About Strength Training
by Sarah Valek
About Strength Training
Lifting weights isn't just for jocks. Indeed, strength training is just as important to your workout routine as stretching and cardio. So why aren't people doing more of it? If you find strength training to be monotonous, join an exercise class that uses weights. The instructor should keep things exciting and it will force you to lift weights. Strength training can be done using a variety of techniques. Don't loathe it -- try it. After all, if you don't use your muscles, you're bound to lose them.
Strength training builds and maintains muscle mass. Just six months of regular strength training can increase your strength by over 50 percent. It will tone your body and give your muscles definition. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, strength training also helps control weight, boost stamina, develop strong bones, manage certain health conditions and make you feel good about yourself. Muscle tone naturally decreases with age, but you can preserve your strength by regularly lifting weights.
You don't need to lie on a bench and lift free weights (though free weights are certainly an option). You can also use your own body weight by doing push-ups, planks, and pull-ups or work out on weight machines. Weight machines perform similarly to the exercises done with free weights but they guide and assist you. For instance, you won't need a person to spot you---you have the machine. Strength training can be done at a gym or in the comfort of your own home. Resistance tubes can be used as weights. Hold the ends of a tube, step on it to stretch it and lift using the resistance.
Don't swing your weights---lift and lower them slowly, making sure to breathe. Always use good posture and lift using a full range of motion. Let your muscles recover by resting for two minutes in between sets. (A set is a series of repetitions.) Aim for doing strength training two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, concentrating on a particular muscle group each time. You should rest the muscles you've worked for one full day before working them again. Try for one to two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
When choosing weights, grab the weight that allows you to fully extend during an exercise but is increasingly difficult to use by the 12th rep. You should definitely be pushing yourself by the 12th rep, but it shouldn't be impossible. Go for a challenging, yet comfortable weight. After using the same weight for a few sessions, the exercises should seem easier. This is when you want to bump it up and choose the next heavier size weights.
Always consult with your doctor before starting strength training or any exercise program. You may also want to talk to a personal training to get started on the right track. You'll probably feel soreness in your muscles during strength training, but you should never feel any sharp pains or experience swelling.