Benefits of Strength Training
Mention the words “strength training” and many people will roll their eyes and poo-poo the entire idea. Images of big burly men lifting Olympic size weights immediately enter their minds. Who wants to have muscles like that?
What they don’t understand is that strength training isn’t about getting bulging muscles. Oh, you can get them, if you are a man; but the average woman won’t build “manly” muscle – no matter how much they lift.
First, let’s define strength training, or resistance training. Resistance training is any exercise that causes muscle to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increasing strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance. The external resistance can be anything that causes the muscles to contract – such as dumbbells, tubing, or even your own bodyweight. So, do a push-up and you are strength training – no bulging muscles there!
Now, let’s put away our overactive imaginations for a moment, and take a look at why you should be strength training.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “use it or lose it”. With muscle, this can be taken quite literally. As we grow older, our lean muscle mass diminishes, and if you don’t do anything to replace it, it will be replaced by fat. By strength training, you build lean muscle mass, reversing this aging effect.
Stronger muscle will help you perform daily chores, reducing your risk of injury and increasing the chances of maintaining your independence as you grow older. And you can start at any age; research has shown that whether you are 20 or 60, you can make the same gains (progress) in the gym.
There are many health benefits from strength training. It not only builds muscle mass, but stresses your bones, increasing bone density and reducing your risk of osteoporosis as you get older. Research has shown that it can help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym – you don’t even need a gym – to reap the benefits of strength training. You can gain an increase in strength with just 2-3, 20-30 minute sessions per week. This meets the American College of Sports Medicine and government health guidelines for strength training.
Now that you know why you should be strength training, do you know how?
To avoid injury, be sure and start slow. If you are a beginner, start with bodyweight exercises. Make sure you learn proper form and technique. You can either hire a trainer, or find some professional videos on the internet to show you a demonstration of each exercise.
If you start with dumbbells, make sure you pick a weight that will allow you to do 12 repetitions. You don’t want to go too light, but you shouldn’t be struggling either. Once you can do 12 repetitions, and the 12th rep is no longer a challenge, you will need to increase your weight or reps. It is important to progress by increasing your weights or reps; this continuous challenge allows your muscles to grow strong and stay strong.
Make sure you allow for rest days for the muscles to recover. You can do this by performing a full body routine on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or upper body Monday, lower body Tuesday and resting on Wednesday and starting routine over on Thursday. A