Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
Strength training has a whole host of benefits to your physical and mental health. Here we look at some of the reasons you might consider adding strength training into your programme and give some pointers on how someone might begin strength training safely.
1. Bone Density
When we lift weights it makes the bones themselves actually stronger. It makes them denser, in fact, which prevents bone diseases such as osteoporosis. This means that every time we strength train, we’re working to future-proof ourselves against the risk of complicated and painful bone breaks as we age. Keeping to a consistent strength routine makes such an impact that people who have strength trained throughout their lives are far more likely to preserve their independence as they age than people who have never weight trained.
2. Tendons and Ligaments
Connective tissue like ligaments and tendons help your body to move well, preventing injuries and keeping you operating in peak physical condition. The more load your tendons and ligaments can manage, the more independent your life will be and the more robust your response would be in the event that you did fall. The tendons and ligaments being strong will allow you to “bounce back” from any issues that you may feel in your joints, such as knee pain.
3. Injury Prevention
According to research done at Harvard, after 40, without strength training, we can lose lean muscle mass at a rate of 1% a year. This can lead to significant complications and even fractures in the event of a fall in older age - something which two million people experience each year.
Studies done recently on arthritis sufferers indicated those who included strength training in their workouts experienced reductions in joint pain and improved physical function. Often anecdotal evidence is reported on the emotional and mental benefits too.
4. Physical Independence
As we age, if we don’t preserve muscle mass with strength training we can lose it. This can lead to gaining weight but also to a loss of balance and flexibility which makes the consequences of having a fall far greater.
Strength training, in particular, will often strengthen “at-risk” bones. Those of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are most likely to be fractured. When people experience hip fractures the risk is compounded by their immobility. The risk posed by blood clots and deep vein thrombosis is considerable.
5. Lean Muscle Mass and fat loss
Strength training, when combined with the right nutrients in your diet, promotes muscle gain. We will go into details on how that happens in a future article maybe, but think of what happens when you eat more than your body uses. Your body will store that energy somewhere. When your workout plan is designed with adding as much lean muscle as possible, most of that stored energy will become muscle.
But what if your goal is the opposite? You may want to lose weight and become leaner. Strength training will also help you there. On a well-designed calorie deficit it still can retain lean muscle mass better compared to excessive cardio training. See, you burn calories by doing both, but while cardio promotes better cardiovascular fitness doing it, lifting weights will tell your body that you still need the muscles you have.
The icing on the cake is that lean muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue. This means the more muscle mass a person has the more fat they burn - even while at rest. In other words, if you aim to improve your body composition, e.g. losing mostly body fat rather then weight overall, while holding onto as much lean muscle as possible, including strength training into your fitness plan is imperative.
6. Mental Health And Quality Of Life
Strength training makes our muscles strong and that in turn makes the rest of our lives easier. You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to see the benefits. Carrying in groceries from the car, playing with kids, even doing housework. On the face of it, you might not realise the damage to your quality of life when you’re unable to fully engage with these experiences. Knowing that you have total control over everything in your environment is an empowering position to be in.
The quality of your life improves when things in your immediate environment “feel easier”. These are often the unexpected benefits of weight training which make other elements of your life (such as gardening) much more enjoyable.
With all these benefits associated with strength training you might be eager to get into the weights room - but a word of caution. Without proper guidance and a solid foundational training programme in place, you could be wasting your time with something which isn’t properly tailored to your goals, or worse, risking injury.
You may want to invest some time and effort to find the right trainer to direct you on the right path for you. Feel free to get in touch for a commitment-free chat about your goals and struggles.