Strength training (also called weight or resistance training) involves engaging your muscles to resist a stronger-than-normal counterforce. Examples are pushing against a wall, lifting weight, or pulling on a resistance band. Increasing resistance or using progressively heavier weights activates and strengthens muscles.
These exercises help gain muscle & bone mass, tone muscles, and strengthen bones. They also help boost the strength you require in old age for day-to-day activities such as carrying groceries, getting out of a car, climbing stairs, lifting your grandchild, or rising from a chair.
The national health guidelines recommend doing strength (weight/resistance) training exercises to work on all major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, legs, and hips) at least two times a week. Usually, one set of 8 to 12 reps of the same movement per session is ok, though most fitness experts recommend that 2 to 3 sets provide better results. The muscles require at least forty-eight hours to recover between strength training sessions.
Safety Guidelines And Tips For Strength Training
Below are 13 strength training safety tips, guidelines, and instructions to help keep strength training exercises safe and effective.
Warm-Up & Cool Down
Before starting a strength training workout, warm up for about 5 minutes. Walking is an easy and effective way to warm up. And when you finish a session, cool down your muscles. Stretching is a great way to cool down.
Helpful Related Post: How To Warm Up Before Workout?
Correct Form / Proper Technique
Use proper technique. Give more importance to correct form than weight. Do the exercise in slow, smooth movements. Using incorrect form not only slows down gains but can also lead to injuries.
The fitness training experts recommend that beginners should first practice a strength training routine either with no weight or very lightweight. They must focus on slow, controlled lifts and likewise slow & smooth descents.
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Progress Gradually: In the beginning, you may only be able to lift a few pounds. It’s ok. Soon your muscles, tendons & ligaments will get used to strength training exercises. If you keep doing weight (strength) training regularly, you will be surprised at how soon you progress. Once you can easily do 10-12 reps with a certain weight, increase the weight gradually.
Don’t hold your breath. The thumb rule is to exhale (breathe out) during the more challenging or exertion phase (when you work against resistance by lifting, pulling, or pushing) and inhale (breathe in) during the easier or relaxation phase.
Work out at the right tempo to maintain control rather than compromise strength gains through momentum. For example, count to three while lowering a weight, hold, and then count to three while raising it to the starting position.
Maintain Correct Form
Throughout the movement, focus on maintaining correct posture & body positioning (form) because the risk of injuries increases when you use an incorrect form, wrong posture, or poor technique.
Always choose weights according to your capabilities. Reduce the weight or stop if you feel the weight is too heavy or getting out of control.
Selection & Progression Of Weight
The right weight for you depends on your fitness & strength levels, plus the specific exercise you will do. Select a weight that tires out the targeted muscles by the last 2-3 reps but allows you to sustain good form. If you cannot do the last 2-3 repetitions, go for a lighter weight.
On the other hand, if it feels too easy to complete all the reps, then add weight (about one to two pounds for arms, two to five pounds for legs); alternatively, increase the number of reps or add one more set of reps (up to three sets in total) to your workout session.
When you increase weight, ensure you can complete all the reps in good form, and the targeted muscles should feel tired by the last 2-3 reps. Use this technique to keep challenging muscles by gradually increasing weight or resistance.
Don’t use momentum to swing at any time through the entire range of motion. The movements should always be smooth without any jerks.
Strength /weight/ resistance training leads to teeny tears in muscle tissues. These tears don’t harm. On the contrary, muscles gain strength as the tears knit up. A good thumb rule is to allow your muscles a minimum of 48 hours to repair before working for the same muscle group again in the next strength training session.
Don’t Over Do
Work on all the major muscles of your body 2 or 3 times a week. You can either do one full-body strength workout 2 or 3 times per week or divide your strength training workout routine into lower & upper body components. In the latter case, make sure you perform each component 2 or 3 times a week.
I prefer to do one body part in a day: Chest (Monday), Back (Tuesday), Biceps (Wednesday), Shoulders (Thursday), Triceps (Friday) & Legs (Saturday), and rest on Sunday. You may change the order.
Full Range Of Motion
It is important that you try to complete the full range of motion of the joint slowly when doing a strength training exercise. This will build the strength of the targeted muscle/joint at each point of the movement & minimizes the risk of injury due to over-stretching.
Strength/Resistance/Weight Training For Beginners & Seniors
Check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise program, especially if you are a beginner, over 40, overweight, haven’t exercised for a long time, or have a pre-existing medical condition.
Also, you can talk to a fitness professional and seek his help to develop a safe, effective strength-training program for you.
Helpful Related Post: Strength Training Guidelines For Seniors
Don’t Throw Or Drop Weight
Once you have completed a set, gently place the weights on the floor. Don’t drop them; you might injure yourself or even people nearby.
Extra Safety Guidelines For Strength Training When Using Heavier Weights
Once you progress to using heavier weights, follow these additional safety instructions (in addition to the above) to prevent injuries:
(i) Keep your back straight while lifting, and use your thighs when picking up or lifting weights from the floor.
(ii) Train with a partner. Especially when using heavier weights, have somebody present to ‘spot’ you (take the weight from you when you can’t hold it anymore).
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says, ” Age is just a number!”