Okay, over to Charis....
How many people do you know that got to the gym on and off for years, and yet still don’t have the physique they have always wanted? They run, they row, they go on the crosstrainer, they do yoga, but still they aren’t happy with their abilities and what the mirror is showing them. They need to build muscle and strength to achieve what they want, but they are reluctant to do so for a variety of reasons, or simply don’t know enough about it. This article aims to clear some of these things up and hopefully help some folks out with their health and fitness goals.
What is strength training?
Strength training is everything we do in order to build stronger bodies. This can be done by using weights (barbells, kettlebells, dumbells etc), resistance bands, other implements (flipping tyres, pushing cars) or with your own bodyweight (calisthenics). If there is an external resistance of some kind, you will get stronger. The bigger external resistance you overcome in the training movements you are doing, the stronger you will get. The beauty of it is that it can be achieved with a multitude of ways and the results are literally life changing for anyone who hasn’t done it before.
Strength training is for absolutely everyone regardless of age, sex, athletic background or existing abilities. It doesn’t matter where you start, you improve from there. Some people are naturally strong, others are not, but without exception everyone can see a positive impact on their health and lives in general from strength training. From the naturally athletic teenager who excels in any sport they try, to the middle aged woman who has a back ache a lot of the time to the mid-20s guy who wants to look good on the beach, strength training methods can benefit everyone.
Women & Strength?
There is a common misconception that if a woman starts lifting weights or training in the same way most men do, they will turn into a hulking behemoth who breathes fire and has a hairy back. The Olympic Games this last summer should set aside some of these fallacies, as the female athletes are in fantastic shape, train with weights the year round and are very obviously feminine. Female Crossfit athletes also train predominantly with weights and Olympic weightlifting movements, yet aren’t muscular hulks. They are fit, strong, healthy women.
Good for your health!
Strength training increases your bone density, joint, tendon and ligament strength and improves almost all athletic output. You are less prone to injuries in sports, or even aches and pains in day to day life. For the majority of people it will increase flexibility and mobility in all the major joints, and improve quality of life overall, just like Ben & Jerry’s.
No more skinnyfat bodies!
“Skinnyfat” is a term used for people that although they have a low bodyweight and are not overweight, do not look in shape and most of the time feel fat or just can’t get rid of stubborn fat in certain areas. These people need to train for strength, build some muscle and change their body composition. If there is no muscle on somebody’s frame, then it doesn’t matter how much weight they lose, they will always look and feel out of shape.
Burn more fat!
While training to get stronger, muscle is built. This may not be obvious at first, but there will be a body composition change over time. If someone has more muscle tissue, their body burns more fat due to an elevated metabolism. This means that the more muscular you are, the leaner you are. Again this doesn’t mean that you have to have legs the size of tree trunks and no neck – that would take decades of dedicated work to achieve, if that were your goal. If it is not, then have no illusions that this will ever happen. If you do not want to be a bodybuilder, you will not become one overnight. If you want to be strong and in excellent physical condition, then strength training is the best way.
No gym? No problem!
Strength training is versatile and can be done almost anywhere. For those who do not have access to a properly equipped gym, or in some cases simply do not want to train in a commercial gym weight room for any reason (50:1 male:female ratio scores high on this list), you can train at home with something as simple as a kettlebell and a couple of resistance bands. For beginners, this will last quite a while, until they need to increase the external stimulus.
There are plenty of strength training routines and coaches available online to help pin down the specifics to fit into your lifestyle! An example of a simple plan if you have access to just a kettlebell is:
Kettlebell snatch x 5 reps each arm
Kettlebell swings x 10 reps both arms
Kettlebell squats x 15 reps
Repeat that for 5 sets each. For an extra metabolic boost, perform this as a nonstop circuit, taking no more than 2-3 minutes rest between circuits. This simple little circuit will get you stronger in all the major muscle groups and also get you fitter.
Good luck! Feel free to leave questions in the comments or contact me as below!