Strength training offers many health benefits to your life that contribute to optimal health. It increases your metabolic rate, builds muscles, strengthens your bones, controls weight, improves concentration, and builds overall strength. To see an overview of why you should do strength training click here.
Whilst strength and weight training is important for overall health, it is also important to get the most out of your workout and prevent injury. Here a few points I’ve put together that may help you.
- Warm up. Ideally it is always good to start with a quick warm up. A minimum of five minutes to warm up your muscles may help prevent injury. Some good ways for warming up the muscles are some light stretching or aerobic exercise.
- When starting out, weight is not your focus. Starting with very light to moderate weights will allow you to concentrate on getting your alignment and form right first. By aligning your body correctly and moving smoothly through each exercise you will make progress and achieve strength gains.
- Maintain a strong form while lifting. Lift weights within your own abilities (don’t worry about how much someone else is lifting), if you cannot control the weight, slow down or stop. By using a weight that is too heavy, you may perform the exercise incorrectly and this can cause injury.
- Concentrate on performing slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents while isolating a muscle group. To isolate a muscle group you hold your body in the position specified for each exercise while consciously contracting and releasing certain muscles. Avoid throwing them up and down or using momentum to swing the weights through their range of motion.
- Tempo helps you stay in control. You could occasionally switch the speed by lowering for three counts and lifting for one count instead of taking two counts for each can enhance power.
- Don’t hold your breath. Breathe normally while lifting by exhaling during the exertion or harder phase and inhaling during the easier or relaxation phase.
- Choosing your weight. If you are starting out you may find that you are only able to lift a few kilos – that’s okay. The weight to use will depend on the exercise you are performing and it should be enough to tire the muscle or muscles that you are working by the last two reps while still allowing you to maintain good form. If you find it difficult to finish the last two reps, choose a lighter weight.
- Train regularly. You should aim to train regularly and ideally work towards completing upper and lower body strength workouts two or three times a week.
- Recovery. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. Muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Giving muscles time off is necessary and it is recommended that you allow at least 48 hours between sessions for muscles to recover. An example of how you can achieve this is by doing split sessions. For example, you might do upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, upper body on Wednesday, lower body on Thursday.
- Challenging your muscles. As you become stronger and it feels easier to complete all the reps, it is time to start challenging your muscles. You could start by adding weight to perform the exercise. Just start by adding about 1-2 kilos at a time to see what is confortable to enable you to still perform the exercise with good form and allow you to complete 12 repetitions. If you do add weight, remember that you should still be able to do all the reps with good form and the targeted muscles should feel tired by the last two reps. Your goal is to be able to perform three sets of 12 reps per exercise.