Most people know that they need to be physically active and walk, skip or jump their way to 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. This might involve brisk walking, mowing the lawn or a doubles game of tennis. But what is the deal when it comes to strength training? This type of exercise helps us become strong for life.
Strength training, which is also known as resistance or weight training is exercise in which your muscles have to lift a heavier weight than normal and by doing they so become stronger, fitter and more powerful.
For some of us, when we think of strength training, visions of testosterone loaded gyms with Hulk like characters chugging protein shakes often come to mind. Combine this with the common misconception that we will get hurt and it is no wonder we are not lifting weights!
The good news is you can increase your strength very safely without even stepping inside a gym! And there are many reasons to do so!
Strength training is such a valuable addition to your weekly exercise routine as it leads to increased muscle mass, fat loss and improved bone health. Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue and requires a lot of energy to work, refuel and repair. Compare this to fat which requires very little energy and just sits around making a nuisance of itself. The more muscle you have, the more energy you will burn, even when not exercising.
Strength training may not lead to weight loss but if you can increase your muscle mass and reduce your fat mass it will make it easier for you to maintain your weight and prevent future weight gain.
Increased muscle mass will also lead to an increased sensitivity to insulin. A wonderful outcome in relation to diabetes!
How will it feel to be strong for life?
Some benefits of being stronger that you may notice would be the ease of carrying your children or grandchildren, picking up heavy grocery bags or moving heavy items around the house. You may also notice a change in your physique with increased muscle definition and a smaller waistline. Let’s face it, we all want to feel comfortable in our own skin and feel that we are looking our best!
So where should I start to be strong for life?
To get started you should consider seeking out an exercise professional to help you with a program and the proper technique for certain exercises. Research has shown that people are more likely to be successful with a strength training program if they get started with a professional. Check out your local gym or community centre for your local professional.
There are several ways you could get started with strength training. You could use your own body weight to do exercises such as push-ups or squats. You could use free weights such as dumbbells or get creative and make your own weights using milk bottles filled with rice or pebbles. Try using resistance bands (giant elastic bands that offer resistance). Join a gym class such as Body Pump or hop on the weight machines at a gym. There are plenty of options, it is about finding the best one for you!
So how much should I be doing to stay strong for life?
For beginners the recommendation is to try to do at least 2-3 strength sessions per week. Each session should involve about 8-10 exercises focusing on a full body workout. So you want to focus on exercises that strengthen you upper body, torso and lower body!
With each exercise you want to do 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. So for example one set is 8-10 repetitions of a squat and you do 2-3 sets.
What on earth is a squat? A squat is an exercise that strengthens a number of muscles in particular muscles in your lower body and back.
How to do a squat? Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Slowly bend your knees to a 90 degree angle as if sitting down on a chair. Slowly stand back up. Simple!
A squat is an exercise you can do anywhere. It is a great exercise to get your program started as it warms you up before diving into other exercises.
Some other great exercises you could include are bicep curls, push-ups, lunges, step-ups, tricep extensions, crunches and planks.
If that all sounds like mumbo jumbo, look out for upcoming blog posts where we will explore strength training further.