Aaron Gilbert. Photo by William Lange

By Aaron Gilbert

Strength training, commonly referred to as resistance training, refers to a specialized method of exercise that involves the progressive use of assorted resistive loads and a variety of training methods intended to promote health, fitness and performance improvement.

Wow – can you say long winded much? Let’s put it another way: Strength training is using your muscles against resistance. Muscles adapt to any type of resistance.

The resistance can be a heavy object, one’s own body weight, elastic resistance from bands, or other types of machine resistance from pulleys or hydraulics. The heavy object could be a dumbbell, medicine ball, log, grocery bag, rock, car— anything that has mass.

Why is strength training so important?

For starters – let’s get the obvious out of the way. Strength training makes you stronger. It does this in several ways, including:

■ Building muscle tissue

■ Improving rate of force production — how quickly you can generate force to move against the resistance

■ Strengthening connective tissues such as tendons – it can also make your muscles bigger while creating a demand for blood delivery, engaging the cardiovascular system.

■ Improving muscular coordination — in other words, the ability to coordinate your moving parts

How else can strength training be useful?

Strength training:

■ Preserves and enhances muscle mass

■ Preserves and enhances metabolic rate

■ Improves bone density

■ Improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity

■ Lowers risk of injury

■ Improves ability to engage in daily activities

■ Improves balance

■ Improves self-esteem

■ Enhances strength and endurance

■ Enhances speed, power and agility

■ Improves overall body composition

■ Decreases bad cholesterol levels

■ Decreases blood pressure

■ Improves aerobic capacity

Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle leads to loss of muscle mass and strength which can then influence the development of many chronic diseases. Maintaining muscle mass with strength training can prevent some of the most common and increasingly rampant health conditions, including obesity and diabetes.

Who can strength train?

In the past, strength training was primarily used by athletes to enhance performance and/or increase muscle size. However, strength training is now recognized as critical to everyone’s health and fitness — regardless of gender, age, or ability. Leading health organizations, including the ACSM and NSCA recommend regular strength training as part of one’s fitness regimen.

With a properly constructed workout program that is tailored to individual goals and skills, anyone can strength train: men, women, children and adolescents, older people, and people with disabilities or movement limitations.

Where to go for guidance?

Look for a fitness professional in your areas, specifically a strength and conditioning specialist with credentials from the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) has undergone the education and training necessary to ensure safe, efficient, and effective outcomes will take place.

Aaron Gilbert, CSCS, founder/owner of Longevity Athletics.

This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.


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