Strength training is one of the most popular forms of gym exercise and can help you achieve a variety of fitness, bodybuilding and weight loss aims. Some people use it for keeping themselves fit while others want to take it a step further and build up their muscles. We take a comprehensive look at the basics of strength training and what you need to know if you’re new to the training.
What is strength training?
Strength training is defined as a type of physical activity in which resistance against muscles is used to cause contraction, which results in enhancing the strength, anaerobic stamina and the size of your muscles. In simple words, it is the power with which muscles force themselves against resistance. There are different names for it, such as resistance training, bodyweight exercise, and weight training. It can be any resistance which includes the weight of one’s own body, the heaviness of the equipment or machines that you are using or the elasticity of resistance bands.
What are the main types of strength training?
While each body has different requirements, and you need to decide for yourself what you want to achieve through strength training, it does have some universal benefits.
The main aim of bodybuilders is to train in a specific manner to achieve bigger muscles. It is perhaps the most extreme type of strength training where the body muscles reach their maximum potential. You will need to train each body part on alternate days; otherwise you risk injuring yourself by focusing too much on one body part and not the rest. Along with extreme workouts, you will also need to eat specific foods to maintain your body mass if you want to really successful at bodybuilding.
If you want to do powerlifting, then you have just one goal; to improve your strength. Powerlifting is not about toning your body. It is considered the most challenging type of exercise because you are not able to achieve a high number of repetitions as the weights are too heavy for that.
This type of workout consists of various different exercises in one session, with lighter weights, gradually working on increasing the number of sets and repetitions. It is most commonly used for burning fat and improving stamina and includes exercises such as squats and bench presses with no breaks in between, with complete sets in quick succession.
This training is different from others in that you hold a weight up in a fixed position without moving and keep it there for a specific time. People who need to improve their strength and athletes who have to spend a lot of time running and moving, focus a lot on isometric exercises. The best example is holding a dumbbell for half a minute without any movement.
What are the benefits of strength training?
Ultimately, strength training makes you stronger. Your body builds itself up gradually, and it therefore becomes easier to do things in daily routines without getting tired. It helps those who want to take part in sports but also helps in general as we grow older. Our endurance for all sorts of tasks and activity is increased if we tone our muscles with regular strength training.
It also helps to protect us against any injuries by improving our bone and muscle health. Different research studies have shown that working out at least twice a week in high resistance mode improves our bone density, structure and strength, as most of our body parts become resistant against any injuries.
Another advantage is that you can keep your weight in check, which for most people, is a big aim. When you are gaining more muscle mass, it means your body is burning more calories than ever. It also means the chances of gaining weight back are minimal because your body stays in shape.
Strength training has also shown to improve mental health issues such as anxiety and depression while other pressing problems such as diabetes, heart disease and back pain are prevented as well.
It also improves a person’s self-esteem. You start to value yourself more and have more confidence when your body is in shape.
Some of the other benefits of resistance training include avoidance of insomnia, improved stamina, mobility and balance, and better posture.
How to plan strength training?
You should have a plan as to how you want to proceed with the exercises but always start with a warm-up exercise. It’s especially important to make sure you get the body part you want to do the strength training on, in motion before you move onto extreme activities.
Pairing is another good option if you are new to this type of workout. This involves exercise on one upper body part and one lower body part, which keeps your overall body active. Different trainers recommend full body workouts, so you aim to achieve that by starting with two parts at a time.
No matter how light or heavy your workout is, always have a fixed frequency and weight. Your body needs to get used to staying in motion and having irregular repetitions, or variable sets can damage your muscles.
One of the most important things to keep in mind during strength training is the shape and form of your body. If you are not doing it right, it means a negative effect on the muscles and they can become de-shaped. You need to make sure the body gets enough rest while you are training. It can be that you train after giving your body rest of 48 hours, or you do different exercises for each body part alternatively.
If you think you aren’t doing the exercise correctly or feel pain that causes discomfort, it makes sense not to continue with it until you have taken proper guidance and recovered.
Whatever weight loss, fitness, or bodybuilding goals you want to achieve, there will be strength training exercises for it. For some people that means working out for a couple of hours every week whilst for others, it means working out every day. The right balance however is important and will help you achieve your goals and get maximum results.