The ultimate guide to strength training
Former NRL player Ben Lucas is owner and director of Flow Athletic in Sydney. He discusses the importance of lifting weights, must-do exercises, and the foods you should eat when you’re lifting.
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Strength is so important
“Great strength training is important for every human adult human on the earth,” he tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode, Best strength training advice ever. Fact.
“After we reach a certain age muscle mass starts to decline every year. So, weight training is important because it helps you maintain your muscle mass and your metabolism and the big one – it strengthens your bones.”
Lucas says that for the last 20 years he’s trained everyone from ages 16 to 86 and believes that strength workouts are the most important exercise you can do.
The key is form
If you’re new to strength training it’s all about getting your form together.
“The technique is the most important thing – over weight, over intensity. You can still get greater results with lower intensity but fantastic form,” Lucas says.
He recommends starting off slower with low weights and moving up from there. Good form also helps to protect against injury and will likely mean you can keep up the workout for longer.
Build the foundations
Strength training doesn’t need to be an abyss of different and confusing exercises.
“There’s only probably half a dozen really important exercises,” Lucas says.
For example, learning to do a really great press (which is a push up) leads into a range of other variations such as a dumbbell press or a bench press.
“So just [focus on] learning those four to six foundational movements, then you’re going to be able to get fantastic results.
Don’t try and fly out of the gate before you’ve had a chance to prepare your body for the workout.
Yes, that’s right – a warm up is crucial for strength training.
“Even if you just do some light sets beforehand, you don’t want to go and make your first set a personal best,” Lucas says.
There’s three major reasons you should consider taking the time to warm up:
- It gets your brain engaged with the workout
- You’re going to be less likely to risk the chance of injury
- You’re going to perform the exercise better
Cardio or weights first
“For those who are doing both strength training and cardiovascular exercise in the one session, I would do the strength training first, for two reasons,” Lucas recommends.
“One, that your muscles are going to be fresher, so therefore you can do that weight training better with better technique. Two, in the weight training you’re going to use carbohydrate stored in the muscle for energy. Then, you’re more likely to use fat as a fuel source in the cardiovascular exercise, both resistance training.”
Have you been doing it the wrong way?
Eating for strength
Lucas explains that nutrition plays two roles with strength training.
Firstly, you need enough energy to be able to perform your weight training well. But you also need to be eating well enough to recover.
“You’re essentially tearing those muscle fibres apart, and then with proper nutrition at rest, those muscles grow back bigger and stronger than before. But if your muscles don’t have those building blocks to help those muscles repair or grow bigger and stronger, that that process is not going to happen,” he says.
“Generally, carbohydrates help you with energy. I prefer my clients to get them from whole natural sources, like fruits, veg, and legumes. Then to recover from resistance training, make sure you’re getting enough proteins. That protein is the building block of life.”