Now’s the Time to Boost Your Strength

By: Alice Burron

Do you have enough physical strength and energy to fully enjoy your favorite activities? Or is a decrease in your physical strength and energy getting in the way of enjoying the things you love to do? For many people, circumstances such as illness, traveling, or an unexpected event can get in the way of being active, and thwart a once solid fitness routine. If that’s you, today is your day to get back on track and get moving again.

Exercise generally falls into four main categories: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Though we categorize these activities separately, there are some exercises that fit into more than one category. There are many choices when it comes to exercising, and any activity is good activity.

But let’s consider the benefits of just strength training.  You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to benefit from strength training – even small increases in muscle strength can make a significant difference in how you perform every day doing small tasks. Plus the increased strength decreases your risk of injury.

Imagine you’re looking deep inside of a muscle. Each muscle fiber has the ability to increase, or decrease, in size and number as a response to the workload demanded on it. As demand increases, so does the appearance of muscle – on a microscopic level, and on a visual level, like we see in body builders. Even the very mechanism inside the muscle fiber that provides energy to the muscle cell becomes more efficient at supplying energy.

Other muscle adaptations also occur following regular exposure to strength training. The very architecture of the muscles improves. Connective tissue, tendons and neurons work better independently, and in synergy, to improve muscle efficiency and coordination. And the same triggers sent to muscles to become more efficient are also triggering bones to adapt, and stronger bones result.

All of these adaptations with strength training begin immediately following exercise. And the more consistent you are, the faster the adaptations take place.

Knowing this, why wouldn’t you add strength training to your fitness plan? Regardless of current physical abilities, people of all ages can gain so much with strength training. In fact, in most cases, there’s a lot more to lose by not staying active.

Just what types of strength exercises should you do, and how often? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend strength training all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on two or more non-consecutive days per week. Depending on your condition, you might want to start out with very light or no weight at all until your body gets used to the activity.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is when people start a new program with weights that are too heavy, or people workout too often, and/or with too much intensity. Challenge yourself, but listen to your body, and use common sense when exercising.

The stability ball, also called a fitness ball, is an effective training tool to increase muscular strength and improve balance and flexibility as well. Make the most of your workout by incorporating the stability ball into your strength routine and reap even more benefits, like core strength, than just strength training with weights alone.

The below sample workout will give you some basic moves that will hit all of your major muscle groups. Before beginning, warm-up for 3-5 minutes by either stepping on a stool, climbing stairs, walking on a treadmill or utilizing other cardio fitness equipment.

Because everyone’s needs and limitations are unique, talk to your health care provider before beginning any new fitness program. Ask if there are any specific activities you should avoid, or special precautions to follow.

Think of exercise as your special time to maintain and improve your health. No one ever says “I wish I hadn’t started exercising.” Make today your first day to living the life you want!

Back on Track Strength Training Program

Equipment: Stability Ball (properly inflated), Weights

Frequency: 2-3 non-consecutive days a week

Repetitions: 10-15

Sets: 2-3 (If you’re just starting exercising after six months of no activity, perform 1 set initially until you feel you’re ready to move to 2.)

Intensity: For low intensity, rest between sets. For higher intensity, omit resting and move from one exercise to the next without rest.

1. Crunches (abdominals)

2. Flies (chest)

3. Hip Dips (rear, lower back)

4. Triceps Extensions (triceps)

5. Bicep Curls (biceps)

6. Overhead Press (shoulders)

7. Squats (legs)

8. Reverse Flies (back)