Is Strength Training for Me?
Building Strength is for Everyone
If we were to have five people sit down with us and we asked each of them what their fitness goal was for the year, we may get the following responses:
- lose weight in order to fit into my skinny jeans
- get stronger in order to compete at a powerlifting meet
- get leaner in order to compete in a bikini competition
- become faster in order to play sports with my children
- make it through a work day without pain or injury
Though the five goals may seem vastly different, the solution to all is the same: strength training.
Strength training is the best prescription any doctor, trainer, or coach could give. The definition of strength is the state of being strong. We like to define it as a muscle’s ability to generate force efficiently through an established mind-muscle connection. We increase this strength by continually improving our mind-muscle connection and progressing in weight to elicit new muscle growth. Whereas working out without progressions and just going through the motions is not building strength: it is pointless. Strength training can range from simple bodyweight exercises to advanced, compound movements and a well thought out program will use a combination of both. Whether your goal is to make your body smaller, larger, leaner, or faster, a strong well-balanced body may be exactly what you need.
Why Strength Training is Beneficial
Besides training to meet your personal fitness goals, strength training is also great for general health and well-being. Obvious reasons include increasing metabolic rate, building muscle, improving quality of life, decreasing stress, burning calories, controlling weight, having more energy, improving sleep hygiene, and developing a better self image. Lifting weights is also great for disease prevention from conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and/or osteoporosis.1
From a physical therapist’s standpoint, strength training plays a huge role in injury prevention and sustainability. Gaining knowledge about proper posture, form, biomechanics, and body awareness will not only treat current issues but also prevent future injuries or even falls by improving balance.
On a scientific level, strength training excites motorneurons causing our bodies to adapt and build advanced neuronal networks stemming from our brains, a process known as muscle plasticity. These networks are constantly developing, changing, and evolving based on stimulus. Therefore an experienced weightlifter has a more complex neuronal network than a beginner because their bodies have mapped out specific pathways developed around the stimuli of prolonged strength training. A more refined neuronal network is correlated with enhanced strength and athletic performance due to more specific and efficient muscle recruitment.2
Strength training also improves quality of life. Think about simple tasks you perform throughout the day: putting away dishes up in the upper cupboard, carrying groceries up three flights of stairs, walking the dog, lifting a box of paperwork from the floor to your desk, or running to get away from a car that almost backed into you in the parking lot. Tasks like these become harder as we age or more difficult due to poor balance and strength. Developing a stronger body will make you more proficient at daily tasks and less injury-prone.
Here are a few examples to paint a clearer picture of how daily activities that require strength may be practiced creatively:
- Lifting a box from the floor to the desk can be mimicked with Goblet Squats
- Carrying groceries can by replicated with Plate Farmer’s Walks or Step-ups
[video_page_section type=”youtube” position=”default” image=”” btn=”dark” heading=”Plate Farmer’s Walks” subheading=”” cta=”watch” video_width=”1080″ hide_related=”true” hide_logo=”false” hide_controls=”false” hide_title=”false” hide_fullscreen=”false”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS_MFlKIkX8[/video_page_section]
Don’t forget the most important reason: Strength training is fun!
Who Would Benefit from Strength Training
We can say with confidence that YOU are a great candidate for strength training. You are probably thinking, “You guys don’t even know me!” Well, we are confident in that statement because everyone can benefit from some form of strength training. Let’s break things down:
Infants/Toddlers: From the time babies are born, they are getting stronger by the day. Think about it, how are babies able to hold their heads up? Their parents cradle their heads initially but babies practice over and over until they build the neck strength to finally be able to raise their head against gravity on their own. How are they able to walk? Well the entire first year of their life their muscles are growing stronger with functional bodyweight practice like crawling until about age one when they are finally strong enough to take those first few steps.
Teens: Most teenagers are dabbling in several different sports or hobbies that require strength. In order to be competitive enough to continue into college, strength training is often the secret to being a step above the competition. Many teenagers also experience growing pains like those of scoliosis or tendonitis. So strength will not only improve their performance but may also alleviate pain as well. In a systematic review it was found that exercise reduced the progression rate of scoliosis and the need for back braces in adolescents.3
Adults: Diseases and obesity play a large role in our lives as adults. So training for weight loss and disease prevention is a common goal among adults. That is why working out for health benefits has become more popular these days.
