Strength training or weight training can seem daunting: the thought of walking up to the weight section of a gym, surrounded by all sorts of machines that do god-knows-what and trying to figure out what you're doing alongside beefed up gymgoers watching themselves lift in the mirror. The same goes if you're finally dusting off that bit of home gym equipment knocking around the shed and haven't a scooby about what to use it for.
But it doesn't have to be like that! In fact, strength training is just a way of exercising that uses resistance in the form of free weights (e.g. dumbbells), fixed weights (e.g. barbells) and machine weights.
So, to clear things up, we're going to walk you through what strength training and weight training is, the benefits of doing it and how to make it work for total, brand-new beginners – at home or in the gym.
What is strength training?
Strength training is weight based exercise designed to improve your muscle strength, posture, stability and mobility. Compared to resistance training which is generally a body weight exercise or done using resistance bands, strength training uses dumbbells, kettlebells or even barbells to load the body with a weight for each exercise.
Why should women strength train?
There are so many reasons why us chicks should lift weights.
It makes us stronger physically and mentally so that we can tackle anything our day brings. It increases bone density and reduces risk of injury and pain, making those trips from the supermarket with one child in one arm and 4 bags on the other arm seem like a warmup set for your upper body session you're doing when you get home.
Lifting weights also reduces inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabets.
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves stress
- Increases muscle mass
- Improves body composition (the ratio of body fat to muscle you have)
- Improves posture
- Decreased risk of injury
- Increases bone density
- Improves sleep
Will strength training make you 'bulk up'?
I get asked this question all the time. It all comes down to what you put on your plate and how much energy you exert. We need to eat a balanced diet made up of the right amount of macronutrients (protein, fats and carbs). This balance is different for everyone based on their body composition, how active they are and their goals, whether that be to gain muscle mass, lose weight, lift heavier etc.
What kit do I need to start?
You can start off with a light - medium pair of dumbbells. I would suggest a 2kg or 3kg pair to get you moving. Once you find this isn't challenging you on your last few reps for that exercise, you will get excited and probably want to look at getting a medium pair and maybe a heavy set (3kg, 6kg, 9kg). This way you can progress with your training and get stronger as the weeks go on. Alternatively, you can always add an extra set, or a few reps on the end of the set, if you don't have access to heavier weights.
How do I build strength?
To build your strength, you have to be consistent with your training. Follow your program and stick with it. Strength training is all a progressive program, and we can't move to the next stage of our training if we are just dabbling in a strength session every other week. So stick with it!
How quickly can I build strength?
When you follow a weight training program you will start to notice after the first few weeks the exercises you first started on are not as hard as they once were. You’ll likely notice that you're opting for a heavier weight and you can even do a few more reps than usual. Programs are generally designed for 12 weeks, within which there are four week mini blocks which focus on specific goals, all working towards our end goal.
Can I build strength without weights?
Yes, you can use random things around the house to load the body with a weight. Items I often use if I'm on holidays or don't have access to weights:
- Milk cartons or water bottles filled with water
- A backpack filled; or
- A bottle of vino.... somehow this ends up feeling lighter towards the end of the session?!
5 strength training tips for beginners?
- Focus on technique – this is super important. You need to take it slow, follow instructions and execute the exercises safely and correctly so that you are using the correct muscle groups and getting the most out of the exercises intended purpose.
- Start light – start off with a light weight so that you don't compromise on technique and can finish the whole workout. Don't want to go too hard too soon, as your next session will be out-of-this-world hard. Slow and steady!
- Follow a program – this way you are hitting all muscle groups for your week of training, and you will build on what you do in your sessions. You're also tracking your progress, which is motivating to see each time you kick those little goals along the way.
- Create your space – designate a little space or corner, even a basket, with all your gear ready. This way it's all there and you have no excuses why you can't enter that space each day for your quick 28 minutes of building a stronger you.
- Have fun! It's meant to be enjoyable and challenging at the same time. Have a laugh.
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