Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program. Traditionally, it’s been encouraged to participate in aerobic activities such as swimming and bicycling, however, strength training can also be safe and effective for youth and adults, provided that appropriate guidelines are followed. Strength training is a method of conditioning that involves a wide range of equipment and activities, with dumbbells, medicine balls, weight machines, and body weight exercises that are specifically intended to improve or maintain muscular fitness. Furthermore, a routine strength training program can reduce the risk of sports-related injuries in athletes. Despite its reputation as a “guy” thing, strength training is an important part of overall health and fitness for everyone of any gender or age.
Strength training helps develop strong bones by increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. It can help control your weight as well, because as you gain muscle, your body starts to burn calories more efficiently. Strength training also aids in boosting your stamina and sharpening your focus. It can also help reduce the symptoms of chronic conditions, like arthritis, back pain, obesity and many other ailments.
Although every combination is different depending on your desired results, a safe and effective strength training program should follow these important guidelines:
- A warm up and cool down of about 5 -10 minutes is ideal. Walking is an excellent way to warm up and stretching is an good way to cool down.
- Remember to focus on form, not weight. Use correct body alignment and smooth movements through each exercise. Poor form can increase injuries. Also, when learning a strength training routine, many professionals advise starting with no weight, or very minimal weight. Try to concentrate on gradual, smooth lifts.
- Keeping a consistent, moderate tempo helps you stay in control. For instance, you can count to three while lowering a weight, then hold, then count to three while raising it back to the starting position.
- Pay close attention to your breathing during workouts. It’s best to exhale as you work against resistance (whether by lifting, pushing, or pulling) and inhale as you release resistance.
- By slowly increasing weight or resistance used, you can keep challenging your muscles. The appropriate weight you should use differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that wears out the targeted muscle or muscles by your final two repetitions, but still allows you to keep good form. If you choose to add weight, remember that you should be able to continue to do all the repetitions with proper form and the targeted muscles should feel drained by the last two.
- Stick with your routine. Working all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week is best.
- Keep in mind, it’s good practice to give your muscles some time off. Always give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover before your next strength training session.
Participation in routine strength training has the potential to offer great value to the overall health and fitness of athletes and those participating at any age, provided age-appropriate training guidelines are followed.