Archives January 2014

Benefits of Strength Training

These are just a few of the many benefits of strength training.

The popularity of strength training really grew when it was realized that great strength was an advantage in many types of sports. Many coaches in the collegiate and high school levels began to systematically incorporate weightlifting and other resistance exercises in their training programs when the benefits of strength training became apparent. It became obvious that greater strength allowed athletes to perform better.

For example, one of the benefits of strength training is that it allows baseball hitters to strike the ball harder with their bats, and this made more home runs possible. Greater strength also lessens the possibility of injuries, which is a crucial consideration in contact sports such as football, hockey, and basketball.

And obviously, it is also important in a lot of martial sports; being stronger is a definite advantage in boxing, wrestling, and judo. You probably won’t find any athlete in Mixed Martial Arts who doesn’t do any strength training.

In the military, strengthening exercises are mandatory. Pushups aren’t just meant for punishment among servicemen; they also function to make them stronger. Among military personnel, police officers, and firefighters, strength is important because part of their duties is to carry others to safety during emergencies.

But strengthening exercises aren’t just for athletes and emergency personnel. The benefits of strength training are for everyone. They’re for both men and women of all ages, and this includes those who aren’t in the most perfect of health. Actually, those with serious ailments such as arthritis and heart disease get the most benefits from these types of workouts.

Strengthening exercises prevent, minimize, or alleviate these health conditions:

  • Arthritis. A study by Tufts University revealed that these exercises, when performed by older people with arthritis, increased their strength and overall physical performance, lessened their disability, and improved the symptoms of the ailment. The exercises were even shown to be at least just as effective in easing the pain as medications.
  • Poor balance and lack of flexibility. In older people, these issues lead to falls that cause broken bones. Strengthening exercises can help restore some balance and flexibility. A study in New Zealand revealed that simple forms strengthening exercises for women considerably lessened the frequency and severity of falls.
  • Loss of bone density. Every year, post-menopausal women lose about a percentage or two of their bone mass. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report in 1994 which showed that strengthening exercises boost bone density and lessened the risk of bone fractures for older women.
  • Obesity. Strengthening exercises can help you lose weight. Developing greater muscle mass is a common side effect of strength training, and muscle is essentially a group of tissues that consumes calories. It’s been shown that these exercises can actually boost your metabolic rate by 15%.
  • Heart diseases. The American Heart Association recommends strengthening workouts to reduce the risk of heart disease, and also as therapy for patients rehabilitating from certain heart ailments.
  • Diabetes. One study showed that strengthening workouts result in improvements in glucose control that are similar to taking diabetes medication.
  • Anxiety and insomnia. It is also widely known that strengthening workouts fight depression and induce healthier sleep.

Here’s a little bonus: Strength training also makes you look attractive!

You can start getting the benefits of strength training very quickly using a workout program such as the ones found in our Dumbbell section and in our Kettlebell section at Go pickup one or both of these excellent methods for building muscle and get started enjoying the benefits of strength training today.

Strength Training for Fitness

This special report is everyone's guide to strenght training and fitness.

The Benefits of Strength Training and Why They Apply to Everyone

Physical fitness is generally divided into two categories. You have cardiovascular training and strength training. Many people falsely believe that you have to pick one or the other – that you either have a strength training personality and strength training goals, or you have to take a cardio approach.

The truth is that the best way to achieve lifelong health and vitality and the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to embrace both. You don’t have to be a lifter or a runner exclusively; you can – and probably should – be both.

There are several reasons why strength training is so beneficial to your health and well-being.

Stronger Bones

Strength training has been proven to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It’s important to know that while more women suffer from bone loss than men, men do get osteoporosis as they age. The gradual loss of bone density can cause serious issues, including fractures of the hip and spine. Strength training slows down bone mineral loss.

Strength training also improves your muscle strength and coordination, which in turn results in improved balance and overall coordination. This subsequently reduces the risk of injury and bone damage.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, strength training does have a positive impact on bone density as well as soft tissue lean mass.

