Do you include at least an hour of strength training in your weekly activities? If not, here are some reasons to Power Up! If so, see the benefits you are receiving and our recommendations for exercises you can add to your routine.
“The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.” Anonymous
“The difference between someone who is in shape, and someone who is not in shape, is the individual who is in shape works out even when they do not want to.” – Unknown
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali
“The best activities for your health are pumping and humping.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” — Bob Marley
At around age 30, an average person starts losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass per decade. Causes for this include:
- a reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movement
- lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
- a decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy
- insufficient intake of dietary protein
The resulting frailty from loss of muscle as we age is called sarcopenia.
To avoid sarcopenia and maintain our full ability to do what we enjoy in life, requires more than just aerobic exercise. It requires anaerobic strength training, also known as resistance training and weightlifting.
There are two types of strength training:
- Isotonic exercises involve contracting and extending your muscles through a range of motion such as squats, pushups, pull ups, bench presses, deadlifts, and bicep curls. Hiking, gardening and push lawn mowing are also isotonic exercises.
- Isometric exercise involves remaining in a static position while engaging the muscles. The joint doesn’t move, and the muscle neither shortens or lengthens, but the muscle’s tendon is activated. Isometric stationary exercises include wall sits, planks, bridges and hollow-body holds. Physical therapists recommend isometric exercises to stabilize injured or weak joints.
Strength training provides powerful benefits to increase your healthspan and life expectancy. Not only does strength training reduce your risk of injuries, strength training increases and improves:
- bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and durability
- joint function
- bone density
- cardiac function, lower cholesterol and 40-70% reduced risk of heart attacks
- metabolism along with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Additionally, leg strength is tightly correlated with brain health and cognition. It was the most important factor for maintaining a healthy mind during a study of 324 female twins. The “Strong Body, Strong Mind” saying has some legs to it.
How Much Strength Training?
“Most of us think we don’t have enough time to exercise. What a distorted paradigm! We don’t have time not to. We’re talking about a minimum of thirty minutes a day, every other day. That hardly seems an inordinate amount of time considering the tremendous benefits in terms of the impact on the other hours of the week.” – Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
One hour of strength training per week provided the key metabolic benefits and increased life expectancy in the health benefit studies above. Short intense workouts can even be better than longer ones because they further improve cardiovascular health, burn more fat and build lean muscle mass. To achieve significant health benefits, The National Institute of Health recommends strength training two times per week for all major muscle groups.
Harvard Health recommends this effective strength training program which is designed to build power and not bulk.
- 8 to 10 exercises that target all the major muscle groups
- sets of 12 to 15 reps, performed at an effort of about 5 to 7 on a 10-point scale
- two or three workouts per week.
After you have established a routine, there are several ways to progress. The easiest is to add a second and then a third set of the exercises. Another way is to decrease the number of reps per set and increase the weight or resistance to the point where you are able to complete at least eight reps, but no more than 12. As you improve, you can increase weight by trial and error, so you stay within the range of eight to 12 reps.
That said, there are many effective methods of strength training. Examples include weight training, circuit training, isometric exercise, gymnastics, plyometrics, yoga, Pilates and Super Slow. Choose which feels right for you.
Strength training may be done with minimal or no equipment, for instance bodyweight exercises. Equipment used for strength training includes barbells and dumbbells, weight machines, hydraulic and pneumatic exercise machines, weighted clothing, resistance bands, gymnastics apparatus, Swiss balls, balance boards and even Indian clubs.
The good news is that there are many effective ways to add strength. Find what you like to use. The important thing is to get in the workouts. Here are some good resources for ideas.
Body Toning Home Workouts
- 10 exercises from Healthline (Skip the situps at #9. They are not recommended.)
- 12 exercises from Women’s Health. A nice variation from the above.
- Nike master trainer 35 minute High Intensity Interval Training with light free weights and flexibility work.
- Core strength
- 20 minute total body workout for seniors
- Calf raises and heel drops for balance
Dumbbell and Barbell Workouts
- 17 minute full body dumbbell workout for beginners
- 13 full body barbell exercises with instruction for beginners
- Science and Practice of Strength Training, Second Edition by Dr. William Kraemer and Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky
Ace Fitness has put together hundreds of helpful free strength exercise videos. They can be sorted by body part, available equipment and your experience level.
For efficient time usage, build some of these into your daily routine and use them during phone and video calls — when your video can be turned off.
Research studies recommend eating protein prior to weightlifting and other intense anaerobic exercises. This provides faster recovery times and better performance.
The dietary supplement Creatine can increase maximum power and performance in high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work (periods of work and rest) by 5 to 15%. However, a 2011 survey found that 50% of creatine supplements contain at least one contaminant. Although pure creatine is considered safe even for long-term use, creatine can increase your risk of kidney damage when combined with caffeine, ibuprofen, diuretics, Cimetidine (Tagamet) or Probenicid.
Strength Training Tracking
With strength training, it is useful to set your health baseline and track whether you are improving or declining against that baseline over time. This can indicate how fast you are aging or reversing aging.
What are your goals? Do you want to track how often you exercise? The amount of weight you lift per set?
Is it helpful motivation for you to share your goals and workout results with friends or family members and encourage each other to meet them as a group?
Some athletic teams use strength and conditioning software Team Builder, however it could also be done through shared spreadsheets and other social media apps.
This concludes today’s article. As your reward for reading and making time for strength training, look in the mirror each morning. Strength training also increases physical attractiveness!