Everyone should be doing strength training and here are the reasons why

While the words strength training might conjure up images of heavily-muscled body builders, lifting weights in the gym, the truth is, this is a very narrow part of what strength training actually is.

Before delving too deep into what strength training is, however, it is important to know why everyone should be including it as part of their regular exercise. Muscles are very much use-it or lose-it, if you don’t do any sort of strength work, then your muscles will decrease in size to only be strong enough for your everyday tasks. In addition to this, once you pass the age of about 30, you will start to lose muscle mass, at the rate of about 3% per year, due to changes in hormone levels.

It’s about more than just strength

What this means is that without doing any strength training, you will gradually get weaker and weaker as you age. We’ve all seen older people struggling to open jars, or lift shopping bags and this is often due to losing muscle mass and strength. In addition, lack of strength training can lead to weaker bones, leaving you more susceptible to breaks or fractures, plus, if you have a fall, you want to have the strength to be able to get back up again.

There are other benefits to having more muscle mass, too. Muscle takes more energy to maintain than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn, both in daily life and in exercise. Excess sugar is stored in muscles as glycogen, so the more muscle you have, the more glycogen storage you have, which can reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes. Muscle also gives your body shape and definition, which can boost self-confidence, plus being stronger just makes everyday tasks, like carrying the grocery shopping, easier.

Strength training can build stronger bones

Strength training also has the benefits of placing stress on you bones, ligaments and tendons, which in turn, makes them stronger. This is particularly important for women, who are at risk of developing brittle bones due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but is particularly prevalent in post-menopausal women, as osteoporosis is closely linked to a decline in progesterone levels.

So what does strength training actually mean? Also called resistance straining, it is any exercise where your muscles work against resistance, whether that is weights, machines in the gym, resistance bands or your own body weight. In essence, by working the muscles against resistance, you damage them, forcing them to repair and in the process, become stronger. This process is called hypertrophy. The reverse of this is when we don’t use our muscles and they are broken down by the body, a process called atrophy.

What do you need to do to build strength?

Firstly, you don’t even need equipment, bodyweight is enough. Press-ups are an exercise that uses just bodyweight and yet are challenging enough that most people who are first starting out, really struggle with them. Crunches, planks, side planks, leg raises, squats, lunges, pulse ups, burpees, etc. are all body-weight exercises that will build strength, too.

Resistance bands are an amazingly flexible piece of equipment, which will enable you to replicate most weights-based exercises, with a single piece of equipment and take up very little storage space – great if you’re travelling. Using a looped resistance band you can build a lot of strength in your glutes and legs which would be difficult to do without access to a gym.

If you want to go further, then a small selection of dumbbells or kettlebells are a very worthwhile investment. A kettlebells class will work pretty much every muscle group and will quickly lead to noticeable strength improvements. Handling weights also improves that all-important grip strength.

I don’t want to look like a body builder

I’ve found that women, in particular, tend to avoid strength training, because they don’t want to look manly, or have huge body-builder looking muscles. Believe me, unless you are prepared to lift seriously heavy weights, several times a week, eat a high-protein diet and follow a dedicated strength program, this isn’t going to happen! With regular strength training though, you will burn fat, become stronger and gain tone and definition. For those of us not looking to become body-builders, then strength training twice a week, with medium weights, body weight and resistance bands is still enough to give us stronger bones, maintain muscle mass and improve our strength.

You don’t need super-heavy weights, but you also don’t want them to be too light, either. If you’re doing a huge numbers of reps, then you’re not going to be seeing many strength benefits, although you will improve your muscular endurance. If you’re focussing solely on strength then three sets of between five to 15 reps is generally appropriate, working to fatigue on each set. As a rule of thumb, the lower the number of reps, before fatigue, then the quicker you build strength.

Impact is another way to increase bone strength, so exercises which include running & jumping are extremely beneficial, as well as boxing using a bag or padwork. Most of our classes include some strength work, but Bells & Bands, Kettlebells, Body Shred & Hardcore, are particularly focused on improving strength. Our HIIT classes contain plenty of running & jumping.

So once again here are some of the benefits of strength training and building lean muscle:

  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Increased fat burn
  • Reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes
  • Reduces the risk or osteoporosis
  • Increases bone strength and density
  • Gives your body shape, tone and definition
  • Can improve self-confidence
  • Increases muscular strength & endurance
  • Makes every-day tasks easier

In summary, don’t be afraid of strength training. Strength training brings enormous health and well-being benefits and will pay dividends as you get older.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top