The study was designed to evaluate the effects of 18 months of resistance exercise on regional and total bone mineral density and soft tissue lean mass in premenopausal women aged 28-39, who were randomly assigned to an exercise or control group. The results for bone density showed “significant regional increases” for bone density in those women.

Weight Loss and a Kicked Up Metabolism

Obesity in adults is defined as someone who has a BMI of 30 or higher. It’s a weight that is higher than what is considered healthy, and is correlated with many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Strength training increases lean muscle mass, which burns more calories and has a positive impact on weight loss. To put it simply, muscle burns more calories than fat. Strength training not only burns calories while you exercise, but it also burns calories as your muscles repair themselves.

Strength training accomplishes this by increasing your metabolism to manage the repair process. Additionally, muscles require energy to function – fat doesn’t. By including strength training into your workouts you’re helping burn more calories in the moment, all day, and well into your future. Let’s not forget that obesity is about more than appearances, it’s a health risk.

Obesity is a risk factor for:

  • Cancer (including breast cancer)
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Cardiovascular disease

According to the CDC, Center for Disease Control…

Strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories. Stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.

Muscle burns an estimated three times more calories than a similar amount of fat tissue. Which means if you add a few pounds of muscle you can burn an extra 100 calories daily. That adds up quickly and facilitates weight loss.

A high-intensity strength routine has been shown to bump metabolism by 20 percent for several hours post-workout.

Stop the Middle Age Spread

In their mid-30’s women begin to lose 5 to 10% of muscle strength every ten years. This loss of lean muscle impacts strength, coordination, and mobility. As lean muscle decreases it becomes more difficult to maintain the same level of activity you might have enjoyed ten years ago. Walking, standing, and even rising from a sitting position can become difficult.

Strength training slows down the loss of lean muscle and can build new muscle, depending on your approach. Women don’t need to strive to become world class bodybuilders to benefit from strength training. A simple program can help ensure you’re able to stay active and healthy well into your golden years. No walker required!

Better Mood and Outlook

In a study published in 2005, researchers examined the effect of a three-month exercise program on mild to moderate depression. 80 participants were divided into five groups.

Two groups took on a rigorous program, one of them for three days a week and the other for five days a week. Two groups participated in lighter exercise either three or five days a week. A fifth group, the control group, only stretched.

The results were positive across the board; ratings of depressive symptoms on the standard Hamilton scale fell in all of the groups, including the stretching group. However, those that participated in the rigorous exercise program had the biggest drop – significant enough to equate rigorous exercise to antidepressant medications or cognitive behavior therapy.

Resistance training has shown to reduce anxiety and cause an overall improved sense of well-being. Studies comparing and evaluating resistance training have found that moderate intensity strength training has a stronger impact on anxiety than intense strength training, and this decrease in anxiety can impact sleep and brain function. Still, both intensity levels showed a marked improvement in anxiety levels.

Strength Training Makes You Smarter

Strength training is often used as part of a treatment plan when people suffer from neurological conditions. One of the reasons for this is to help a patient remain as functional as possible. Another reason is that strength training often requires a person to make new mind/body connections.

For example, if you’ve never performed a deadlift or a squat, you have to learn how to safely perform the movement. As you learn the various movements required, your brain begins to tell your body how to move and new connections are created.

As we age, circulation tends to decrease. The results can be uncomfortably cold hands and feet, and a blue tinge is also common in the elderly. Resistance training, which strengthens muscles, requires the heart to pump blood to said muscles and thus also strengthens the heart, improves blood flow to muscles, organs, and to the brain.

This increased blood flow not only helps decrease circulation problems, it also improves cognitive function as the brain receives more blood. Additionally, resistance and strength training require a person to make new connections and perform new movements. You have to think about “proper form” and learn the new exercise techniques.

