If you’re like most people, you know strength training is good for you. You see the results others have achieved. You’ve probably even tried it in the past. But let’s face it, short of pumping out a few bicep curls, starting a strength training routine can be intimidating and confusing. Walk onto any weight floor in the gym and it seems everyone there has a plan and knows what they’re doing but you! Of course the truth is that everyone had to start as a beginner at one time. Or start OVER as a beginner in some cases. Either way, it doesn’t matter. That’s what we’re here for. You’re about to embark on one of the best decisions you’ve ever made for your body: strength training. So let’s get started!
Benefits Of Strength Training
Strength training is more than just getting firm and tight! The health benefits are far beyond what most people know. According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently.But the benefits go farther! Strength training also:
- Builds muscle
- Speeds up metabolism
- Improves posture
- Increases bone density
- Decreases the risk of injury
- Decreases body fat
- Improves confidence and self-efficacy
- Improves quality of life
- Improves body mechanics including coordination, posture, flexibility and balance
Amazing, right? Strength training also reduces your risk of diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression. In short, strength training is for anyone who is looking to optimize his or her health and gain strength. Men and women alike should be strength training. People of all ages—including and especially those over 50—should do it too!
Which Type of Strength Training is Right For Me?
Strength training goes way beyond barbells and dumbbells, though those still stay at the top of the list as the most popular tools for building muscle. The great news is there are many more options to choose from if weights aren’t your thing. Bands, balls, sandbags—strength training is like a gym class when you were a kid except way more fun! And there likely is more than one way for you to accomplish your goals. Mix it up and use weights one day and something else the next time. Let’s take a look at what some of your options are and the benefits to using each. This list is by no means comprehensive, but these are some of the most common.
Barbells and Dumbbells
These are the standard, have been around since the beginning, and they will remain a staple for building muscle. Why? Because they work! Usually when you think strength training, you think weights. Benefits: You can vary your weights to large degrees from 5 pound dumbbells to loading up for more than 100 pounds on a barbell. This means they are for all levels and that you can pursue very big goals.
Resistance bands come in various thicknesses and colors helping you to decide which level suits you and the exercise you are choosing. They are made to be pulled and stretched to create resistance in your muscles and make you stronger. Benefits: Light and portable, you can take these and workout pretty much anywhere! The bands are also fairly inexpensive and allow you to move in different motions than you can with weights. Can lift somthing heavy over your head? The band allows you to strengthen without lifting.
These usually yellow straps that come in pairs and hang down allow you to use your own body weight to do amazing things! Put your feet in the straps or put your hands in the straps, it all depends on what you are doing. Benefits: You can can a full body workout, using your own body weight, and do everything from very beginner moves to exercises that will challenge a navy SEAL. (After all, it was a SEAL who invented them!)
These machines found in most fitness facilities are designed to mimic the moves you do with weights, but with a bit more control from the device. If you want to use these you would certainly need to belong to a gym. Benefits: Machines have been frowned upon by some trainers because they don’t allow you to get the authentic training you get from free weights. However, machines are a great choice for people who are new to strength training or for those working out alone or older adults who fear injury or mishap that can occure more easily from free weights.
Stability balls can be used alone for a great body weight workout, or combined with dumbbells or bands for more variety and challenge. These large balls were designed to enhance your balance. You sit on them, roll forward on them, or squat with them. These definitely make for a full body workout. Benefits: The Stability Ball teaches your body stability and balance. The ball can make moves more intense or be used to assist something and make it easier. Put it against the wall and lean back on the ball help with your squats, or lay face down on top, walk forward until only your feet are on the ball and you’ve got a super tough push up with balance training to boot.
So which one should you use? Think of strength training equipment as a playground, there is a ton of equipment that you can play with until you’ve found your match! Don’t limit yourself to one thing. GetHealthyU has tons of workouts posted for free with all kinds of different training styles, and if you want a little guidance and help, GHU TV is the way to go!
How Often Should I Strength Train?
Strength training should be done at least three times a week for best results. Ultimately you can strength train every day if you really like it. The key is to get the proper rest for each individual muscle group in between. For instance, do your legs and chest one day and your back and arms the next day. You need 48 hours of rest for any body part you train. Most people, however, like to get everything done in one session, so three total-body strength sessions per week is the best answer.
Can Strength Training Help With Aging?
Strength training can reduce the risk of degenerative diseases and the overall quality of life. As we age, both our strength and metabolism decrease. That’s why it’s so important to stress your body through exercise so it can grow stronger. Plus, the more muscle you gain, the more calories you burn at rest! In addition, strength training builds bone mass as we age.
