Imagine if there was a form of exercise that could strengthen bones, benefit your heart, help you lose weight, improve your balance AND help prevent injury. There is! Strength (or resistance) training will do all that as well as help you look and feel better.
What is strength training?
Strength training is moving the joints through a range of motion against resistance, requiring the muscles to expend energy and contract forcefully to move the bones.
Strength training is not just about body builders lifting weights in a gym. Regular strength or resistance training will benefit anyone and also helps prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass that comes with ageing. Being able to move well and with good control over your body will reduce the risk of serious injuries.
Other benefits of strength training
Protects bone health and muscle mass
Helps keep weight off
Helps with chronic disease management
Types of strength training
No single approach to strength training is best for everyone. The choice you make should be based on your physical fitness level, your fitness goals and past injuries. Strength training can be done using various types of resistance, with or without equipment:
Machine weights – an effective weight training tool that is safe when used with the proper technique
Free weights – versatile and inexpensive, they are generally safe when used with the proper technique
Own body weight – with the right technique this is mostly safe and requires no equipment or gym membership, meaning they can be done anywhere, anytime
How does strength training prevent injury?
There have been a number of studies that have shown how effective strength training is for injury prevention and management.
This applies to joint injuries, muscle injuries, tendon pain, running injuries... and more!
Strength training improves the strength of muscles, tendons, and even ligaments and bones. Stronger muscles and tendons help hold your body in proper alignment and protect your bones and joints when moving or under impact. Your bones become stronger due to the overload placed on them during training and the ligaments become more flexible and better at absorbing the shock applied to them during dynamic movements.
For example, strengthening the quadriceps muscles in the leg and the gluteal muscles in the hip will improve the movement and control of the knee joint, which is a common instructive in the management of anterior knee pain.
Things to keep in mind
A good warm up is critical to prepare your muscles for exercise
Ensure you allow enough rest time in between sessions to give your muscles a chance to recover
Use the correct form of the exercise, ensuring your body is in proper alignment.
It’s important to build your strength in a gradual and controlled way, and over a period of time as doing too much too soon is actually a significant contributor to injuries and injury risk.
If you want to get started with a strength training program, it’s a good idea to get an individualised program that has been designed for you, and to work with a physiotherapist (or other appropriate health professional) to ensure you are executing the exercises properly.
Overall, the idea is for you to integrate exercises that build strength all over, ideally by doing moves that use more than one body part (like push-ups, or squats). Keep things simple at first and time-efficient, since the more convenient your exercise routine is, the more likely you are to stick with it.