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The best strength training program is generally one that is personalized to an individual’s goals and abilities. Most programs target all of the major muscle groups, but the way in which they do so vary. The intensity and length of workout may also vary widely. Depending on the regimen, strength training programs be suitable for home use, requiring very little equipment, or they may be gym-based, requiring many different machines and weights.
In general, it’s recommended that a person consult a health-care provider or fitness expert before starting a strength training program. These experts can help make sure a person is healthy enough to strength train and help determine which exercises are appropriate. In some cases, such as if a person has an underlying medical condition, certain exercises may not be safe.
For the average person who wants to incorporate strength training into an overall healthy lifestyle, most experts recommend doing muscle-strengthening exercises two to three days a week. The programs generally recommended for such individuals typically take about 20-30 minutes to complete and work all of the muscle groups each time. This may involve, for example, doing one or two exercises to work each of the arms, shoulders, chest, stomach, back and legs. The intensity recommended for these types of people is generally gauged by how many times a person can do a specific exercises. For example, if working out with weights or resistance bands, experts generally recommend choosing a weight or band the person can lift ten to 12 times before targeted muscles feel tired out.
A bodybuilder or professional athlete, whose goals are often to significantly increase muscle mass, is more likely to use a more targeted and intense strength training program. Like others, such individuals may only strength train two to three times a week, but these sessions are often longer, and involve more exercises and heavier weights. For example, a bodybuilder might target his or her upper body on one day, completing four to five different exercises that work each of the arms, shoulders and chest. In general, such a workout could take an hour or more to complete. On another day, a similar regimen might be used to work the abdominals, butt and legs.
A final factor to consider when choosing a strength training program is whether one wants to be able to do it at home or is willing to go to a gym. Some programs focus on using a person’s own body weight, such as doing push ups, chin ups and sit ups, or minimal equipment, such as small hand weights or resistance bands. These types of programs are often well suited to the home environment. A more intense strength training program, such as one that requires barbells with heavy weights or special leg press and arm curl machines, is often more suited to a gym atmosphere.