Why Your Body Needs Strength Training At Any Age, Any Stage
By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer
I’m here to pump (clap and point) you up!
March is here. Prime time to start thinking about warmer weather.
And with warmer weather we don the shorts and tees, swim attire, sandals, and cutoff jeans!
Spring break and outdoor activities beckon! (Can you tell I’ve got spring fever something bad?)
So I’ve decided to prepare for it! I want to be able to play, work hard in my yard and wear shorts to cover sporting events without looking too unfit.
And all this led me to think about strength training – it’s important beyond looking good in shorts!
Today’s blog post is going to focus on knowledge and understanding of muscle strength, and in the next one I’ll give you specific strength training exercises.
Ready? Set? Go!
Muscle Strength and Training 101
What is muscle strength?
Muscle strength is the ability to sustain repetitive muscle contractions. We must be able to repeatedly contract our muscles to maintain our posture, breathe, move, work, push, pull, etc., throughout our day.
Some people naturally have more muscle strength than others. We all are born with a set number of muscle fibers that dictate our strength. But with specific training of our muscle groups we can become stronger and more efficient in our strength. We can develop endurance – how long we can sustain or repeat muscle contractions – improve power, build strength and hone the ability to perform muscle contractions quickly over time.
Why do we need muscle strength?
Strength is necessary to complete daily tasks. Just moving around requires strength. We need the ability to overcome daily obstacles such as picking up a heavy laundry basket, loosening tight bolts, walking, lifting weights, picking up our children or grandchildren and so on.
Muscle strength does all these things:
- supports and protects our bones and organs
- allows us to handle daily stressors
- boosts immunity
- aids in active endeavors
- stabilizes our joints
- helps maintain balance and prevent falls
- helps maintain metabolism
- promotes a healthy weight
- provides confidence
We have large muscle groups that we strengthen for power and small muscle groups we strengthen in order to have joint stability, especially for our legs, hips and lower backs.
Also, as we age, it becomes harder and takes longer to see the same strength results, so start early. No matter the age, it is important to strength train!
Who needs to improve muscle strength?
Our bodies respond and adapt to demands (principle of imposed demands). We become stronger, more flexible, powerful, and gain endurance when the demand is present.
Without a demand, we digress, as the stress is removed (principle of reversibility).
When we weight train we can increase our bone density, our muscle size, our lean (non fat) mass, decrease fat stores, improve muscle definition, handle more stress, increase ability to overcome obstacles, etc. Also, the stronger we are and the longer we maintain our strength, the stronger we are as we age.
And we all age, no matter how good our surgeon, supplements or wallet, right?
How, where and when should I strength train?
We should aim to strength train at least two or three times per week.
The main goal is to train both large and small muscle groups and to give the groups worked at least one rest day before working them again.
Some people work out daily, but train different muscles groups to allow recovery. For example: Monday is a leg and abs day, Tuesday is an arms and back day, Wednesday is a low impact yoga strength day, Thursday is legs and abs, Friday is arms and back. Sometimes I work my core (hips, low back and abs) daily, but I allow 24 hours between sessions and I make sure to consume protein within 2 hours to help recovery.
There are many ways to weight train and it really depends on your lifestyle and access to equipment as to where you train. I train mostly at home. I like to do body weight exercises and use dumbbells and kettle bells that are easy to put away. They are also inexpensive. Others enjoy the trek to the gym to use large pieces of equipment that may not be convenient or cost-effective to have at home. Still others prefer to attend group classes such as Grind, Cross Fit, Body Pump or bootcamps offered at local gyms. There are also tons of DVDs to follow along on your TV or many youtube.com videos, apps or websites dedicated to strength training.
Whatever method motivates you to strength train is best for you!
So that’s the what and why of strength training. Make sure to join me for the next post where I will share exercises to get you going in your strength training endeavors.
Till next time, stay healthy my friends!
For Jessica’s previous posts about fitness, use the blog’s search box, above on the right, and type in Jessica Poole.