Strength training

Definition of strength training

In addition to targeted muscle building, strength training is about improving maximum strength, speed strength and strength endurance.
In order to achieve maximum training success, strength training must be adapted to the corresponding goals. It is about differences in the form of exercise, duration, extent and intensity of exercise. Strength training can also be used from a medical point of view to stabilize the spine or other joints.

For detailed information on training the individual muscle groups and exercises for the respective muscle group, simply click on the picture!

Training the shoulder muscles

Training the arms

Training the chest muscles

Training the abdominal muscles

Training the upper back muscles

Exercise the lower back muscles

Training the gluteal muscles

Definition force

In sport, strength is the ability through the interaction of the nervous system and muscles, external resistance e.g. (Dumbbells while lifting weights) to overcome (concentric), to keep (static) or to give in to the resistance (eccentric).

Using the example of the bench press, the "pushing up" of the barbell would be overcoming and the lowering of the bar would give way to the chest.

Strength comes in four forms in strength training:

  • Maximum strength
  • Speed ​​power
  • Strength endurance
  • Reactive force

1. Maximum strength

This is the force value that is deliberately generated against an insurmountable resistance. With the bench press, this would be when the barbell can no longer be moved under its own power (the intensity is higher than 100%).

The maximum strength in strength training is one Basic power for the three other manifestations of power.

Maximum strength and muscle building.
Maximum strength does not mean maximum muscle growth at the same time.

2. Speed ​​strength

When it comes to strength training, it is the so-called Increase in force per time.

As the word "fast" already implies, the aim is to develop as much strength as possible in the shortest possible time

  1. your own body (Sprint run)
  2. a piece of sports equipment (Shot put) or
  3. both (To go biking, rowing Etc.)

to accelerate. This is why strength training for rapid strength plays a particularly important role in all sports in which a movement is to be carried out quickly.
This is crucial for rapid strength development Starting force (force value 50 ms. After the start of the contraction / muscle tension) and the Explosive power (maximum force increase in the course of force development)

Read more on the topic: Speed ​​strength training

3. Strength endurance

Strength endurance is the fatigue resistance of the muscles. That means being able to withstand a force load as long as possible.

The size of the effort is very variable, from 30% to 75% of the maximum performance. The main aim here is not to develop a lot of strength, but to maintain the strength for as long as possible. Strength training for endurance is of great importance in endurance sports such as swimming, rowing, climbing, etc.

4. Reactive force

Between yielding and overcoming muscle work there is a short (<200ms) Stretching the muscles (e.g. jumping down from a box). This stretching causes pre-innervation / pre-tensioning (involuntarily) of the muscle. However, this form of strength is not of great importance in strength training / muscle building training.

To understand the muscles

All movements of the human body are based on muscle strength. The muscles are connected to the bones by tendons and ligaments at one or more points, and thus enable the skeleton to move, comparable to a marionette.

  • Here you will find detailed information on the front muscles
  • Here you will find detailed information on the back muscles

Muscle structure

The regular horizontal stripes can be seen very well by stringing together individual small contractile units. The black spot between the muscle fibers is the nucleus of a muscle cell.

The human skeletal muscle is made up of Muscle fiber bundles, these made up of individual muscle fibers, and these from so-called Myofibrils. The myofibrils in turn consist of individual sarcomere strings.

2000 consecutive sarcomeres result in approx. 1 mm. The human upper arm muscle thus consists of around 10,000,000,000 sarcomeres. These in turn consist of two molecules, actin and myosin.

This absolutely regular structure can be seen under the microscope. For this reason, the muscles are also known as striated muscles.

How does muscle contraction occur?

Shown in a very simplified schematic:

When the muscles contract, they combine Myosin with the actin.
Due to the structure of the myosin, the actin and myosin shift by approx. 0.0000001 mm. Since there are billions of actin and myosin molecules in a muscle, this shift (shortening) is visible. The muscle contracts.

