There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding strength training, especially surrounding its role in general health. But whatever your age or ability, it’s recommended (with clearance from your GP) that you should be doing some form of strength training at least twice a week.
What is strength training?
For general health, strength training can be summarised as doing exercises that work the major muscles whilst putting the joints through their full range of motion. To start with, aim for a difficulty where you can only complete 6-20 repetitions.
Why we should strength train?
A quick search on the internet and you’ll find a list of benefits but how does that actually translate to real life?
Whilst most people that start strength training have tried other forms of exercise first, it should really be the other way around. Strength training provides the base for all activity.
Want to stay active and pain free? Muscles need to be the right mix of strong and supple, and work together in harmony which takes practise.
Want to maintain a healthy weight? Having a good base of muscle mass (don’t worry, we’re not going to be the incredible hulk!) is going to make it a whole lot easier by having a higher metabolism.
Want to minimise the factors of aging? It will reduce muscle loss, reduce the risk of falling and reduce the loss of strength thus improving quality of life.
A well-designed strength programme will provide balance that other activities can’t. For example, you should be looking to do 1 rowing motion for every press up. It puts your joints through their full range of motion. Something like gardening, which is partially included within Government strength guidelines, won’t put your shoulder joint through every motion possible causing imbalance in the body.
How much do you need to do?
This depends on your goal. If you’re aspiring for general health then a 30-minute session, twice a week, is a great aim. Less than this will provide some benefits, but the difference by increasing this to at least twice a week is well worth it. Allow at least a day between sessions for recovery if you’re working the same muscles.
Where do most people go wrong?
The area most people go wrong is not exercising at the right intensity. Aim for an 8 out of 10, where 1 is easy and 10 is the hardest you can work. Or, exercise at a rate where you feel you could do only a couple more repetitions. If you’re doing 10 repetitions; you should feel you could only do a maximum of 12 if you were going for full muscular fatigue.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to start getting some strength training into your week. Take a look at my Introduction to Strength Training video for the other key areas you need to think about plus a small workout that anyone can try here.