Strength training can help you lose that gut, slim those thighs, and slide into the jeans you've been missing. But even more, it lasts your whole lifetime!rn
There are as many different body types, genetic predispositions, and fitness goals as there are people, but though we are so different and unique, there are a few universals that will yield the best results for everyone. A whole foods plant-based diet for maximizing health and minimizing disease, and for fitness there is strength training.
Strength training doesn’t necessarily mean heavy weight lifting, but rather any form of resistance exercise where the objective is to become stronger. Strength training improves all other athletic pursuits, even weight loss. Training to gain strength will obviously make you stronger, but it will also improve your ability to accelerate, your speed, and your body composition. Building the extra muscle mass that comes along with strength training will increase your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories all day even while doing nothing else, which will in turn lead to a healthier body composition and an easier time maintaining it. In fact, a recent Harvard study demonstrated strength training’s ability to keep fat gain at bay surpassed that of aerobic exercise!
In addition to aiding across the board improvement, strength is the most functional physical attribute. When you are stronger, daily life becomes easier. Whether you are working out, playing a sport, or going up a flight of stairs carrying groceries, being stronger will make what you’re doing feel easier. A case can be made for stamina here as well since taking longer to get out of breath certainly makes life feel easier, but I’ve seen time and again the difference increased strength has made for clients. Suddenly, picking up your growing child or making it to the top of that final hill at the end of a long bike ride don’t seem so daunting!
Strength doesn’t just improve all other physical attributes and make you more functional, it also makes you more resistant to injury, and lasts a lifetime. When you strength train consistently for a length of time, your bone density improves, and your tendons and ligaments become thicker and stronger as well. This makes your joints and bones less likely to break, and the extra muscle you’ve added provides further support and even improves the rate of recovery if you do get injured! When all of the above is taken into account, it’s clearly essential for us all to get in some sort of strength training regularly, and one of the best things about it is when you gain strength you will be stronger for life. Yes, your strength will peak or ebb based on how regularly and how hard you are training, but no matter what you will always be stronger for having spent time strength training than you were before you started.
We know strength training is important, but what is the best way to go about it? I am a big proponent of free weights, but there are plenty of other options such as calisthenics (body weight), kettlebells, resistance bands, machines, and suspension trainers. The most important thing to keep in mind is to train consistently at least twice per week, to hit all the major muscle groups of the upper body, lower body, and core, and to focus on progressing; always striving for more reps or more resistance so you build the strength you are after. Here is a sample total-body, free-weight workout anyone could use to improve their strength:
Perform each session on non-consecutive days, and be sure to warm up with 5–10 minutes of steady cardio training and warm up with dynamic stretching, such as our routine. Strive to improve your weight or reps completed as often as possible.
- Squat: 3 sets of 10 reps, one minute rest
- Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 12 reps, one minute rest
- Assisted Pull Up: 3 sets of as many reps as possible
- Plank Position: 3 sets of 30–45 seconds
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8 reps, one minute rest
- Dumbbell Walking Lunge: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg, 90 seconds rest
- Cable Row: 3 sets of 12 reps, one minute rest
- Crunches: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 8 reps, 90 seconds rest
- Push Ups: 3 sets of as many reps as possible, one minute rest
- Cable Pull Down: 3 sets of 12 reps, one minute rest
- Side Plank: 3 sets of 30 seconds per side
Now you have all the tools and all the motivation you need to get into the gym and start building more strength. If you are uncertain about your technique or have any physical limitations I recommend getting a knowledgeable trainer to help you get started, and then you’ll be on your way!