Structure of myofibrils

  1. Z stripes
  2. Actin filament
  3. Myosin filament

Contracted myofibrils

If you compare the distance between the Z-stripes you can see the contraction.

You can find further information under our topic: Building the muscles

Energy supply in the muscle cell

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is decisive for muscle contractions, be it in strength training, endurance training or speed training.

The ATP is, so to speak, a fuel that makes human movement possible in the first place. The higher the load, the faster the muscle needs this ATP. The human body has three options for strength training.

  1. If the load is very high, a lot of ATP has to be "produced" very quickly (1- 4th max. 10 repetitions during an exercise). The body uses its creatine phosphate store (KrP). This comes about, for example, during strength training with the highest loads. However, this memory is only very limited; H. after approx. 7 sec. the KrP is used up. However, through regular training at high intensities, the body adapts and increases its KrP storage.
  2. If not max. Stress (approx. 10-35 repetitions), the ATP is mainly converted by the conversion of sugar (Glucose). Here the muscle becomes acidic, which leads to an unpleasant sensation.
  3. When using less force (> 50 reps), the ATP is also obtained from the sugar, but the muscle does not over-acidify.

Muscle building through strength training

Targeted strength training is arguably the most effective method to build muscle. Both training exercises with your own body weight and additional weights can be used. A decisive factor in stimulating muscle growth is to bring the muscle into a state of exhaustion. The body then reacts with muscle growth in order to be better equipped for the next time. This leads to an increase in the size of individual muscle cells. Research is currently still debating whether the number of muscle cells within a muscle will also increase.
As the muscles get used to well-rehearsed movement sequences after a certain period of time, it is advisable to use various exercises to train individual muscles in order to give the body new growth impulses and stimuli.

In addition, in strength training it is important to distinguish whether you are training a muscle or muscle group in isolation, i.e. not using any other muscles than these, or whether several muscle groups are involved in the exercise, as they serve to support the execution of movements.The isolated training of one muscle group naturally leads to a greater growth stimulus within these muscles than a training exercise that uses several muscle groups. This should be illustrated with two exercises:
E.g. during a squat not only the muscles of the large leg extensor on the front of the thighs, but also the gluteal muscles and, to a lesser extent, the lower leg muscles.
With the help of a leg extension machine, on the other hand, it is possible to train the said large leg extension on the front of the thighs in isolation, as the sitting position relieves the gluteal muscles.

You might also be interested in the following topics on useful accessories for strength training:

  • Fitness gloves
  • Fitness bracelet

Weight training for fat loss

Weight training is a very good way to burn fat compared to many other sports. This is based on the so-called afterburn effect. This means that the muscles still burn fat even after their actual use. This effect is greater, the more the muscles are stressed. Long, moderate endurance training ensures energy consumption almost exclusively during acute stress, while intensive strength training, in which the muscles are heavily stressed, has a significantly greater afterburn effect, i.e. also ensures increased energy expenditure after the actual stress.
Nevertheless, fat loss is only possible if the calories consumed exceed the calories consumed; so the body is in a calorie deficit.
According to studies, optimal fat burning is achieved through so-called high-intensity interval training. Here phases of maximum stress alternate with phases of moderate stress that are around three to four times as long.

A "targeted" burning of fat in certain parts of the body by training the muscles located there is not possible. Where fat loss starts first and where last is subject to individual factors and cannot be demonstrably influenced by targeted training.
A body fat percentage of 15-25% is considered normal for men, while women normally have a slightly higher body fat percentage of 20-30%.

Weight training and fat burning

Many athletes assume that fat can only be burned through targeted endurance training. However, the actual fat burning takes place in the muscle cell, and the more muscle mass, the more fat is burned.

See Weight Training and Fat Burning for more information

Lose weight through strength training

Losing weight through weight training is definitely possible. At the same time, building muscle is another component that helps you lose weight.
As with all weight loss plans, the simple principle applies here: The body's consumption of calories must be greater than the amount of calories consumed. This is the only way for our body to break down our stored energy reserves in the form of carbohydrate stores and also fat tissue.

