Keeping Fit with Strength Training
Aside from the well-defined physique we often see on social media and online, strength training has a lot more to offer for your general health and fitness.
If you want to take your fitness program to the next level, you may want to trade your time on the treadmill for a workout with weighted barbells. In doing so, you will still be able to sweat off those calories, and you will also tone your body.
What is Strength Training?
Simply put, strength training (also known as resistance training) is a method of increasing muscle mass, strength, and endurance by utilizing your own body weight or tools such as dumbbells or resistance bands.
Getting started can be intimidating, but including strength training in your fitness regimen doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite workout entirely. Resistance training can also be done just a few times a week. As your body gets used to this type of workout, you can then gradually increase your frequency.
Benefits of Strength Training
Aside from the more popular (and constantly Instagrammed) benefit of increasing tone and definition to your muscles, strength training has a lot more to offer to your overall health and fitness. Here are some of them:
- Burns more calories - According to the American Council on Exercise, you burn calories throughout strength training, and your body continues to burn calories after strength training (just like it does after aerobic exercise), a process known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This is because when you conduct strength, weight, or resistance training, your body requires more energy based on the amount of energy you exert (the harder you work, the more energy is required). That means more calories are expended both during and after the workout, while your body recovers to a resting condition.
- Develops stronger bones - By putting stress on your bones, strength exercise increases bone density and this can lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later on.
- Reduces body fat and builds lean muscles - By increasing your metabolism and allowing you to burn more calories, strength training allows you to manage or lose weight.
- Helps manage chronic illnesses - According to the Mayo Clinic many patients with chronic illnesses — such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes, can benefit from strength training.
- Boosts mood and energy levels - All types of exercise improve mood by increasing endorphins, but according to research, there’s a notable positive effect (neurochemical and neuromuscular responses) on the brain with strength training.
Getting Started on Your Strength Training
Once you’re ready to start your strength training workout, you can simply hit the gym or do your own strength training at home. You don't need much equipment, but if you decide to purchase for your own use, an exercise mat, resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells can come in handy.
Whether you are doing lunges, squats, planks, pushups, free weight, or resistance band exercises, here are some points to keep in mind:
Begin with a load that is comfortable for you
To figure out what works for you, use your best judgment. For example, if you’re having trouble with the repetitions (especially the last few of them), the weight might be too heavy. Make sure that you start with a manageable weight, then gradually increase the load from week to week as you gain strength. Alternatively, you can also visit a personal trainer for advice.
Dynamic stretches can help you get the most out of your pre-workout time before strength training. Warm-ups like inchworms, dead bugs, hip bridges, and bird dogs are all recommended by most trainers. You can also incorporate 5-10 minutes of gentle aerobics into your routine to lubricate the joints and raise your heart rate.
Know when to rest
Make sure that you are not exercising yourself to exhaustion. Research shows that taking a break from your set just before your tank is fully empty is more effective. This is especially true for beginners. According to a 2016 study, doing repetitions to muscular failure (the inability to complete a repeat in a full range of motion due to fatigue) was not found to be necessary for increasing muscle strength.
Ultimately, doing strength exercises is an effective strategy to increase lean muscle mass, burn calories, and raise your metabolism. By doing the workout properly, you'll be able to burn more body fat and lose weight faster.