Strength training is a vital part of a balanced exercise routine that includes aerobic activity and flexibility exercises.
Regular aerobic exercise, such as running or using a stationary bike, makes your muscles use oxygen more efficiently and strengthens your heart and lungs. When you strength train with weights, you're using your muscles to work against the extra pounds (this concept is called resistance). This strengthens and increases the amount of muscle mass in your body by making your muscles work harder than they're used to.
Most people who work out with weights typically use two different kinds: free weights (including barbells, dumbbells, and hand weights) and weight machines. Free weights usually work a group of muscles at the same time; weight machines typically are designed to help you isolate and work on a specific muscle.
Most gyms or weight rooms set up their machines in a circuit, or group, of exercises that you perform to strengthen different groups of muscles.
People can also use resistance bands and even their own body weight (as in pushups, sit-ups, or body weight squats) for strength training.
Many people tend to lump all types of weightlifting together, but there's a big difference between strength training, powerlifting, and competitive bodybuilding!
Strength training uses resistance methods like free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or a person's own weight to build muscles and strength. Olympic lifting, or powerlifting, which people often think of when they think of weightlifting, concentrates on how much weight a person can lift at one time. Competitive bodybuilding involves evaluating muscle definition and symmetry, as well as size.
Strength Training Principles:
- Overload: To see gains in strength you must always stimulate the muscle more than it is accustomed to.
- Progression: The active muscle must continue to work against a gradually increasing resistance in order to meet overload.
- Specificity: Gains you receive are dependent on the muscle group used, and movement pattern performed.
- Strength (maximal force): If you are interested in strength gains you want to train with higher weights and closer to your 1 RM.
- Endurance (submaximal force that is repeated): If you are interested in gains in endurance, you should concentrate on lifting lower weights and higher repetitions.
- Warm-up - the warm-up should be "sport specific". In other words, if you are performing the bench press, begin your warm-up with a light intensity and perform 8-10 reps.
- Stretch - it is important to stretch to promote increased blood flow to the muscles, and to increase flexibility, range of motion and decrease the risk of injury.
- Workout - work larger muscle groups first, then smaller muscle groups.
- Cool-down - keeps the body active and prevents pooling of blood in the extremities. The cool-down is done at a lower intensity.
- Breathing: When lifting weight or working muscles against resistance, exhale through the mouth as you are performing the work. Caution: Failure to breathe correctly during heavy weight lifting may cause drastic increases in blood pressure that may be harmful.