Who should be interested in strength training?
Everyone! Every day, hour and minute of your life, awake or sleeping, your body’s muscles are working. Muscles are needed to do anything, including walking, sitting, unloading the dishwasher and gardening. Every activity you perform requires a certain percentage of your strength and endurance. However, by maintaining or enhancing your muscle strength and endurance, you will be able to perform tasks with less effort and more confidence. Doesn’t it make sense to use strength training to keep your muscles strong and functioning efficiently?
What should I believe and not believe about strength training?
Strength training is surrounded by many stereotypes. It might be intimidating to those who have never done this type of exercise before. A common misconception, particularly for women, is that strength training will make the body big and bulky.
People are often unaware that strength training can help with weight management. If you have concerns about strength training, a certified professional such as a personal trainer or doctor can answer your questions.
Why should I include strength training in my lifestyle?
It maintains and increases lean muscle mass. As we age, we experience a gradual decrease in lean muscle tissue as well as overall strength. Strength training can prevent this loss.
It increases your metabolic rate. The decrease in lean muscle mass with age is accompanied by a one-half per cent reduction in metabolic rate each year. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the energy used by your body at rest to maintain normal body functions. Maintaining or increasing your lean muscle tissue results in an increase in BMR. This in turn means you burn more calories throughout the day.
It can prevent injury. Sport and life-related injuries can be prevented by strengthening muscles. Increased muscular strength can improve the stability and reduce the stress placed on joints such as the knees, hips and back.
It can help with injury rehabilitation and recovery. An important way to treat many types of injuries is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured area. The healing process is often quicker when muscles are strengthened.
It increases bone mineral density. Being inactive combined with aging reduces bone mineral density so that bones become increasingly brittle. Strength training may help fight this loss, delaying or preventing the onset of diseases like osteoporosis.
It improves athletic performance by increasing strength, endurance, and power. Regardless of your favorite sport or recreational activity, there is no question that proper strength training can improve your overall performance.
It can enhance your quality of life. Physical activity keeps us vigorous and alive. Strength training will ensure you are strong enough to participate in daily activities like house cleaning and mowing the lawn. It also helps you stay involved in the recreational activities that you enjoy in your leisure time. This enhances your activity level and overall quality of life.
It improves balance and posture. Improved balance in sports often means a better performance. In daily living it can mean fewer falls or accidents. Strength training can improve your back muscles, preventing or correcting back problems and giving you better posture and body alignment.
It makes you look better. Having toned, lean muscles tends to make anyone feel better about their appearance. Although your actual body weight may stay the same, your strength, lean muscle mass and metabolism improve giving you a more fit appearance.
It makes you feel better. Feeling better about your physical abilities and appearance means more self-esteem and self-confidence.
What kinds of strength training equipment are available?
There are a variety of methods to apply resistance to your muscles. All of these can be effective in very different ways.
Machines are great for starting out or if you work out alone. They provide more controlled motion and help isolate certain muscle groups. Machines can often be one of the safer methods of weight training. They help ensure that you use proper form and technique.
Free weights require more balance and coordination than machines. However, they are also more adaptable. They allow greater variation in the range of motion for a particular exercise. Using free weights promotes greater activity of the muscles that stabilize the joint. They also allow more natural exercise and exercise specific to a sport or activity. Most of the daily tasks we perform are not limited within the fixed movements of a machine. For instance, groceries, books, furniture, lawn tools and children are all lifted without the benefit of guides, rails or levers.
When using free weights, however, you may require the help of a ‘spotter’ (someone who can assist you with an exercise when lifting heavy weights).
Medicine balls are weighted rubber balls that can be thrown, tossed, passed from person to person or lifted to apply resistance to a working muscle or group of muscles. They are a fun and different way to add strength and power exercises into your training program.
Exercise bands and tubes are portable and inexpensive, so they are ideal and highly recommended for travelling. Bands and tubes come in varying tensions. The heavier or shorter the band, the more strength you need to pull or stretch it. These items provide a low-impact, low-stress workout and are often used for rehabilitation.
This is definitely the most inexpensive way to strength train. Push-ups, chin-ups and dips are great exercises that improve your strength to body-weight ratio. Although next to no equipment is required, these exercises can be very strenuous and difficult. By changing the exercises, you can gradually work your way up to a more difficult level while avoiding injury.
How can I get started?
Here are some simple tips to help you get started.
Get help. Strength training can be intimidating for those who have never tried it before. Instruction from a personal trainer or exercise professional is always recommended. This ensures that you learn proper lifting techniques to help avoid injury. Strength training classes can usually be found in your local community fitness facility. Finding a training partner will make workouts more enjoyable and help you stick with a program.
Keep it light. During the first few weeks of your program be careful not to progress too quickly. At first, focus on proper lifting technique, use lighter weights and a greater number of sets and repetitions.
Maintain good technique and body mechanics. Never sacrifice good form for heavier weight or more repetitions.
Remember to warm-up and stretch. A good warm-up helps prevent injuries during your training session. Proper stretching helps maintain or increase your flexibility and range of motion.
Follow recommended exercise guidelines. The American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) recommends the following.
Listen to your body. Knowing when to slow down or take a rest is essential. The rule of ‘no pain, no gain’ is not only false but dangerous. It is very important to listen to your body based on an overall rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Your heart rate while exercising and the amount of muscle soreness after your session are good indicators of how hard you have worked. Fatigued muscles need to rest before exercising again so that they may rebuild.
What else should I know about strength training?
Strength training can help you to look better, feel better and function better. Staying strong throughout your lifetime helps ensure a better quality of life and improved functional ability.
Over time, variety in a strength training program keeps things interesting and prevents staleness in physical improvements. Whichever type of strength training equipment you use, be sure that it suits your training needs and is safe and convenient for you.
Finally, the ‘use it or lose it’ principle holds true in this case, since strength is lost not only on ending a resistance training program but naturally as we age. Take advantage of strength training as a way to help you stay strong and active.