Strength Training: Why (and How) You Should Try Strength Training
Strength training is not necessarily about giving your arms and legs sharper definition. The main reason to consider grabbing a simple resistance band or pair of dumbbells is to make your muscles stronger. Stronger—not necessarily bigger—muscles can help to make things like carrying several bags of heavy groceries or rearranging the furniture less difficult for you. What’s more, regular strength training helps protect your bone density and helps your body burn more calories.
Ready to try strength training? Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What it is: Strength training means working with weights or resistance bands, doing calisthenics that use your own body weight for resistance (planks, squats, lunges, crunches, etc), or any other resistance exercise, such as Pilates or TRX Suspension Training workouts.
What it does: Strength training makes you stronger and may boost metabolism, which helps with weight and blood-sugar control. It helps keep bones strong, protects muscle mass, and can help you in everyday activities as you age.
How and when: Adults should aim to do strength activities at least 2 days a week, with at least 1 day between activity sessions to allow muscles to recover. Eventually you can build up to 8 to 10 exercises per session that involve the major muscle groups. Proper form is key to preventing injury, so focus first on mastering the technique before increasing the amount of weight or the number of repetitions. Working out in front of a mirror is a good way to check your form. Beginners might consider booking a session or two with a certified personal trainer, who can show you how to perform the exercises and also provide a personalized routine.
Real-life examples: shoulder press and curls. Shoulder press: Keep a set of dumbbells at home. While sitting or standing (in front of the TV if you like), with a dumbbell in each hand to start, press the dumbbells straight up until your arms are fully extended, then lower to shoulder height. Repeat 10 times. That’s 1 set. Pause a minute or 2 between sets. Curls: With dumbbells down at your sides, pull dumbbells up toward you by bending at the elbow and keeping palms facing up. Lower slowly; repeat 10 times. A note about the amount of weight to lift: It should feel difficult by the time you reach 10 repetitions.
- You should work with your health care provider to determine what level of activity is right for you.
- Click on the following links for information on flexibility, aerobic, and balance activities.