How to Get Stronger in the Gym

To build your strength, you’ll need to gradually elevate the amount of work you do, rather than trying to reach your end goal by starting at maximum intensity. To build muscle strength, gradually increase the amount of weight or resistance you use. To build cardiorespiratory function, work longer at first, then harder after you’ve established a base. A gym is an ideal place to do both.

Ramp up the intensity of workouts to gradually build your strength

Choose the Right Gym Equipment

•Visit the gym or fitness center where you will be working and learn which exercise machines will help you meet your goals.

Meet with a staff professional or go with a friend who can explain the various types of equipment to use.

Learn how to use a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical to build cardio strength. Learn how to use weight machines or free weights to build muscle. Learn how to use a rowing machine, universal gym or dumbbells to build muscle and cardio strength.

Work on Muscular Strength

Write a list of exercises you will use to build muscle strength. Learn the correct technique for performing each.

Calculate the maximum amount of weight you can use to perform each exercise. Lift weights or move machines with little weight to learn the exercises, then add weight or raise resistance levels until you can’t perform the exercise.

Perform five repetitions of an exercise using 60 to 70 percent of your maximum weight or resistance. Take a two-minute break, then perform five reps using 80 percent of your max. Take another break, then perform five reps using your maximum. Take a break of several minutes, then start a new exercise.

Rest at least 24 hours between workouts to allow your muscles to recover and rebuild. Alternate upper- and lower-body workouts.

Increase your weight amounts or resistance levels by 2.5 to 5 pounds each week. Use this weight even if you can’t perform the exercise — attempting the exercises will help you build the strength to eventually perform them with this weight.

Cardio Strength

Warm up for several minutes to raise your heart rate and stretch your muscles. Reach a heart rate you feel you can sustain for 15 minutes or longer without stopping. Don’t static stretch (stretch-and-hold) before a workout. Save this for after your workout. Use dynamic movements, such as jumping jacks, butt kicks and running in place.

Exercise for at least 15 minutes at the maximum heart rate you can sustain. Stay at 3.5 mph or less on a treadmill, or at 50 percent to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate if you are a beginner. This is similar to a brisk walk. Take one or more breaks during a 30- or 60-minute workout.

Slow down for several minutes at the end of your workout to gradually lower your heart rate. Stretch after your workout with static (stretch-and-hold) stretches.

Add 5 to 10 minutes to your workouts each week for the first three weeks, rather than raising your heart rate. Raise your heart rate only when you can keep it at that rate for the entire workout without having to take frequent breaks. Try raising your heart rate 5 to 10 percent every two weeks.

Additional Resources

Muscle and Strength: Reg Park Beginner Workout Best Exercise Machines Exercise Library

ACE Fitnes: Exercise Library

Sports Fitness Advisor: Dumbbell Exercises