It’s amazing to see so many men and women strength training these days! Strength training is becoming big within the fitness industry but there are still men and women out there who are spending countless hours on cardio machines thinking that they are becoming fitter and stronger. Well I’m here to tell you exactly why they SHOULD be strength training!
Strength training can also be called resistance or weight training. It’s a type of training that is based on the general principal that a muscle or muscle group has to work hard to overcome a resistance force that is placed on the body. In any training program that is designed by a fitness professional no matter the context, there will usually be a strength training session incorporated into the program. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities on at LEAST two days of the week.
There are multiple benefits to strength training, including:
- Improved bone and joint function: The range of motion that is required in exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and shoulder presses require you to use full range of motion (ROM) in the joints. Using these joints to their full ROM will increase your mobility over time.
- Improved bone density: The weight or resistance that you use for strength training exercises put stress on your joints, don’t worry this is a good thing! Over time your joints will adjust and be able to ‘handle’ the weights. Hence why it’s possible for people to get stronger not only in muscles but in bones. Bone density is the thickness of your bones. For women and older people this is what can cause osteoporosis in later stages of life. Strength training can therefore help to avoid diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis later on in life.
- Greater muscle, tendon and ligament strength: By continuing with weight and strength training over a sustained period of time your muscles, tendons and ligaments will adapt. Your muscles adapt quicker than your bones to strength training and you can feel stronger in a movement in as little as 3-4 weeks. Increasing your reps or weights will allow you to continue to gain strength. (See weights and reps description below)
- Increased metabolism: Lifting weights, strength training and bodyweight resistance training puts stress on your body, which means that your body needs extra time to recover. This means that while you aren’t actually working out your body is still working hard to recover and repair hours after your training session.
- Lower Body Fat: Your body fat will decrease due to your increased metabolism. Strength training will build lean muscle (as described below). It is the lean muscle that will help burn your body fat whilst you are working out. The more lean muscle you have the more calories you can burn during a workout and during a rested state..
- Increased Lean Muscle Mass: As mentioned above, increasing your lean muscle mass is important for burning body fat. Some experts estimate that each extra pound of muscle you gain burns 30-50 extra calories a day, while others estimate that a pound of muscle burns 6 calories at rest, compared to 2 calories burned by a pound of fat. In other words GET LEAN!!!
Basic principles of resistance training
- Program: Your overall fitness program is composed of various types of exercises such as aerobic training, flexibility training, strength training and balance exercises
- Weight: Different weights or other types of resistance, for example a 3 kg hand weight or fixed weight, body weight or rubber band will be used for different exercises during your strength training session
- Exercise: A particular movement, for example a calf-raise, is designed to strengthen a particular muscle or group of muscles
- Repetitions or ‘reps’: The number of times you continuously repeat each exercise in a set
- Set: A group of repetitions performed without resting, for example, two sets of squats by 15 reps would mean you do 15 squats then rest before doing another 15 squats
- Rest: You need to rest between sets. Rest periods vary depending on the intensity of exercise being performed
- Variety: Switching around your workout routine, such as regularly introducing new exercises that challenge your muscles and force them to adapt, evolve and strengthen
- Progressive overload principle: To continue to gain benefits, strength training activities need to be done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition. The aim is to use an appropriate weight or resistant force that will challenge you, while maintaining good technique. Also, regular adjustments to the training variables such as frequency, duration, specific muscle group exercises, the number of exercises for each muscle group, sets and repetitions, help to make sure you progress and improve
- Recovery: Muscle needs time to repair and adapt after a workout. A good rule of thumb is to rest the muscle group for up to 48 hours before working the same muscle group again
You should vary your program regularly throughout the year. Beginners can continue a strength program for 8-12 weeks, intermediates will need a new program every 6-8 weeks to maintain improvement and advanced athletes or people who have been training for many years will often have to change their program every 3-6 weeks. Variables that can impact on your results include:
- Exercises performed
- Intensity (weight of the equipment used)
- Frequency of sessions
- Rest between sets
If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken and weights used you will maintain any strength gains you make over a period of time.
Stay tuned for more blogs on Strength training!
Believe in your heart,
Believe in your mind,
Believe in your body…
Betsy (aka The Disco Ninja)