Strength training or resistance training is a type of physical exercise specializing in using resistance to induce muscular contraction, which builds skeletal muscles’ strength, endurance, and size.
Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when required. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger. Because aging muscles lose mass and strength, it’s crucial to maintain or even build muscle strength as you grow older with regular strength training exercises; in addition, it improves your bone density. Generally, resistance training applies to everyday life, so it’s functional training. You’ll see the direct benefits, such as when lifting a box, carrying a bag of groceries, or opening a jar, you will be strong enough to do it. Increasing muscle strength also has psychological benefits because you’re going to feel a lot more confident about yourself and your abilities, have a better quality of sleep and recover better. In addition, you build endurance up.
Health benefits of resistance training
Physical and mental health benefits that you can achieve through resistance training include:
Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury.
Maintaining flexibility and balance can help you remain independent as you age.
Weight management and increased muscle-to-fat ratio – as you gain muscle, your body burns more calories when at rest.
It may help reduce or prevent cognitive decline as you get older.
You won’t get tired as quickly with more incredible stamina as you grow more robust.
Prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression, and obesity.
Improved mobility and balance.
Decreased risk of injury.
Increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence improve your body image and mood.
Improved sleep and avoidance of insomnia.
Enhanced performance of everyday tasks.
Examples of resistance training
There are many ways to strengthen your muscles, whether at home or the gym.
Different types of resistance training include:
Free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.
Medicine balls or sandbags – weighted balls or bags.
Weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached either to weights or hydraulics.
Resistance bands – like giant rubber bands – provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement.
Suspension equipment – a training tool that uses gravity and the user’s body weight to complete various exercises.
Your body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups, and chin-ups. Using your body weight is convenient, especially when traveling or at work.
If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken, and weights used, you will maintain any strength gains you make.
Starting resistance training
It is essential to pay attention to safety and form to reduce the risk of injury. Please consult with your medical professional to discuss your exercise program.
To start a strength training program involves:
Eight to ten exercises work the major muscle groups of the body and are performed two to three times per week.
Beginning with one set of each exercise, comprising as few as eight repetitions (reps), no more than twice per week.
You aim to gradually increase to two to three sets for each exercise – comprising eight to 12 reps, every second or third day. Once you can comfortably complete 12 reps of a routine, you should progress further. You can lift weights every day, but you shouldn’t train the same muscles daily. The muscles need time to repair and rebuild between sessions to grow and reduce injury. One way around this is to alternate body parts. For example, do upper body exercises one day, and lower body exercises the next day.
However, if you lift heavier weights, use a lot of resistance, or work your muscles to failure, you may want to wait longer. Some studies have found that taking two to three days off between training sessions is better for letting the muscles recover.
Warming up before resistance training
Warm-up your body before starting your strength training exercises. Start with light aerobic exercise (such as walking, cycling, or rowing) for around five minutes in addition to a few dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching involves slow controlled movements through the full range of motion.
Varying your workouts can help you push past a plateau. The theory of variation is that you can coax growth and strength from your muscles by surprising them with a range of different stresses. As a result, the muscles will respond in size and strength as they are forced to adapt.