The muscle growth resulting from strength training supports us in this, just as the training method itself does. With intensive strength training, the so-called afterburn effect occurs after the training session. An increased energy consumption of the body in the hours after the actual exercise, which correlates with the intensity of the training.
The additional musculature is responsible for an increased calorie consumption, since muscle tissue has a higher calorie consumption for its maintenance metabolism than is the case with adipose tissue. The more muscular our body, the more calories it burns, even when we are not doing any sport.

Read more about this under: Successful weight loss through strength training

Calorie consumption in strength training

It should be said here that the calorie consumption in strength training depends on the intensity of the training. The more intensely I train, the greater my calorie consumption during training.
Strength training is usually characterized by longer breaks between the individual load units, in which there is no stress on the body and therefore no increased calorie consumption. Permanently performed loads such as running, swimming or cycling therefore result in higher calorie consumption due to their constant load. Various sources on the Internet indicate a consumption of approx. 500 kcal per hour for strength training, whereas an hour of so-called cardio training (running, swimming, cycling) can burn up to 750 kcal.

In the long term, however, the muscle mass gained through strength training is able to increase the basal metabolic rate - the normal calorie consumption without physical activity - since the energy supply for the muscles leads to an increased passive calorie consumption and the so-called afterburn effect sets in during strength training.

Read more about this under: Calorie consumption during strength training

Diet in strength training

When it comes to strength training, many people probably have the myth that you need a sufficient amount of protein to build muscle. However, this is only partially correct. After digestion, proteins are broken down into their constituent parts, the amino acids, from which muscles can then be built up again in the body. The general recommendation is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In order not to consume too little protein under any circumstances, recommendations of up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight also apply. However, recommendations beyond this are considered incorrect, as studies have shown that this does not result in increased muscle growth. The body can even convert superfluous proteins or amino acids back into carbohydrates or fats.

The proteins are assigned a value that is greater, the more similar the proteins are to the human muscle protein. Vegetable protein sources have a lower value than animal protein sources. The amino acids that are required for muscle synthesis can be divided into those that the body can produce itself, so-called non-essential ones, and those that have to be supplied to the body from outside.
In addition, there are dietary supplements that contain the so-called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs for short). These are amino acids that the body prefers to use in muscle synthesis. These amino acids are also found in sufficient form in normal protein-containing foods, but not in such a concentrated manner as in the said dietary supplements.

Carbohydrates are the second important component that our food is made up of. In relation to weight training, the carbohydrates serve on the one hand as a supplier of energy, but also ensure the release of the hormone insulin by increasing the blood sugar level. Insulin has an anabolic effect: this means that it helps the body to build up carbohydrate stores, so-called glycogen, but also to build up muscles by moving the body to release growth hormones and absorb amino acids into the muscles. It is therefore advisable to couple the intake of proteins with carbohydrates in order to induce an insulin output.
At this point, however, it should be pointed out that the use of insulin belongs in the hands of doctors and, if used improperly, it can lead to hypoglycemia, and in the worst case to coma or death.

The third substance that makes up food is fats, but these are nowhere near as bad as they are reputed to be. Fats are an important component of the body's own hormones, but also serve the body to produce synovial fluid, so-called synovial fluid, without which joint problems can occur. They are also an important part of our sex hormones.
Also in the case of fatty acids - the component of fats, those that our body can produce itself in the event of a deficiency (not essential) that can only be supplied through food, so-called essentials.

The fourth group of caloric food components are alcohols. Alcohols only serve the body as a high-calorie source of energy, but otherwise have effects that are more of a hindrance to weight training. Alcohol, for example, hampers the efficient absorption of other food components due to its slow intestinal passage and the use of enzymes for its digestion.

