Most Americans, regardless of their fitness level, have a little fluffiness somewhere on their bodies. For some it’s a little flab under the upper arms that continues to wave long after their hands have stopped moving. For others it’s a spare tire in the abdominal region. As good stewards of their own health and well-being, these Americans do their cardio workouts consistently and try to maintain a balanced diet, but the flab remains. No matter where it is or how much there is, no amount of cardio will make the flab and fluff go away. The only solution to this dilemma is strength training.
Accomplishing What Other Workouts Can’t
By Julianne Hale
Strength training is defined by Sparkpeople.com, a popular fitness and nutrition website, as “the process of exercising regularly with progressively heavier resistance for the purpose of strengthening the musculoskeletal system.” Sounds simple enough, right? It is a basic concept, and one that applies to everyone, not just the glistening muscle men in the annual Mr. Universe competition (a common misconception). Everyone can benefit from strength training, and it is, in fact, vital to our health and well-being. David Duford, owner of BodyELITE Personal Training in North Chattanooga, acknowledges the importance of strength training. “It is crucial to weight and health management. For the longest time, the general population thought weight training was reserved for athletes or bodybuilders. Science has shown us that strength training is vital to improved bone density, increased metabolism, more fluid mobility, and a higher quality of life,” he explains. Still not sold? Research also shows that the average inactive person will lose one half pound of muscle mass per year after age twenty and a full pound per year after age sixty. This disturbing trend, however, is completely preventable. A proper strength training regiment can replace lost muscle and keep aging bodies in peak condition.
If you’ve never done any type of strength training program before but would like to start, you are not alone. Strength training remains the least popular mainstream fitness component. It may be lack of knowledge or intimidation, but getting started is absolutely vital, and there is no need for intimidation. It’s best to begin with an expert, typically in the form of a personal trainer. These helpful people can be found at your neighborhood gym and are ready to get you started on the road to better physical fitness. Teresa Wade, Director of Operations for the SportsBarn, encourages her clients to start slowly with the help of machines. “A machine will help stabilize the body. Free weights are highly effective but require a great deal of stability and balance that most people don’t have at the beginning of their fitness journey. The machine picks up the slack so that no injury occurs and form is optional,” she explains. Teresa recognizes the importance of free weights and encourages her clients to add them to their strength training routine when they become comfortable on the machines.
Nick Rich, Regional Fitness Manager for The Rush, emphasizes the importance of strengthening core muscles for clients who are just starting a strength training program. “We [the staff at The Rush] utilize body weight when starting out because our focus is core strength. Stability training is priority number one. A person must achieve stability before they can address anything else,” Rush emphasizes. The use of body weight as resistance is an age-old concept that continues to be popular because it is extremely practical and cost-effective. Rich and the staff at The Rush also utilize light free weights and a stability ball for strength training novices.
The benefits of strength training are far reaching and important for everyone, regardless of age and fitness level. Seniors can take advantage of strength training for noticeable balance improvements, as well as stronger bones and muscles. Children can benefit from working their muscles as well. David Duford of BodyELITE Personal Training advises using caution and common sense where children are concerned. “Generally speaking, children twelve and younger are best served participating in any athletic endeavor, but not serious strength training. Bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups and pull-ups work best for young children. The best time to start a serious strength training routine is when a child is over twelve and has reached puberty,” he notes. Even pregnant women can benefit from a strength training program. Health-conscious expectant mothers who routinely perform some type of strength training during pregnancy can better equip their expectant bodies to deal with the weight gain and posture adjustments that pregnancy inevitably causes, according to Babyfit.com. Getting the body in shape and strengthening the muscles also helps expectant moms prepare for the exhausting marathon of labor and delivery.
Strength training is crucial to any well-rounded exercise routine and an integral part of the fitness equation. Stronger bones and muscles, improved balance, better athletic performance, and an overall improvement in well-being are all great reasons to get started in a strength training program, but the best argument for starting to work those muscles may be the most visible benefit: body fat reduction. Beginning a strength-training routine can mean the end of flab and fluff for good!.