It’s summer and it’s hot outside. A great way to cool off and get a good workout at the same time is to add water! Any time of year, exercising in the water is a low-impact activity that takes the pressure off your bones, joints and muscles.
Water aerobics may make you initially think of senior citizens bobbing in a pool, but water workouts have changed and research shows that water aerobics, pool workouts and swimming benefit people of all ages and ability levels.
Water workouts, or aquatic exercise, can work your entire body.
Aerobic: Aquatic exercise can get your heart rate up which can provide a good workout for your cardiovascular system. For those with heart problems, it is helpful to exercise in the water because the heart rate doesn’t increase as much as if the exercises were being performed on dry land.
Strength: Water offers natural resistance, which can help strengthen your muscles. The resistance of the water is about 12 times the level of air resistance. The harder you press during an exercise, the more resistance the water provides. You are using many muscles in your body to move in the water and they are all working against the resistance of the water, therefore, increasing your muscular strength. Some classes use equipment to further increase the resistance of the water which will intensify your workout and strength gains.
Flexibility: A lot of twisting, stretching, and joint movement is required to move through the water, against resistance. This increases flexibility.
Swimming is an extremely effective exercise. It uses your entire body – your abdominals, arms, legs, back and glutes all work to help you swim. It’s also an aerobic activity as your heart rate will increase to move your body through the water. Make sure you have a safe place to swim. Pools are ideal. If you are swimming in lakes or oceans, be mindful of currents, water temperature and other obstacles. And it is never a good idea to swim alone.
Aquatic exercise isn’t just swimming. There are many other ways to exercise in the water. In fact, you don’t need to be a great swimmer to work out in the water. It’s good to know how to swim for safety’s sake, however, many water aerobics classes don’t require swimming for a great workout.
The first organized form of water aerobics was demonstrated by fitness professional Jack LaLane on his television show in the 1950’s. LaLane promoted a healthy diet and the benefits of aerobic exercise. He showed how water aerobics could be one way to get a good cardio workout. As the health and fitness industry became more popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the benefits of aquatic exercise became more widely known and it became an organized class at gyms and health clubs across the country.
The modern form of water aerobics, or aquatic exercise, is a fitness program that takes place in the pool. The class is designed to get your heart pumping for a cardiovascular workout without placing undue stress on your muscles and joints. It is often performed in waist or chest deep water and forces your body to move despite the resistance of the water. An instructor will lead the class through movements, usually with music. Sometimes resistive and buoyancy equipment is used to intensify the workout.
The types of water workout classes offered are expanding beyond traditional aerobics as well. Many of the exercises done in the traditional gym setting can also be done in the water, for example, lunges, squats, walking or running. HIIT (high intensity interval training) and boot camp style classes can be done in the water to increase intensity, but lessen the impact on your body. Popular dance classes like Zumba and barre classes now have versions available in the water in some locations.
Since working out in the water works your body while minimizing joint stress, it is an ideal workout for many including (but not limited to) those with arthritis, pregnant women, seniors, individuals who are overweight and those recovering from an injury or surgery.
Research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis have greater improvement in joint tenderness and in knee range of movement with hydrotherapy than with other forms of exercise. Health benefits for aching joints are long-lasting, according to a study published in 2002 in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, which found fibromyalgia patients still had improvements in symptoms and physical and social function up to 24 months after a hydrotherapy program. Plus, warm water can have a immediate soothing effect on achy joints and muscles. On the flip side, if the weather is hot, swimming can keep you cool while you get in shape. You may even workout longer since you will be cooler in the water.
All of the benefits of exercise can also be obtained through aquatic exercise. A small study showed that participants in a 12-week water aerobics program (two 50-minute classes per week) saw a drop in their blood pressure as well as improvements in explosive strength and body composition. Another study concluded, “Like exercise on land, aquatic exercise should have a beneficial effect by lowering blood pressure.” Research shows that aquatic exercise lowers blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
One common misconception about water workouts are that they are relegated for only the elderly, injured or chronically ill. However, working out in the water actually forces your body to work out harder than if you were on dry land. It’s a great workout for everyone!
