Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Introduction to Strength Training
By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

Strength training is used as a general phrase synonymous with other common terms such as “weightlifting” and “resistance training”.  Strength training is exercise that uses resistance or weights to strengthen and enhance a muscle’s ability to contract and do work.

There are numerous health benefits to regular strength training.  Strength training can assist in preventing and/or reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and mild depression.  Strength training can also help individuals recover from injury, prevent injury, and improve endurance, stamina, flexibility, balance and coordination.

Well-conditioned muscles help support our bodies to withstand occupational, recreational, and everyday physical stresses.  This enables us to interact with our environment in a more efficient manner.  Unless an individual strength trains regularly, they will lose 0.5 pounds of muscle every year of their lives after the age of 25.  This physiological fact of human aging can have a significant impact on health and well-being.

Strength training exercises can be accomplished many different ways.  Individuals may choose to join a health club where they can have access to conventional weight-training equipment.  Strength training can also be performed at home with the use of hand-held "free weights" or homemade weights.  Resistance bands and tubing are another inexpensive option.  These elastic cords offer weight-like resistance when you pull on them.  An individual can also use their own body weight while performing push-ups, pull-ups, dips, abdominal crunches, stair climbing, lunges, and wall squats.

Modest benefits from strength training can be seen with two to three training sessions a week lasting just 15 to 20 minutes each.  With regular strength training, the average individual can increase strength by 50% or more within six months.  A resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 8 to 12 repetitions is sufficient.  When you can easily do 12 or more repetitions of a certain exercise, increase the weight or resistance.  Rest at least one full day between exercising each specific muscle group.
Strength training exercises should be appropriately geared toward the physical capabilities of the individual.  Always perform strength training in a safe manner with proper technique and stop if you feel pain.  Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you’ve overdone it and that your program/activity needs to be modified.  Those unsure of where to start should consult with a knowledgeable health professional.

There are numerous health benefits associated with regular strength training exercise for people of all ages.  Join us next week when we take a closer look at how strength training is intricately related to health.

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.