Physical activity, including strength training, is a significant part of having a healthy lifestyle. But what exactly is strength training? Also, how can we maximise our gains from our workouts? In this article, we’re pointing out some tips to help you get the most out of your exercises.
What is strength training?
Before we get started, let’s first wrap our heads around what strength training is. Strength training is the repeated performance of a physical activity that is designed to improve your strength or endurance (1,2,3).
Usually, when people think of strength training, they imagine going to the gym and sweating a lot. The truth, however, is that strength training covers a myriad of activities and exercises. Here are some examples of what falls under the strength training workouts (1):
Body weight exercises
Our body, with the help of gravity, can actually be a tool to help build our strength and endurance. With no equipment whatsoever besides our flesh and bones, we can do exercises, such as push-ups, squats, pull-ups, planks, and a whole host of movements to get our muscles going. Once our body adapts to a certain movement, we simply need to increase the difficulty by adjusting the strain it puts on our bodies.
Resistance band training
Resistance training is another inexpensive way to develop our strength. With this method, we build our strength and endurance by making our body work against the resistance of a band or tube. Much like body weight exercises, we can pretty much do this anywhere with enough space to push and pull our bands.
This is probably what most people think of when they hear the word strength training workouts. With this method, we make use of external weights through barbells, medicine balls, kettlebells and dumbbells to build up our strength. Free weights are great because they allow us to work through a large group of muscles with the use of compound movements. One of the few downsides, however, is that you need enough space to move and for all your equipment to fit.
Unlike free weights, weight machines are great at targeting specific muscles in your body. Most gyms or fitness centers have all the latest machines in their stable. While machines are a great way to build muscle, they are often unwieldy and expensive so maybe visiting a gym might be better if this is an option for you.
These are just a few examples of strength training workouts. Consult your trainer as to what method might be best depending on your fitness level, needs, goals, and resources.
Benefits of strength training
Strength training has many benefits. Besides improving overall health, here are some reasons why you should consider doing it (1,2,3):
It improves bone strength
When you introduce stress to your bones, this forces it to adapt and get stronger (7). Strength training is a great way to improve posture and reduce bone decay as we age (8).
It helps manage weight
Increased physical activity also means an increased metabolism. Thus, strength training can help you manage or lose weight (9).
It promotes good overall health and quality of life
Strength training just improves your lifestyle overall. From protecting your joints from injury to giving you that energy to climb all those flights of stairs, strength training enhances your ability to do everyday things (10).
It helps improve pre-existing conditions
Some pre-existing conditions might actually be alleviated by doing some exercise. While it cannot fully heal the condition, it can certainly help manage life with it. Consult your doctor if you have pre-existing conditions and you think that strength training can help with it.
It helps improve confidence and overall mood
Strength training is a great way to get your daily dose of endorphins. Plus, it will also improve your physique, which might lead to a more positive self-image about yourself.
How can I maximise strength training?
Now that we have a good idea of what strength training is, how exactly do we make sure we’re always getting the most out of our workouts? Here are a few tips (4, 5):
Never forget to warm-up and stretch
If you’re intending to introduce a lot of stress to your bones and muscles, then you better make sure that your body is ready to take it. Warming up and stretching reduces the risk of injury and also ensures better performance and results during your workouts (11).
One of the few things people forget about strength training is that it should be consistent. Our bodies are built to adapt. While this means it gets stronger with more stress, it also means that it eases and relaxes when there is none. One surefire way to maximise results is to be diligent in keeping your schedule.
Study proper form
If you’re not doing the movements and exercises properly, then you might as well not do them at all. The better you are at executing proper form, the better results you will see. In addition, improper form makes us more prone to injury and certainly does more harm than good.
Our bodies can only take so much. There will come a point where we’ll see diminishing returns if we overdo it and keep going when we clearly shouldn’t. Allow your body time to rest, recover, and get stronger. Always remember that recovery is part of the routine.
This can’t be stressed hard enough. No matter how hard we go with our workouts, if we’re not eating properly it’s practically useless. Our bodies can only make something out of what we give it. Make sure you’re hitting your macros, avoiding junk, as well as getting our daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals.
When it comes to essential vitamins and minerals, we should pay attention to our magnesium intake. Magnesium is vital for building muscles because it supports energy production, bone health, as well as helps reduce the occurrence of muscle spasms (6).
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Whether you’re just looking to lose some weight or working towards a stronger body, the benefits of strength training can’t be ignored. Make sure to keep in mind our tips so you always get the most when you work out.
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*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Strength Training: Get Stronger, Healthier, Leaner (2021) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670
- Resistance Training - Health Benefits (n.d.) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits
- Want to Lose Weight? Build Muscle (2020) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/build-muscles-lose-weight-by-adding-strength-training-to-your-workout/
- Weight Training: Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Technique (2020) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/weight-training/art-20045842
- 8 Tips for Safe and Effective Strength Training (2018) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-tips-for-safe-and-effective-strength-training
- Magnesium (2001) Researched Jan 9, 2021 from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5601257/ Feb 2022
- https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health Feb 2022
- https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-exercise-cause-weight-loss#strength-training Feb 2022
- https://hr.duke.edu/wellness/exercise-fitness/take-stairs/benefits-taking-stairs Feb 2022
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833972/ Feb 2022