Strength training – also referred to as resistance training – works by challenging your muscles with strong counterforces, which can be achieved by pushing against a wall, lifting dumbbells or using a resistance band. By using increasingly heavier weights, the resistance is strengthened – and therefore, so are the muscles. Strength training is used to increase muscle mass, add tone to muscles and strengthen bones, which will result in greater strength during every conceivable activity. This is why it is recommended by professional personal trainers such as Bernard McGowan.
As part of a cardio routine strength training offers many benefits, building lean muscle that enables the body to burn calories even when resting. Strength training also builds strength in the bones and joints, helping to avoid injury as well as improving muscular endurance – which is a great advantage when trying to set a new personal record.
Strength training can be done with minimal equipment too; in fact, just using one’s own bodyweight can be a highly effective way to achieve the benefits of strength training. No matter the routine or the equipment involved, make sure to find activities that truly challenge the body. A warm-up is essential to an effective strength training programme and using a foam roller is suggested as the best first step, as rolling the muscles awakens them, loosening tight spots and allowing the body to work as it’s meant to.
When starting out on a strengthening workout, a good place to begin is with 15 repetitions of each movement, repeated three times. Movements in strength training includes lunges, lateral pull-downs, mountain climbers, bench rows, deadlifts and overhead presses, all of which can be paired to create a full-body routine i.e. pairing leg exercises with an upper-body movement. For movements that require the use of a weight, find one that is heavy enough to challenge the body, but not so heavy that the posture, pose or form is compromised.
Once the training session is completed, it is important to stretch while the body is still warm as this improves flexibility and is a great way to calm the nervous system. Drinking water and eating a well-balanced snack after the workout will also help to restore glycogen and repair and build muscle. The final element of a well-balanced strength training regime is rest, giving the muscles time to repair, heal and grow stronger in the periods between workouts.