There are many ways to train in order to maximize your strength gain. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends lifting a weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles in about three to four sets of six to eight repetitions to increase your strength. A five-day training split is ideal because you can focus all your energy on one muscle group each day. A good introductory split is chest, back, legs, shoulders and arms.
Start with dumbbell horizontal chest press to warm-up those muscles. Move to a chest press machine or bench press. From there, do cable or dumbbell horizontal chest flyes, which help target the chest and front deltoids. Progress to incline chest press, and then decline chest press to target upper and lower chest respectively. Finish with push-ups with varying hand positions to fatigue the chest.
Back exercises involve mostly pulling motions, working opposite muscles than the chest. Start with wide grip lat pulldowns, then to reverse grip lat pulldowns. If you can, substitute pullups and chinups. Do the seated cable row with a narrow hand grip to target the rhomboids along the spine. Move to single arm bent-over rows with a dumbbell, and then to reverse flyes. Finish with reverse grip barbell rows or inverted rows.
Place legs day in the middle of the week to break up your workouts and give your upper body a break. Start with leg press machine, which targets all the muscles of the leg, but do one or two warm-up sets at a lighter weight. From there, do walking lunges. Then do back squats and front squats, to target the quadriceps and glutes respectively. Progress to stiff leg deadlifts to exercise the hamstrings. Finish with seated and standing calf raises.
Start with dumbbell shoulder press to warm-up the middle deltoids, then do machine shoulder press at a heavy weight to focus on strength rather than stabilization. For front deltoids, do incline shoulder presses, and for rear deltoids, do bent over reverse flyes. Do cable or dumbbell lateral raises for the middle deltoids. Finish with assisted or unassisted dips.
Switch back and forth between biceps and triceps exercises to allow each muscle group a small rest. Do dumbbell biceps curls with triceps kickbacks. Progress to cable curls and overhead cable triceps extensions with the barbell attachment. Use the rope attachment and do rope triceps pulldowns and biceps hammer curls. Finish with overhead triceps extensions and concentration curls with dumbbells.
Add abdominal exercises such as planks, crunches, woodchops, leg lifts and incline crunches every two to three days after your strength workout. Switch your training splits every five to six weeks to keep your workouts from becoming stale. Mix up which muscle groups you work by doing a day of pulling exercises, where you work your back and biceps, followed by a pushing exercise, in which you work chest and triceps.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association; T.R. Baechel and R.W. Earle
- American College of Sports Medicine: A Strength Training Program for Your Home