Elderly: With age comes degeneration of our bodies. With degeneration comes more aches and pains than desired. The majority of patients being seen in physical therapy are elderly for that reason. So what treatment are they prescribed? Strength training. Often times a degenerating lumbar spine can be ailed by strengthening the core. A partially torn rotator cuff can be overcome by strengthening the other muscles surrounding the shoulder. Lastly, difficulty getting in and out of bed can by mastered with functional strengthening and practice. Pilates is also a great form of exercise for older people. Ten studies concluded that Pilates exercise training helped improve quality of life and decreased falls in elderly.4
One of many inspirational stories you will want to hear is about a 77 year-old woman named Ernestine who began weightlifting later in life and fell in love. She did a bodybuilding competition and placed first in her division. Since then she continues to inspire other elderly members of her gym where she teaches fitness classes and preaches that age is nothing but a number. Listen to her inspirational story HERE.
Once a Yogi, always a Yogi (Photo credit: Barcroft Media)
Male: Strength training is great for males especially because they are more prone to cardiovascular disease.
Female: Ladies, being strong is not a quality for men only. Here at Beautiful to the Core our mission statement encourages women to “find beauty through strength.” So do not worry about getting too big or bulky. Instead, think about how your strength will help you feel more confident, beautiful, safe, and secure. The leading cause of death in women (and men!) is heart disease. Women are also at risk for osteoporosis because as we age estrogen levels decrease. Strength training is the best way to prevent loss of bone and muscle mass.
Female Fat Loss versus Muscle Gaining Testimonials
Testimonial #1 Strength training helped our client Andrea on her fat loss journey for a bikini competition. Over the course of her 12 week prep with us, her bodyweight dropped from 126.8lb to 116.2lb while body fat dropped from 18% to 9.6%. The entire time she was consuming over 160g of carbohydrates per day. Since she decreased body fat slowly and safely without a dangerous drop in macros, she was able to continue lifting heavy and intensely throughout her prep. As you can see in the photos below, incorporating strength training regularly into her exercise regimen allowed her to shed primarily body fat and retain her muscle mass.
Testimonial #2 My example is more straightforward. I used strength training to directly increase my overall strength and gain muscle in my booty. This past year I have used the Guns and Buns program while progressing in weight and modifying it monthly. I workout 4x/week for about an hour without any cardio (though HIIT cardio is optional in the program for those trying to lose body fat). My workouts consist of heavy weightlifting with a focus on compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, and hip thrusts. I incorporate periodization techniques which allow me to alternate low, medium, and high rep days for my heavy lifts so I can build strength more effectively.
(See Related: DUP Step)
Before I started this program I was working out aimlessly, using light weight, doing the same exercises, and just going through the motions. Since I have transitioned from working out unintelligently to training smart, I have seen my body transform! Learning to establish mind-muscle connections, strength training through each muscle’s range of motion, and varying my timing techniques are ways I have made my workouts more effective and efficient. As you can see in the chart below, training smart is what brought me positive results. Until now, I had hit a several year plateau.
[video_page_section type=”youtube” position=”default” image=”” btn=”dark” heading=”Deadlift PR” subheading=”” cta=”Watch” video_width=”1080″ hide_related=”true” hide_logo=”false” hide_controls=”false” hide_title=”false” hide_fullscreen=”false”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Un-ofrwIOs[/video_page_section]
[video_page_section type=”youtube” position=”default” image=”” btn=”dark” heading=”Hip Thrust PR” subheading=”” cta=”Watch” video_width=”1080″ hide_related=”true” hide_logo=”false” hide_controls=”false” hide_title=”false” hide_fullscreen=”false”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59JlWvrDuO4[/video_page_section]
My latest PR’s…just last week!
For some professions it is obvious why strength is necessary for success like police officers, nurses, professional athletes, and mothers just to name a few. Other professions the need for strength may be less obvious. Office executives and students are sitting most of the day so strengthening to improve their desk posture is crucial for avoiding muscle tension and headaches. Flight attendants appear to have an easy job however you may not realize they are lifting fifty pound bags into overhead compartments at every shift. Everyone requires strength.
When it comes to sports and hobbies, strength training for sports-specific movements is crucial and cross-training is also beneficial. If you look at runners, many of them also strength train to combat lower body injuries. As hamstring strains are one of the most common injuries in these athletes, one study showed strength training the hamstrings was important for injury prevention in track and field athletes.5 Let’s shift to a more versatile hobby like dancing. The abilities dancers have to balance on one arm or leg, to lift each other up in the air, and to contort their bodies is incredible. The stronger they are, the larger repertoire they can incorporate. Moving on to tennis, females in tennis have to be strong to swing the racquet, fast to run the court, and strong with overhead movements to serve. One study found that female tennis players who practiced eccentric strength training of the external rotator muscles of the shoulder had decreased injuries.6
(Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
As you can see from the examples above, strength training is beneficial for everyone no matter their age, gender, profession, or hobby. But are there some cases when strength training is not recommend? Yes, there are some conditions where you may want to consult your Physician regarding weight training. However, even if weight training is not recommend, some form of strengthening is good for everyone even if it entails more simple, bodyweight movements.
