As many of us no longer have access to our gyms due to closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly important to take care of your physical body. One way to do this is through strength training. Strength training has multiple benefits. A few include the decrease in falls and body fat percentage, and an increase in improved posture, coordination, self-esteem, independence, functional ability and functional mobility.
If you weren’t convinced before that strength training was for you, are you now? How about after I tell you that strength training can improve sleep and combat depression (Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition. 2003)?
Strength training doesn’t have to be scary but it is important. Start with your current state of fitness and use progressions to continue to improve your technique. One very important point to remember is that technique should always come before weight, reps and sets. Safety is so very important. Make sure your technique is correct and you are comfortable both with the exercise and weight, then increase the weight and difficulty as you build up.
To increase the challenge, you don’t always have to up the weight. Very basic alternatives include increasing or decreasing the reps and the sets to affect the total volume. However, let’s think outside the box. Creative alternatives include increasing speed of the motion, increasing or decreasing the range of motion or the recovery rest time in-between sets. You can also add a balance or sensory aspect with your eyes closed or open.
Here are 3 key points to keep in mind when beginning or continuing with strength training.
So, how often should you be doing strength training? 2-3 times a week is a great place to start. This can include using free weights as well as household items such as canned goods and water bottles that can easily replicate a free weight if you don’t have any.
Start with bodyweight exercises so that proper form is learned and to reduce the risk of injury as stated above. After 60 years of age, we lose 3% of muscle strength a year. Strength training helps to combat this loss and helps slow down the cells’ aging process.
Plan for warm up and cool down time. Give yourself some time before you begin to do full body and full range of motion movements to get your body ready for the workout. Afterwards, try to walk for a few minutes, and again move your shoulders, hips etc. so you allow your body time and movement to heal.
Not familiar with weight exercises? Not a problem. There are plenty of DVDs and online tools available for free and for purchase.