When most people think of strength training they tend to think of men with huge muscles, oiled up in their underwear standing on a stage. This, of course, is incorrect. The above mentioned, bodybuilding, utilizes strength training but itself is a sport, not a form of the exercise. Some other popular sports that primarily incorporate strength training are weightlifting, power lifting and strongman competitions. But athletes of all sports can benefit from strength training, from football players and swimmers to runners and triathletes.
What is Strength Training and How Can I Benefit From It?
Strength training by definition is the use of contraction to muscular resistance to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. There are many different methods of strength training, the most common being the use of gravity (through weight stacks, plates or dumbbells) or elastic/hydraulic resistance, respectively, to oppose muscle contraction.
Some of the benefits of strength training include increased muscle, tendon and ligament strength, bone density, flexibility, tone, metabolic rate and postural support. Anyone can benefit from the positive of effects of strength training if performed properly in a safe environment.
I have been strength training since I was 14 and continue to today at 39 years old. It's like an old friend to me. It was there at age 14 to give me self confidence, improve my football performance, and help me become one of the strongest teenage power lifters in Illinois at that time. Today strength training still keeps me healthy training for and running 100-mile ultramarathons and competing in national Strongman competitions. Strength training is just as important to a healthy lifestyle as eating right and doing cardio.
Here are just a few strength training tips I've learned over the past 25 years that can help you whether you're a beginner, intermediate or advanced.
Tips for Beginners
If you've never lifted weights before, I strongly recommend getting professional help to get you on your way safely and correctly. I don't mean finding some big guy in the gym, but seeking advice from an actual fitness professional who holds a degree in the field or has a reputable certification. Don't be afraid to experiment with the various forms of strength training. For instance, I still switch it up from using my own bodyweight, to dumbbells, machines, free weights and even atlas stones and tires. Don't be intimidated by anyone or anything. This is your chance to get to know your body and have fun with it.
Tips for Intermediates
If you've been lifting for a while, you've hit a plateau or are just looking for a change, you've got the base and now is the time to really experiment. You may currently incorporate machines and free weights into your workout, so start playing with sets and reps. For instance, some workouts I'll do the old school workout of 3 sets x 10 reps. The next might be 2 sets x 15 reps, and then to really add some flavor, I'll do my Millennium Workout which utilizes 1 set of 25 to 50 reps to equal 1000 total reps. Also, look into the sports of weightlifting, power lifting or Strongman. They can be a lot of fun and help keep you motivated and driven.
Tips for Advanced
You are the guys and girls that have been hitting it for years. You probably played a sport in high school or college, and still like to get after it. Hey, I'm right there with ya! I love it too, but even we get bored or hit plateaus. Try really mixing it up with dumbbells, free weights, machines and definitely try some Strongman toys, like atlas stones, tires and even sandbags. It is loads of fun and a great workout. Also, if you've never put your strength to the test, give it a try; you have nothing to lose and only a good time to gain. You can find Strongman competitions and Power lifting events I still compete in both and love it--and my 135-lb wife even joins me. It's great family fun.
Strength training should be an important part of your fitness program. Anyone of any age can benefit from the positive effects of lifting weights. It's also important to help keep our bodies, joints, and bones strong as we age. The most important thing to remember is to have fun with it. Don't' be afraid to experiment during modes of strength training or to attempt the various sports that utilize it. Like Arnold said, "I'm here to pump--you up!"
Active Expert, Joe Decker is an ultra-endurance power athlete and renowned fitness trainer who has helped thousands of people get into shape. He has completed many of the world's toughest endurance events, including the Badwater 135, and the Grand Slam of UltraRunning. In 2000, Joe broke the Guinness World Records? Twenty-four-hour Physical Fitness Challenge to help inspire and motivate people to get fit. He is recognized as "The World's Fittest Man." Visit his website at gutcheckfitness.com.