Athletes were typically only encouraged to exercise in the pool when they needed to rehabilitate from an injury. However, while this continues to be a good recommendation, more collegiate and professional athletic coaches are seeing value in cross-training in water as a regular off and on season method. Some collegiate football teams, for example, use pool workouts as active recovery after a game. It isn’t just for football players. Performing active recovery in a pool helps to reduce soreness, flushes out lactic acid and prevents a drop-off in performance. A 2010 study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine concluded a "swimming-based recovery session enhanced following day exercise performance.” The hydrostatic pressure from the water increase circulation, reduces swelling and enhances recovery. Runners can supplement their training with underwater running. There are even underwater treadmills! Coaches have stated that running underwater is just as important as running outside. It helps runners become stronger by running against the resistance of the water, and it helps them to recover from on land training. Healthy athletes benefit from aquatic exercise in more ways as well, like reducing any potential overuse injuries and overcoming any training plateaus by adding a new way of exercise.
Another value of aquatic exercise is that according to research it leads to less muscle soreness and damage after the workout. When comparing high-intensity land and water based plyometrics programs it was found that training in water produced less inflammation and muscle soreness than the land based workout.
Being in the pool or open water is a fun and effective way to exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels and has many benefits. It’s gentle on your joints and muscles but still can provide a total body workout. Plus, being in the water can feel relaxing even though you may be working hard. Adding water workouts to your fitness routine may be a good idea. Mixing up the type of your workouts will help to avoid injury and burnout. Also, if you are planning on increasing your current volume of exercise, the addition of one or a few water workouts is a safe way to do so without increasing your injury risk. New or returning to exercise after some time off? Water workouts are a great way to jump back in to physical activity.
LivRite Fitness has a variety of water aerobics classes in their pool. Find more information and links to the schedule for each location on the LivRite website or in the app. The pool is also available for swimming whenever a class is not in session.
Topics: LivRite News
The amount of information out there about health and fitness is overwhelming. Some of it is contradicting so it can’t all be true. It’s difficult to sift through everything and know what to believe.
One reason myths may start, and stay around, is because everyone’s experience with exercise is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Or they might be partially true. However, there are also things you may hear that are flat out false and could be keeping you from hitting your goals or could even be dangerous.
Here are ten common statements that are either not completely true or are completely false!
1. Doing Crunches Will Get Rid of Belly Fat – FALSE
Unfortunately, this isn’t completely correct. Crunches, and other similar exercises that work your abdominal muscles, will strengthen those muscles but do not directly reduce fat. You can’t pick the specific area where you lose fat. In order to burn fat, you must create a calorie deficit (consume fewer calories than you burn). A good nutritional plan and exercise will help with that process and reduce overall fat.
For more tips on belly fat check out 5 Tips to Lose Belly Fat.
2.Running Hurts Your Knees – FALSE
As a runner, I’m thrilled to say that numerous studies have shown this is false. In fact, runners have shown to have lower rates of knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. In one study, runners had lower rates of osteoarthritis and hip replacements than even other casual exercisers. The researchers cited the runners’ lower body mass index (BMI) as part of the reason. Being overweight is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body and can negatively affect your joints.
Another reason running doesn’t hurt your knees, rather than breaking down your knee joints, running helps to keep them lubricated and stimulates your body to build new cartilage.
This isn’t to say that runners don’t get knee injuries. There is even a common one that is called runner’s knee. Most of the knee injuries in those who run are caused by overuse or a weakness or instability in another area, like the hip. If you run, make sure you are getting rest days, cross training and strength training to prevent any potential injuries.
3. If you aren’t sweating, your workout isn’t hard enough. – FALSE
This one is not necessarily true. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off. Sweat is not an indicator of exertion or calorie burn. It is possible to get benefits from exercise without breaking a sweat. Of course though, you could be sweating and getting an awesome workout but you don’t have to be.
4. No Pain, No Gain – FALSE
A common mistake made when returning to or starting an exercise routine is to do too much too soon. If returning to exercise after some time off, don’t go back to how hard you may have worked in the past. Ease back into your workouts. Even if you feel ok in the moment, you will probably feel soreness in the next day or two. If you feel pain during your workout you should stop. Discomfort is ok, true pain is not.