Joint Pain

Tufts University recently completed a strength-training program with older men and women with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis. The results of the 16-week program showed that strength training decreased pain by 43%.

The increased muscle strength and general physical performance also improved the side effects of the disease and decreased disability. The study showed that strength training is just as effective, if not more effective, than pain medications and other medications used to treat arthritis. Additionally, similar results have been shown for studies on strength training and rheumatoid arthritis.

Improved Coordination

Increased age often means a loss of balance and flexibility, which in turn results in falls and broken bones. Strength training can improve range of motion and flexibility, and as we discussed above it can improve bone density so any falls that may occur aren’t as damaging.

A New Zealand study looked at women 80 years of age and older, and found a 40% reduction in falls with simple strength and balance training.

A 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University showed…

1% gains in hip and spine bone density, 75% increases in strength and 13% increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training.

Sleep Better Too!

People who exercise regularly enjoy better quality sleep. They not only fall asleep more quickly but they wake less often and they sleep longer. This improves disposition and overall health and well-being.

When older adults engage in strength training programs, their self-confidence and self-esteem improve, which has a strong impact on their overall quality of life.

Better Cardiovascular Health

Your risk for heart disease is lower when you have a healthy BMI. Studies have found that cardiac patients gained not only strength and flexibility but also aerobic capacity when they did strength training three times a week as part of their rehabilitation program. The American Heart Association recommends strength training as a way to reduce risk of heart disease and as a therapy for patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Why Women Should Lift Weights

There are many benefits for women who lift weights.

Many women not familiar with the benefits of weight lifting tend to stay on the cardio side of the gym and avoid the weight lifting part for fear of developing too muscular of a body frame. When done properly, weight lifting will give them a more defined and toned body, but without the worry of “bulking up”; it just won’t happen and here’s why.

Muscle development is largely due to the amount of testosterone in the body. Men naturally have significantly more than women, so they tend to develop bigger muscles. Women have a small amount of testosterone naturally, but not enough to create large muscles.

Even women that try to pack on the bulk have a very hard time doing it without resorting to testosterone supplementation. So put that fear aside and start hitting the gym to gain these benefits from weight lifting:

Lift Weights for a Faster Metabolic Rate

Women work out at weightlifting for a number of reasons, however, one common thread is to lose weight. We all know that to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in and one way to burn more calories is to speed up your metabolism.

As you lift weights, you create tiny tears in the muscle fibers of the muscle group you are exercising. To repair these tears, the body must burn more calories than it would otherwise if you did not have the tears. And you are burning calories while working out.

Lift Weight for Greater Muscle Definition without Bulking Up

Another plus – it takes more calories to fuel muscles than it does body fat – 9 calories per pound of fat per day verses 2 calories per pound of fat (both at the resting metabolic rate) – so while you won’t bulk up, your muscles will become more defined or toned and your body fat will decrease. So you get the immediate benefit of your body burning calories to help repair itself and a long-term benefit of your body requiring more calories to fuel the extra muscle definition.

Lift Weight for More Functional Strength

As your muscles develop you get stronger. Everyday tasks that used to wear you out, such as vacuuming, laundry and carrying in groceries, are suddenly easier. Also stronger muscles reduce your risk of injury if you participate in sports or other physical activities.

So fear weights no longer! See and start a weight lifting program so that you can begin enjoying the many benefits of an increased metabolism, greater muscle definition and easier everyday activities. Your body will thank you for it.

Why Runners Should Lift Weights

Seasnoned runners know to lift weights to increase their strength.

Many runners, especially those first starting out in the sport, don’t relate weight training to helping them improve or master their new sport. In reality, weight training is critical to runners who want to achieve success.

To get good at running, you have to have these four critical components:

  • good posture
  • body stabilization
  • strength
  • ability to produce strength quickly

Let’s look at each one of these components and see how they relate to weight training.

