Science shows us the benefits of strength training for improving our muscular endurance, maintaining and even increasing bone density, increasing metabolism, reducing stress and inflammation, improving mental and cognitive health, increasing mobility, reducing risk of injury/falls, improving coordination and control, and achieving a better quality of life! The proof is in the smart, progressive, and consistent training pudding...
What is strength training?
Strength training is the ability to move or overcome load (produce force). These loads are typically heavier than daily loads and are not bodyweight loads. Strength training incorporates functional movements that have carry over into daily life and activities.
Why should you strength train?
Strength training increases our tissues capacity to tolerate load. This means we create not only more robust and resilient muscles through strength training, but healthier tendons, ligaments, and bones. This has vital carryover into our lives by improving how we feel, how we handle ascending and descending stairs, how we get up and down off the floor or low furniture, how we feel snow shoveling or gardening, and how we can hike, dance, and play with our children or grandchildren, and so much more.
Will I get hurt?
You can never fully prevent injury, life happens and injuries happen! However, a progressive and consistent strength training program can and will help you mitigate injury by increasing your body's ability to handle heavier loads over time. Start by using light to moderate loads and build up to using heavier weights, or perform more challenging variations of movements as the weight or movement pattern you are using/doing feels easier. Injury during strength training happens when the load exceeds the body's capacity to handle it. Take your time, stay consistent, and build up gradually.
Who should strength train?
Everyone! Strength training is for everyone. Every exercise is scalable and can be modified to meet your needs. For example, if you have a hard time squatting, you might start by squatting to a chair and standing back up from there. Over time you can progress to taking the height of support under your seat lower and lower until you can eventually squat low without needing anything underneath you.
What exercises should you do?
I personally like to follow a basic strength recipe of hitting the 7 functional movements: squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, carry, rotation.
Some examples of these (by no means an exhaustive list):
Squat: Goblet squat, Cyclist squat, Back squat, Front squat
Hinge: Conventional deadlift, Romanian deadlift, Sumo deadlift, Kickstand deadlift
Lunge: Lateral lunge, Reverse lunge, Curtsy lunge, Bulgarian split squat
Push: Push ups, Chest presses or bench presses, Dips, Overhead presses
Pull: Bent over row, Pull ups, Lat pull down, Face pull
Carry: Farmer carry, Suitcase carry, Overhead carry, Goblet carry
Rotation: Medicine ball tosses, Russian twists, Wood chops, Rotational planks
How many times a week should you strength train and for how long?
If you are new to strength training, try starting out with 1-2 times a week for 20-30min. Depending on your goals and times, this might eventually increase to 2-4 times a week for 30-60min. In general, twice a week for about 20-30min will be enough to produce results and maintain strength overtime.
What if I have Osteopenia or Osteoporosis?
...Then it is even more important for you to strength train! Skeletal fragility is directly related to mortality with lower bone strength increasing the vulnerability to fractures. Osteopenic or osteoporotic women are at a greater risk for falls and fractures. The good news is that bone is highly adaptive to habitual loading. Research has provided us with some fantastic studies like the LIFTMOR trial which prove the safety and efficacy of heavy strength training for improving bone function and stature in postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass. Check out the study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26243363/
It is never too late to start. Your bones, brain, heart, lungs, soul & BEYOND will thank you!