Any physical activity has benefits. Don’t think that lower intensity exercise like brisk walking or yoga doesn’t “count” because it doesn’t cause pain, sweating or soreness. Fitness doesn’t have to be painful or extreme to be beneficial.
5. If you don’t feel sore after your workout, you didn’t train hard enough. – FALSE
Along the same lines of no pain, no gain – this one is also not true. While you can expect to feel some soreness a day or two after working out after starting a new workout, or returning to exercise after some time off, it shouldn’t be severe and it does not mean you didn’t get the benefits of the workout if you don’t feel sore.
6. Sports Drinks are The Best Way to Refuel After Exercise – FALSE
Sports drinks like Gatorade are typically seen at sporting events. I’ve worked with clients who thought they needed to drink one during and after any workout. Gatorade, and other brands of sports drinks, can be useful in certain situations. They contain electrolytes which are the micro-nutrients; sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous that can be lost when you are dehydrated. However, these drinks also contain a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners along with excess calories, artificial colors and additives in some cases. None of which are that great for you and they can undermine your health goals.
After exercising, it is important to replenish your carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes. However, if you are working out for less than 60 minutes, water and your usual balanced meals will do the trick. It is unlikely that most individuals' electrolyte levels are low. If you do work out intensely for over an hour, there are better and more natural ways to refuel and rehydrate than sports drinks. Here are a few ideas:
- Pickle Juice
- Fruits (watermelon and bananas are popular after exercise)
- Water with Honey and Lemon
7. Lifting Weights Gives You Big Bulky Muscles – Not Necessarily
There is a meme going around that says something like; not lifting weights because you think you’ll get bulky is like not driving a car because you think you’ll become a NASCAR driver. It’s not easy to get big muscles, especially for women due to less testosterone. To build large muscles requires a certain type of weight lifting and nutrition plan. It typically won’t happen unless you are really trying to bulk up.
Don’t let the fear of bigger muscles scare you away from weight training. Just a few of the things lifting will do is help to build lean muscle mass, boost your metabolism and decrease your risk of osteoporosis.
8. Fasted Cardio Is Best for Weight Loss – FALSE
There are some studies that suggest that working out on an empty stomach causes your body to dig into its fat reserves for energy. However, if you notice a decrease in your workout due to lack of energy, it probably will negate any potential benefits.
Without fuel in your tank, your energy levels will be down which can inhibit performance. Some who have low blood sugar from not having recently eaten, might even experience light-headedness or dizziness if working out in a fasted state. It’s important to know your body and how you perform best.
If you are able to power through a solid workout before breakfast, go for it. However, if you are just slogging through because you have no energy, it may be better to have a light snack before your workout or a complete meal an hour or two prior.
9. Muscle Turns to Fat if You Stop Working Out – FALSE
This is a common belief because usually when someone stops exercising they lose muscle and their diet may cause them to gain fat at the same time. The muscle isn’t turning into fat, these are two totally different tissue systems with different functions. They just happen to be occurring at the same time. Muscle and fat do not convert to one another, they simply change in most cases simultaneously.
10. You Should Stretch Before Your Workout – FALSE
Before your workout, it is important to warm up your muscles. Research now shows that static stretches (where you extend a muscle to the end of its range of motion and hold) should only be done after you complete your activity. To warm up, you should do dynamic stretches (continuous movement where the muscle goes through the full range of motion). After a workout, static stretches help to lengthen muscle and improve flexibility.
When it comes to fitness, there is no one size fits all prescription for everyone. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Do your research, consult with experts to see what is true and find what may be right for you.
Topics: LivRite News
**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
What if I told you there was a way to reduce the risk of injury, minimize muscle soreness, boost performance and improve the results from your workouts? Would you do it? The secret is to focus on your post-exercise recovery. Exercise is physical stress imposed on the body that in turn changes your body. The positive changes occur when your body is repairing itself after the stress of your workout. This time after your workout, when your muscle tissue is repairing itself, is when you get stronger and build endurance.
