Once upon a time, people got strong with the lifting, bending and squatting of regular physical labor. This was true whether people worked in the kitchen, the fields or the factory. Today, in a sense, we make up for the lack of physical labor with strength training.
Strength training is a tremendous asset. Experts from multiple fields highly recommend it, and they attest to the proven benefits of this training for everyone from youth to seniors. For young people, it can protect them from sports injuries and also establish good lifelong habits. And for the older, it can help counter the natural loss of muscle mass.
Strength Training Defined
Strength training is a method of improving muscular strength by an increased ability to resist force. This resistance stimulates muscle strength. Strength training can be done with a person’s own body weight (e.g., push-ups, squats, lunges), free weights or machines, all of which stimulate muscle strength. Strength training builds anaerobic conditioning and contributes to coordination and balance.
The benefits of strength training are numerous. Strength training:
- Enhances daily activities and task performance, by lessening the risk of falls
- Enhances exercise/sports ability and performance by improving strength, speed, power and endurance
- Prevents exercise/sports injuries by protecting bones and joints, improving alignment and balancing the strength of lesser-used muscles
- Promotes weight management, burning calories while increasing metabolism
- Strengthens bones as stress increases bone mass
Now that the major “why’s” of strength training are established, below are tips to optimize your efforts:
- Talk to your doctor. Generally, it is a good idea to consult your doctor before undertaking any exercise program.
- Welcome the work. Strength training is meant to be challenging; that’s why it works! So create the conditions that will assure your success.
- Consider a coach. Whether building or refreshing a program, an expert coach or trainer can be an important asset, even for just a session or two.
- Make it doable. Chose a place, time and type of program that will realistically work for you. A regular, consistent routine is the key goal.
- Practice proper habits. Form, breathing, rest between sets … It is important to adhere to proper technique.
- Work your way up. Strength training should progress. While you want to start easy, and not overdo it, don’t stick with the same routine indefinitely. It should get more difficult.
- Warm up. Warming up raises your body temperature and sends blood to the muscles to prepare for your session. This means a more efficient workout.
- Cool down. Winding down with a gradual recovery helps your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal, which can help prevent muscle soreness and/or stiffness.
So, hit the gym, the park or the living room. The beauty of strength training is that you can craft a program that’s doable anywhere. And the rewards are great!