What is Strength Training?
Strength training is exercise that places stress on your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments that creates strength, endurance, and power. This is a vital component of a healthy body because we need to have a strong structure to keep us healthy for the rest of our lives. When we don't challenge our muscles through exercise and activity, our muscles are going to shrink (atrophy), our tendons and ligaments will become stiff or shortened, and our bones will become weaker. One of the positive aspects of resistance exercise is that it helps maintain bone density, which is a huge problem among women and certain ethnicities.
The two most important components to strength training are breathing and proper form. Lifting a heavy weight is the easy part, but lifting heavy weight with correct form and the right breathing pattern makes it more challenging. If you take the time to learn the correct way, your body will thank you for many years to come. Try hiring a professional trainer in the beginning to learn the proper way. Once you're comfortable, you can go on your own.
How Much Strength Training Should You Do?
For the beginner, it's not recommended to do more than two strength training sessions per week, as your body needs to get used to the additional stress being placed on your muscles. When starting out, full body workouts are the best way to introduce this type of exercise to beginners, and it allows them to get the most benefits. For intermediate weightlifters, you can increase your frequency to more than two times per week, but make sure you're not exercising the same muscle groups on back-to-bay days.
The advanced weightlifter has a better idea of their body in regards to frequency, days off to recover, and which muscle groups they are exercising. They can try different forms of resistance exercise such as: independent cable machines, stability ball strength training routines, body weight resistance (pull-ups, pushups, dips), and anaerobic/dynamic activities like sprinting, plyometrics, and CrossFit.
Advanced weightlifters will need constant challenges because their bodies are going to adapt quickly to external stimuli if they keep doing the same thing over and over again. Sometimes, it's beneficial to take a week or two off, and then aggressively train to start yielding those positive results again.
Ask yourself: what is the ultimate goal? If you want to increase your muscle mass, then you want to increase the frequency of strength training, consult a nutritionist/registered dietitian, and practice limited aerobic activity.
- Practice the overload principle to place added stress on your muscles in order to create muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle size), constantly change the exercises up so you keep creating positive results (avoid stagnation).
- If you don't feed your muscles, they will not grow. Monitor your intake for the proper amount protein, carbohydrates, fats and calories. If you're not eating properly, then you'll yield poor results. Nutrition is extremely important because you need to feed your body the correct ratio of food components in order for it produce the results you want.
- Limit the aerobic activity to walking or biking. Unfortunately, if you run for your aerobic activity, you'll burn too many calories and run the risk of losing muscle mass due to the amount of caloric expenditure that is involved in this type of activity.
- Lastly, you need to rest. You don't grow and recover the gym; you experience this when you're sleeping, socializing, working or just relaxing at home. If you don't rest, your muscles will become over-trained and that is when injuries and illnesses began to become more frequent.
If your goal is to improve your cardiorespiratory system (aerobic component), then do strength training only two times per week and focus on different cardio exercises, including biking, running, hiking, and fitness classes.
However, if your goal is to maintain a balance between the two, then you can do both on the same day. Try to keep your combined workouts to less than 80 minutes. If you're just strength training, try to be done in less than 60 minutes. If you're taking any longer, you're likely taking too long between exercises.