Read more about this under: The right nutrition for strength training


In order to be able to specifically achieve the above four manifestations of strength through strength training, it is necessary to use certain training methods for certain goals.
First of all, it should be said that when choosing training methods, you should pay attention to your current fitness level.
There is no point for a beginner in strength training to work with maximum weights. Strength training can be very demanding in terms of coordination, so that complex movement sequences have to be learned first.

  • Burden:
    The load is always given in percent and always relates to the maximum performance that can be achieved. If you press a maximum of 100 kg in the bench press, a workout with 50% would be 50 kg.
  • Repetition:
    Number of repetitions in a set (e.g. 15 reps)
  • Sentences:
    e.g. 3 sets of 15 repetitions
  • Break:
    Time between sets

Training methods

We distinguish 6 different training methods:

  1. Basic training
  2. Fitness training for sporty beginners
  3. Fitness training for advanced users
  4. Hypertrophy training (muscle building training)
  5. Pyramid training
  6. Intramuscular coordination / strength gain

1. Basic training
Basic training is strength training for Beginners, children and young people, health and general fitness.
In addition to building muscle, the compensation of muscular imbalances (caused by one-sided stress or poor posture) and fat loss are important.
The The load on this workout is low to medium (30-40%).
This means that if I can manage 50 kg with one device, I would have to train with about 15-20 kg with this method.
The number of repetitions is very high (> 30 up to 100 reps.)
You complete approx. 3 - 5 sets per device with a break of approx. 1 minute between sets.

Read more on the topic: Strength training for children

2. Fitness training for athletic beginners
A certain level of physical fitness is required for this training.
The intensity is approx. 50% of the max. Power. The number of repetitions is around 10-15 with at least 5 sets per device.
The break between sets should not be longer than 2 minutes.
In basic and fitness training for athletic beginners, the main goal should not be muscle building, but rather the development of a good strength base for future strength training.
The adaptation of the muscles through strength training is much more intense for beginners than for advanced users.

Example bench press

A beginner starts bench press with a weight of 35 kg. With targeted strength training, it is possible for him to double his training weight to 70 kg within a year. (For an advanced strength athlete, this goal would be unattainable). This fact of better adaptation and performance improvement in beginners is not only a reason for starting strength training, but also serves as motivation, since performance successes are recorded very quickly. However, the body needs 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to the muscular load.

You should follow the recommendations and always consult with the instructor to avoid injuries. A torn chest muscle fiber should be avoided when doing the bench press.

So the training has to be very extensive (train as many muscle groups as possible) and balanced (Be agonists and antagonists (= train opponents).

3. Advanced fitness training
In this form of strength training, complex strength development continues to play a major role.
The intensity is 70-85% of the max. Perform for 5 to 10 reps until the muscle is completely fatigued. The number of sets is at least 3 - max. 6th
The length of the pause is 1-2 minutes.
The higher load during this workout leads to greater fatigue, which causes the muscles to grow stronger during this workout.

4. Hypertrophy training / muscle building training
The aim of training with this method is to build muscle mass. The hypertrophy method is part of the maximum strength training, as it is trained with very high intensities. The intensity is 80-90%, so the number of repetitions is limited to max. 5 reduced. Due to the high load, the muscle also needs more time to recover, so a 2 - 3 minute break is necessary between sets. The training scope is approx. 5 - 6 sets. However, this method of targeted muscle building should only take place after at least six months of strength training.

5. Pyramid training:

A special and often used form of strength training is pyramid training. In this case, the same number of repetitions and intensity is not exercised on one device, but the load is increased with each set, starting with medium to light load (50-60%) and repetitions (12-15), up to the submaximal or maximum load and only one repetition. Example:

1st set: 15 repetitions, 2nd set: 12 repetitions, 3rd set: 7 repetitions, 4th set: 4 repetitions, 5th set. 1 repetition

6. Intramuscular coordination / strength gain

This training method is no longer about the health and fitness of strength training. It is also not trained specifically to build up mass, but rather the ability of the muscle to produce as much strength as possible in the shortest possible time (see also speed strength). The intensity is therefore maximum (95-100%) and therefore only with one Repetition trained and the pause length is 3 - 5 minutes. This method is mainly used in sports such as Shot put or sprinting is not at all suitable for beginners.

