Why strength training should be part of your whole family’s fitness regime
If the term ‘strength training’ makes you think of spray-tanned men in sweaty gyms with bulging biceps and questionable fashion sense then you might be in for a shock.
As well as being one of the top fitness trends of 2016 – know doubt helped by the popularity of activities such as Crossfit and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) which encompass weight-work elements – strength training is attracting a much broader demographic than ever before.
With health benefits for participants including weight loss, reduced back pain, reduced risk of diabetes and improved flexibility and stamina, its growing popularity is well-deserved. If you still need convincing however, here are six reasons why you might want reconsider your stance on strength training.
It will help you shed those pounds Contrary to popular belief, working with weights won’t bulk you up.
When accompanied by a healthy diet it will make you leaner and in fact, the muscle fibres developed through strength-training can help improve whole-body metabolism. It’s actually incredibly difficult to build up muscle bulk unless that is your aim and you are deliberately combining workouts with a dramatically increased calorie intake and supplements regime. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that added pounds on the scales is necessarily bad news – concentrate on your body fat percentage instead.
It’s great for kids
You may know that the government recommends that children aged between the ages of 5 and 18 should do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. But did you know that the same guidelines say that on three days a week, these activities should involve muscle strengthening exercises such as push ups. Other activities may include resistance work with exercise bands or using handheld weights. Specific activities will vary according to age and development stage of course but for strong bones, regulating blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight, muscle-strengthening activities are brilliant. And just to dispel one final myth – strength training won’t stunt growth!
It will help you fight the ageing process
OK so it won’t stop you getting wrinkles or going grey, but strength training can help combat other signs of ageing. For one, it helps build bone density (and can be particularly beneficial to females in the fight against osteoporosis) which naturally weakens as we get older.
It is also very good for joints – particularly hips and knees. Many older strength trainers report dramatic improvements in day-to- day mobility which in turn has enhanced their quality of life.
Research also suggests that the more muscle mass you have i.e. the better your muscle-to-fat ratio, the less likely you are to die prematurely.
You don’t need fancy equipment
Strength training can be done anywhere. Yes, many people will enjoy going to a gym and using equipment such as free weights, machines, TRX straps (which use your own body weight), kettle-bells and battle ropes – either purely out of preference, for the challenge or more likely because of the social aspect – but actually, all you need is you.
Squats, push ups, crunches and lunges are all great strength-based exercises that need no equipment whatsoever. Indeed, a study by the English Institute of Sport actually found that bodyweight moves such as crunches are more effective at targeting a wider range of abdominal muscles than a traditional gym resistance machine.
It can boost your performance with other sports and activities
Take running, and any sport that involves running. Adding strength work to training will help increase aerobic threshold i.e. the body’s maximum oxygen uptake, and improve sprint speed by making muscles more powerful and less susceptible to fatigue and indeed, injury.
Dexterity, endurance and co-ordination – including balance – are also all enhanced through weight training.
You will love it with all your heart
Firstly, it is actually really good for your heart. You might associate heart health with aerobic exercise but resistance work is great for lowering blood pressure and has positive effects on cardiovascular function. But the main reason you love strength training it is that it is really fun and positively addictive. You can easily see progress – what seems a tough weight one day becomes easier and easier – and that is incredibly motivating. Generally people who start strength training stick with it because they love it and love the results.
So why not give it a try…you might find you will too.
Andy Brookes, the master fitness trainer at Life Leisure will be chatting to Sam Roscoe on Saturday (9th July) morning’s breakfast show giving more tips on strength training.