Spotlight on strength: why you should include strength training in your fitness routine

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The third component of an effective, integrated exercise regime is strength training, also known as resistance training, which involves the use of weights and the force of gravity to build your strength and condition your muscles.

From strength to strength

According to the Mayo Clinic strength training is hugely beneficial to your overall health, helping to:

  • Develop strong bones: by increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis
  • Control your weight: as you gain muscle your body begins to burn kilojoules more efficiently, so the more toned your muscles the easier it is to manage your weight
  • Manage chronic conditions: strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes
  • Sharpen your focus: some research suggests that regular strength training helps to improve attention for older adults

From free weights to static weights, dumbbells, kettlebells and therabands, there is plenty of equipment that you can use to carry out your strength training whether at home or in the gym. You may even like to start off using just your body weight.

The other great thing about this discipline of training is that there are often high and low ‘options’ for strength exercises, making them easier or more difficult depending on your level of fitness.

Move it, or lose it

Now that you know all about the benefits of strength training, let’s give a few exercises a go and get those muscles flexing.

Sit to stand
Sit on a chair and without using your hands slowly stand up and then sit back down again. Ensure your movements are controlled and consistent. Repeat 10 times.

If you wish to make it harder, try this exercise without the chair by coming to a sitting position, or a squat, before standing again.

Step ups
Step up on to a step leading with your left leg before stepping down again using the same leg. Repeat ten times before switching to the right leg. The higher your step, the harder the challenge, but be sure to keep the step at an achievable height for you.

Bicep curls
Using a set of dumbbells, stand with your legs a hips-width apart and hold the weights with an underhand grip against your thighs. Squeeze the bicep and bend the arms upwards towards your shoulders, keeping the elbows still as your curl. Slowly lower the weights keeping a slight bend in the arm and tension on the muscle. Repeat ten times.

This exercise can also be done with a theraband. Simply stand with your foot on one end of the band, holding the other end with your hand and complete the exercise as above.

Lateral raises
Hold a pair of dumbbells by your side and slowly lift the weights simultaneously, raising your arms out to the side like a slow motion bird in flight. Once your elbows are at shoulder level, pause and slowly lower your arms back to your sides. Repeat ten times.

Hip extension
Start by standing behind a chair with your feet slightly apart. Keeping one leg straight, slowly lift one leg behind you and lower. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Leg extension
Sit on a chair or bench with your feet on the ground and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Using a theraband or ankle weights extend your left leg out in front of you, pause and bend slowly back down to a 90 degree angle. Repeat 10 times with each leg.

For a greater challenge, try sitting on a fit ball or fitball and maintaining your balance as you extend your leg.

 

With warm ups, cardio and strength now covered, we’re nearing the pointy end of our exercise series.

Click here for Part 4: Balance!