You probably already know the many benefits of strength training; for starters, it helps create a toned, sculpted physique. But aside from what it does for your appearance, strength training also plays a key role in keeping you healthy as you age. Whenever you strength train you build bone mass, which wards off conditions like osteoporosis that can make your bones more susceptible to breaking as you get older. Strength training also keeps your metabolism young—the more muscle you have on your body, the faster your metabolism works, making it easier to lose weight. So whether you want to look more toned, stay healthy as you age, or lose weight, strength training is a crucial component of your exercise regimen.
But to get the results you want for both your health and appearance, you need to make sure you’re strength training correctly. Whether you’re a strength training pro or have just picked up your first set of dumbbells, you won’t get the results you want without following a few simple guidelines. Never fear! We’re here to show you the strength training basics you need to get the best results. Follow these five tips for successful strength training and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, stronger you.
1. Find The Right Weight
While strength training can be done through both bodyweight exercises and weighted exercises, let’s talk about using weights for a minute. How do you know how heavy of a weight to choose? While it’s important to go heavy enough with your weights so you feel challenged, never attempt something so heavy that you sacrifice your form. Choose the heaviest weight that’s “comfortably hard” as we like to say—something you can perform 8-10 reps with but by the end, it should be difficult and you should be breathing out of your mouth.
2. Remember to Breathe
If you feel like you’re almost “holding your breath” when you strength train, it could be hindering your performance—and even raising your blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, breathing the right way is crucial to proper strength training. Oxygen fuels your muscles and engages your core. Let all the air out as you grab your weight; inhale as you prepare to move, and then exhale as you lift. Inhale as you release, exhale as you lift. Easier to remember: just exhale during the hardest part. You’ll involve more of your core and find more strength!
3. Get Enough Protein
When you’re building muscle, you need to feed it! After your workout, refuel with a clean source of protein. If it’s not mealtime yet, make sure you’re getting it in the form of a snack. Some examples include apples with peanut butter, peanut butter and banana toast, a protein smoothie, turkey and veggies, you name it. Eating enough protein will help your muscles repair themselves so all that strength training actually works! (Find out how much protein you need in a day here)
4. Go Slow With Good Form
It sounds obvious, but if you’re not using the proper form for an exercise, it’s not going to do what you want it to do. And worse, it could actually cause injury. Pay attention to each movement and move slowly; count it out if that helps. Squat down for 4-3-2-1, then press up for 4-3-2-1. Perform your bicep curl for 4-3-2-1 and lower for 4-3-2-1—swinging or using momentum instead of muscle is cheating. Strength training benefits come from something referred to as “time over tension.” The more time your muscle spends under tension, the harder it works—so take your time. And if you’re not sure how to do an exercise, learn before you try! Check out our exercise library with descriptions on how to do virtually any exercise you want. Or consult a personal trainer if you suspect you’re not doing a few things correctly.
Strength training may be great for your body, but it also puts a lot of stress on your muscles and tendons. The repetitive friction to those connective tissues can lead to stiff and sore joints—which can derail your workouts and make you uncomfortable. If you can get yourself to a masseuse or a chiropractor, great! But for most of us, it’s a little expensive to be doing that constantly. An easier way to relieve pain and aid in muscle recovery is to do some at-home myofascial release—a fancy word for self-massage.
I use the Wahl Deep Tissue Massager on my shoulders and back when they’re sore from heavy lifting to increase circulation and loosen up the muscles. (As you can see, Roxy is not impressed by any of my wellness gadgets ha!) I love that the massager has interchangeable parts so you can vary the intensity of the massage and either work large muscle groups or pin-point problem areas. Making sure you loosen up your muscles and improve bloodflow with massage helps you get back to your workouts pain-free and ensures you maintain a good range of motion so you can do those strength exercises properly, too!