Exercise or any other physical work cases fluid loss, muscle damage, and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen). Without proper recovery time, the repair process where the microscopic muscle tears created during a workout will not heal into stronger muscles. A muscle needs to rest anywhere from 24-48 hours to repair and rebuild or it may simply lead to tissue breakdown instead of building. Muscle damage also impacts the amount of force that is able to be exerted until repair is complete. The muscle damage not only impacts muscle building and strengthening results from your workout, it also impairs the ability to transport blood glucose (used as energy) into the muscle cell, which means not as much glycogen is replenished and less energy and force is available meaning you have less energy for your next exercise session. Recovery allows the body to repair damaged tissues, replenish energy stores and prevent overtraining. Overtraining can occur when the body isn’t able to recover. Signs of overtraining can include decreased sports performance, depression, increased risk of injury and disrupted sleep.
How do we recover? Stretching, sleep, refueling and rest are four aspects of post-exercise recovery and all important parts of a good workout program.
Stretch Adding stretches to your warm up and cool down help to prevent injury, increase flexibility, decrease potential post-workout soreness and can improve performance. Be aware there are different types of stretching. Starting your workout with dynamic exercises or stretches (stretches with movement) is best and then cool down with static stretching (holding a stretch). Optimal recovery for the myofascial network (the connective tissues covering or binding your muscles) should also include techniques for improving tissue extensibility (the ability of separate layers of muscle tissue to slide across one another). Myofascial release is a good way to do that and can be done using foam rollers or a massage from a professional therapist. Read more about stretching and foam rolling on the blog here.
There are other healing modalities like cryotherapy and heat treatments that could be added to your recovery plan. Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold air to help increase blood flow to help repair tissue faster and reduce inflammation. An ice bath is another way to use cold to help recovery. The heat in a sauna or whirlpool can help with post-exercise tissue recovery because the heat increases the body’s circulation, which removes metabolic waste products such as hydrogen ions, while carrying oxygen and other nutrients necessary to muscle tissues. This will help to reduce any potential soreness as well as helping your muscle tissue repair and rebuild.
Sleep How does sleep affect your performance and recovery? Sleeping is one of the most efficient means of allowing your body to recovery from one day’s workout and to properly prepare for the next exercise session. Ensuring you are getting an adequate amount (between seven and nine hours a night) as well as getting good quality sleep are equally important. Our bodies repair, regenerate and grow muscle tissue during stage 3 of non-rapid eye movement sleep. Insufficient sleep could result in higher levels of catabolic hormones like cortisol. Too much cortisol can potential inhibit muscle growth and affect your energy levels. Being overly tired could cause a missed workout or an injury during exercise. Lack of sleep also impacts cognitive performance which could result in reduced reflex times or poor form, each of which could cause an injury. Plus, getting enough sleep supports your immune system, which in turn reduces the risk of becoming sick and missing a workout.
Refuel Refueling properly after exercise replenishes your energy stores and can assist the tissue repair process. A post-workout snack with a proper ratio of carbohydrates (carb) to protein can help with both of those things. Carbs are digested and then replenish your energy stores and protein helps to rebuild your muscles. Research has suggested having something within 30-45 minutes after a workout with a 3:1 ration of carbs to protein works best to help recovery. A popular example is a banana (healthy carb) with a little bit of peanut butter (protein). But balance is key here, eat too much more than what your body needs and it will be stored as fat.
Don’t forget water! Rehydrating is number one when it comes to refueling. You lose a lot of fluid during exercise and replacing it is important. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body. It is important to stay hydrated for many reasons, one being to assist in the muscle rebuilding process as well as to help any potential muscle soreness. Muscle soreness occurs from lactic acid build up in a muscle. Drinking adequate amounts of water is one way to help to rid some of that build up.
Rest Rest days are part of any smart workout plan. It is possible to workout everyday if you have a good plan that varies the intensity and type of workout done each day, making some of the days active rest days. An example of an active rest day would be a yoga class or a walk. If you are training a specific muscle group, give it at least a day to repair and rebuild before using resistance training with that muscle again. This is where a weight training plan might split the muscle groups up so that you are training one or several of the muscle groups on one day then different muscles groups the next, which allows those worked on day one rest the next day while training others. High intensity exercise should not be done every day. Most studies recommend high intensity training just two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. A personal trainer can put together a workout plan personalized for you, your fitness level and type of workout you enjoy and that includes the proper amount of complete rest and active rest. Excessive exercise, heavy weight training every day, or a lack of rest days will limit your fitness gains from exercise and potentially lead to overtraining and injury.
