Strength Training

Weightlifting at a gym

Many people aware that ‘cardio’ is an important part of fitness, but the benefits of strength training are just as important.  Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is much better at burning calories when your body is at rest. This is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it.  The other benefits include strengthening joints and bones, avoiding injury, improving muscular endurance and help you become better moving through daily activities such as lifting objects or bending over to pick things up.

Still, taking that first step can feel overwhelming when you're not sure what to do.

Here are 10 tips to consider before jumping into strength training.

 

Start with just your bodyweight

Simply put, strength training is using resistance to create work for your muscles.  Although your mind has already jumped right to the massive weights and crazy machines, there are many ways to create resistance with little to no equipment at all.  Bodyweight exercises can be incredibly effective when starting to strength train.  A couple of easy examples of body weight exercise are push-ups and squats.  The important thing to remember is find something that challenges you.

 

Begin with a couple days a week

You should try starting with two days a week for a few weeks just to get used to this type of exercising.  Then add a third day and build up from there. Your goal should be working up to strength training three to five days per week. Starting off with five days a week could shock your body and very well cause injuries.  Don’t forget to start gradually, say completing 20-minute sessions, then slowly add on time until you're working for 45 to 60 minutes.

 

Prep your muscles before you start

Warming up is important before you start your strength workout and should be part of your regular routine.  A dynamic warm-up (The twisting, bouncing and pulling on body parts we’ve all heard about) or foam rolling is great way to get your body ready for hard work.  It helps loosens and lengthen your muscles to help get the most out of your exercise routine. Not only will it help reduce risk of injury, but it also increases your range of motion which helps incorporate more of the muscle group you are focused on.

 

Pair upper-body with lower-body moves

You may have heard more experiences lifters say things about "leg day", or any other specific “body part day”, but when you’re a beginner and new you’ll be more inclined to perform a full body strength workout a few days a week. Save the “muscle group days” for a little further down the road once you’ve established a routine of more exercise days per week as well as longer duration per day. Examples of pairings could be:

·                     Squats + push-ups

·                     Walking lunges + lat pulldowns

·                     Romanian deadlifts + overhead press

·                     Mountain climber + bench row

 

10-15 reps and 2-3 sets

You're just getting started, keep things simple. Performing 10-15 reps (number of times you do the movement) and 3 sets of each (doing those 10-15 reps 3 times) is an easy place to start.  Once you’re comfortable, you can mix it up if you need more of a challenge.

 

When using weights, how much should start lifting

Different exercises require different types weights.  Whether you’re using dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell, each have their marker to guide you towards the right resistance for you.  Try and use a weight that feels heavy enough to be challenging, but not so heavy that you can barely lift it. You want the last 2 reps to be barely possible.  If you’re not fatigued by the last rep, you need to increase the amount of weight your lifting.

 

Same moves on the same day

When you're just getting comfortable, stick to the same basic moves two to three times a week to build a basic level of fitness and strength.  Keep it simple and don’t overcomplicate things. You can still achieve great results in the beginning by repeating the same workout but increasing the weight as you become stronger.

 

Post-workout stretch

Just as the warm-up got you ready to work, the post-workout stretch helps your body to cool down and heal with greater flexibility AND reduce risk of future injury.  Post-workout stretches could be static, this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. Or dynamic, such a yoga flow.

 

Refuel and rehydrate

After a long/hard strength training workout, it's important to rehydrate your body by drinking plenty of water.  It is just as important to eat a balanced post-workout snack with carbs to refuel your glycogen (your body’s main energy source) and 10-20 grams of protein to help build and repair your muscles.  However, If you're strength training and weight loss is part of your goals, keep calories in mind as a post-workout snack shouldn't be more than 150 to 200 calories.

 

Listen to your body and rest

You’re probably going to feel sore and that’s normal.  Your muscles might feel achy or tired the day after a tough training session.  Strength training causes microscopic damage to the tissue that will be repaired, this is how stronger lean muscle is built.  If you’re constantly breaking down muscle tissue with no recovery period, the muscle fibers don’t have a chance to repair and build back stronger.  Therefore, rest days are important too.