Good Posture for Runners

Good posture is critical to good running. When you run, your head should be looking straight ahead and your back straight. This keeps your upper body aligned over your lower body. If one gets misaligned with the other, your risk of injury substantially increases. Good posture requires a strong abdominal core. There are several weight lifting exercises that can develop your core.

Body Stabilization for Runners

When you run, the movements of your upper body counteract or cancel out the movements of your lower body; the body is supposed to work this way. But for this counteraction to work at peak efficiency, your abdominal core – the muscular structure that connects your upper and lower body – has to be strong. Weight training develops these muscles in the core.

If your core is not developed, you might be running with either your back arched backwards or pitched forward. When this happens, your hip muscles can’t do their job properly.

Importance of Strength in Runners

As odd as it may seem, when you run faster, your foot is actually in contact less time with the ground than it is when you run slower. So the faster you run, the harder it is on your body to put out that additional force over a longer period of time, which is why strength – especially the core and lower body – is so important. You need more strength to “pick ‘em up and put ‘um down” faster; in the end to run faster, you need more strength, which is where strength training comes in – developing that additional strength in the core and lower body.

Also strength training improves your body’s ability to use energy more efficiently.

Delivering Strength Quickly

We just talked about how additional strength helps sustain you over the long haul, but you also have to be able to produce that strength to run quickly. The muscle group that propels your foot off of the ground is the buttocks or “glutes”. To run faster, you need to have well developed glutes and what better way to increase your glutes than with weight training.

So while you may have thought that as a runner you just need to do cardio training to be able to run faster, as shown in this article, you also need to hit the gym and do specific strength training routines that will improve your abdominal core, muscles in your buttocks and train your body to use energy more efficiently.

Eating After Strength Training

Eating right is important to your strength training success.

Most of us understand how important it is to have fuel in our body before a workout. Carbohydrates and glycogen (this is the energy source which is most frequently used for exercise) are needed so we will have the energy required for strength training.

But did you know that the meal you eat after exercising is of vital importance to your body’s recovery?

This post-exercise meal also helps improve your training capabilities, so let’s take a look at exactly what types of food you should be putting into your body after your strength training workout.

What You Need to Put in Your Body after Strength Training

The first thing you should do immediately after working out is to replace fluids. To determine how much water your body needs for proper functioning, you will need to weigh yourself both before and after your strength training regimen. Then simply drink 20 to 24 ounces of water (or a healthy sports drink) for every 1 pound of weight you lost.

Most athletes understand water is lost during exercise, but not everyone understands just how much is needed to hydrate the body after serious physical exertion.

We mentioned glycogen and carbs earlier, and they also need to be replaced post-workout. Glycogen is a form of glucose that serves as energy in humans, and it is stored in your muscles and liver. You already know that carbohydrates are little blocks of energy, and these two critical components to muscle growth and recovery are provided by eating 0.3 to 0.6 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of your body weight.

You need to eat this meal within two hours of endurance exercises and strength training to get the biggest benefit.

Try starchy vegetables such as squash or pumpkin, sweet potatoes or yams for your carbs. These vegetables are high in healthy antioxidants, and pack more carbohydrates per serving than other foods. Eating within two hours after your workout also helps decrease inflammation that can occur after intense strength training, and allows you to recover much faster.

Include Protein after Your Strength Training Sessions

Protein is also an important food to eat after strength training, and you want to combine protein with some carbohydrate within 30 minutes of ending your exercise. There are many protein supplements on the market that “fit the bill” perfectly well here.

This nearly doubles your insulin response, resulting in more stored glycogen, and quicker muscle development and recovery. You should shoot for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of approximately 4 to 1. Several studies have shown that this carbohydrate/protein intake soon after strength training often results in a 100% better glycogen storage in your muscles than eating carbs alone.

After strength training, you should eat whole wheat breads and rice, as well as the starchy vegetables mentioned above, for your carbohydrate and glycogen needs. Healthy proteins such as turkey and fish will deliver much-needed amino acids into your system, which held rebuild your muscle tissue quickly.

