November 16, 2020

The benefits of strength training for every body

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Need a reason to start a muscle-building program? We share a few benefits of strength training for you here — as well as tips on how to get started. (Spoiler: It’s not as complicated as you think!)

Strength training isn’t just for body-builders, fitness buffs or gym regulars. All adults should engage in workouts that strengthen all major muscle groups at least twice a week, according to guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. The benefits of strength training include stronger muscles, a leaner physique, a speedier metabolism, protection from injuries, relief from pain, improved posture and more. But building muscle doesn’t have to involve expensive equipment, a fancy gym membership or pricey fitness classes. You can gain strength in the privacy of your own home if you prefer.

Muscle’s benefits on physique and health

If you’re interested in losing weight, muscle can help. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, whether your body is resting or working out, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

But even if the number on the scale doesn’t change, muscle can give you a leaner look. If you were to take a pound of muscle and compare it to a pound of fat, you’d see that the pound of muscle takes up less space than the fat.

The benefits of strength training go well beyond appearance or weight, however. Stronger core stabilization muscles can help keep us upright and safe from injury in the event of an accident, like a slip on the ice. Strength building can also ease back pain by giving a boost to weakened muscles and improving posture.

Weights and repetitions

When you think of strength training, an image of barbells or free weights might come to mind. But thanks to a little thing called gravity, you can create resistance with your own body — no weights necessary, according to a study published in Journal of Applied Physiology. You’ll be able to do more repetitions of a squat without weights before your muscles fatigue, so go until you feel the burn. Add more repetitions as your strength improves. Strength training without weights allows you to get your workout in anytime and anywhere. You can always use weights when the opportunity presents itself.

Additionally, you don’t have to do repetitions at all, according to a small study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. If you’re holding a plank position for 30 seconds, for instance, you’re still getting a strength benefit from an isometric contraction. You might opt for isometric exercises if you have joint pain. For example, holding a plank position resting on your forearms is easier on the wrists than doing traditional pushups, which are isotonic contractions. Add more plank-holding time when that 30 seconds gets easier.

Ways to get started

If you’re new to strength training, it’s always a good idea to get clearance from your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Not sure what to do or where to start? Try a few sessions with a personal trainer to help learn exercises that work for your body and lifestyle.

If you have chronic pain or another health issue and you need assistance learning modified exercises, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine can help. You can also download an app to guide you and track your workouts. Do you have access to a kettlebell? We’ve got three exercises to get you going. Or try our three workouts that require no equipment beyond your favorite comfy workout clothes.

Woman sitting crosslegged in a yoga pose

The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt provides health care designed around your whole health: mind, body and spirit. The center cares for people with chronic pain and other ongoing health challenges. Call 615-343-1554 for an appointment.

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