Forget ‘the body beautiful”, that’s is not what this article is about. But, if you are over a certain age, as a woman, there are many benefits to adding strength training to your fitness program. Even if you’re not over a certain age, strength training, as well as any training, is beneficial for a healthy and balanced lifestyle which in turn keeps your hormones healthy. As always though, before starting always consult your doctor.
What is strength training?
Strength training, also known as resistance training is activities that use weights, machines, and sometimes even just your own bodyweight to work muscles.
Now, you might be imagining this type of training as the type done by body-builders, and will leave you with muscles bigger than Arnie!
That, my darlings, is where you would be completely wrong.
Strength training simply improves the strength and tone of your body, aka muscles, not the size.
And the good news is, strength training can, in general, be practiced by anyone. It is especially recommended for older people as it incorporates free weights and if you have a gym membership, moderate-intensity exercises on seated machines.
How does strength training work?
A well-devised program will involve various equipment and machines e.g., bench press, dumb bells, rowing machine, Lat pull-down bar, etc.
During the exercise your muscles, well the specific muscles being worked, will be pitted against the weight of the machine. Your body cells adapt to the extra weight and, as a result, nerve cells will enlarge and increase to help with muscle contraction.
As a general rule of thumb, for strength training, it’s advisable to do low weight but many reps, as this builds endurance, not bulk!
How to start strength training
However, as mentioned in the introduction, this type of exercise is not something you should explore either (a) on your own or (b) without first consulting your doctor. This is particularly important if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, or are overweight. It’s important that you know the right equipment for the needs of your own body and, that your body is conditioned before attempting any weight work.
Strength training can be done without weights. For example, push-ups are a great strength exercise as it’s your own body weight against the muscles. And, you can do push-ups in any space where you can get down on the floor. If you are starting out, or have difficulty getting down on the floor, you can do push-ups against the wall, which have equal benefit.
Benefits of strength training
There are many benefits of strength training, but it must be done properly and on a regular basis for you to see any benefits:
Increased bone mineral density
Bone density is regulated by hormones. As we age, bone density decreases and after menopause women are more at risk, than men of developing osteoporosis.
Strength training can increase bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
This is because it helps improve the strength of the connective tissues which, in turn, increase joint stability and the functional strength of muscles. If you already suffer from osteoporosis, strength training can still help. But, in this case, it’s even more important to work with your doctor or physical therapist.
Increased energy for other activities
One of the benefits of strength training is that it improves your endurance levels. This, and the fact you will be able to carry heavier objects means you can enjoy more strenuous activities. As a result, you will be able to live a more active lifestyle as you age.
Reduced body fat
Pitting weight against muscle will give your body the exercise it needs to get rid of undesirable fat. Yup, I’m talking bingo wings, back fat and muffin tops, the works!
Done correctly, strength training will improve your body tone and make you look leaner. Which, of course, we all know will most likely increase your self-confidence.
Improved cardiac function
Regular exercise is good for the heart, you know that. An added bonus of strength training is that it can lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Strength training can also reduce the risk of heart disease, one of the biggest killers in western society.
Improved lifestyle as you age
By incorporating strength training you will help keep you active as you age. It helps people stay independent for longer without relying on kindly friends and relatives for simple tasks. It also, more importantly, helps reduce the risk of injuries, especially from falls.
Top tips for a successful strength training
Here are some great tips to help you get the most out of your training:
You won’t see results after 1 session
Let’s be realistic here, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a toned body.
You won’t lose stomach fat just by doing 100 crunches. Which actually don’t work either, by the way, but that’s beside the point. Overall reduction of fat and improved tone is only achieveable through regular exercise, proper rest and eating well.
You should begin to notice a difference after 4 weeks, your family after 8 and the rest of the world after 12. So, you need to be in for the long haul. There are no quick fixes!
Change your workout every 4-6 weeks
This will prevent you from becoming bored of the same routine, but also keep your body from reaching a plateau.
By changing the exercises and/or intensity will help keep your body producing the results you want.
Rest days are important
Whilst regular exercise is important, it is equally important to pay attention to rest days.
Strength training every day can lead to muscle fatigue, overtraining and potentially injury. So you should ideally leave 24 hours between strength training. Obviously, you can still do some form of exercise on your ‘day off’, just make it gentle.
Work out all major muscles 1-3 times a week
When you are on a ‘strength training day’, it’s important not to miss out any muscle group. Your program should include; abs, biceps and triceps, shoulders, chest, hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves.
Any omission could create an imbalance.
Personalised training programme
We are all unique. And when it comes to exercise, there is no ‘one size fits all’.
Your strength training program needs to be created around you and your specific needs and objectives. This could mean fat loss maintaining weight, or even building bulk. Every objective will have a different method for achieving the best results.
Ultimately, the key is to get advice and take your time. Start off slow, keep good form and, when your body condition improves, up the challenge.
Achieving a fit and healthy body is doable, just make sure you do it safely and properly.
Until next time darlings.
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