For more information, see: coordinative skills

Here you will find an overview of the Exercises individual muscle groups

  • Arm muscle training
  • Abs workout
  • Leg muscle training
  • Chest muscle training
  • Back training
  • Shoulder muscle training
  • Neck muscle training
  • Training plan


Bodybuilding is a form of body modeling through targeted training methods to build muscle and strict control of food intake. The primary goal is not to increase strength, but to define muscle mass through intensive training and drainage of the muscles. However, targeted muscle building can only be achieved through targeted strength training. The training methods used in bodybuilding are only suitable for advanced athletes, as there is a high risk of health hazards.

Further information is available from: Natural bodybuilding - what is it?

Strength training with the expander

Here you will find detailed information on the subject of training forms with the expander, clearly described for laymen. Expander training has not been able to prevail over conventional strength training with dumbbells in recent years, although training with the expander offers numerous advantages. The continuous increase in tensile resistance increases the strain on the muscles during movement.
The workout with the expander enables effective and cost-effective strength training at home.

For more information on this topic, visit our Subject expander training.

Weight training without equipment

In the course of the last few years a large number of programs and philosophies have emerged in the field of fitness and strength training, which also train without additional weights, i.e. purely with your own body weight.
Calisthenics and Freeletics are two buzzwords that should be mentioned in this context. Both are forms of strength training that do not require additional weight in their exercises. While the exercises in calisthenics often have an acrobatic character, probably most comparable to artistic gymnastics. The exercises are often carried out here on horizontal bars or other devices. Freeletics, on the other hand, does not need any additional devices and can therefore be performed anywhere.The incentive here is to create a given number of repetitions in the fastest possible time or as high as possible in a given time.
However, study results show that the decisive factor for increasing muscle mass is progression, i.e. an increase in the total training volume. This can be done by increasing the repetitions of an exercise as well as increasing the weight being moved.

Read more about this under: Weight training without equipment - tips for at home

Weight training for women

With two thirds of all gym visitors, women are well ahead of their male colleagues. It is therefore not surprising that more and more fitness enthusiasts are adapting their concept to the needs of women. The muscles of women are subject to the same symptoms of adaptation as in men. However, the objective is different from that of men. While men primarily build up their muscles, the priorities of women are more on targeted fat burning. For detailed information, see Strength Training for Women.

Weight training during pregnancy

Strength training during pregnancy is possible in principle, but not recommended. The further the pregnancy has progressed, the safer the training is for the unborn child. The earlier in pregnancy, the greater the damage that violence can cause to the fetus. Heavy knocks and blows as well as other violent effects on the belly of the expectant mother should be avoided as far as possible. During the first month of pregnancy in particular, the fetus undergoes so-called neurolation, i.e. the development of the human nervous system and the beginning of the development of all important internal organs.

It is therefore advisable to practice sports with moderate stress that do not increase the heart rate to the maximum. Examples include light weight training, gymnastics or a workout on a cross trainer.
It is also important to make sure that the unborn child is supplied with a sufficient amount of nutrients such as folic acid, iodine, iron and vitamins. Folic acid is an important factor in the regular development of the nervous system. If there is a deficiency here, the later child can experience neurological deficits that are irreversible. A lack of iodine, on the other hand, can lead to abnormal development of organs or skeleton and growth delays.

Weight training in old age

The Strength training for seniors is subject to other laws. Targeted strength training in old age should always be viewed from a functional point of view. The execution of the movement should always be coordinated with the everyday movement. The top priority is the fulfillment of health aspects. The focus is on the targeted development of the back muscles and leg muscles. Further information is available at Strength training for seniors and functional strength training.