Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before making any decisions regarding your health
Strength training builds muscle, which is more dense than fat. The muscles are connected to bones by tendons and ligaments that need strengthening too. Weight lifting helps build strength in the long term while also enhancing your endurance and stamina to some extent.
If you're like the majority of people who work full time, it can feel challenging to find enough hours each day to fit physical activity into your schedule. And even if you are able to carve out some extra minutes here and there during the week, it might not always be possible to do so without sacrificing other important tasks.
What is Strength Training?
This is where strength training comes in. The key idea behind this type of workout is that by using weights, machines, or body bars, you will build muscle mass and increase your overall functional capacity — all while improving energy levels and reducing fatigue.
Because of its positive effects on both mental health (e.g., mood regulation) and physical functionality (e.g., improved mobility), strength training has become an increasingly popular approach to exercising over the past decade.
But despite these benefits, strength training isn't risk-free when it comes to safety guidelines. If performed incorrectly, this form of exercise could actually put you more at risk of injury than no exercise at all.
So we'll take a look at what makes up a safe strength regimen from start to finish.
What Is Weight Lifting?
"We typically think of strength as something related to force," says Dr. Justin Bazilian, MD, family physician and founder of Viva Wellness.
"For example, pushups require strength because they involve pushing against gravity." You can strengthen your core muscles by doing deadlifts, squats, lunges, etc.
However, strength training doesn't necessarily mean adding pounds to yourself. Instead, it means increasing your ability to move heavy things safely.
When it comes to building strength, most people know exactly what they should avoid doing. This includes exercises such as bicep curls, bench presses, triceps extensions, leg press, hip thrusts, dips, pull-ups/rows, back raises, shoulder rotations, lumbar extension, scapular retraction, abdominal crunches, and sit-up variations.
Moreover, excessive amounts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), combined with insufficient rest between workouts may lead to severe injuries.
However, just because it's unsafe to lift certain types of loads does not mean that strength itself cannot benefit your body. Although it won't help improve your muscular endurance (i.e., being strong enough to perform multiple repetitions of a particular movement), strength training will still provide numerous physiological improvements to your cardiovascular system, bone density, flexibility, balance, coordination, posture, agility, and power. Therefore, if conducted properly, strength training can be beneficial for everyone.
Now that we've established strength training basics, let's talk about how much resistance you need to add to your routine.
How Much Resistance Should You Use in Your Workouts?
The amount of resistance used depends largely upon your current level of conditioning. For beginners, moderate load selection works best. As your skill level improves, gradually increase the amount of weight added to your next session.
At first, stick to one set per major muscle group until you get accustomed to working out with heavier weights. Once you reach this point, try experimenting with different resistance ranges for each muscle area, starting with lighter weights and progressing towards higher ones.
In general, experts recommend varying the amount of weight lifted across various exercises based on three factors: your goal, progress, and personal preference.
Your goal determines whether you want to focus primarily on strength, size, shape, or definition. Performing basic exercises such as push-ups, squats, step-ups, seated rows, dumbbell chest flies, barbell floor press, weighted walking lunge, and cable crunch will strengthen your entire lower body.
On the other hand, exercises designed specifically to develop upper body strength include chin-ups, bent-over dumbbell overhead press, military press, dumbbell side lateral raise, triceps kickback, dumbbell front squat, kettlebell swings, and deadlift (with dumbbell).
Progress indicates how advanced you currently are compared to someone else of similar age and gender. Experts agree that beginning exercisers shouldn't exceed 50 percent of their maximum effort (max.) weight.
Even though this method allows them to complete fewer reps before reaching max. exertion, it ensures that they don't strain themselves unnecessarily. On the contrary, intermediate and experienced lifters should aim to work beyond 70 percent max. to maximize results.
Finally, your personal preferences determine whether you'd prefer to train alone or with others. Some individuals choose to follow strict routines, whereas others enjoy mixing things up every now and then. Regardless of whichever path you decide to go down, make sure to consult with your fitness trainer prior to establishing new resistance levels.
Although strength training seems simple, maintaining proper technique throughout your sessions takes practice. Now that we've provided beginner tips, keep reading to learn how to stay healthy while engaging in strength training.
Resistance Training Safety Tips When Working Out at Home
As mentioned earlier, strength training poses unique challenges due to the limited space available at home. Many gym owners understand this issue, which is why they often place handrails along stairs, install benches beneath equipment, design stations with low platforms, and offer adjustable dumbbell racks. But unfortunately, not everybody understands this concept.
People tend to underestimate risks associated with working out at home, particularly those involving falling. A study published in 2017 showed that nearly two-thirds of adults surveyed had fallen within six months after setting foot inside a gym for the first time ever.
Since falls result in serious injuries such as broken bones, head trauma, and soft tissue tears, taking precautions to prevent accidental falls becomes imperative.
Before attempting a new exercise, ensure that your floors are free of sharp edges, cracks, holes, and debris. Ideally, you should opt for mats instead of carpets whereever possible.
Furthermore, consider installing grabber handles above toilets and sinks, lowering shelves in public areas, removing trip hazards, and keeping stairways clear of anything dangerous. Also remember to wear appropriate footwear and clothing, especially when outdoors.
Lastly, ask a friend to check in on you periodically to see if you seem disoriented or injured.
You may also experience soreness and discomfort after completing a strength training session. Fortunately, these symptoms usually fade away within 24 hours. Nevertheless, since pain is subjective, it's recommended that you speak with your fitness trainer before embarking on any strenuous exercises.
Lastly, if you end up hurting yourself, seek immediate medical attention. Never self-treat minor aches and pains as long as they persist longer than 48 hours. Otherwise, you run the risk of developing larger problems later on.
So far, we've discussed how strength training helps build muscle mass and reduce fat. Next, we'll discuss ways that strength training aids in preventing conditions such as osteoporosis.
Exercises That Build Strength FAQs
Q. Can I do strength training while pregnant?
A. Yes. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women should engage in regular strength training during pregnancy and lactation. They say that strengthening exercises can assist mothers in recovering faster following delivery and minimize postpartum issues such as amenorrhea, hemorrhoids, edema, and incontinence.
Q. What happens if my child needs surgery?
A. Surgery patient must undergo preoperative rehabilitation followed by specialized postoperative care. During this process, children learn how to manage their recovery processes and return to normalcy sooner. Parents play a fundamental role in helping kids recover quicker and minimizing complications.
According to researchers at Children's National Hospital in Washington D.C., parents' involvement in early occupational therapy can significantly impact outcomes. Specifically, studies show that children under 10 years old who received less assistance from caregivers reported slower improvement rates and were more likely to suffer from chronic pain.
Q. How can I maintain good nutrition while strength training?
A. Before undertaking any kind of physical activity, including strength training, it's essential to eat well. Maintaining adequate nutrients will boost performance and allow you to achieve better results. Eating right involves balancing macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) correctly. Make sure that you consume sufficient quantities of carbohydrates daily.
Carbohydrates supply our bodies with fuel, allowing us to produce energy, control blood sugar, and regulate bodily functions. Protein provides amino acids needed to build lean muscle tissues and supports immune responses. Fats serve several purposes, ranging from cell membranes to hormones.
Experts advise consuming foods rich in micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients. Finally, eating smaller meals frequently throughout the day rather than 3 large meals spaced apart by long periods of fasting can promote metabolic efficiency.