What is strength training and why would we want to start a strength training program?
Strength is the ability to produce force, or very plainly the ability to lift, push, pull a resistive force.
Strength training is recommended and is important for everyone from endurance runners, professional footballers and netballers to help improve performance, to improving the health of an individual with diabetes or osteoporosis. It helps us to improve our muscle mass, improve bone strength along with other biochemical measures such as our blood glucose levels. Everyone should include strength training as part of their regular exercise program.
How do I start strength training, what equipment do I need?
Beginners can commence a strength training program without any equipment at all, using only body weight to undertake a range of different exercises for most major muscle groups.
Alternatively a home strength training program could use resistance bands (priced under $10) dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells which are equipment that you can pick up quite cheaply from department stores or sports stores.
Or if you have a gym membership, there are numerous resistance machines, cable machines and other options to take advantage of.
Top 5 tips for getting started?
1. Warm up - it is important to warm up our body and muscles prior to lifting weights. Ensure you start with a light cardiovascular workout of walking, bike, rower etc for a good 10 minutes to increase blood flow to the muscles and prime them for your workout.
2. Start with a lighter weight than you can manage well. Commence with a weight that you can lift 10-15 times, for 2-3 sets. Ensure you have good technique with this weight before adjusting the weight or volume of repetitions and sets.
3. Ensure you are loading your muscles enough to get the desired effect. Once you are familiar with your program, and you have been checked for good form, you need to ensure that you are stressing your muscles enough to get the increase in size and strength that you are aiming for. If you are performing an exercise and aiming for 3 sets of 8 repetitions, by the 6th repetition of the last set, your muscle should be feeling fatigued enough that you can only just complete the last 2 repetitions with good form. If the last couple of repetitions are not challenging, then the weight is too easy and should be increased.
4. Ensure you rest between sets. When exercising the same muscle group with the same exercise for a number of sets, you need to provide adequate rest between sets, usually around 60-120 seconds.
5. Take rest days - When you strength train, you are causing microscopic damage to the tissue that will be repaired—this is how muscle builds. However, we need to allow our body time to repair and rebuild stronger, so always allow at least 1 rest day between training muscle groups. If you would like to strength train every day, you can rotate between upper and lower body muscle groups on alternate days.
And finally, undertake a final stretch of the muscles that you have used in your workout, as part of your cooldown routine.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
When thinking about strength training, it is common for people to picture buffed up body builders and heavy dumb bells. The truth is though that strength training is for everyone and holds a vital role in maintaining our health and function as we begin to age.
What is strength training?
By definition strength is the ability of muscle to produce force. This does not describe the amount of force but simply the ability to be able to produce any!
Strength focused training comes in many different forms and there is something out there for everyone! Strength training focuses on using resistance through body weight, free weights, machines or anything else that is heavy to produce increased force output from the muscle. When this occurs consistently over time the contractility of the muscle improves, and our nervous system adjusts by increasing the body’s ability to produce force through optimising the use of the nervous system.
The main aim of strength training to improve the body’s ability to move more weight over time. Even if gaining strength and muscle mass is not your goal, improving your strength will allow you to get the full benefits from all other forms of exercise.
Why is it important?
Muscular strength plays a crucial role in our ability to perform everyday tasks and function well. As we age it is even more important to maintain a level of strength as after the age of 50 there is a 15% muscle mass and strength loss per decade! Maintaining muscle mass and strength as you age has been shown to prevent further musculoskeletal issues, chronic conditions, frailty, loss of independence, poor mental health and decreased quality of life. If that’s not a good enough reason to starting strength training, I don’t know what is!
Below is a list of just some of the many benefits gained from strength training:
Where do I start?
So, you are keen to get started but aren’t sure how? If you have no current musculoskeletal injuries or chronic conditions you can start slow and gradually at home. Use light weights to begin and progress up over time. If you are currently experiencing an injury, pain or chronic condition it is a good idea to get in contact with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist so that they can point you in the right direction and create a program best suited to your current needs.
By Aleisha Michael
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
Most runners believe that in order to be better-performing and faster-running machines, they simply need to run more and hone their craft by following a well-designed running program. But, that's only half true.
The other piece of the puzzle comes from a structured resistance-training program. Even if a runner wants to improve their running time at the middle or long distances, strength training is a must to improve.
How does strength training help?
The main reason is to improve our running economy
Running economy basically means that you are more efficient and able to undertake the same distance in less time and with less energy.
There are heaps of studies showing improvements in running economy and that even in trained distance runners that running economy can improve by up to 8% following a period of resistance training. So for a serious runner who undertakes marathons, 8% off of a 4 hour marathon is 20 minutes, so a pretty good improvement - even shaving 10 minutes off a marathon would make most runners pretty happy!
There is a second train of thought that strength training also decreases our injury risk. However there are inconsistent findings in the literature on associations between lower body strength and running injury occurrence.
So the main reason to strength train is to improve our running economy.
What does a typical program that a runner should undertake look like?
What are some examples of exercises people can do at home?
An example gym program for runners might include exercises like:
Power work is also beneficial to improving running economy:
Check out a few strength training exercises here:
Accredited Exercise Physiologist