lungs will help produce more lung capacity, which will reduce the amount of breaths you take. Taking continuous breaths (which can lead up to hyper-ventilation) is unhealthy. Your lung capacity is crucial to sports that only require breathing as few times as possible, such as swimming or sprinting.

The most common aerobic exercise is running. When training for a sport you need to decide what is more important to your athletic performance. It could be long distance, short sprints or possibly both. For example, a football player who is an offensive lineman would find short sprints more crucial to his position, while a soccer player needs to have more endurance and would have to run long distance. Aerobic workouts can consist of running or jump roping or anything else that requires you to breath hard. Some sports like basketball can be your workout. It just depends on the level of intensity that you need.


Your nutrition goes hand in hand with your strength training, as you probably have heard "you are what you eat." What is the point of slaving in the gym if you aren't going to feed yourself the right foods containing the building blocks of muscle? Here is a basic overview: Muscles are built with protein; your body runs off carbohydrates and sugars, and uses vitamins for "fine polishing" as an extra boost for growth. Supplements are used to give you those essentials missed in your diet. Some basic supplements are whey protein, creatine, and amino acids. These can be bought at

Before you go out and buy supplements you need to be sure that you are going to keep training. Many people lift for a week, take supplements and decide that it didn't work so they stop training. It takes time to see results, regardless of what ads may claim. Most people would think making a diet is difficult, but all you need is a scale and a calculator.

First find your body weight in kilograms (to find your weight in Kg just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2) and multiply by 55. The resulting number is your target daily calorie intake. Next, take your weight in kg and multiply by 1.5. This number will be your target protein intake. To figure out your carbohydrate intake multiply your weight in kg by 9. This is all you need to target in you diet, and then put it into action with a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and grains. When all else fails use common sense! Combine this with a strong workout and you will see results.

Target Protein Intake Calculator

Step 1: Enter your weight in pounds , then it to kilograms.
Step 2: Your weight in kilograms: .
Note: If you already know your weight in kg, skip step 1 and enter it here
Step 3: Enter your intake rate: g protein/kg body weight.
Step 4: your target daily protein intake:
You need g protein per day.

Here is a layout of a basic 2-day workout. The first day is all upper body exercises and the second is all lower body.

***Day One***

Bench Press - Lay on back with feet flat on ground. Bar is held at shoulder width and is lowered to the chest and back up until the elbows lock out.
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Military Press - Standing up straight while holding with straight-arms overhead. Lower bar to the back of neck and lift to starting position.
3 sets 10 repetitions

Shoulder Shrugs - Standing up straight with arms hanging, holding the bar. Make a shrugging motion with your shoulders and hold it.
3 sets 10 repetitions

Neck Roll - While wearing neck weight system stand up slightly bent over at the hips with hand behind your back or on knees.
3 sets 15 repetitions

Twenty-One's - Sitting on bench with arms holding bar over preacher curl. Do seven curls from arms locked out low to halfway up. Than seven more from bar up to face to half way down. Than seven complete curls from all the way down to all the way up.
1 set 21 repetitions

Elbow Curl - Sitting on bench with arms, holding bar over preacher curl. From arms locked out down low, pull the bar up toward your face.
3 sets 10 repetitions

Dips - On a dip machine start with arms locked out, lower your body as far down as you can and try to pull your body back up to starting position.
4 sets, as many repetitions as you can

Sit-Ups - Either on sit-ups machine or on ground with ankles crossed and legs elevated. Put you hands either crossed at chest or behind you head. Pull your body up until you are able to touch your knees with your chest.
3 sets, as many repetitions as you can

Click HERE for a printable log of Day One!

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***Day Two***

Squats - Start with bar on shoulders and legs shoulder length apart. Bend your legs, NOT YOUR BACK, so that your legs are parallel with the ground. Then rise back up to the starting position. Hint: To help keep your back straight try to look up at all times.
1 set of 15 and 2 sets of 10

Dead Lift - Stand with feet shoulder width apart and bar is over balls of your feet. Squat down and grab the bar with a mixed grip (one hand forward, and on backward) and extend legs to the point in which you knees are locked out.
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Leg Extension - Sit facing up either upright or lying back on a leg machine with heels facing the ground. Extend your legs until they are parallel with the floor.
3 sets of 20 repetitions (10 for each leg)

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Straight-Back Stiff-Legged Dead Lift - Stand exactly like a normal deadlift except the back is bent over the bar. Pull the bar up with your arms and bring your back straight up into a normal standing position.
2 sets of 15 repetitions

Knee Curl - Sit on leg machine with face down and legs straight out. Curl leg up until your knee forms a 90-degree angle upward. Then slowly drop it back to starting position.
3 sets of 20 repetitions (10 for each leg)

Step Ups - Begin in position the same as normal squat except instead of dropping body step a leg up onto a bench. Switch legs each time.
3 sets of 10 repetitions

One and a Half Squats - Start in squat position and lower body until legs are parallel to ground. Then rise half way up and lower legs again.
2 sets of 10 repetitions

Click HERE for a printable log of Day Two!

Remember, no matter how good you are resistance training should NEVER be easy. Once you are able to complete an exercise easily you should increase the amount of weight. As a strength trainer it is crucial that you do not skip workouts because you are "tired" or don't "feel like lifting" because every time you skip a session you are losing your edge. By combining the four main aspects of training, plyometrics, aerobics, resistance and nutrition you can become a better athlete, but you must have the will to work out. Without that, you are nothing.


Chu, Donald A Ph.D., Jumping Into Plyometrics Second Edition, Champaign, IL, 1998.
Kleiner, Susan M Ph.D., RD, Power Eating Second Edition, Champaign, IL, 2001.
Kraemer, William J Ph.D., Fleck, Stephan J Ph.D., Strength Training For Young Athletes, Champaign, IL, 1993.