Strength training is one part of the fitness triad that ensures optimal results - nutrition and recovery being the other pillars.
The difference is that strength training has the potential for the most change, for better or worse.
As an example, if you have proper form and know which exercises to do, you'll create and build-on a foundation of consistent excellence. If you ignore proper form, you could hurt yourself, ensuring you'll be out of the gym for weeks or even months.
If you're looking to get stronger, build muscle, and perfect your strength training game, who better to look to for advice than strength trainers?
Whether you're just starting out or have been lifting for years, these tips from our South Loop and Logan Square strength trainers will help you get the most out of your workouts and see results faster.
Don't Skip a (Proper) Warm-Up
Starting off with a warm-up is essential before strength training.
Not only will it help to prepare your muscles, but it could also be the difference between a great strength training session and a potentially dangerous one.
The goal of warming up prior to strength training is twofold: activating your muscles to prevent muscular injury and improving performance by prepping them for what's upcoming.
Think about what happens if you try to stretch a cold rubber band, and this will give you an idea of what could happen to a "cold" muscle during training.
Most strength trainers suggest that a proper warm-up includes an activity that increases heart rate and blood flow. 
You also want to stretch but not the type you might be thinking. In particular, strength trainers will recommend dynamic stretches.
Dynamic stretching focuses on performing half or light versions of the exercises that you'll be doing during strength training. For example, if you are set to do Barbell Squats, a dynamic stretch would be Bodyweight Squats or Front Lunges.
This type of stretching optimally prepares your for the workout ahead, and this is why the Fit Results team incorporates dynamic stretching into every warm-up routine before class!
Learn Proper Form (from a Pro!)
Any activity has a certain element of risk to it, and this is especially true for strength training.
With that said, you can dramatically reduce this risk if you take the time to learn and master the correct form for all the exercises in your program.
Perfect form means more than moving through the exercise correctly, it also means properly engaging the target muscle groups. In other words, you need to master the mind-to-muscle connection.
This eliminates the strain on muscles that shouldn't be involved (overcompensation), helps to prevent common strength training injuries, and allows you to maximize strength gains from each exercise.
The gold standard of learning proper form is still a certified strength trainer. Taking a strength training class with a qualified instructor can be beneficial for those who are new to fitness.
More surprisingly, a personal trainer can be a wake-up call for those who have been lifting "mindlessly" for years, doing exercises without a strong mind-to-muscle connection.
Stick with Compound Exercises (First)
You might have heard this before, but there's a reason the classic exercises are still considered the foundation of any great workout program: they work!
Compound exercises, which work multiple muscle groups at once, accelerate strength gains and raise metabolism faster than single-joint strength training moves. This is why we use them in our Groundworks strength training class!
You can often use heavier weight when lifting with multiple muscle groups and get strength gains quicker than with single-joint strength moves. 
Everyone from beginners just starting out in strength training to experts looking for a challenge can benefit from focusing on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
With that said, there is a time and place for isolation exercises, but this is going to be reserved for those who have been both lifting for several months and have a specific goal such as bodybuilding.
Don't Forget About Cardio
For many people, weights take importance over good old-fashioned cardio. So much so, that people forget about it altogether!
While it's true that performing strength exercises on a regular basis can improve your heart health, endurance, and overall performance, many strength trainers still recommend dedicating time each week to cardiovascular-focused exercise. Here's why:
As the name suggests, cardio is essential for good cardiovascular health! It's also great for burning calories and improving your aerobic fitness. 
Strength training, on the other hand, is primarily focused on developing lean muscle tissue. Cardio complements strength training by optimizing performance and allowing you to stay healthy and fit.
Some examples of great cardio exercises include running, swimming, biking, and jump rope. The key is to find something you enjoy doing and mix up the intensity.
Cool Downs and Stretching Are Important Too!
If you're someone who doesn't skip a warm-up, you might be the kinda person that walks right out of the gym post-workout.
After strength training, it is especially important to follow up with some light cardio and stretching - static stretching, in particular.
Stretching helps to reset tight muscles, avoid muscle adhesions (knots) and blood pooling, and supports improved flexibility and mobility.
Some studies also suggest that post-workout cool downs and stretching help to prevent soreness and injuries in the future.
A cool down doesn't have to be another workout! You can take a few minutes to walk, cycle, or lightly jog. Afterward, take another several minutes to hold stretches for no less than 30 second, especially in the muscles you worked that day.
Have a Muscle Recovery Plan
As we mentioned above, strength training is only one part of the triad. Muscle recovery is another, equally critical part of this fitness foundation.
If you strength train regularly and want to maximize results, then muscle recovery should be a priority. And you should treat it just like you do your workout. In other words, make a plan!
That starts with an appropriate workout program - one that is suited to your current fitness level and incorporates days of rest within.
In your plan, it's essential to make a game plan to eat properly, ensuring that your body gets the nutrients it needs for both recovery and performance.
You might also consider adding supplementation such as protein powder or branch chain amino acid to speed up the recovery process.
Even if it may feel like taking time off slows down progress, remember that results happen outside the gym! Proper muscle recovery will ultimately optimize strength gains and have you strong and ready for your next strength training session!
Ready to Get Started?
Now that you know more about the basics of strength training, it's time to hit the gym and start crushing some workouts.
Best of all, we can help you!
Here at Fit Results, we offer comprehensive strength training programs specifically designed for your goals. Whether you're looking to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or just get stronger and fitter overall, we can help you get the body you want.
Get started today by booking a free consultation with one of our experienced trainers. We look forward to helping you reach your fitness goals!
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