Adding Strength Training To Your Exercise Routine Shouldn’t Be Overlooked!

by Proclinix, January 4, 2019

By: Rachel Amarosa, ATC

For many people, improving one’s health is a common New Year’s Resolution. Two essential ways to achieve this goal is by implementing a new exercise routine or revamping an existing one. Adding regular physical activity to your weekly routine will improve your overall physical and mental health, help prevent chronic diseases, improve cardiovascular health, and decrease risk of heart attack, diabetes, and cancer – just to name a few. For some, an exercise routine will mainly consist of aerobic activities; such as walking, jogging, or treadmill work. Therefore, what is then overlooked is the value of strength building exercises.  By adding a strength training portion, it will help create a more well-rounded program that will add its own additional health benefits along with maintaining an independent lifestyle as we age!

Strength training, or also known as “resistance training,” are exercises that require you to resist against an opposing force.  Strength training exercises are designed to engage one or more major muscle groups in your legs, hips, back, core, chest, shoulders and/or arms.  Using machines, free weights, resistance bands, kettlebells, vests, or by simply using your own body weight (like when performing squats or pushups) – are all forms of resistance training exercises. Whichever type of resistance you decide to use, the most important factor is maintaining good form! Focusing on form and biomechanics will help you get the most out of your workout, avoid injury, and help to build a strong and necessary foundation for progression.

What are the benefits? – The benefits of strength training become more critical as we age. An article by Harvard Medical School states that as we enter our 50s, strength building exercises are essential in preserving our ability to perform daily activities, allowing us to maintain an active and independent lifestyle. Other benefits include – strengthening of bones and muscles, improving balance, controlling blood sugar, boosting cardiovascular fitness, improving cholesterol levels, helping maintain a healthy weight, and helping relieve pain associated with arthritis.

How often should one incorporate strength training? – The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise 5x/week as the minimum effective dose to experience the benefits of exercise.  Furthermore, 150 to 250 minutes per week of moderate to intense exercise will yield more health benefits and weight loss. This equates to about one hour of exercise, 5x/week. If you’re going for the full five days a week of either 30 minutes or an hour of work; three days should focus on strength training, two days for cardiovascular training and two days of active rest.  Active rest days are just as important to help your body recover, build new muscle, restore energy systems, and prevent injury. All workouts, whether aerobic or strength focused, should also include a 5 to 10 minute warm up (of dynamic stretches and activities which get the body ready for exercise)  and a cool down (which consists of stretching and/or foam roller work). Determining the appropriate amount of repetitions, sets, and resistance/weight can be a little bit of trial and error. Generally, strength training routines will consist of 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of several different exercises, with a brief rest in between. The trick can be choosing the appropriate amount of resistance/weight.  You know you have the right resistance if you can complete a set with effort that wasn’t to the point of needing to hold your breath, with excessive strain, or with compensation of form.

When you are ready to start, start slowly and listen to your body! A beginners strength training workout can be as little as 20 minutes. Remember when instituting a strength training routine, good form (slow and steady motions) and working within your means is paramount! After four to eight weeks, you will experience noticeable gains in strength and performance due to your hard work! If you haven’t produced the results you expected by that two month mark, then you may need to consider the assistance of a qualified healthcare or fitness professional for additional help (such as a physical therapist, personal trainer, or nutritionist).

We hear it all the time…“New Year, new you” – I say accept that challenge and up the ante by saying “New Year, BETTER you!” In 2019, work towards that better you by investing your time and effort into your own health and fitness, and get the results you want to see!