My experience with strength training started many years ago whilst I was at university studying physiotherapy. The weights room was a lonely place for women back then…
But, it seems now that word has gotten out.
Strength training is not just for men.
Lifting weights will not make you ‘bulky’.
Feeling strong is amazing!
Even still, I get lots of questions about strength training, so let’s dive in and clear some of the confusion!
What exactly is ‘Strength Training’?
Strength training is any form of exercise that involves muscles working against resistance to increase strength.
One of the most important principles of strength training is progressive overload. This basically means doing more – whether it be reps, weights or frequency – so that your body remains challenged and continues to step up!
Benefits of Strength Training
There are so many amazing, proven benefits of strength training. It can:
- reduce your risk of osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass)
- reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer
- help manage diabetes and arthritis
- improve your mood and sleep
- reduce body fat
- improve flexibility and joint stability
- improve posture and functional strength
And did you know strength training could actually add years to your life? The University of Sydney published a study in 2017 that compared the mortality outcomes in people who did different types of exercise and found that those who did strength-based exercise had a 23% reduction in risk of pre-mature death by any means and a 31% reduction in cancer-related death.
Isn’t that amazing??
All of these health benefits are great, but do you know what are some of my absolute favourite reasons for lifting weights are?
- that next day (or two!) muscle soreness, when I know my muscles have been challenged
- feeling my body work as a system to lift a weight – i.e how my breathing and ‘core’ co-ordinate and contribute to the strength
- how easy it is to track progression – how much I’m lifting, how many reps etc. I love having a measurable sign that I’m getting stronger
- how it makes me feel – stronger, more confident and healthier!
Is Pilates strength training?
This is a great question! And one I get a lot considering I run Pilates-style reformer classes in clinic.
Pilates absolutely is a form of muscle strength training. In the case of equipment Pilates, the resistance of the springs challenges the muscles through different ranges of movement.
Pilates is great for core strengthening, functional muscle strengthening, muscular endurance, balance, mobility and general conditioning.
But… I also think there are limits to the strength challenge even a reformer can provide. Generally speaking, it takes a heavy weight to exhaust a muscle in about 4-8 reps to bring about an increase in muscle mass and strength. There are ways this can be achieved for certain muscles on a Pilates reformer, but it is not generally how Pilates classes are run.
This is why I personally incorporate both Pilates AND weights training in my weekly routine to optimise strength benefits.
So what about mat Pilates or Yoga or HIIT workouts?
All of these forms of exercise can provide amazing benefits, and can help to strengthen the muscles often by using the weight of the body and difficulty of the exercise as resistance. However, there can be limits to how much weight your body can move. And if you’re doing a class that is made to suit a large group of people, you might be missing out on the ‘Progressive Overload’ principle that I mentioned earlier.
How much strength training should I be doing?
According to The World Health Organisation’s Physical Activity Guidelines, we should be doing around 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, combined with two days of muscle strengthening activities.
I usually recommend to my clients 20-30mins of muscle strengthening about 2-3 times / week, aiming to target each major muscle group at least twice/week.
How do I do it properly?
If you’re new to strength training, you are pregnant / postnatal or have any medical conditions / injuries, I’d always recommend getting help from someone who know’s what they’re talking about first! (i.e not google and not a generic gym program that doesn’t factor in your unique circumstances).
In addition, try to make sure you:
1. Learn good technique
- This is crucial to getting the most out of your program, but also in avoiding injuries!
2. Ease into it
- It’s important to ease into a new program by only gradually increasing your resistance / reps from week to week. Also try to warm up with a bit of a aerobic exercise or mobility first. This can help your body prep for taking load and may reduce injury.
3. Work hard enough
- Remember progressive overload! If you keep doing the same weight at the same reps and sets over and over, you won’t get stronger. Ideally the last few reps of the set should be tough (while maintaining good form).
- Every now and then try working your muscles to fatigue by doing as many reps as possible for a single set; this can be a great way of building strength and endurance.
- This is where the real magic happens! Rest gives your muscles time to heel, recover and grow.
- Give your body at least one day’s rest in between sessions, especially when working the same muscle group.
- During each session, if you don’t need a little rest after each set, you probably aren’t working hard enough!
So now you know how good strength training is for you… but are you still struggling to get started? GLOW can help! From tailored group exercise classes to home programs designed just for you, we’re here to help you reach your goals!