So just make sure to get plenty of fluids, proteins and carbohydrates in the right ratio after your strength training workout to guarantee faster and better results, and a healthier body. You’ll find more helpful tips on the right foods to eat before and after your bodybuilding exercise routines at in our nutrition section.

Body Weight for Strength Training

You can take strength training a long way with your own body weight only.

Don’t have a gym membership?

That’s okay, because you can learn how to use your own body weight for strength training. Your own amazing body is the best strength training piece of equipment you will ever own.

But before you get started, run in place, do some jumping jacks or hit the stairs for 5 minutes to get warmed up. The simple body weight exercises below allow you to target multiple muscle groups at one time. This puts your whole body to work improving lean muscle mass, which in turn cranks up your metabolism and burns fat.

Strength Training with the Basic Crunch

Used primarily to strengthen your abs, crunches also help elevate your heart rate. Done correctly, your obliques and rectus abdominis also benefit. Lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent, leave at least one foot of distance between your heels and your rear end. With your elbows to the side, interlace your hands behind your head and keep your neck straight.

Simply move your chest and shoulders up, trying not to yank with your head and shoulders. Hold at the top, slowly return to your starting position and repeat. Crunches are a core-strengthening form of exercise that improves overall athletic performance, and can even help correct bad balance and posture.

Strength Training with the Bird Dog

This simple exercise uses your own body weight for strength training by working your back, hip muscles, glutes and abdominals. With your hands directly aligned under your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor, assume a position on your hands and knees. Keep your back straight and your knees in line with your hips. Simultaneously reach out with your right forearm and left leg until they are parallel to the floor. Hold for a moment, return to the starting position, then switch sides.

Strength Training with the Classic Push-Up

Strengthening your chest, shoulders triceps and even your core, the traditional push-up has been around seemingly forever because it works so well. Place your hands palm down on a mat or rug, slightly wider than your shoulders and aligned with your chest. Your legs should be close together and straight behind you, then simply push up slowly. Slowly return to the starting position and begin again. Keeping your back stiff is very important, as this helps prevent lower back pain.

Strength Training with the Squat

This exercise uses your body weight to strengthen your quads, lower back and glutes. You simply stand with your feet a little wider than your hips with your hands at your sides. Looking straight forward, bend your knees slowly and squat down. Your weight should shift to the back of your heels, and remember to keep your spine stiff and straight and your abs contracted. Return to the starting position slowly, and repeat. Try to keep your weight on your heels to prevent pain in your knees, and to target the appropriate muscles correctly.

Your body is a value adding piece of equipment when it comes to strength training so get up and get going with what you have to start working out right now. You can get more of these helpful tips by browsing the different sections of the My Fitness Nut website at and when you subscribe to our newsletter. Now get moving and start using your own body for strength training today.

Overload Principle in Strength Training

This is what the overload principle is all about.

What is The Overload Principle in strength training, and why should you care? The overload principle is a fact of strength training, and you probably want to pay close attention, because it can be harnessed to deliver bigger, better and faster results.

Basically stated, the overload principle says that your body cannot be adapted the way you want unless it is overloaded.

The American College of Sports Medicine, without using a bunch of fancy medical terms, explains simply that this means your muscles must be stimulated to greater than normal activity if they are to grow.

When you properly apply the correct amount of muscle overload, you begin to see results far more rapidly. And they last for the long term, where in the past you may have felt that you were simply wasting time with your strength training workout.

While you may not have thought that scientific concepts and formulas were at the basis of proper strength training, whether you are aware of what is going on or not inside your body, your muscles understand and respond properly when the overload principle is applied correctly.

And the good news is that whether you are a beginner or veteran weightlifter or strength trainer, you can increase muscle size, bulk and power by incorporating an ongoing overload formula into your strength training regimen.

