While visiting my old stomping ground in Manhattan Beach, California with my now husband, I couldn’t help but stop and smile when I saw this t-shirt at the gym! As I chuckled, I thought, “Someone out there gets me!” I’ve never been a big drinker and was always the designated driver for nighttime outings. This t-shirt quickly reminded me of my love for strength training which began in my 20s.
I’ll never forget my first visit to Gold’s gym. Yes, it was filled with hard bodies—guys and girls with big muscles and equipment that was more than a little intimidating! However, I was curious as to how some women had powerhouse metabolisms and sleek, firm muscles and I wanted to learn more! Was I afraid, intimidated, and scared? Absolutely, but my curiosity took over and I moved past the fear and jumped right in. I had no idea what to do when I initially stepped into the gym and honestly I was more concerned about looking stupid or hurting myself than anything. Have you ever felt this way too?
I’ll never regret that first step. Now at age 52, lifting weights three times a week is the foundation of staying tight, toned, and trimmed down. This magic practice counters the inevitable slowing metabolism that occurs with aging.
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So, how do you take that first step, and why is strength training (lifting weights) so crucial to your overall health and wellbeing?
Let’s review the benefits of strength training
1- Get more results in less time.
Strength training increases your resting metabolism, which controls your ability to burn calories even when you are sitting around watching TV. It helps in your weight loss journey by burning fat for energy. You can quickly and effectively train all your muscles by doing compound movements in as little as 20 minutes. Compound exercises are simple exercises that work for more than one muscle group at once, which makes them really efficient.
One pound of muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day while at rest. If you gain 10 pounds of muscle, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) soars by burning an extra 500 calories each day.
2- Tackle your household activities with greater ease.
Free-weight exercises have better carryover to real-life strength and mobility. They allow you to better accomplish real-life movements like carrying groceries or taking that basket of laundry upstairs. This is because a free-weight squat with dumbbells, for instance, will require you to use your core to help stabilize the weight and move you in a straight line. And a strong core is “core” to tackling most household chores.
3- Strengthen your bones.
Lifting weights can prevent bone loss or osteoporosis. Bones can become soft and brittle as we get older, putting us at risk for fractures. But the beautiful thing is our bones are alive and can remodel regularly. They naturally respond to stress, and strength training can create just the right tension or pressure to force bones to become thicker and stronger. So the next time you fall you WON’T break your hip!
4- Raise your heart rate, get your sweat on, and be done in 20 minutes.
Say goodbye to all those hours on the treadmill. Endurance exercises have their place but not if you are trying to lose weight. Endurance exercises like long-distance running or cycling can actually cause your body to break down (think muscle loss!), stress your immune system, and may even cause weight gain due to elevated cortisol levels from the extended training stress on your body.
To get your body into fat-burning mode and kick up your metabolism, try burst training, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). You can use weights to do these exercises which can cause even greater fat loss.
5-Sleep better and improve your memory and mood.
You may have heard that exercise improves sleep, and strength training is no different. After a good lifting workout you’ll fall asleep faster andsleep deeper, which leads to improved focus, memory, and concentration. Plus, your mood is likely to improve because when you are well rested, you handle stress better.
6- Reduce muscle and joint aches and pains.
Our muscles are great for taking the load off our joints. When your muscles are strong and balanced, then your neck, shoulders, spine, hips, and knees can work adequately and in good position. There is less stress on the joints and therefore less pain. Did you know weak butt muscles can lead to knee pain? Yes, remember that song the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone? It now makes even more sense!
Remember, it is important to start slowly and focus on form (not weight size). Increase weights in a slow and controlled manner. When done right, strength training can help you lead a much healthier life, and you’ll be able to efficiently build strength that translates to every aspect of your life. Remember that your bones, joints, entire body, mind, and heart will thank you!
Need tips to get started strength training?
Check out this sample program below.
Beginner’s Weight Training
- Start with 8 repetitions for each exercise listed below. Rest 60 seconds between each exercise as needed. Once you have completed all the exercises (you’ve completed one set), then rest for 60 or 90 seconds and then repeat all the exercises (this is now your 2nd set). You can do up to 3 or 4 sets.
- When you feel comfortable with the moves, you can progress to 4 sets of 10 repetitions. Then 3 sets of 12 with the same weights. For the exercises with no weights then increase your time holding the position/exercise. When you are ready, increase your weight by about 5 pounds and go back to 3 sets of 8. This should be challenging. If not, increase your weight even more.
- Single dumbbell walking lunge with twist.
- Dumbbell bicep curl to shoulder press.
- Dumbbell squat to dumbbell tricep kickbacks while standing.
- Plank on your elbows (goal is to hold for 60 seconds).
- Dumbbell bent-over row.
- Dumbbell deadlift to an upright shoulder row.
- Dumbbell chest press while doing a hip bridge (your pelvis is lifted off the ground).
- Elbows to knee crunch, 10 each side.
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