If something will help you lose weight, develop strong bones, increase bone density and reduce risk of osteoporosis does it not sound like a wonder cure? Strength training can give you all the above benefits apart from a bunch of others like improving insulin sensitivity, lowering your risk of metabolic syndrome, reducing the peri-menopausal symptoms in women, combating inflammation, improving cognitive function, mood and cardiovascular fitness. When you increase your muscle mass, tone it and strengthen your bones, then automatically your everyday activities like lifting groceries, climbing stairs, taking something off the higher shelves, sitting down and getting up become easier.
Strength or resistance training is challenging your muscles with a stronger counterforce which could be a resistance band, a dumbell, any heavy object or even the resistance offered by the wall when you push against it. When you slowly increase your resistance weight, the muscles become stronger.
The current ACSM ( American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. One set — usually 12 to 15 repetitions of the same movement — per session is effective, though two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions. Have someone trained beside you to guide you on the correct form of the exercise when you are a beginner till you gather confidence.
Some important pointers to remember while strength training.
- Warm up before the training by either doing a set with low weights or just walking and cool down after for five to 10 minutes by stretching the muscles trained.
- Focus on form, not how heavy the weight is. Align your body correctly and move the muscles smoothly through each exercise. Poor form can lead to injuries and ultimately show poor results. A beginner should always start with a very low weight, perfect the form and then proceed to increasing the weight.
- Concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents while isolating a muscle group.
- It is a good idea to maintain a constant tempo while lifting, holding and bringing back to original position.
- Pay attention to your breathing during your workouts. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling; inhale as you release.
- A beginner should repeat the same training on the same muscles for 4 to 6 weeks. This is the time taken for the motor neurons to develop connections and establish muscle memory.
- The muscle should be progressively challenged by increasing the resistance, increasing the repetitions or decreasing the time between sets.
- Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscle or muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain a good form. If you can’t do the last two reps, choose a lighter weight. When it feels too easy to complete then add weight (0.5 to 1 kg for upper body and 1-2.5 kg for lower body).
- Stick with your routine — working all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week is ideal. You can choose to do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper- and lower-body components. Just be sure you exercise each muscle two or three times a week.
- Give off days to the muscles. A 48 hour period between workouts is ideal. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. These tears mend up on its own during the rest period and the muscles grow stronger.