Fighting ageing is no fun, but there’s no need for nips, tucks and modifications. There’s a better way to maintain youth, and that’s through strength training.
This form of exercise can make you look and feel younger. It tightens loose skin and gives a natural glow. It produces a growth hormone that rejuvenates your cells, enhances hair and nails and aids weight loss.
Not to mention strength training boosts your stamina and flexibility. It can make you feel powerful, inside and out.
All this for free, you can’t go wrong.
Results You Can Expect
It doesn’t stop there. Check out all these other strength training benefits:
- Tones your body; adds definition and reshapes your figure
- Strengthens muscles
- Increases stamina
- Improves metabolism
- Better sleep
- Strengthens bones
- Boosts energy levels
- Improves moods and self-confidence
- Helps avoid excess skin with weight loss
- Improves balance and overall movement
- Helps you overcome obstacles more easily
What is it?
Strength training is also known as resistance or weight training. Basically, it’s overloading the muscles, forcing them to adjust to change and grow stronger. It can transform your body before your very eyes.
Two forms for strength training:
- Isometric: contracting your muscles against a solid object (e.g. floor push-ups)
- Isotonic: contracting your muscles through a range of motion (e.g. lifting weights)
Swimming is a mix of cardio and resistance training, as you’re pulling against the resistance of water. Check out How to lose weight at home – top 3 workout strategies for more exercise tips.
Busting the Myths
There are some misconceptions about strength training for women:
“It’ll make me bulk up.”
This isn’t possible as women don’t have the same level of testosterone as men. We have more estrogen, and its testosterone that builds muscle mass.
“It doesn’t burn as many calories.”
On the contrary, increasing muscle improves our metabolic rate, therefore burning more calories.
“My muscle will turn into fat if I stop.”
Only if you don’t adjust to the change. When training, you eat a lot of calories to burn for energy. If you stop training (burning) without reducing your calorie intake, then you’re at risk of weight gain.
“I can’t do it at home.”
You can buy all types of weight equipment for your home. They can take up little space. You don’t even have to spend money: use water bottles, your body weight, or any safe objects around the house with a bit of weight. You’re probably already doing strength training with your kids!
Excellent Calorie Crusher
Simply put, muscle burns fat. Strength training not only burns calories during your workout, it keeps burning long afterwards (anywhere from 12 hours or more)!
Increasing muscle improves your resting metabolic rate. So, you can keep burning calories while sitting in the office.
Regular inactivity leads to loss of muscle and a slow metabolism. Strength training prevents this; its reported to reduce weight by nearly 2kg in 10 weeks. Resting metabolism can increase by 7%.
Decreasing abdominal fat also helps with insulin resistance.
Strength training is known to aid health and combat issues, such as:
Type 2 Diabetes
Glycaemic control requires a balance of insulin with diet and exercise. A study in Austria compared the effects of strength training to endurance training with type 2 diabetes patients. This was done over a 4-month period with 11 men, 11 women. They discovered strength training significantly improved triglyceride levels and lowered cholesterol. Another study revealed strength training 3 times per week (for 30 minutes) increases insulin activity in skeletal muscle.
Research was conducted on 46 patients (aged 55+) with knee pain. Those who completed a 4-month home based strength training program, showed improvements in physical function, pain and strength in their knees. I can say from personal experience that strength training makes a difference.
There are countless studies confirming the benefits of exercise for the heart. This report by Current Sports Medicine Reports explains how strength training helps. It improves blood pressure. It lowers blood lipid profiles (lipids are fats in the blood that risk heart attacks). And it improves blood flow through the arteries.
Osteoporosis and Ageing
Bone health is important as we age. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones can weaken or break in minor situations.
According to a report by Oxford Health Education Research, an estimated 200 million women are affected by this condition. It determined that a 12-week strength training program improved balance and lower body strength in older women.
Our muscle strength declines between the ages of 30-80. This loss is known as Sarcopenia. Strength training helps prevent/manage this.