This is great news to those of you who are just beginning strength training. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, and begin overloading your muscles, you will begin to see the desired results quickly. If you are not used to lifting 10 pounds very often, then lifting 10 or 15 pounds with only a couple of weightlifting sessions a week will begin to show improved muscle definition and strength almost immediately.

And the National Strength and Conditioning Association also points out that while the overload principle works for veterans as well as beginners, it may take creative and progressive overload to see a dramatic improvement. If you have already begun to sculpt your body and you strength train regularly, you are going to have to increase the overall load your body lifts in your workouts to benefit from this body adapting fact.

Experienced weightlifters and strength trainers can shorten the amount of time spent resting between sets and increase reps and sets to harness the power of this principle. Just remember, when you consistently and progressively increase the amount of weight, the repetitions per set, and the number of sets you perform in your strength training workout, you harness the incredible power of the overload principle, thereby improving muscle mass and strength.

Strength Training with Muscle Groups

Ideas for strength training of different muscle groups.

What Order Should You Workout Your Muscle Groups?

When creating your routine or strength training sessions, have you ever thought about the order you do your exercises?

Does it even make a difference?

Yes it can. Most experts recommend exercising your larger muscle groups first and then work your smaller muscle groups next. Why? Your large muscle groups use up a lot of energy, so you want to get those exercises out of the way first while you are still fresh. Then you can use the rest of your energy to work the smaller muscle groups which require less energy in the first place.

But remember, this is just a recommendation. A good way to keep from hitting a plateau is to reorder the way you do your exercises. It keeps your body challenged and from becoming to comfortable with doing the same exercises in the same order.

Exercise Order

So with an upper body routine, what would that look like?

You would want to exercise your:

  • chest and back before your shoulders.
  • shoulders before your biceps and triceps.

In a lower body routine, exercise the quads and hamstrings before calves and abs.

Rest Between Strength Training Exercises

Rest is an important component when setting the order of your exercises. The rest we are talking about is the rest between sets. Rest too much or too little and your performance (and ultimately, your goal) will sacrifice.

However to help you figure out your rest cycles, consider these three factors:

1) Intensity

The rate at which you do an exercise is the intensity. So if you are doing less reps with more weight, your intensity is greater than if your do more reps with lighter weight. The more intensity at which you exercise, the more rest you need.

2) Demand

Demand, or how hard the exercise is on your body, also affects how much rest you need. The higher the demand, the longer the rest required. For example, when exercising the legs, chest and back, you need more rest than when working biceps and triceps.

3) Goal

And finally your goal affects rest cycles. If your goal is to build endurance, then usually a 20 to 60 second rest between sets is sufficient. However if your goal is to build muscle, then your rest cycle could be 3 to 5 minutes between sets. To get toned and “looking good”, a 1 to 3 minute rest is all you need.

As you complete one set of exercises and are ready to move into starting the first set of another exercise, take the same amount of rest between exercises as you did between sets.

Now you know how the order of your exercises and rest cycles can affect your performance. However, don’t be afraid to “shake things up” a little by changing the order occasionally.

Also to keep from hitting a plateau and to work your muscles differently, occasionally take out an exercise or two and replace with different ones that still target the same muscles.

How Much Rest Do Your Muscles Need In Between Strength Training Sessions?

Many people don’t know that rest is one of the most important parts of a strength training program. Weightlifting breaks down muscle by causing small tears in them. It is during the rest days that the body repairs these tears. Too little rest and you will start to suffer from the over-training syndrome which can take both a physical and mental toll on your body. Rest too much and you will not see progress toward your goal.

How much rest is enough?

So what is the right amount of rest? Actually there are two types of rest – one between sets and one between sessions. The rest between sets helps replenish the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your muscles, the primary source of energy. Rest between sets gives the muscle time to recuperate itself.