Any form of stress (from life or exercise) takes a toll on us both mentally and physically. The body can only take so much, so it is vital to give yourself a break every now and then. By neglecting rest days, you may increase your risk for injury, decrease your level of performance and not see as much progress.
Post-workout recovery is not a one-step process or just one thing to do. It’s basically everything you are doing when you are not working out. The basics of a good post-workout recovery include having a workout plan with at least one rest day a week, completing a warm up and cool down including some stretching with each workout, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet. Pay attention to these things and you’ll enjoy more results from your workouts.
Topics: LivRite News
**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, the half marathon race that occurs in Indianapolis each May as part of the Indy 500 Festival, is a popular first half marathon for new runners. It is a large race, one of the largest half marathons in the country. Each year 30,000+ runners, walkers and wheelchair racers travel the 13.1 mile course through downtown including a lap on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Because of the size and the location, this is a really exciting race to make your first. Crowds, music and bands line the streets cheering you on as you run or walk. There are water stops periodically as you go providing ample refreshment throughout the race and medical support available if you should need it (which hopefully you won’t!). The post-race party is always great as well. Live music, food and massages in Military Park make for a great spot to reunite with friends and family who also ran, walked or were there to cheer you on.
The in person race was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the option was given to run it virtually on your own 13.1 mile course. Whatever the 2021 race ends up looking like, you can get motivated and start training for the May 8, 2021 race now! If you need more time, you can plan to run the Monumental Half Marathon. This is another great race in downtown Indianapolis. The Monumental offers a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5k. It is planned for November 6, 2021.
Whether you are a seasoned runner but haven’t run a race or if you are a brand new runner, here are some tips to prepare for a half marathon.
- Find The Right Shoes – Running is a great sport in that the only real equipment you need are shoes. But the right shoes, and shoes in good shape, are really important. I highly suggest going to a running store to get your first pair of running shoes. The Runners Forum in Fishers is a great option. The store’s trained associates will watch you run to see what type of shoes will be best for you. For example, someone who over pronates will most likely get injuries if they run in neutral shoes. They would need a shoe with some stability.
After you find the shoes that work best for you, they need to be replaced more often than you would think and it might be difficult at first to tell when to get a new pair. It’s usually the cushioning and support built inside the shoe that breaks down first, something that you can’t see. Some studies have suggested shoes last about 600 miles. However, other studies have contradicted that and stated running shoes have a much longer lifespan. What we do know for sure is that if your shoes are worn out, you will probably start to have some aches and pains that could progress into an injury. How long shoes will last varies by shoe and by individual based on your usage and body mechanics. It’s best to go with how the shoes feel. Do they no longer feel comfortable? No longer supportive? It’s time to get a new pair.
Other studies have shown that rotating between two different pairs of running shoes can be beneficial to preventing running related injuries. Changing your shoes, the type of terrain where you run and running at different paces are all good ways to prevent overuse injuries that may come with running.
- Training Plan – Second to having the right shoes is having a training plan. It is really important to build up to 13.1 miles in a safe way to avoid injury. A training plan for a half marathon typically starts 10-12 weeks before the race date. Those plans assume that you’ve already built a weekly mileage base of at least 15-20 miles. Your longest run should be at least 5 miles. Someone who is brand new to running should start earlier than the 10-12 weeks prior to the race building a base (a number of miles run each week that increases no more than 10% each week). Look for a training plan for your fitness/running level and your schedule.
There are many apps that will provide training plans for any length of race, including for those who have never run before like the popular Couch to 5k app. Many of the apps will provide coaching to you while you are running which might be helpful.
Running books are also a great resource for information and training plans. I especially enjoyed Run Forever by Amby Burfoot. He has training plans in the book as well as on his website.
The 500 Festival Miler Series is the training series provided as part of the Mini-Marathon (for a separate fee). In 2021 this series is virtual instead of the in person races downtown, but it provides you with a timeframe to run a 3 mile run, a 6 mile run and a 10 mile run at the right dates prior to the May 8th Mini-Marathon. It is a great way to stay on track with your training plan.
