Strong muscles are important to your health and wellbeing. They allow you to perform daily activities, such as carrying groceries and lifting objects, without becoming fatigued. Low back pain and other muscle and skeletal injuries become less likely. In addition, people who maintain or increase their muscle mass throughout the years have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. The reasons for you to incorporate strength training into your lifestyle are numerous.
This article will give you the tools to get started.
Why Strength Training?
Engaging in strength-training activities on a regular basis may help you:
- Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Control your weight. Strength training not only makes you stronger, it helps you build muscle mass which increases the calories you burn at rest.
- Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle protects your joints from injury. It also helps you maintain flexibility and balance—and remain independent as you age.
- Boost your stamina. As you grow stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily.
- Improve your sense of well-being. Strength training can boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and reduce the risk of depression.
- Get a better night’s sleep. People who commit to a regular strength training program may be less likely to have insomnia.
- Manage chronic conditions. Strength training may help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
- Improve posture. By increasing muscle tone and improving muscle balance, you can maintain proper posture more easily.
- Prevent loss of lean muscle tissue. It is common for adults to lose muscle mass and strength as they age. A great deal of muscle loss happens when you don’t use your muscles enough as you age, rather than aging itself. The good news is that you can start building and regaining strength at any age.
Do I Need to Go to a Gym or Buy Equipment?
Not necessarily. Strength training can be done at home, outside, in your office or in the gym. Consider your options:
- Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment by using your own body weight. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats (see suggested exercises in this guide to get started).
- Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes and bands.
- Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
- Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in a multi-exercise weight machine(s) for use at home.
Check out my recommendations for equipment:
- Equipment Recommendations
- At Home Fitness – Part 1 – Getting Started
- At Home Fitness – Part 2 – Moving up From Newbie Status
- At Home Fitness – Part 3 – For the Fitness Buff
How Often Do I Need to Do Strength Training?
The American College of Sports Medicine and government guidelines recommend doing strength-training exercises two to three times per week with a day of rest between working the same muscle groups.
What If I Just Don’t Have Time to Fit In Strength Training?
To benefit from strength training, you don’t need long workout sessions. In fact, a complete and effective workout can be accomplished in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, two to three days a week. If you are really short on time, another option is to perform just a couple of exercises each day (with or without weights), being sure to alternate muscle groups.
What Do I Need to Do to Get Started?
- Warm up your muscles before strength training. For example, go for a brisk five to 10 minute walk.
- Depending on your fitness level or condition, you might need to start out using as little as one or two pounds of weight or none at all, until your body adapts to strength training. Use a minimum amount of weight the first week, and then gradually add more. Starting out with weights that are too heavy can cause injuries.
- Stay within your comfort zone; a “no pain, no gain” philosophy can lead to serious injuries. A good routine should tire you, but not cause pain.
- Perform eight to 10 separate exercises that train each of the major muscle groups (hips, legs, back, chest, shoulders, arms, and abdomen).
- Choose a resistance or a position that allows you to reach fatigue within one or two sets of approximately eight to 12 repetitions.
- Lift the weight to a count of two and lower it to a count of three or four.
- Use proper breathing techniques. Exhale during the effort/ contraction phase of the exercise (when you lift the weight) and inhale while returning to the starting position.
- Use safe movements with proper body form and alignment.
- Allow adequate rest between exercises so you can perform the next exercise with proper form. While you wait you can stretch the muscle you just worked or do a different strength exercise that uses a different set of muscles.
- Your cool down should include stretches for each of the major muscle groups.
Are There Any Good Books Related to Strength Training?
- Your First Proper Six-Day Bodybuilding Training Program by Scott Abel
- Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition by Mark Rippetoe
- Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd Edition by Frederic Delavier
- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Mind Gym : An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by David Casstevens
- You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises by Mark Lauren
- Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe
- The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Cassandra E. Forsythe
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association
- The Science of Getting Ripped by Raza Imam
How Can I Avoid Getting Injured?
- Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath while straining can cause changes in blood pressure.
- Avoid jerking or thrusting the weights. Perform exercises in a smooth and controlled manner throughout the full range of motion.
- Avoid locking the joints in your arms and legs. Let your elbows and knees stay slightly bent as you reach the end of the movement.
- Listen to your body. Muscle soreness lasting up to a few days and slight fatigue are normal after strength training, but exhaustion or sore joints are not. The latter symptoms mean you are overdoing it.
How Can I Keep Progressing?
- When you are able to lift a weight 12 times, you can increase the amount of weight gradually. For example: Start with a weight that you can lift only eight times. Keep using that weight until you become strong enough to lift it 12 times. Next, add more weight so that you can only lift it eight times. Use this weight until you can lift it 12 times, for one or two sets, and then add more. Increase weight by only five to 10%. Continue to repeat this progression.
- If you are doing exercises with your own body weight (i.e., pushups) start with the easiest position and then move to a more advanced variation once you can perform at least 12 reps with good form.
How Can I Move to Action?
Check off each item that would be helpful for you and that you will commit to doing in the next one to two weeks to get you started.
Five Steps for Success
- Feel it is important (strength training)
- Make yourself and your health a priority
- Know what to do
- Practice new behaviors
- Have strategies to overcome barriers and manage slip-ups
If you haven’t been physically active be sure to start slowly. Don’t do vigorous exercise at first. If you have any of the following conditions, please talk with your physician before increasing physical activity:
- any disease of the heart or lungs
- high blood pressure
- any history of chest pain
- breathing problems or shortness of breath
- swelling in your ankles
- bone or joint problems
- unusual fatigue
Stay in touch with your doctor about your exercise program and your health. Do not engage in exercise activities if you have a health condition that is unstable or serious, you have new symptoms, or your doctor recommends against it.
Need a Coach?
If you need to find someone that will hold you accountable, answer your questions, help you, and PUSH YOU for the entire duration of your workout! Luckily for you, that’s what me and my team are here for. If you don’t have a coach yet and want one, I’d love to be your coach and help you through a fitness program. I am available to help you reach your goals!