Yesterday I was on a phone call with an online client. He was sharing his frustrations with his lack of consistency with his workouts, but also his desire to get stronger over the next few months.
I told him, “Listen man, the reality is that if you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker. We think we maintain strength because we’re busy, but we don’t. Unless we’re actively reaching for strength and putting our bodies under stress that illicits a strength response, we’re losing our strength. It might be subtle, and it might be slow, but it’s happening. We’re just reinforcing our poor movement patterns, which lead us to live in weaker positions, and set us up for injury. We can maintain our strength gains for about 28-30 days, after that we’re losing them and we’re getting weaker.”
His response, verbatim, “Well shit. That sucks.”
But no matter how much it sucks, it’s the way it is.
You could say that I’m biased about strength training because I’m a personal trainer. Maybe. Or, maybe I’m such a believer in strength training because I’ve seen the incredible impact it has on improving the quality of people’s lives.
Yeah, that’s it.
I believe that no matter what your goals are, you should strength train.
Before we go further, let’s clear one thing up. When I say/type “strength training” there’s a chance you have your own preconceived idea of what that means. It may be positive, it may be negative, or it may be neutral. Whatever that preconceived idea is, set it aside for a minute. When I say “strength training”, I mean training in a way that gets you stronger.
Strength training might make you think of lifting barbells with hundreds of pounds on them, or grunting loudly while bench pressing twice your body weight. Sure, that’s part of it. But strength training is also moving from struggling to do a body weight lunge, to doing it well, and then to doing one while holding 5 lb dumbbells. Strength training is doing two more reps on an exercise than you were able to do the week before. It’s even improving your posture so that you can stand up straight all day long.
In short, the umbrella of strength training is broad and much more diverse than you might have previously thought. This means, no matter who you are, where you are in life, or what your goals are, you fall under the umbrella too.
Let’s look at a few examples of how strength training can benefit different populations:
The High School Athlete
- Strength improves neuromuscular coordination, meaning you get better at using your body effectively and efficiently.
- Strength training makes you stronger (duh), which means you can run, throw, swing, hit and tackle with more force.
- Strength training creates stronger joints and ligaments, which reduces the chance of injury.
- Strength training helps improve the cardiovascular system.
- Strength training can improve energy and mood. Both important things for a kid who is easily wiped out from growing, and long school days followed by practice and homework.
the video gamer
- Kids (or adults) who are “gamers” tend to spend a lot of time being inactive, and in less than ideal postural positions. Strength training addresses both of these problems by providing an increase in activity and time spent in other, more ideal, postural positions.
- Strength training can help reduce the chances of health problems that are associated with inactivity.
- Strength training can help increase muscular and ligament strength, reducing the chances of injury. A high risk in inactive populations.
The Busy parent
- Strength training helps retain muscle mass, keeping your metabolism higher.
- Strength training burns calories, helping you maintain a healthy body weight.
- Strength training helps increase your energy levels. What parent doesn’t need more energy?
- Strength training can help reduce the chances of developing, or help manage the symptoms of, many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Strength training helps improve cardiovascular health which tends to decline as we age.
- Strength training gives you time to yourself. A much needed thing for most parents.
the desk jockey
- Strength training has similar benefits to The Desk Jockey as they do to The Gamer, except it might be more more important due to the extended hours spent hunched over a desk.
- Strength training provides an increase in activity levels to a potentially otherwise inactive lifestyle.
- Strength training gets you out of the hunched over position associated with working at a desk, and puts you in more favorable positions.
- Inactivity leads to a reduced metabolism and muscle loss. Strength training helps combat both of these issues.
The senior citizen
- One of the greatest benefits strength training provides those who are older than 65 is an increase in bone density. As we age, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) sets in. Strength training directly increases the density of your bones, which is the exact opposite of what osteoporosis does. In short, strength training equals stronger bones. Something desperately needed in older populations.
- By the time we’re 65 or older, our bodies are fairly set in their ways when it comes to movement patterns, unless we directly do something to change that. Strength training provides that opportunity. We can change how we stand, sit, and live life. This can reduce the chances of injury.
- People who are stronger tend to recover from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries much quicker than those who don’t. You know who gets sick and injured frequently, and has a lot of surgeries? Senior citizens. It’s easy for a surgery or major injury to change someone’s life for the worse. This is less likely when an individual is strong, and active.
- Chronic diseases are very common in the 65+ age group. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports that almost 80% of older adults have one chronic disease, and almost 70% have two. As mentioned before, strength training can directly effect your ability to manage the negative side effects of chronic diseases.
I know this is a small sampling of all the populations out there, but it goes to show that strength training can positively impact anyone, no matter age, interests, or lifestyle.
The bottom line is this, strength training can help keep you healthy, keep you leaner, help you recover more quickly, and increase the quality and quantity of your life. I don’t think there’s a single population or person out there that wouldn’t benefit from those things. Including you.