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The Basics of Building a Strength Training Routine

Have you decided to start strength training and realized you need help? The information is out there, but the overwhelm from a large gym, online searches, and social media can set in quickly. Designing a weight lifting program for yourself isn’t easy. Unfortunately, doing too much, too soon, too fast, or the wrong exercises can lead to injury.

However, when you understand the basics, you can get yourself started on a solid workout routine. Craig Buyeske, Juniper Physical Therapy & Fitness Personal Trainer and CrossFit Coach, shares his experience and thoughts to help guide you. Before you get started, you must ask yourself:

What are Your Weight Training Goals?

Are you weight lifting to increase your overall strength, endurance, performance in a sport, or general aesthetics? This is an important question because each goal requires different prescribed sets, repetitions, and exercises. Craig suggests the following set/rep schemes for each purpose:


3-6 sets of 1-6 reps per training session. Working to muscle fatigue is ideal and necessary for muscle growth. When starting, choose fewer sets with a weight that will allow you to do more reps. As you gain confidence and maintain good form, you can add more weight, increase sets and decrease reps. These recommendations are the same for men and women.


1-10 sets of 5-50 reps per training session. If you want to gain stamina, you may opt for this set and rep scheme. If you are new to endurance strength training, you want to start with higher sets and lower reps, gradually building your reps and decreasing your sets.

Your weight load is generally lighter when working on endurance strength training. However, don’t be afraid to add as much weight as you can over time without sacrificing your form. If you are an endurance athlete (such as a runner), keep in mind that endurance athletes benefit significantly from challenging themselves with progressive loads and heavier weight training.

Sports Performance

Your set and rep schemes will depend on the needs of the sport. The exercises you perform are also highly dependent on the specific sport. Working with a trainer or physical therapist specializing in that particular sport is ideal for obtaining the best results.

General Aesthetics

Your set and rep schemes and exercises will vary depending on your specific aesthetic desire. Utilizing the general “strength” rep and set strategy works for most people who are looking to get “toned” or “muscular.” Nutrition, sex hormones, and how you progress your weight lifting workout will make a difference.

Which Movements Should You Include in Your Lifting Workout?

After you determine what you are training for, you need to figure out which movements to include in your workout. The number of exercises can get overwhelming, but the variety can keep things fun and interesting. Craig advises keeping things simple when you are just getting started. Go with what you know and add variations as you get more comfortable. Watching others in the gym, taking in-person or online strength training classes, or searching on social can fill your mind with endless possibilities.

A good training program will train as many muscles as possible in a week and alternate the days you do them. An excellent way to get started is to focus on the lower body on Monday, the upper body on Wednesday, and the lower body again on Friday. You can then switch this around the following week.

Craig loves to keep things interesting, so here is an example of a 5-day workout regime he has prescribed to one of his clients:

The Best Way to Get Effective Strength Workouts that Meet your Goals.

With the information Craig provided in this blog post, designing your weight lifting routine is possible. However, if you are looking for customization to help you achieve your fitness goals, there is nothing like having an expert guide you.

At Juniper Physical Therapy & Fitness in Manitowoc, WI, we have Craig and Andrea available to train you personally. Their expertise can help you avoid injury, reach your goals, and have fun! They both have a wide variety of exercises in their arsenal, know how to do each one correctly, and are known to challenge and progress you appropriately.

If this sounds like something you need to achieve your goals, then reach out to us at (920) 320-9838 or book a free phone consult for personal training online at


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