How to Strength Train
Before starting any exercise program you should consult your Physician. If you have an injury it is still possible to train depending on the extent of the injury. If it is something you can work around, then you may have to make exercise modifications. If you need help or would like a customized training program that will work around your injury, checkout our Coaching services.
Let’s take a look at training frequency recommendations. The American Heart Association recommends strength training at least twice a week. American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training twice a week with 8-10 exercises. That is the minimum for the average person. For those of us with fitness-related goals, more than twice a week is warranted. Here at Beautiful to the Core, we recommend 4-5 sessions per week. If you do not have the time for that, even 2-3 total body sessions can suffice if programmed correctly.
Regarding gym membership, there are ways to strength train at home with little equipment. For example our Home Sweat Home workout program is purely home strength training. This option is good for beginners and those with limited access to equipment, however if you plateau and are ready to take things to the next level, then a gym membership will open up a lot more doors for you. Gyms allow you more opportunities for growth because of the equipment options and the ability to practice heavy, compound lifts on their squat rack, deadlift platform, and bench press apparatus. For the Guns & Buns program in the next section, you will need access to a gym. If your gym does not have a piece of equipment called for in the program, that is not a problem. Exercises can always be modified based on what you do have. Feel free to post a comment on our Facebook page if you need help coming up with another similar exercise option.
(See the B2C Facebook Page)
(See Related: Home Sweat Home ebook)
A well-written training program will start with a dynamic warm-up and then focus on strength training compound movements, followed by accessory movements based on specific goals. Then finish with cardio and finally stretching.
There are a myriad of ways to strength train: bodyweight, free weights, machines, exercise balls, medicine balls, kettle bells, barbells, bands, tires, pilates reformers, and lots more! For each of those ways, there are thousands of exercise possibilities. And for every exercise possibility, there are plenty of ways to modify or customize them to meet one person’s needs. Exciting, huh?
Let’s dive into some of the details that are small but crucial. When it comes to following a training program, a set is the number of cycles you complete an exercise. A rep is the number of times you perform an exercise. If we say to do bicep curls for 3 sets of 10 it would look like this: curl 10x, rest, curl 10x, rest, and curl 10x. Then move onto the next exercise. Rest periods are also important details. For isolated exercises like bicep curls, tricep presses, or lat pull downs you want to employ a short rest period like 30 seconds to a minute. For compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press you want to rest 2-3 minutes to allow your body longer to recover.
A common question we get is “How much weight should I use?” This is different for everyone depending on your bodyweight and experience. If you are a beginner, start light and slowly progress to heavier weight as you become more comfortable with the lifts and using proper form. If you are experienced, then you should be lifting as heavy as possible while maintaining good timing and form. If you were able to get through all 10 reps without a struggle then the weight was too light. Remember, you can always ask someone to spot you in order to challenge yourself a little more and keep safety a priority.
Free Four-Week Strength Training Guide
Luckily for you, we are passionate about providing free and helpful information. One of our most popular programs is called Guns & Buns, which is a free four-week training program. Part one is our educational Booty University where you learn about how to optimize booty building. Part two is the strength training program that includes four days per week of lifting and one day per week of high intensity interval training (HIIT). Each exercise has a demo video so you can learn the move before hitting the gym.
Whether you are a beginner or advanced weightlifter, we guarantee you will learn something from the program and come out with more knowledge and better skills.
