When most people think of strength training they tend to primarily think of huge muscled shaven men all oiled up in their underwear standing on a stage. This of course is incorrect. The above mentioned, bodybuilding, does utilize strength training but itself is a sport not a form of the exercise. Some other popular sports that incorporate primarily strength training are weightlifting, power lifting & strongman competitions but all sports can benefit from it for instance, football, swimming to even running.
Well, then what exactly is strength training and can I benefit from it? Strength training by definition is the use of contraction to muscular resistance to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. There are many different methods of strength training, the most common being the use of gravity (through weight stacks, plates or dumbbells) or elastic/hydraulic resistance respectively to oppose muscle contraction. Some of the benefits of strength training include increased muscle, tendon and ligament strength, bone density, flexibility, tone, metabolic rate and postural support. Can you benefit? Of course, anyone can benefit from positive of effects of strength training if performed properly in a safe environment.
I have been strength training since the age of 14 and continue to today at 39. It’s like an old friend to me. It was there at age 14 to give me self confidence, to help my football performance and to become one of the strongest teenage power lifters in the state of IL at that time. It’s still with me today to help keep me healthy while running 100 mile ultras and to compete in national Strongman competitions. Trust me, it is just as important as eating right, doing cardio and will help you maintain great health. Here are just a few suggestions for beginners, intermediates or even the advanced that I’ve learned over the past 25 years.
Beginners - I strongly recommend that if you’ve never lifted weights that you get professional help to get you on your way safely and correctly. I do not mean just some big guy in the gym, but an actual fitness professional that holds a degree in the field or has a reputable certification. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the various forms of strength training. For instance, I still switch it up from using my own bodyweight, to dumbbells, machines, free weights and to even atlas stones and tires. Don’t be intimidated by anyone or anything. This is your chance to get to know your body and have fun with it.
Intermediates- You’ve been lifting for awhile, possibly hit a plateau or just looking for a change. You’ve got the base now really experiment. You may currently incorporate machines and free weights into your workout so now start playing with sets and reps. For instance, some workouts I’ll do the old school workout of 3 sets x 10 reps, the next might be 2 sets x 15 reps and then to really add some flavor, I’ll do my Millennium Workout which utilizes 1 set of 25 – 50 reps to equal 1000 total reps. Also, look into the sports of weightlifting, power lifting or strongman. They can be a lot of fun and help keep you motivated and driven.
Advanced – Ok, you are the guys and girls that have been hitting it for years. Probably played a sport in high school or college and still like to get after it. Hey, I’m right there with ya. I love it too, but even we get bored or hit plateaus. Try really mixing it up with db’s, free weights, machines and especially try some strongman toys, like atlas stones, tires and even sandbags. Its loads of fun and a great workout. Also, if you’ve never put your strength to the test, give it a try; you have nothing to lose and only a good time to gain. You can find Strongman competitions at http://www.nastrongmaninc.com/index.asp and Power lifting events at http://wvuspf.com/ I still compete in both and love it. Oh, and my 135lb wife even joins me. It’s great family fun.
Strength training should be an important part of your fitness program. Anyone of just about any age can benefit from the positive effects of lifting weights. It’s also important to help keep our bodies, joints and bones strong as we age. The most important thing to remember is to have fun with it. Don’t’ be afraid to experiment with during modes of strength training or to attempt the various sports that utilize it. Like Arnold said, “I’m here to pump – you up!”