Miriam Nelson, author of Strong Women Stay Young, says, “Most people don’t realize that osteoporosis and thinning bones are preventable. And, the good news is that no matter what the condition of your bones, there are things you can do to make them stronger and help reverse the condition.” Strength training is one of these things. She goes on to say, “Our research shows that a program of strength training not only improves bone density but reduces falls, improves arthritis symptoms, and increases flexibility and strength.” No matter your strength levels or age, it’s never too late to start strength training and improving your life today.
Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky?
Unfortunately, there’s a common myth out there that strength training will make you “bulky.” The notion that strength training makes you big and bulky like a body builder is absolutely false. In order to get very large muscles you would need to combine hours of weight lifting with lots of extra calories and a high amount of testosterone. For the average women, lifting weights just helps to create stronger muscles and better body composition.
In fact, if you combine it with a healthy eating plan, lifting weights will do just the opposite. Consider the fact that a pound of muscle and a pound of fat might weight the same—one pound—but a pound of muscle takes up much less space.
How Does Strength Training Work?
When you stress your muscles during a strength training workout, your muscles micro-tear and therefore need to rebuild themselves. This process lasts for 72 hours following a challenging strength training session. This is why we don’t recommend strength training on back-to-back days unless you work different body parts on consecutive days of the week. It is during the rest time that your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger. A key part of this repair includes good nutrition. Make sure after you strength train that you take in the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat so as not to starve your muscle. As the repair in the muscles micro-tears takes place, the tissue layers itself growing stronger than it was before.
Strength Training Vocabulary
Strength training doesn’t have to be complicated, but to get you started, here are a few common phrases you might hear around the gym to help you start strength training with confidence.
Repetitions: The number of a certain exercise you perform within a given set.
Set: The rounds you perform of those repetitions for each exercise. For example, 3 x 12 squats would mean you perform 3 sets of 12 squats.
Load: The amount of demand placed on the body during exercise, whether that be from externally added weight or bodyweight.
Rest Interval: The amount of rest taken place between each set. The heavier the load, the more rest is needed.
Intensity: The effort performed during each exercise. Intensity can be measured by increases in heart rate, a percentage based off a one repetition maximum, or the ability to talk during exercise. The greater the intensity, the less likely you are able to talk comfortably.
Safety Tips For Strength Training
- Always warm-up your body before any type of workout, especially strength training. Your body needs to get blood flowing to the working muscles gradually so that when you begin your actual workout, your body can produce the most force possible to complete each exercise. You may start a warm-up on a piece of cardio equipment for five minutes, then perform another 2-5 minutes of dynamic movement like walking lunges, bodyweight squats, high knees, butt kicks, and arm circles.
- Start with a weight a bodyweight movement in which you can perform 8-12 repetitions, making sure the last 1-2 reps are tough to complete but don’t compensate your form. Some examples of compensating form is over-arching of the low back, chin tucked in, and chest collapsing in instead of facing up right. Complete 2-4 sets x 8-12 repetitions of each exercise dependent upon your current fitness level.
- You will most likely need to either start with your bodyweight or light weight so you can master proper form before increasing weight. A general rule of thumb is to increase the weight by 5 percent once you find you can do 10-12 reps with little effort and maintaining proper form.
- Move through each movement with a controlled range of motion. Focus on the main muscles you are working rather than just mindlessly moving through the movement.
- Allow time for a cool down by gradually decreasing your heart rate. We suggest stretching and foam rolling.
Where Can I Find Strength Training Workouts?
Alright, now that you know the basics, how do you get started? There are multiple ways you can get yourself set up with a strength training workout. Let’s take a look at a few options.
Hire a trainer! This is a great way to get personal instruction for how to use the weights as well other equipment and set up a plan that fits you as an individual. Many trainers provide you not only with a great workout plan, but eating and nutrition advice as well. Of course, the cost might be prohibitive to you, so read on.
Fitness centers, community classes and other places offer group fitness classes so you can workout with others as well as be instructed by a professional. This gives you extra motivation and lots of help. Not wild about working out in public? Keep reading!
GetHealthyU to the rescue! We have tons of workouts as well as a whole strength training exercise library for you and it’s all absolutely free! Our GHU workouts include weights, bodyweight, bands, and almost anything else available in the workout world! Want to be guided by someone else? Our trainers on GHU TV will teach you everything you need to know and workout right along with you. To get started with one of our free workouts, click on any of three favorite strength training workouts below to get the how-to!