SO’s fitness columnist Sarah Gorman looks at the rising trend of strength training and how it can benefit you in multiple ways…
There is currently a huge amount of talk around strength training, and rightly so. For too many years strength training was a ‘man thing’ with the odd female body builder thrown in for good measure. But we are now finally understanding the benefits of strength training for everyone and busting the myths that used to go along with it.
I remember being told that I shouldn’t lift weights as I would be ‘too bulky’. As I’m short, (5 foot 1 and a half – and yes the half is important) I was made to feel that I would look ‘short and stocky’. As a side issue, no one asked me if I minded looking this way, it was just assumed that I shouldn’t.
However the truth is that to really bulk up and build big external, global muscles, takes an enormous amount of time, training and focus. You have to get the correct combination of intense weight training alongside a strict nutritional programme; which means being really on point with your macros and completely committing yourself to your training. Therefore – adding weights, some strength training into your routine is not suddenly going to have you looking like The Rock.
On the contrary – lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. Your body fat percentage will increase over time if you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle, you will lose it. Strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass at any age. Incorporating lifting heavy weights into your schedule is the best way to make you feel healthy, younger and confident.
As a personal trainer I prefer to talk to my clients about how their strength training makes them feel as opposed to how they want to look. I try to encourage feeling strong, using life factors like having energy and being able to keep up with your children as incentives to keep moving.
In fitness there is always going to be talk around goal setting. It’s difficult to say ‘don’t set goals’, so with my clients I try to look at new ways to achieve these challenges. Think about your performance goals and be creative. I also try and not set body goals, like the old bikini body phrase which is one that I never use. Instead I try to find a way to support whatever you want to do with your body but in a way that makes it realistic and functional.
It is imperative to work on strengthening our core muscles as well as the visible external muscles that we think about when we talk about strength training. These internal muscles are like our power house – developing them and learning how to use them can affect how well we exercise and also have a huge impact on our daily lives. The internal ‘core’ muscles help to support the function of the spine. When they are activated they can stabilise the spine, allowing movement and preventing lower back pain. Core strength and stability will improve technique in all sports, increase stamina, and improve posture. In turn this makes us healthier and happier individuals.
It takes time to build strength. It takes patience and determination to build a strong body and mind. But every day that you make the decision to move you are building strength. Every day that you show up to a class at home or in the gym, you are building strength.
So without embarrassment, give yourself a high five in the mirror this morning and tell yourself that you are strong. Because you – in so many ways – you may just not know it yet…
MOVE OF THE MONTH: Single arm row
- Choose a weight that you are capable of lifting but that doesn’t feel easy.
- Stay in four point kneeling and pull/ row the elbow in toward the waist, hold it there for a second, and then slowly lower it back to the floor.
- Think about keeping time under tension for as long as you can so resist as you lower the weight to the floor.
- Try to keep the trunk of the body stable while you are in movement.
- 12-15 reps on one arm and then switch.
- Repeat this for 3-4 sets.
- Try the above exercise in a modified or full plank position.
- Same reps as above. You want the last couple of reps to feel like you are working to fatigue.