Pumping Up: The Power of Strength Training

Pump_Up-impGoing to the gym has been as much a part of my life as going to sleep at night or eating breakfast.

You know how sometimes you stay up too late or skip breakfast, but the days you stay on track you feel great? Well, the gym is no different. Occasionally I have had a few months where life got in the way – new babies, new job, travel or ill family members – and I have skipped being active in any way, but eventually I get back on track and it feels good after a workout.

I talk myself into and out of going to the gym many times a week. Most times I make myself go, but sometimes I spend all day in my workout wear and never manage to work out. Sound familiar?

Being fit, healthy and strong is important to me though, so I have done my best to fit in exercise of some form on a regular basis. I have been a runner for years, started ‘race’ biking last year (not really a fan but I do it) to add triathlete to my athletic resume, and this year, my focus is to build up my strength through resistance and weight training.

I am not into the heavy lifting meant to qualify for me the next Ms Olympia, but as I get older, I am learning that being strong not only looks good, it feels great and is good for me.  Turns out, increasing muscle mass through strength training, especially for women, has many health benefits.

Why Strength Train?
Muscle continues to burn calories even at a resting state
Strengthening muscle around bones increases bone density and decreases risk of osteoporosis
Regular exercise relieves stress
Strength training Increases energy level
Increased strength reduces risk of injury
Overall better health
Stronger heart, bones, and muscles prevents disease
1lb of muscle weighs the same as 1lb of fat, but looks MUCH different

What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a type of exercise that uses resistance and weight to increase muscle. Both body weight and external weight can be used in repeated action until muscle fatigue which in turn builds strength and tones. Heavier weights to max fatigue will take it the next level of body building, but strength training of any kind that tests the muscle can have positive toning effects that won’t have you bulking up.

How to Get Started
Always refer to your family doctor and a certified personal trainer before starting any new weight program, but keep in mind you don’t necessarily need a gym membership. Weight machines can help work targeted area’s for strength training but they are not necessary.

Muscles To Work Out
Common areas to focus on for increasing overall strength is chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, back and leg muscles.

Learn how to do a proper squat and leg lunges, both work major muscles in the legs that will give you defined calves and thighs while also firming up the glutes (your derriere!).

Bicep curls and triceps extentions or kickbacks will reduce the flabby jelly arms so many women are prone to after the baby carrying years are behind us.

A few repeats of light weights over head will work your shoulders, while laying on a flat surface and pushing weights to the ceiling for chests press can strengthen chest, core and back muscles.

Once you have spoken to a trainer and are comfortable with some exercises, there are many in home DVDs or resistance band workouts that can be used without further expense or trips to the gym. Have you considered adding strength training to your exercise routine . .or maybe using it to start a new exercise routine!