Living Well – Everyone benefits from strength-training

Wayne Little's monthly column about physical training and how the benefits pay off.

Without strength training in your daily routine, your muscle mass will continue to decline.

An inactive person loses half a pound of muscle every year after age 20. After age 60, that rate of loss doubles. With regular strength training those muscles can stay tough, and muscles can be rebuilt.

I’m not talking about looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training partner – just using different exercises to build muscle mass. This can be attained in different ways: with weights, resistance bands and/or your own body weight.  There are many options out there. Finding the one that works best for you will be the fun part.

Some of the many benefits of strength training include: 1. It builds muscle, making you look and feel better; 2. It burns fat by increasing your metabolism; 3. It increases your endurance, bone density and strengthens your joints; 4. It lessens your chances of being injured; 5. It will improve your mood, allowing you to handle stress better; and 6. It will help you sleep better.

I typically get into a fairly intense strength training regime during the off season to build muscle mass that I will lose while biking and running in the race season. These strength training sessions will make my muscles stronger so I can stay injury free.

I normally combine weights with squats for my legs and back, and building stronger shoulders and chest. Jump squats and pylometrics are great for building the smaller stabilizer muscles to get that explosive power.  Planks are great for keeping your core tight. Finally, using the resistance bands with high reps are great to finish off.

Your routine can include body weight exercises such pushups, crunches, dips, pull ups and lunges. Crossfit-type group workouts are very popular.  Resistance bands and TRX-type training work well for many people. Free weights have been the workout of choice for decades for a good reason – with discipline, you can have a great workout.

Make sure you work different parts of the body on alternating days. For example you would do leg exercises on Monday, then arms on Tuesday. This will give that body part some time to heal and get stronger. You don’t get stronger when you’re working out – you get stronger once your muscles repair themselves.

In order to build and strengthen muscles, they must work harder than they normally do with resistance. So, for example, lift a dumbell 10 times for 10 repetitions, and do this three times for three sets with a 60-second rest between each before moving to the next exercise. Increasing the repetitions with a lighter weight will allow you to gain more lean muscle mass. Fewer repetitions with more weight will cause you to gain the bulky muscle mass.

As you become more used to the workout, your muscles won’t be working as hard anymore. Therefore, you will need to either increase the weight or increase the repetitions.

How often should you strength train? I would recommend about half an hour per day two or three times a week when starting out.

Some people respond well to getting up early to start their day with a workout, while others like to finish their day off with a workout. That’s up to you to decide.

Slight soreness is very common while the muscles repair themselves, but if you feel pain, I’d recommend that you stop and find out what you’ve done wrong.

Prior to any strength training exercises, make sure you warm up by doing a few minutes of light jogging, jumping rope, or jumping jacks. Stretching after your workout will also help with the tightness and soreness you will feel in your muscles as well.

Make sure you stay hydrated during your workout with water or a sports drink, and immediately after the workout, a protein shake will help feed those muscles that are craving fuel.

Staying disciplined and motivated to continue with your workouts will be hard, but the end results will have you looking and feeling great.

Wayne Little

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