Basic Strength Training

By Don Matesz

Basic strength training is essential for health and maximizing life span.  

Weakness results in inability to move, and lack of movement leads to decay and death.  If you don't use your muscles, you lose them.

If you are strong, you can be self-reliant and help others, but if you become weak, you become a burden to others.  Hence, as old-time strongman Bernarr McFadden averred, weakness is a crime, and strength training prevents this crime. 

Science has so far found that only strength training that can prevent and reverse aging at the cellular level.  Doing weight bearing exercises is also one of the best ways to maintain strong bone density as we age.

Simple & Basic Strength Training Routines are Best

Unfortunately, many trainers prescribe programs that are way too complicated and time-consuming for the average person to benefit.  

A simple, basic strength training routine will enable you to build strength and muscle mass, or maintain your current muscle mass, and as you become stronger in body you will also become mentally and emotionally stronger.

The best strength training routines for strength and muscle mass are composed primarily or even entirely of natural multi-joint movements that work several muscle groups at once.  These include squats (various forms), deadlifts, overhead presses, dips, bench presses, pushups, pull ups, and rowing.  

In addition to these movements, it is desirable to include direct training for the waist and lower back muscles for injury prevention.  

Twisting Back Extension 

A Basic Strength Training Routine

A bare-bones basic strength training routine consists of two or three training sessions each week, alternating two basic routines, such as follows:

Routine A:

1:  Pull ups or pull downs

2:  Overhead press

3:  Squats

4:  Back extension

5:  Feet anchored, bent-knee sit up

6:  Neck extension

7:  Neck flexion

Routine B:

1:  Dumbbell or bodyweight rowing

2:  Bench press, dips, or pushups

3:   Dumbbell lunges

4:   Stiff-leg deadlifts or leg curls

5:   Twisting sit ups

6:  One-leg rise on toes


For all exercises, perform each repetition smoothly and slowly.  As a guideline, aim for 4 seconds for the lifting (concentric) phase and 4 seconds for the lowering (eccentric) phase. 

On pull ups, rowing, sit ups, and back extensions, pause for ~2 seconds at the top position; in squats, dips, bench presses or pushups pause for ~1-2 seconds at the lowest (bottom position).  Each repetition should take 8-10 seconds. 

I recommend using a metronome to guide your performance; you can get metronomes online or get a metronome application for your phone.  I also recommend timing your sets using a stopwatch.  This way you can track your performance by time under load, which is more accurate than repetitions.  Start the clock when you start movement, and stop it when you

Never bounce or jerk; always move smoothly.  If you have to jerk or bounce you either have chosen a version of the exercise that is too difficult, or you have too much resistance on the bar. 

Choose a version or resistance with which you could perform 5-7 repetitions for the upper body exercises, or 8-10 repetitions for the lower body and waist exercises.  

Continue performing each movement until you are unable to lift the weight, at which point you should try to move it for about 5 seconds. You only need to do one properly performed set per exercise. 

Strive to increase the time under load at every training session.  When you reach 7 repetitions or 70 seconds of time under load for upper body exercises, or 10 repetitions or 100 seconds of time under load for the lower body and waist exercises, increase the resistance by 2%.

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