If you goal is to build up muscle endurance, then aim for a rest between sets of 30 to 90 seconds; allow at least a full day of rest before exercising the same muscle group again. To build muscle, allow for a 1 to 2 minute rest between sets and up to two days between sessions.

Many recreational weightlifters break down their sessions into an upper body routine one day, a lower body routine another day and back to the upper body (same or a different routine) the next day, or maybe throw in a cardio session somewhere during the week.

Hitting the wall

If you do over train, you will find yourself “hitting the wall”. You will know it because you will feel extremely fatigued or weak when training; you won’t be able to lift as much or do as many reps as you did the session before, so you will show a lack of progress. You may also suffer from a decreased appetite and a lack of enthusiasm to exercise. Over-training can also weaken your immune system, so you may even get sick more often.

If you start to show these symptoms, take a week off from weightlifting. Do other types of exercises that don’t work the same muscles as your routines, such as walking or yoga. To prevent it from happening again, identify the cause of over training – usually a lack of proper rest either with sets or sessions – make adjustments and continue training. You will come back both mentally and physically re-energized.

One of the best defenses to keep from over training is proper rest. Listen to your body; it will let you know when you are working it too hard. Be prepared to adjust your training, diet and sleep cycle accordingly to get you back on track.

Most of all keep learning and adjust your routine. As new strength training and fitness information becomes available you’ll find it at or by subscribing to the My Fitness Nut Newsletter that’s exclusive to valued readers like you.

Strength Training At Home

Doing your strength training at home has many advantages.

Sometimes you don’t feel like going to the gym. What would it look like if you did your strength training at home? Using your own weight lifting equipment at home in general has several benefits, such as:

  • exercising when it fits into your daily schedule,
  • exercising longer because you don’t have to drive to and from a gym,
  • not having to arrange for someone to watch your kids while at the gym,
  • saving gas by not having to drive your car to the gym,
  • using the money you would normally pay for a gym membership to buy your own equipment,
  • if you are in a cold part of the world, not having to go outside to get to a gym.

Do these sounds like benefits you want? If so, let’s talk about the different equipment options to consider.

You already know your fitness program should include strength training – around two days per week. But what equipment do you need? Before you go out and blow your budget on a huge strength training machine, think about these three things…

1) Type of equipment

Home strength training equipment can vary from a few resistance bands all the way to a multi-exercise, all-in-one machine. If you are just starting out, a few different levels of resistance bands may be all you need. As you outgrow the bands, you can add to (or replace) with equipment that allows you to develop more.

Many medium level and higher home strength trainers use a weight bench and free weights along with dumbbells and a barbell. You can start out with a few weights and add to it over time.

Of course at the high end of the equipment scale, you have all-in-one machines that are actually several machines arranged and connected in a circular fashion.

2) Available space

Think about how much space you have to commit to strength training equipment verses how much space the equipment takes up. If you live in an apartment, you probably do not have the space for an all-in-one machine.

For planning purposes, you should allow 20 to 30 square feet if you plan to buy resistance bands, kettlebells or a weight bench and small selection of weights. Anything larger and you will need anywhere from 35 to 50 square feet.

3) How much you can afford to spend

Fortunately, you can spend as little you want or as much as you afford. For under $100, you can get resistance bands, kettlebells, or some free weights and a non-adjustable weight bench.

Once you get into the adjustable weight benches and higher, plan to spend a minimum of $500 (up to $1,500 or more). Once you have answers to the three considerations, buy quality equipment that you can afford.

For example, instead of buying the best all-in-one machine, buy a mid-range one and resistance bands or kettlebells. Not only will you have the same amount of money invested, it will give you more flexibility in the exercises that you can do with the equipment you have.

Strength Training for Weight Loss

A guide to weight loss doing strength training exercises.

How ironic is it that training with weights, resulting in an increase in muscle mass, is a key to weight loss! Why is that?

As it turns out, strength training helps with weight loss in the following six ways.

