The benefits and misconceptions of strength training
The benefits of strength training are numerous and provide an overall improvement to functional movements in everyday life. From a medical health standpoint, strength training decreases mortality rate, reduces the risk of injuries, and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis (condition where bones become fragile and brittle) and sarcopenia (the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass). From a physical health standpoint, strength training can increase lean body mass, slightly raise metabolic rate, improve movement control, and even cognitive abilities.
So what exactly is strength and how can it be developed? Strength can simply be defined as “the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to generate maximal force”. It’s developed by neuromuscular adaptations (learning a movement pattern or skill) and physiological adaptations (increasing muscle size and changes in fiber type).
Neuromuscular and physiological changes happen slowly as heavier weights and lower reps are utilized. For example, if an individual can squat 100lbs for a single rep and they wanted to become stronger in the squat, they might use 70lbs and practice squatting for multiple sets of 3-5 reps. Over several weeks or months, they might be able to squat 100lbs for several reps or 110lbs for one rep. Both would be seen as an increase in strength!
The rate of improvement in strength varies from person to person and is generally a slow process requiring patience and dedication.
Common misconceptions surrounding strength training:
- “I don’t want to get injured.”
- Make sure your form warrants heavier weights – your Trainer will help you determine this. Pay attention, listen for coaching cues, and stop if you feel your form has deteriorated. Beyond that, strength training has been shown to actually help reduce the likelihood of injuries and disease.
- “I don’t want to get too bulky.”
- A common concern for many but one that rarely occurs. More often than not, when individuals start adding lean body mass they start becoming more defined and “toned”, which is simply some combination of a reduction in body fat mass and an increase in lean body mass. If at any point an individual feels they are putting on too much muscle, it’s very easy to slow progress down.
- “Being sore means I had a good workout.”
- Soreness is a common side effect of exercise and is both normal and expected to some extent. However, it’s not the best way to measure an effective workout. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is usually a good indicator of several things: a novel training stimulus like a new exercise or rep range or poor exercise programming that likely didn’t allow enough recovery time. While soreness will probably occur, it’s not the goal. Instead, focus on improving form and over time slowly increasing the weights used during exercise.
Many people find “strength training” to be daunting but eliminating hesitations and misconceptions could be the very thing that accelerates results and ultimately improves health. Don’t worry about getting too bulky or chasing soreness – instead focus on perfecting exercise form and tempo, and over time incorporate heavier weights into your workouts.
Pro Tip: Consider using heavier weights during Strength & Agility Week (Week 2) of Camp to put you on track to crushing your fitness goals!
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://bretcontreras.com/wp-content/uploads/Is-Postexercise-Muscle-Soreness-a-Valid-Indicator-of-Muscular-Adaptations.pdf
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