GUNS & BUNS
WEEKS 1 + 2 (**sets/reps the same for both weeks unless otherwise noted**)
Warm-up with Bodyweight Squats (2 sets of 15) Weighted Squat (5 sets of 7-10) **(5 sets of 4-6 on week 2) Weighted Romanian Deadlift (4 sets of 7-10) Weighted Hip Thrusts – (version 1: constant tension) (4 sets of 7-10) **(4 sets of 4-6 on week 2) Bodyweight Reverse Hyperextensions (4 sets of 7-10) Lying Leg Curl Machine (4 sets of 7-10) Bodyweight Calf Raises off a Ledge (4 sets of 20) Seated Band Hip Abductions (4 sets of 20) Side planks (3 sets of 30sec each side)
Warm-up with our Chest Cable Warmup at varying angles (2 sets of 15 each) Bench Press (4 sets of 7-10) **(4 sets of 4-6 on week 2) Shoulder Press Machine (4 sets of 7-10) Cable Lateral Raises (4 sets of 7-10) Cable Rope Face Pulls (4 sets of 7-10) Barbell Bicep Curls- supinated (4 sets of 7-10) Seated Dumbbell Tricep Extension (4 sets of 7-10) Cable High Bicep Curls (4 sets of 7-10) Cable Rope Tricep Extensions (4 sets of 7-10) Sidelying Banded Clamshells (3 sets of 15 each side)
Warm-up with Bodyweight Bridges (2 sets of 20) Two Banded Hip Thrust (5 sets of 15-20) Weighted Sumo Deadlift (5 sets of 7-10) **(5 sets of 4-6 on week 2) Bodyweight High Step-ups (4 sets of 8 on each leg) Cable Lat Pull Down (wide, overhand grip) (4 sets of 7-10) Bent Over One Arm Dumbbell Row (4 sets of 7-10 on each arm) Cable Rows (v-bar) (4 sets of 7-10) Bodyweight Back Extensions (4 sets of 7-10) Stability Ball Crunches (4 sets of 15)
Warm-up with our Chest Cable Warmup at varying angles (2 sets of 15 each) Chest Press Machine (4 sets of 7-10) Pushups (4 sets of 10-15) Dumbbell Lateral Raises- straight (4 sets of 7-10) Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curls (4 sets of 7-10) Dumbbell Bicep Curls (4 sets of 7-10) Supine Barbell Skull Crushers (4 sets of 7-10) Tricep Dip Machine (4 sets of 7-10) Two Bench Single Leg Hip Thrusts (3 sets of 8 on each leg) HIIT- your choice (5 rounds of 10sec high / 50 sec low)
This program requires 45 minutes to an hour for each workout. If you have less than 45 minutes, then you can change the program from 4 days a week to 5 days a week and use the 5th day as a day to catch-up on what you missed. Another option is to decrease the rest periods between sets.
Once you finish the four weeks, continue the fun with our Coaching Guns & Buns group training package. You will receive a new training program monthly, custom macro-based nutrition programing, and access to the Guns & Buns online community where you will find many other women on the same journey. With all the support, motivation, and accountability, we guarantee you will see the results of all your hard work in the gym.
(See our Coaching Services)
- Everyone is a good candidate for strength training
- Every exercise program should revolve around building and increasing strength
- Strength training is beneficial for everyone’s health, quality of life, and sustainability
- Strength training is great for everyone no matter age, gender, profession, or the hobbies they enjoy
- Strength training can help you achieve your personal fitness goals whether they are to lose weight, gain strength, move faster, get leaner, or simply get through daily activities with less pain.
- Due to the endless variability of exercises, customizable programs can be created to meet anyone’s strength training needs.
1. Magyari, P.M., Churilla, J.R. (2012). Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survery. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(11):3113-7.
2. Adkins, D.L., Boychuk, J., Remple, M.S., Kleim, J.A. (2006). Motor training induces experience-specific patterns of plasticity across motor cortex and spinal cord. Journal of Applied Physiology, 101(6):1776-1782.
3. Fusco, C., Zaina, F., Atanasio, S., Romano, M., Negrini, A., Negrini, S. (2011). Physical exercises in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: an updated systematic review. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 27(1): 80-114.
4. Bullo, V., Bergamin, M., Gobbo, S., Sieverdes, J.C., Zaccaria, M., Neunhaeuserer, D., Ermolao, A. (2015). The effects of Pilates exercise training on physical fitness and wellbeing in the elderly: A systematic review for future exercise prescription. Preventative Medicine. 75:1-11.
5. Malliaropoulos, N., Mendiguchia, J., Pehlivanidis, H., Papadopoulou, S., Valle, X., Malliaras, P., Maffulli, N. (2012). Hamstring exercises for track and field athletes: injury and exercise biomechanics, and possible implications for exercise selection and primary prevention. Br J Sports Med, 46:846-951.
6. Niederbracht, Y., Shim, A.L., Sloniger, M.A., Paternostro-Bayles, M., Short, T.H. (2008). Strength training program on eccentric external rotator muscle strength and glenohumeral joint imbalance in female overhead activity athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 22(1):140-145.