Think strength training is only for people who want to look like bodybuilders? Think again. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all adults over the age of 18 participate in muscle strengthening activities at least twice per week.
The benefits of strength training go well beyond bulk. Regular strength training tones the muscles and helps reduce the risk of injury if you twist suddenly or lift something heavy. Studies have found that strength training promotes stronger bones and that it supports the metabolism to assist with weight loss and fat burning. If you’re ready to begin reaping these benefits and developing muscle strength, getting started is simpler than you may think
Choosing Your Preferred Method
There are four main ways that you can approach strength training. Each method can equally beneficial if you perform exercises regularly and with the right technique. The key is to select a method that fits your lifestyle and that you’ll be willing to continue doing without giving up.
The four options are:
- Bodyweights – Bodyweight training focuses on using the weight of your own body and resistance to strengthen your muscles. This can be done anywhere with a set of basic equipment like resistance bands, a pull-up bar, gymnastics rings. If you want to avoid the gym and be able to continue strength training when you’re traveling for work or pleasure, bodyweight training could be a good fit for your needs. The biggest drawback to this option is that you must continuously increase the difficulty of your workouts to see results, and some beginners may find it hard to know how or when to progress.
- Dumbbells – Dumbbells are a very popular choice for working out the upper and lower body. Every gym will have sets available for workouts, and you can purchase a set of adjustable dumbbells that is easy to store at home. With dumbbell training, it’s easy to know when you need to add weight to increase difficulty. Dumbbell sets for use at home are typically more expensive than a set of resistance bands or gymnastics rings used for bodyweight training.
- Barbells – Barbells are preferred by many fitness enthusiasts because they can strengthen the body very quickly and produce results to keep you motivated in a very short time. Like dumbbells, barbells are widely available at local gyms. You can also purchase barbell sets for use at home; however, you will need to have enough space for a bench, the barbell, your weights and a squat rack to get the full benefits of at-home workouts. This also means a considerable investment to get started.
- Fitness Machines – Fitness machines allow you to perform exercises without having to adjust weights, and people who prefer them tend to like the variety that they bring to a workout. Many gyms have multiple fitness machines available for use, so you can complete a circuit and work out every muscle group. Home fitness machines are also available, but will require a considerable financial investment and adequate storage space.
Circuit Workouts Versus Traditional Workouts
Most experts recommend strength training twice per week in order to give the body enough time to recover between sessions. There are two main ways to approach structuring a workout: the traditional approach and the circuit approach.
- Traditional workouts involve completing sets of exercises repeatedly with rest in between. For example, you might perform 10 bicep curls and then rest for 2 minutes three times and then proceed to lunges, repeating the process for every move. Traditional strength training programs are generally considered to be the best way to put on serious bulk.
- Circuit workouts involve completing one set of each exercise in a row with no rest in between. After an entire circuit is completed, you start over and complete the entire circuit again. Many people like the faster pace of circuit workouts, and they are very effective for those who want to burn fat, as they raise the heart rate more than the traditional method.
If you’re joining a gym, there is likely a trainer on site who can guide you through a basic traditional or circuit workout during your first few visits, but for those who prefer to go it alone at home or in the gym, there are a number of ways that you can choose exercises and learn to do them properly. There are hundreds of beginners workouts available online, and there are many books dedicated to strength training for beginners. It’s always a good idea to spend some time researching the program before you buy. Find out what the credentials of the author or program inventor are and read reviews.
Before beginning any exercise program, it’s important that you consult your doctor and make sure that the type of strength training you’ve chosen is right for you. When it’s time to get started, begin slowly. Focus on your form, not on overwhelming yourself with heavy weights. It is always better to complete 10 reps with a lower weight with perfect form than to do 10 sloppy moves at a heavier one. Remember that strength training is meant to be a part of your daily life forever. You have time to build muscle and progress to those more challenging weights.