Strength training is a necessary component of a well-rounded exercise program. For some, however, strutting into the weight room can be a little intimidating. The good news is there are many options to fit anyone’s needs.
Incorporating strength training into your exercise routine will provide countless benefits. For starters, it'll target the big muscles that power you throughout the day, making normal activities easier and less taxing. These muscles will protect your body from unpredictable movements such as slips and falls.
As a functional chiropractor, I focus on evaluating and treating overuse injuries. Strength training is a necessary component of this process, but it's often overlooked or actively ignored, even by the most health-conscious people out there.
Here are the most common concerns that I hear from patients who don't strength train, and why you should throw the excuses out the window and add it into your routine:
1. "I don’t want to get too big."
There's still a misconception that lifting weights alone will build a lot of bulk. While the goal of strength training is to build muscle, it takes a considerable amount of focus, skill, diet and specific training to build a noticeable amount of bulk. The addition of strength training to your routine will work the muscle, leaving them more defined and strong, but not necessarily bigger.
2. "I'm afraid to get hurt."
This is a concern with anything new, and strength training is no different. The best thing to do when starting a new program is to consult a professional. Invest in a few sessions with a trainer to show you proper form. Most trainers love their work and are eager to share their knowledge, so you’ll come away with a new sense of confidence and some great routines to take with you.
3. "I don’t need strength training, I run."
I love runners. I’m one of them and for years I, too, resisted the advice to include strength training as a method of preventing injury. But then the inevitable happened and I developed an overuse injury in my hip.
Working with a physical therapist and transitioning into a regular strength training routine provided a new perspective on strength. As an athlete, strengthening muscles you use all the time will make them more efficient and targeting muscles you use less frequently will create a more balanced movement pattern. Ultimately, strengthening the right muscles will help counteract the repetitiveness of running.
4. "I don’t know where to start."
So often we want an end result but are unsure where to begin. With strength training, starting small and building slowly is the key. Begin by using the machines at the gym and target the major muscles of the arms, shoulders, hips and legs. Three sets of 10-12 repetitions on any machine is a good measure of an appropriate weight for you.
5. "I’m too old/young/middle-aged."
First of all, there is no such thing as “too anything.” It’s a mindset and a perspective. Buck up! You can totally do this! There's an option for everyone to build strength in a safe and effective manner.
My older patients love their aerobics classes that incorporate weights. Functional exercise classes for children are beginning to pop up at small gyms across the country. In our town, there's a fantastic class called “Little Ninjas” at one of our local gym where young kids get to work on their strength and stability under appropriate supervision. For the working adults, kettlebell and other functional training classes will give you a great bang for your buck to build strength.
6. "I don’t belong to a gym and don’t want to."
Got it. Gyms aren't for everyone. Luckily, it's not necessary to join a gym to improve your strength. Start at home with bodyweight exercises that target the big, powerful muscles in the shoulders, hips and back. My favorite routine is a circuit that includes lunges, squats, push ups and planks. As you become stronger, increase the number of repetitions or add weights to challenge you even more.
Strength training doesn’t have to be scary. Along with a routine of stability and flexibility training, strength training will help to minimize your risk of injury. Building muscle will also improve your metabolism, leaving you a lean, mean, injury-preventing machine.