Getting Started with Strength Training 

In my most recent newsletter/blog, I intended to address some of  the many benefits of strength training. Somehow in that effort, all you saw was the part about stronger bones — no small deal for sure, but there’s lots more wonderfulness to be had by weight training – regularly and vigorously working major muscle groups.  

I apologize for the mishap. Click here to see what I missed giving you in that letter.

Now that you’re thinking about it again, consider these pointers for beginning a strength building program or enhancing the one you already have. There are many options so you can experiment with what works best for you.

Strength training can be done at home or at the gym.

I have exercised at home for years, quite sure that I would never be a “gym rat.” That changed after I switched swimming locations and at the same time realized, coming off an annoying but not terribly serious injury from an unknown cause, two things. One was that I needed to get more serious about resistance work. The other was that I was so afraid of hurting myself, reinjuring, that I wanted some professional guidance, at least in the beginning. I wanted to  make sure that I worked hard enough to do me some good, that is, receive the benefits to my bones, muscles, etc. Conversely I wanted help with correct form and not working too hard, setting me up for injury.

“Resistance” is available in many forms.

Body weight. There are many exercises that require little or no equipment. Among them are pushups, pullups, planks, and leg squats.

Resistance tubing. This inexpensive and lightweight equipment provides resistance when it is stretched. There are many types of tubes in most sporting good stores and they come in a variety of resistances.

Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. There are others, like medicine balls and kettlebells found in the gyms, as well as the soup cans in the kitchen cabinet.

Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines, each designed to work a particular group of muscles. They are designed so that injuries are prevented during their use.

Getting Started

  • People over 40 with a chronic condition and who haven’t been actively recently do well to check with their doctor before beginning any exercise program – aerobic fitness or strength program.
  • Before beginning strength training, warm up with a brisk walk or some other aerobic activity for five or ten minutes. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than are warm ones.
  • Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12-15 repetitions of the same movement.  When it becomes easier to do more repetitions of a certain exercise, gradually increase the weight or resistance by about 10%.
  • Some research shows that just a single set   12-15 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle efficiently in most people and can be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.
  • Muscles need time to recover. Rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group.
  • Listen to your body. If any exercise causes pain, stop doing it. Either lower the weight or try it again in a few days, or both.

Proper technique is important in strength training. I recommend working with a professional trainer, at least for a while, to learn correct form and technique. Also, remember to breathe.

Results will ensue

It doesn’t take many sessions or hours to begin to see the many benefits listed right here. I was amazed by my own early and sure progress in just two or three sessions. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises  for all major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week.

As resistance work gets rolled into your fitness routine, chances are very good that you will notice improved strength in various aspects of your life as you move along. You’ll be able to lift more weight more easily and for longer periods of time, and also see improvements in your other exercise efforts. Continue your efforts. It just gets better and better.

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