Strength training

The truth about strength training & why it’s essential for your health

Summer is just around the corner – which means if you want to ramp up your fitness, it’s time to get started!

The good news is that incorporating strength training into your fitness routine can be an ideal way to achieve your goals. But what’s the best form of exercise for you, and how much should you be doing? A plethora of online information and conflicting endorsements about fitness-related subjects can make it confusing to determine which exercises you should or shouldn’t be doing. (Hint: it’s essential to incorporate a balance of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility exercises.)

Oftentimes, when focusing on weight loss, people believe that cardiovascular training is best for slimming down, so they avoid strength training for fear it will make them too muscular or “bulky.” Rest assured that both of these assumptions are false. It’s important to recognize that there are many ways to strength train, most of which do not involve “bulking up.”

Don’t let these and other common strength training myths deter you. Instead, let’s drill down on the many benefits of strength training.

The benefits of strength and resistance training

When it comes to weight management, strength training (also called resistance training) has been shown to be extraordinarily effective for attaining and sustaining weight loss. Developing more lean muscle mass helps promote a healthy body weight, as it subsequently raises your metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns). This occurs because muscle mass is actually the primary determinant of your metabolism.

Weight management, however, is far from the only benefit of strength training. Resistance training can also help you retain existing muscle, build or rebuild bone, reduce resting blood pressure and improve your lipid (cholesterol) profiles and blood glucose levels (making it excellent for managing type 2 diabetes).

Other benefits include better physical function, improved self-image and even increased cognitive abilities. These benefits, in turn, help to reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, osteopenia or osteoporosis, cognitive decline and depression.

Need more encouragement to start strength training? Adults who do not perform any type of resistance exercise are susceptible to lose between three and eight per cent of their muscle mass every decade up to age 50, and up to 10 per cent during each subsequent decade.

How to get started with strength training

When it comes to launching a new strength training routine, it’s crucial to start slowly. If you’re a beginner – or have been out of the gym for a while – start with one set of 10-15 repetitions (reps) per muscle group targeted. Studies have shown that this number of reps is ideal for training purposes.

When starting your strength training plan, be sure to focus on performing a whole body routine two to three times per week. You should be cautious not to select weights that are too heavy. By the end of your reps, you should feel challenged, but never so much that you can’t finish your set in good form.

Once your body adapts to this new challenge, you will need to progressively overload your thresholds to avoid plateaus. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as adjusting the number of sets or repetitions, adding weights, changing the type of exercise or combining individual exercises into circuits.

If you need help getting started with your strength training plan, or just want some expert tips and strategies, contact your Copeman Healthcare kinesiologist.

If you’re looking for a more exclusive and hands-on approach, book a personal training session at your Copeman Healthcare Centre, which will ensure you start off on the right track. Studies show that working with an experienced personal trainer following a structured, periodized program such as Copeman personal training delivers significantly better results than self-directed exercise.