Why We All Need Strength Training Now More Than Ever
Thinking about starting a strength training routine? According to Daniel Silva, personal trainer and fitness training Supervisor at Supreme Sports Club, you can consider the pandemic to be your biggest motivator.
“Most of us have been so much more sedentary, and as a result we’ve lost muscle tone from everyday activities we used to do all the time,” says Silva. “The hours we’ve spent sitting inside the house have contributed to daily muscle loss.”
This doesn’t just apply to the gym rats among us, either — even those who didn’t exercise pre-COVID are affected.
“Just having the resistance of gravity when you’re walking around works our muscles,” says Silva. “But now, depending on your routine, you may be sitting so much that you’re hardly fighting gravity anymore.
Translation: It’s time for all of us to start strength training and reap the mental, physical and emotional benefits in return. Before we discuss how to begin, let’s take a quick look at the health benefits strength training provides.
Jumpstart your metabolism
When most of us think of strength training, ripped muscles come to mind…but there’s actually an important (and underlooked) benefit that Silva believes more people should be aware of.
“Most people don’t think about their hormones when they’re exercising, but the reason you may be having trouble losing weight or building muscle is that you’re not getting the right hormone response,” says Silva.
Strength training stimulates certain hormones to rev up your metabolism. These hormones only occur when you’re putting force and contracting the muscles under some sort of resistance — you can’t get the same response doing cardio.
The recovery process is pretty incredible, too. Your post-workout soreness involves your body repairing the microtears in your muscles… and it’s during that repair process that your metabolism and energy levels get a boost.
“Ultimately, resistance training is directly associated with your metabolism, and your metabolism is directly associated with your hormones.” -Daniel Silva
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First, ease into it
Even if you’ve done a lot of strength training in the past, it’s likely your routine experienced at least some minor disruptions this past year.
If you took a hiatus (even a brief one), Silva cautions against jumping right back into your old routine without a few weeks of bodyweight training first. This simply means using your body as resistance, rather than using machines or free weights.
“With professional athletes, there’s a pre-season and training camp before you go back to full-fledged training,” says Silva. “It’s the same thing for us mere mortals, too. Bodyweight training ensures that your joints are protected, especially if you haven’t been bending through those ranges of motion in a while.”
In other words, the “no pain, no gain” mentality isn’t a great mindset for beginners. Pushing yourself too hard right out the gates increases your chances of injury, which can cause you to throw in the towel before you really kick off.
Remember, motion is lotion, so focus on moving more for the first few weeks rather than adding weights or increasing your repetitions.
“I always emphasize focusing on the movement first. It’s much better to have a good, clean range of motion with proper form than to crank out more reps. Think quality over quantity,” says Silva. “Moving your joints, getting the blood circulating and warming up the muscles will make you feel better and help you get back in the game, safely.”
So, what bodyweight exercises are out there? The options are endless: pushups, planks, squats, step-ups, lunges, glute bridges, calf raises and pull-ups are just a few examples. To make moves more accessible, you can always try a regression — like knees down in plank, for instance, until you build up more upper body strength. On the flip side, to take your workout up a notch, try a progression — such as a bouncing lunge instead of a static one.
Engage the stabilizer muscles
After a couple of weeks of a bodyweight based routine, you’re ready to move to phase two: working the stabilizer muscles! The stabilizers aren’t one specific muscle group, but rather the muscles that are acting to stabilize one joint so you can have proper form for your movement in another joint. They keep certain parts of the body balanced and steady while the primary muscles do their thing.
“The stabilizers are the muscles or joints in the body that help you control movement better,” says Silva. “When the stabilizers are weak and then you start doing massive movements, that’s when injuries happen, because the smaller muscles haven’t been stimulated yet.”
When you’re using a machine, you don’t necessarily need to stabilize, since it’s fixed in one place. But if you have a dumbbell in your hand, you have to stabilize it to push it in the right path. That’s why it’s a great idea to first work on strengthening the stabilizers with the assistance of medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells, the BOSU and/or suspension trainers first.
Get stronger with CA
The bottom line is, there’s a systematic approach to strength training. Once you’ve done bodyweight exercises and worked on your stabilizers, you’re able to move onto the fun stuff…like the bench press, leg press, etc. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all of that in our future blog posts.
And if you want professional expertise kicking off your strength training routine, check out CA’s personal training programs (which include virtual options). We have more than 30 skilled, friendly trainers who would love to help you work toward your strongest, healthiest self.