Strength Training Equipment
There’s plenty of variety to keep you engaged:
- Arm/leg weights
- Medicine balls
- Body bars
- Stability ball
- Resistance bands
- TRX suspension trainer
- Cable machine, pulley system or multi-gym
Free Weights Vs Machines
You may be wondering which method of weight lifting is more effective. They each have their pros and cons:
Free weights are using hand-held equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells. The advantage is they don’t cost too much or take up a lot of room. You can use a range of techniques and target various muscles at once. They’re functional for most activities, and easy to swap weights between exercises.
The challenge with free weights is keeping tabs of your form. The level of resistance can vary. You need controlled movements rather than swinging your weights in order to be effective.
With weight machines, it’s easier to control your form. They come with clear instructions and support your body, reducing risk of injury. You can vary the weight throughout your routine and have a range of attachments to use (short bar, long bar, ropes etc). The weight is controlled throughout your movements. And you can increase to heavy weights without needing a spotter.
However, weight machines are more restrictive with movements compared to free weights. The resistance level is more intense which can be intimidating.
Bicep Curl – hold onto weights and curl the arms, contracting your muscles as you raise to the shoulders and back down. Works the biceps.
Squats – hold a weight across the chest or upper back. Squat down then stand up again. Works the glutes, lower back, hamstring, calves.
Chest Press – lie on your back, bend your knees with feet on the floor. Hold weight with elbows bent. Extend arms, pushing weight away from your chest then return. Works the chest, shoulders and biceps.
Chest Flys – hold weights in your hands with arms outspread either side. Bring the arms together above the chest. Can be done standing or lying down. A reverse fly is opposite. Works the forearms, triceps, deltoids and pectorals.
Deadlift – squat down and lift the weight off the floor, hands facing down. Stand up straight holding the weight and bend back down. Works the glutes, lower back, laterals, trapezius and hamstrings.
Snatch – squat and raise a weight (barbell) with both hands from the ground to a standing position. With dumbbells, hold the weight in one hand by your side. Raise it from the ground to shoulder height, or overhead. Works the quadriceps, glutes, deltoids and traps.
Shoulder Press – hold the weight just above your shoulders. Raise them overhead then lower back down. head. Can be done from a standing or seated position. Works the shoulders, trapezius and triceps.
Shoulder Fly – hold weights in either hand by your sides. Extend both arms out, raising them to shoulder level then lower again. Can be done standing straight, bent over or sitting. Works the deltoids, forearms and trapezius.
Lateral Pulldown – while sitting, pull a weight down towards your chest or behind your neck. Works the forearms and biceps.
Tricep Extensions – hold weight above the head. Curl behind your head and return. Works the triceps.
Tricep Kickbacks – stand with knees bent. Bend forward, holding weights by your sides, palms facing in. Raise both arms out behind you then return to your sides. Works the chest, rear deltoids and triceps.
Leg Extensions – while sitting, raise a weight in front of your body using your feet. Works the quadriceps.
Leg Press – in a sitting position, push weight away from the body using the feet. Works the glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swing – hold the weight with both hands. Squat down and swing the weight between your legs. Thrust your hips forward, raise the weight to your chest level and back down in a swinging motion. Works the shoulders, pectorals, abs, hips, glutes and hamstrings.
- Do appropriate warm-up and cool-down stretches
- Focus on form, it’s important to get technique right before increasing weight. Keep your back straight, and remain careful while lifting (i.e. bend at the knees)
- Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower. Don’t hold your breath
- You don’t have to stick with one weight throughout your workout. Different manoeuvres can require different weights
- When it feels easy, increase reps, sets or weight
- Don’t lift really heavy weights on your own, make sure you have a spotter
- Work different muscle groups on different days (e.g. lower body, upper body, full body). Give your muscles time to recover.
You’ll find strength training so empowering. Nothing beats the feeling of becoming strong and independent. It’s a versatile activity you can incorporate into your HIIT workouts. Or grab a pair of dumbbells for your next cardio or kickboxing routine.
Strength training builds more than muscle. It builds your health, your resilience and character. What rewards have you personally experienced?