- Different Type of Runs – Your training plan should include the days of the week you run and for what number of miles, as well as the type of run you are to complete. Varying the type of run you do will help prevent injuries and help you improve as a runner. Generally, each week you will do a long run (your longest run of the week), an “easy” run (a shorter and slower run after your long run), a tempo run (a run with a warm up mile, a few miles just under your race pace and a cool down mile) along with a steady pace run for the designated number of miles.
- Cross Training – Another important part of your training plan are cross training days. Resistance training, cycling, yoga and swimming are all great examples of things to do on your non-running days to help prevent injury and to help your running form and endurance.
- Find a Training Group or Training Partner – Training in a group or pair can make a big difference in how successful you are with your training. When you know you’ll be missed, you will be more likely to stick with your workouts. Also, having the encouragement and support of others going through the same training can be what pulls you through a tough run or get you out there to train when motivation wanes.
- Stretch – Don’t forget to stretch after your run! This is important all the time, but especially as you push your body with longer miles during your training. Search for a good post run stretch routine from a reputable source or ask a coach or trainer.
- Do a 5k First – If you haven’t run any races at all, it might be helpful to run a 5k prior to jumping into a half marathon. When I started running, I did not know anything about races. Before moving on to a half marathon, I ran the 5k (3.1 miles) that is part of the Mini-Marathon. It starts at the same place and runs through part of the mini course. It felt less intimidating to me to do a shorter run for my first race. It helped me determine what gear worked best for me and what to expect before and during a race. I ran the 5k and then the half marathon the following year.
- Experiment to See What Works for You and Do The Same Thing on Race Day – This advice is applicable to races of any length. It takes some trial and error to determine what fuel before and during a run works best for your body. Once you find something that works, stick with it and do not try something new on the day of your race!
- Have Fun – Above all, have fun and celebrate your achievements along the way. There are many, many moments during training where it will be challenging and not feel very fun. However, if you stick with your training and stay dedicated to your goal, you will get such a sense of accomplishment at the finish line. Running can be a metaphor for life in many ways. It teaches you that you can do hard things! Put in the work, while having fun along the way, will get you to your goal whether it is in running or in life.
This post is the second in my Beginner’s Guide series – if you want to learn more about strength training, check out Strength Training for Beginners.
**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
Whether your goal is to build muscle mass or achieve a more fit, more toned body, weight training can help you get there. Weight training, also known as resistance or strength training, uses your own bodyweight or tools, like weight machines, dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands to increase endurance and build lean, stronger muscles. Just a few of the benefits of strength training:
- Improved strength and muscle mass - A loss in strength as we age is associated with functional declines, slower gait speed, increased fall risk, loss of independence, hospitalizations and poor quality of life. Because maximum strength peaks around the age of 30, and begins to decline around 50 years of age, resistance training is an essential part of a comprehensive fitness program at any age to preserve and enhance strength and physical function.
- Increased bone density - Bone mineral density (BMD) refers to the amount of bone mineral per unit of bone tissue, and, essentially, reflects the strength of bones. Low bone mineral density (osteoporosis or osteopenia) means that bones are weak and, therefore, more prone to fractures. According to research, adults who do not perform strength training may experience up to a 3% reduction in bone mineral density every year of their life. Overall, the majority of studies in this area suggest that the health benefits of strength training include an increase in bone mineral density in both younger and older adults, and may have a stronger effect on BMD than other types of exercise.
- Reduced risk of depression - A meta analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry looked at 33 studies (a total of almost 1,900 subjects between them) to see if resistance training had any sizable positive impact on alleviating depressive symptoms. It determined that not only does strength training boost physical strength, but it also improves low mood, loss of interest in activities, and feelings of worthlessness.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure - A number of studies have found that two or more months of regular strength training can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. This study, for example, which included more than 1,600 participants aged between 21 and 80 years old, found that strength training twice or three times per week significantly reduced systolic blood pressure readings by 3.2 and 4.6 mm Hg, respectively, while it also reduced diastolic blood pressure by 1.4 and 2.2 mm Hg, respectively.
- Faster weight loss (combined with any necessary dietary changes) and Easier weight maintenance
If you’ve never lifted weights before, consider starting out with the help of a certified personal trainer. After a complimentary fitness assessment, they’ll be able to teach you the proper form for specific exercises and set up a strength training program tailored to your goals and current fitness level.
