After you’ve been hitting the free weights for 6-8 months you can consider transitioning from endurance resistance training to strength training. You should only consider this an option if you have been consistently going to the gym at least 4 times a week and working different muscle groups in cycles so that you target every group every 6-7 days.
When practicing endurance lifting you should choose your weights so that you fail between 12-15 reps at every set. When you move on to strength training you should choose heavier weights so that you fail around 6-8 reps at every set.
Muscles develop differently with strength training and using higher weights and doing less reps will work on size rather than definition. You will also increase the ratio of muscle to fat tissue in your body – which in turn will boost your metabolism. As a result you will need to consume more protein and calories than before as there is a danger of under nourishing your muscles otherwise. Now more than ever you need to get enough protein and cut down on carbs – strength training will take your fitness to the next level.
When pursuing a strength training routine warming up becomes even more important than before. You should spend 5 minutes doing intense cardio – rowing for upper body, treadmill or cross trainer for lower body – before you begin. This should be followed by a series of stretches and flexibility-increasing motions. Rotate your shoulders and stretch ligaments.
After this you should have at least 2 warm up sets prior to the first strength training set. The first should have (for example) an empty barbell. The next should be about 50% of your maximum – aiming for around 6-8 reps – not aiming for failure. You are then ready to pile on the weights so that you fail between 6-8 reps. There shouldn’t be an iota of strength left in you after this first set.
When doing strength training you should take longer breaks – up to about 3 minutes between sets. Also make sure to stretch between sets. It’s important to keep your joints flexible and your nerve endings loose, as these are every bit as important to your strength as your muscles.