Let’s face it – things in life are easier when you are strong. Strong physically and mentally.
When we think of our physicality – it’s easier to carry groceries, do regular everyday chores, play with our children – I am sure you get the picture. When we refer to strength and our mentality – it’s involving things like confidence, courage, motivation… and so on.
All of this can be obtained by incorporating strength training into your life. Today we want to break down the benefits and importance of strength training and why you should continue with it or get started.
So what exactly is strength training?
Strength training is when you put your body (muscles) under a progressively heavier load for the purpose of strengthening the musculoskeletal system. It is also referred to as weight lifting, weight training, toning, bodybuilding, and resistance training.
7 Benefits of Strength Training?
- Increases HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol).
- Reduces risk of diabetes and insulin dependency
- Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Lowers high blood pressure.
- Decreases or minimizes the risk of osteoporosis by building bone mass.
- Reduces stress and anxiety.
- Decreases likeliness of colds and illness
Increased muscle strength improves your performance in everyday tasks. You will be able to do those things as we mentioned earlier – like carrying groceries, chores, and playing with your kids – much easier if you are stronger.
#3 Body Composition
Strength training can help you burn more fat! Yes, you heard that right. There are 2 reasons for this.
- It can help increase your metabolism by speeding up your Resting Metabolic Rate.You see your body requires more calories to maintain lean muscle than it does to maintain fat. Therefore the more muscle mass you have the more calories your body will need to retain a level of homeostasis.
Studies show that for every 1lb of muscle you gain/have, your RMR goes up 30-50 calories!
- Strength training has a greater level of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) than aerobic exercise. This means that when you finish a workout, your body needs to replenish itself in order to bring itself back to a normal state. Which requires energy, so as your body is repairing and replenishing it is burning post-workout calories in order to do so.
We can increase flexibility through strength training by working the full range of motion of the muscles. Having better flexibility can then help reduce the risk of pulling a muscle and general back pain.
Your neck, shoulder, back, hip and abdominal muscles are influenced by the way you stand and sit. Stronger muscles improve your posture, balance, and stability. This is extremely beneficial if you are an endurance athlete. The better posture and alignment the more likely you will recruit the proper muscles therefore not exhausting and be overexerting yourself.
#6 Reduced Risk Of Injury
When your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are strong they are less likely to give way under stress and possibly get injured. Strength training also increases your bone density and reduces common back and knee pain by strengthening the muscle around these areas. If you currently suffer from an injury and wonder how to get better and stronger – listen to our podcast about Common Exercise Injuries + Ways To Stay In Shape While Injured.
#7 Mind Power
Through strength training, you gain many positive benefits for the mind. To name a few:
- The ability to focus
- Self Discipline
- Stronger Mindset “When your body is strong, your mind is more likely to follow.”
4 Strength Training Myths:
#1 I’m Too Old!
For frail elders, weight training has also been shown to delay Alzheimer’s and help prevent dementia. Strength training is especially important for elderly women – studies show that over a period of time it can help prevent bone loss – and strengthen bone density. Strength training also improves your balance and coordination – a critical part of preventing falls, which can lead to fractures or osteoporosis.
To learn more about the benefits of strength training for all ages listen to our podcast: A 78-year Old Shares Her Take On Healthy Aging And Living A Fulfilling Life. You are sure to be inspired by this one 😉
#2 I Don’t Want To Get Bulky (especially women!)
As trainers – we hear this a lot when it comes to women especially. Women who strength train get strong and lean, not bulky! Women just don’t have the same amount of testosterone (the hormone that sets the pace of how much new muscle we will gain) making it much more challenging to build lots of muscle and get “bulky”.
#3 I need to lose weight first
Okay so with strength training your overall weight loss may seem slower, but you will lose inches faster. Like we mentioned before, strength training increases your metabolism. So when it comes to food – if you control your portion sizes, you’ll lose weight.
#4 I need to get a gym membership/I can’t afford it
When we think of strength training we usually picture dumbbells and machines at an overcrowded gym. The fitness industry is finally catching on to the benefits of bodyweight strength training. Making more and more people aware of the fact that you don’t need much in order to strengthen your muscles.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Strength Training Workouts
Focus on form, not the amount of weight
Proper form means aligning your body correctly and being able to move through an exercise without pain. Improper form can lead to injuries and affect your strength gains because you are not using the muscles properly. Focus on the muscle group you are working by positioning your body into proper form for that exercise and (without weight) consciously contract and release the muscles that are to be used. Once you can engage the appropriate muscles then include some weight.
Control is important. The pace you execute each movement determines whether you are firing your muscles or relying on momentum. Don’t get us wrong sometimes speed is important for certain levels of training. For example, a lot of bodybuilders use whats called time under tension (TUT) the time your muscle spends under a load. Usually, this is performed by slow controlled movement down and explosive movement up. That’s a whole other story… there are so many different paths to strength training. The take away here is not to push yourself and to have control and focus on your muscles and form.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
When you hold your breath while exercising, your blood pressure rises. Be sure to exhale on exertion. For instance, exhale as you perform any pulling or pushing motion and inhale as you relax. Let’s apply it to a push-up – inhale as you lower and exhale as you push yourself back up.
Choose a weight that fatigues the targeted muscle or muscles during the last two reps (while still allowing you to maintain good form). If the last two reps are too challenging, choose a lighter weight. Once you are able to work through all the reps then start to increase the weight. Remember to make sure you keep proper form and are fatiguing the muscle on the last few reps. Be patient with this process!
Don’t Be Shy To Ask For Help
When it comes to fitness there is a lot to learn, consider a mentor. Someone who has experience and knowledge and is willing to share it with you. This will not only help you with your physical form and prevent injury – but also keeps you accountable and motivated. Which let’s face it can be challenging at times, no matter what your fitness level is. There are times when it helps me push a few more reps out if Zuzana is training with me. This is normal, we all have plateaued and we all need motivation.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to start! Find an activity that you enjoy (or a mentor) that gets you moving and you’re going to be more likely to stick with it. And the longer you stick with it, the more results you’re going to see.
Dedicated to your health and wellbeing,