1) Preventing You from Gaining Back Lost Weight

Many people work hard to lose weight, but unfortunately most of them do not keep it off. You have to burn as many calories per day as you eat to maintain your weight at its present level. One way to burn more calories is to include strength training as part of your physical activity. Not only does the training itself burn calories, but as you build muscle mass your body will burn more calories to keep the larger muscle mass functioning than it did when you had a smaller mass. As far as weight loss is concerned, strength training has a two-fold effect.

2) Reducing Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Adult Onset Diabetes (Type 2) is a loss of the body’s ability to control blood sugar. A new study recently showed the people in the study having the most muscle mass significantly lowered their risk of getting the Type 2 disease. How does this relate to weight loss? People with Type 2 diabetes often gain a significant amount of weight. Reduce the risk by maintaining or gaining muscle mass and you can avoid (or at least reduce) the related weight gain.

3) Maintaining Muscle Density

As part of the normal aging process, we lose muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. Around age 40, an inactive adult loses about a 3% to 5% every 10 years. Around age 70, the loss accelerates. One of the best known treatments to prevent sarcopeni is strength training. If you can maintain muscle mass, your body will burn more calories to maintain the functioning of those muscles than if you have reduced mass. Burning more calories avoids or at least lessens weight gain.

4) Preventing Injuries

Many injuries (especially in older people) are caused by a loss of muscle mass. Prevent the loss and you can reduce your risk for falls and broken bones. Good muscle tone means better balance which can prevent falls. If you can stay active, and not get sidelined by an injury for a long time, you have a better chance of not gaining weight.

5) Improving Function

Strength training increases your ability to function better. Working muscles with weights increases range of motion, keeps muscle tone and helps maintain flexibility. Lose these things and you gradually become less active. Become less active and you will have a harder time maintaining your weight and a significantly harder time trying to lose weight.

And these are only part of the benefits derived from strength training. As you can see, strength training is not an option in your weight loss program – it is critical. If you are not strength training at least two days per week, start now. It is one way to increase your metabolism, a critical part of weight loss.

6) How Often to do Strength Training for Losing Weight

If you are wondering how often you should strength train to lose weight, you need to understand exactly what strength training does first. A basic definition of strength training is any type of physical exertion or exercise that stresses your muscles and causes them to work against either resistance or weight, tearing them down so your body rebuilds them bigger and stronger.

This could include lifting weights, performing body weight exercises, or any other number of activities. If weight loss is your goal, the American College of Sports Medicine believes a minimum of two sessions of resistance training as well as three 20 minute cardio sessions are needed every week to achieve minimum acceptable fitness levels and to begin weight loss.

Strength training to lose weight simply means starting out with those resistance and cardio sessions on a weekly basis, while slowly and progressively adding weightlifting sessions. Muscles need at least 48 hours to repair after they are stressed, so plan your strength training exercises accordingly. Always make sure you warm up before beginning and cool down after your strength training workouts to prevent injuries.

An injury can keep you on the sideline and slow down your weight loss, which is accelerated when you increase your level of lean muscle tissue. This causes your body to burn calories at a higher rate, which accelerates weight loss. Practicing resistance training and cardio will help you lose weight, especially if you have a significant excess, but strength training is far and away the best way to lose weight through exercise.

Strength training three times a week, even if you are a beginner using very light weights, can allow you to schedule even the most intense workouts with 48 hours of rest before your next session. Strength trainers the world over have employed a Monday – Wednesday – Friday workout schedule because this regimen dovetails nicely with the typical Monday through Friday work week.

Whatever schedule you decide upon, make sure you keep properly hydrated during and after your strength training. You should also give your body the necessary fuel to build your muscles, in the form of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Intensive strength training three days a week with ample rest between sessions allows your body to heal and prepare for the next workout, and to burn fat. The proper diet ensures that your muscles will continue to grow bigger and stronger as you improve the amount of lean muscle mass on your body, which in turn leads to significant fat weight loss.