Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier
Want to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently? Strength training to the rescue! Despite its reputation as a “guy” or “jock” thing, strength training is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.
Use it or lose it
Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body, and this process is called Atrophy and is just a result of aging. But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age.
Strength or Resistance training is you performing an exercise when you have to generate force (use your muscles) to push, pull or lift something. The ‘something’ can be your own bodyweight, a machine weight, free weights such as dumb bells or kettlebells or something like a resistance band; what you start with depends on where you are staring from!
Strength training also helps you:
- Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.(especially in females)
- Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight. The extra muscle mass also raises you metabolism as muscle requires more energy.
- Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
- Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Stronger muscles will take the strain of moving around, keeping the stresses of you joints and helping protect them. More toned, stronger muscle also improves your posture as you will stand more ‘taller’ with these stronger muscles helping you move as nature intended.
- Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.Strength training can be done at home or in the gym.
- Consider the options
- Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, planks and leg squats.
- Resistance Bands. Resistance bands are inexpensive, lightweight pieces of kit that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance bands that vary in strength, can be used just about anywhere and are great for working on joint stabilisation as well as muscle strength.
- Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
- Weight machines. These are ideal for beginners starting out as they offer a safe introduction to resistance training; most fitness centers offer a range of machines that cover all major muscle groups. Machines are also useful to target a specific muscle if you are recovering from injury or wanting to increase strength or size in a particular area.
OK so you have decided to begin a strength training program; the best advice you can get is to go see an experienced trainer who can talk you through a suitable program and workout where you should start, choosing the right types of exercises, weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles. And you get to understand how your muscles should be working. You will also learn how and when to progress each exercise and why you should keep raising the intensity and not same at the same level. When you can easily do more repetitions of a certain exercise, you need to gradually increase the weight or resistance.
To give your muscles time to recover, rest for at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group, this allows your muscles to recover and be ready for the next workout. Failing to do this will only lead to no progress and probably an injury. Also be careful to listen to your body. Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you’ve overdone it.
When to expect results
You don’t need to spend hours a day lifting weights to benefit from strength training. Two to three strength effective training sessions a week lasting just 20 to 30 minutes are sufficient for most people. Better yet, results are quick. Expect to enjoy noticeable improvements in your strength and stamina in just a few weeks. If you keep it up, you’ll continue to increase your strength — even if you’re not in shape when you begin.