If you are starting a new exercise regime, strength-training may seem daunting. With countless exercises and a confusing array of gym equipment available, it can be difficult for novices to know where to start.
Since strength training involves using a resisting force to make muscles contract, it is sometimes referred to as “resistance training.” The activity can be categorized into two separate categories: isotonic strength training and isometric resistance. Both play important roles in terms of improving physical strength and fitness.
No matter where you are in your fitness journey, strength training is a vital component. It can confer a variety of health benefits, including:
Improving physical fitness and strength.
An obvious yet important benefit of strength training is that it makes everyday tasks easier. This is especially important in your later years as you begin to lose muscle mass due to the natural aging process.
Strength training helps boost metabolism, even when the body is in a resting state. Strength training also helps boost calories burned during and after workouts, since it kickstarts a process called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” meaning that the body continues to demand more energy even after an exercise session has concluded. This increases the number of calories burned.
Increasing muscle mass and bone density.
From the age of 30, the average adult loses between 3 percent and 5 percent of total lean muscle mass each year as a result of the natural aging process. According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, people who participate in 30-minute strength training sessions twice a week don’t just improve functional performance. They also increase their bone density, improving bone strength and structure.
Improving body mechanics.
Over time, strength training improves your coordination, posture, and balance. One study suggested that older individuals could reduce their risk of falls by up to 40 percent by engaging in regular strength training. As exercise physiologist Neal Pire explains, balance depends on the strength of muscles in the feet. The stronger those muscles are, the better your balance.
Helping manage chronic disease.
With regard to diseases such as arthritis, research shows that strength training can be as effective as medications in terms of reducing pain. As an example, consider people with type 2 diabetes, a condition that affects 14 million people in America alone. When implemented in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle changes, strength-training can significantly improve glucose control.
Boosting mood and energy levels.
Strength training stimulates release of mood-enhancing endorphins that lift mood and energy levels.
Enhancing cardiovascular health.
Like aerobic exercise, strength training can help improve blood pressure. The US government recommends that adults undertake at least two muscle-strengthening activities each week, as well as participating in an additional 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise activities to lower the risk of heart disease and reduce hypertension.
How to Get Started with Strength Training
With the COVID-19 pandemic triggering closure of many gyms across America, at-home exercise programs have never been more popular. Experts recommend that anyone embarking on a strength training regime checks in with their doctor first as a precautionary measure, even if you will be doing your workouts at home.
Wellness specialist Evan Thoman states those new to strength training starting with what they have to hand rather than worrying about buying the perfect set of free weights. For those who do not have their own weights, Thoman recommends using household items such as gallons of milk or cans food, although these items can be more difficult to hold so require more care.
Irrespective of how heavy or light weights are, if you are practicing at home you can tweak your routine to ensure you get an effective workout appropriate for your fitness level. Typically, a particular exercise is completed in three sets with a rest in between each set. People often start with between 10 and 12 repetitions of an exercise in a set.
Modify Your Strength Training Workout as You Progress
As Thoman indicates, when you first start strength training, it can be very challenging. Nevertheless, in just a few short weeks you will notice that exercises start getting easier. This is because, over time, the body adapts, building muscle and strength. This is where an increase in either weights or repetitions becomes necessary to facilitate progress.
By following a regular exercise routine, a person who starts with 10 reps per set will soon be able to do 15. As individual exercises become easier, one of the strength training variables (i.e., amount of weight, number of reps, or rest time between sets) will need to be tweaked to keep routines challenging.
To build muscle, you should choose challenging weights that you can complete 10 to 12 reps with. For endurance, stick to lower weights, but increase repetitions. As Evan Thoman points out, irrespective of the combination an individual chooses, strength training helps build stronger muscles and avoid injuries when bending and lifting, not only improving health and fitness, but also day-to-day living.