Starting to strength train doesn’t mean it has to be your only workout. Actually, for those just beginning, it is best to do resistance training just once or twice a week to start, then gradually increase the frequency as you adapt. The days you are not strength training, you can do another type of workout like walking, running, yoga or whatever you prefer.
Different Types of Strength Training
There are different ways to strength train. Muscle endurance training is best for beginners. It involves more repetitions of each exercise and more sets. This means you most likely will be using a weight that feels light at first and easy to lift but by the time you get to the twelfth repetition (or rep) you will be feeling like you cannot lift it anymore. That is the feeling you want to achieve with each set of reps you do. If by the tenth or twelfth rep you don’t feel like the weight is extremely heavy, you should increase the weight. After each set, take a break for 30 seconds to a minute before starting the next set. This type of training will help build lean muscle and increase your muscle endurance. It will not make you bulky like a bodybuilder. That is difficult for most individuals to achieve and takes a different type of resistance training, hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy training can increase the size of your muscles. This type of training uses heavier weights and less reps. It also requires a different type of diet. Increasing your muscle mass to a large degree, or “bulking”, happens when lifting heavy weights regularly and eating to gain mass as well. In other words, if you are a beginner looking to tone your muscles, you won’t bulk up unless you are following a specific plan to do so.
Circuit training is a great way to get a full workout in faster and incorporate some cardio into your strength routine. Circuit training involves going through a series of several exercises until you reach the last one, resting and then repeating the moves again (and potentially again, and again). This type of training is very flexible as the work to rest ratios can be tailored to your fitness level and type of desired training. The exercises can also be modified especially for you and your goals.
There are a few other types of training out there as well, including power training.
For more information about the different tools that can be used when strength training, check out my blog post, Machines, Free Weights or Body Weight – Which is Best for Strength Training.
Strength Training Tips for Beginners
- Don’t overdo it! Start slowly and choose a weight that feels manageable. If you are struggling on rep 2 out of 10, the weight is too heavy. If the weight doesn’t feel heavy at rep number 10, choose a heavier weight. The correct weight for you will differ from exercise to exercise and be the one that makes you struggle to complete the last rep of each of your sets. For example, if you are completing 3 sets of 10 reps, pick a weight that makes you really want to take a break after the tenth rep of each of the 3 sets. (And do take a break between the sets!) Slowly, you will find that you will be able to increase the weight you are using. Generally, 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise is great.
Don’t feel that you have to start with an hour long workout. Start with just one exercise for each major muscle group and build gradually adding more exercises to your routine from there. There isn’t a specific time that you should train for, but the exercises should be performed until you feel it’s difficult for you to complete another rep. Use your judgment, or consult a personal trainer, to figure out what works for you.
- Warm Up. Warming up your muscles prior to your workout will lead to fewer injuries and better results. Dynamic stretches or light cardio for 5-10 minutes will be enough to lubricate your joints and get your heart rate up for your workout. I like to recommend a 5 - 10 minute walk on the treadmill or 5 minutes on the elliptical prior to strength training.
- Include All Your Muscle Groups. Working each major muscle group at least two times a week is recommended. This includes the legs, hips, core, chest, shoulders and arms.
- Static Stretch After You Strength Train. Current research suggests static stretching (where you hold the stretch) is best done only after your workout, when your muscles are warm. The only stretches to do prior to your workout, during the warm up, would be dynamic. Dynamic stretches involve movement, not the periods of holding your body in place, which is the definition of a static stretch. After your workout, extend your muscle in a stretch and hold that position for 15-20 seconds before moving to the next static stretch. Just 5-10 minutes of static stretching after exercising can help to increase range of motion, improve flexibility, reduce potential soreness and relieve stress.
Strength training is an important part of staying healthy. With so many different methods and tools to use, it can be adapted for anyone at any fitness level. Please keep in mind, you will likely be sore the day or two after your workouts (especially if you are new to resistance exercise). This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and it is a normal response to weight training but doesn’t have to happen after each workout, especially as you progress. Be sure to stretch after exercise, drink plenty of water and incorporate sound nutrition to help your body recover quickly between workouts.