Strength Training For LIFE
Stronger bones, improved athletic performance and brain function, healthier weight, more energy, and combating heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes … the list goes on. These all sound like something we would all want, right? Strength training can offer you just that.
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I often hear, “I’m too old for that.” or “That’ll hurt my knees.” Or “I am active at work… I don’t need to work out.”
I would argue just the opposite. With a few medical exceptions, I would argue that strength training is for everyone.
The young athlete preparing for a college scholarship needs the strength to excel at his or her sport, rise above the competition, and remain injury free.
The mom that has three young children to chase after needs to be pain free, and have the energy and strength to be superwoman for her family.
The dad that comes home from a long day at work needs to be able to have fun with his family without aches and pains from the years of youth sports and enjoy his hobbies of hunting and fishing without ibuprofen.
The grandparent that just had a knee replacement needs to have the strength to return to his golf game (walking all 18 holes because he wants to), stay healthy to combat diseases associated with aging, and enjoy retirement.
Strength training can change your life. Strength training can help you experience life.
Bone strength that we’ll have throughout our lives is formed in adolescence and into our early twenties. We reach our maximum bone density around age 25, meaning that resistance training at a young age while bones are maturing is critical to promote sufficient bone mass later in life. However, we must work throughout our lives to maintain this bone health, as we gradually lose bone mass at 1% per year after age 40 as a normal aging process. If this bone loss occurs too quickly, you may be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Many studies have even shown that strength training not only maintains our bone mass, but it can improve bone mass even later in life. Weight training has the ability to improve balance as well, which is beneficial to decreasing falls later in life.
It goes without saying that fewer injuries means improved athletic performance. At Elevate, our first and foremost goal is to prevent injuries for our athletes. This is done by normalizing any muscle imbalances and strengthening particular areas of the body—most notably, the pelvic girdle, glutes, core, and shoulder. The powerhouse of strength -- the pelvis, glutes, and core-- for many young athletes is lost as their bodies attempt to compensate for muscular imbalances during activities like change of direction or pitching. Regular strength training of the main large muscle groups and their associated stabilizers drastically decreases the athlete’s risk of injury, especially as they fatigue during games and competitions.
Strength training has been studied and correlated with improved athletic performance, such as improving the 5m acceleration speed and throwing velocity. This improvement could mean the difference between earning a varsity position or a college scholarship. Training should be done with a skilled professional with intricate knowledge of the human body. Pushing our young athletes too hard or not having the education of resistance progression youth athletes require could have a detrimental effect on their health and performance. Always verify the credentials of those working with young athletes to make sure they are skilled to provide the safest programming possible.
Weight Loss & Chronic Conditions
Resistance training can help you burn calories, even when you’re not working out. Increased muscle mass helps you to burn more calories throughout the day, and lose weight and inches faster. Resistance training can also increase your insulin sensitivity (affecting your blood sugar levels throughout the day), helping you manage diabetes if you’ve been diagnosed, or prevent it if you haven’t.
Other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or arthritis can benefit greatly from resistance training. Blood pressure may have a temporary spike following weight lifting, so it’s best to consult your physician prior to beginning if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure (>160/100mmHg). However, the long-term benefits of strength training can include lowered blood pressure and even decreased medications. Studies have shown that regular moderate-to-intense exercise can lower blood pressure by 11 mmHg systolic (the top number) and 5 mmHg diastolic (the bottom number).
I’ve had many patients report that “weight training is bad for my arthritis”. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I do my best to educate my patients that resistance training with a trained healthcare professional is one of the best things they can do for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain. Improved strength and stability will decrease the joint compression and shearing forces that contribute to the pain they experience.
Resistance training just once or twice per week has been shown to have long-term benefits for your brain health. One study has shown that even one year after ceasing the resistance training, cognitive function and brain atrophy associated with advanced age remained improved. These studies indicate that regular resistance training may decrease the rate of progression of dementia, even when you’re not exercising.
Where To Start
So these all sound like amazing health changes and you’d like to start a weight training program – where do you start? The first thing you have to do is set your mindset and your goals. Read our blog Start Small, Think Big to get you started with mindset. For a resistance program, I recommend starting simple and gradually increasing your program. This way, you won’t overdo it, get too sore, and give up. We’re looking for sustainable changes.
If you don’t have any weights, body weight resistance can be a great starting point. For body weight resistance training, I recommend beginners start with 2 sets of each exercise and go to fatigue. This means, continue the exercise until you’re tired. Completing simply “2-3 sets of 10” may or may not be sufficient for you as you’re starting out and we need to get rid of that way of thinking. Completing an exercise to fatigue ensures that it will be beneficial to your muscles.
If you’re beginning a weight training program, complete 1-3 sets per exercise and 8-12 repetitions per set. Again, to start, pick a lighter weight and perform more repetitions. You can always increase the weight.
Whether you’re choosing body weight resistance, or using weights, you must increase the demand on your muscles to achieve increased strength.
Remember this acronym: SAID- Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demand
Your muscles will adapt to the demand you place on them, whether that is increased repetitions or increased load.
If you’re interested in beginning a customized training program or a group strength training class, I recommend researching your healthcare professional. Interview them to make sure their philosophies align with your goals. Ask for their educational background to make sure they have the appropriate credentials to keep you safe and progress your training program effectively.
Choose strength training so that you can perform your best, feel your best, and truly experience life!
About the Author
Dr. Rhianna Wickett, Physical Therapist, graduated from the University of South Dakota (USD) with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and an EMT. While at USD, Dr. Wickett researched the effects of various treatments including manual therapy and exercise on trigger points, which is a common cause of pain within the shoulder girdle. She has also completed The Otago Exercise Program: Falls Prevention Training, an evidence-based fall prevention certification. Her clinical studies emphasized Women's Health, Neurological and Vestibular Conditions, and Orthopedics. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in pre-medicine from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after completing two years of Industrial Engineering education. Rhianna grew up with a love of ballet, dancing for almost 20 years. She is passionate about providing each patient individualized care backed by the latest research and educating patients about their condition to make lifelong changes. She also has completed continuing education in women's health physical therapy to treat a wide range of conditions relating to pelvic floor health throughout the lifespan, including pre/post-natal conditions, incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction, pelvic pain. In her free time, Rhianna enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, family, friends, and dog Zippy. You may contact the author with questions at Rhianna@ElevatePerformanceSD.com.