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.