Whether you consider yourself a novice exerciser or an expert, resistance training (also known as strength training), is a necessary component of any movement routine.
Building muscle benefits the body in more ways than one. From a functional fitness perspective, it’s strength that allows us to accomplish daily life activities like push open doors, carry groceries, or pick up kids. Resistance training and lifting weights can sometimes get a bad rep (pun intended!), due to fear of becoming “too bulky”. But every athlete of every level needs to incorporate strength exercises that will in turn prevent injury, increase performance, and improve joint function.
The good news is there are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or the gym.
Different Types of Resistance Training
- Bodyweight – your own weight can be used for movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, and core work. Using your own body weight is convenient if you have no equipment or when traveling.
- Free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls.
- Resistance bands –essentially giant rubber bands that provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement, making it challenging and building strength.
- Weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached to weights.
Still need convincing? More health benefits of resistance training include:
- Faster metabolism– as you gain muscle, your body burns more calories when at rest
- Improved muscle strength and tone – protecting your joints from injury
- Improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training can boost self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood
- Increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Increased flexibility and balance, which can help you remain independent as you age
- Increased stamina – as you grow stronger, you won’t get tired as easily.
- Prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.
Ready to get started? Here are some of my resistance training dos & don’ts:
- Use a variety of movements and equipment
- Stretch before and after
- Push yourself to feel at least moderately challenged by the weight you’ve selected
- Try new exercises that potentially scare you—you’re stronger than you think!
- Consult a certified trainer that can give you instruction for proper form
- Focus on only one muscle group–spot reduction is not effective
- Go too heavy too fast
- Lift weights every day (strength training breaks down muscle fibers, then the body rebuilds stronger, leaner muscle. You NEED rest days!)
- Compare your strength to others—everyone is different, do what’s best for you
Frequently Asked Questions
- How many times a week should I strength train?
- A beginner should train 2-3 times per week to make gains and maximize benefits.
- Why and when should I take a day off?
- Rest and recovery are as important as the movement itself. In order to build strength, your body needs time to build it during periods of rest. Rest each muscle group for at least 48 hours.
- Why should I mix up my routine?
- Varying your workouts can help you push past a training plateau if you notice progress becoming stagnant.
- Should I consult a professional before I begin?
- In order to stay safe, consult a doctor and/or certified fitness professional before starting a new fitness program.