What is strength training and why is it important to include in our fitness routine?
Strength training is defined as a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.
There are two types of training when it comes to exercise and they are aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic is defined as occurring with the use of oxygen, or requiring oxygen. Aerobic exercise includes activities in which oxygen from the blood is required to fuel the energy-producing mechanisms of muscle fibers. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, cycling, skiing, tennis, such activities that maintain a steady state for more than a few minutes. These types of exercises or activities are considered cardiovascular activity.
What I would like to discuss is the anaerobic system, and that is defined as occurring without the use of oxygen. Anaerobic exercise includes short-term activities which muscle fibers derive contractile energy from stored internal compounds without the use of oxygen from the blood. Anaerobic exercise includes activities that require short bursts of “all-out” effort such as sprinting and weightlifting. These activities will tax the muscles in a way that will bring them to fatigue at a quicker rate which you will not be able to sustain for long periods of time.
Both types of exercise are crucial and required for maximum health benefits. Most people understand the importance of and incorporate cardiovascular exercise (aerobic), but not everyone incorporates or understands the importance of including strength exercise (anaerobic) into their fitness routine.
There are endless benefits to exercise in general, both aerobic and anaerobic, which includes helping to alleviate or reduce the risk of:
Allergies / Anxiety / Arthritis / Back Pain / Bursitis and Tendinitis
Cancer / Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / Cholesterol / Constipation
Depression / Diabetes / Fatigue / Glaucoma / Headaches / Heart Disease
High Blood Pressure / Insomnia / Knee Problems / Lung Disease
Memory Problems / Osteoporosis / Overweight & Obesity / Varicose Veins
Not only does exercise reduce the risks of all these issues, it helps to improve:
Overall Strength / Endurance / Speed / Stability / Balance / Flexiblity
The problem is that if you are only training your aerobic system you will be benefiting from only some of these elements. The aerobic system will only train part of the muscle fibers called the slow twitch muscle fibers. In order to hit the rest of the muscles called the fast twitch muscle fibers you need to strength-train in some way. To get the most out of your fitness routine and to experience as many of these benefits as possible, you must incorporate both systems.
As we age, our muscle size will naturally decrease. In order to just maintain strength it is crucial to include a strength training routine into your program. Your muscles will not increase on their own, but they will certainly decrease. The only way to maintain and increase muscle size is to train it to increase. Stability, balance, endurance and flexibility are directly affected by muscle strength, and will also naturally decrease with age, making strength training important to maintain these elements as well.
Now that we know why it is important to strength train, let's discuss how to incorporate it. Strength training can be incorporated in several ways through:
• Your own knowledge and/or research
• Group fitness classes
• Personal trainers
• Fitness videos
Resistance can be incorporated through several modalities including:
• Your own body weight
• Weight machines
• Cable machines
• Free weights – dumbbells, kettle bells, plates, barbells, weighted balls and bars, etc.
• Bands and tubing
Incorporating anaerobic training (strength) in with your aerobic training (cardio) will make a world of difference in your every day tasks and the aging process. If ever there was a fountain of youth it is in these two systems working together. If you would like to find that fountain, make sure you include both of these systems into your daily fitness routine.
Resource: ISSA official text – Fitness: The Complete Guide
• ISSA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
• AFFA Certified Group Fitness Instructor
• NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist
• Specialize in: - Kickboxing - Strength Training - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)