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Why You Should Add Strength Training to Your Exercise Routine

August 31, 2023

Strength training is getting more popular, but it’s much more than big muscles or six-pack abs. It’s a great way to help you get stronger, lose weight, and feel good.

“Strength training is important for everyone of all ages and fitness levels,” says Bruce Brazeal, a strength and conditioning specialist at the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute. “Resistance training allows you to stay functional, mobile, and independent for as long as possible.”

Whether you want to carry your bag of potting soil to your garden, have less back pain with your desk job, enter a fitness competition, or get out of the car more easily, resistance training can help.

Here’s how you can get started.

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Strength training isn’t just about bigger muscles.

Muscles are nice, but the benefits of strength training don’t stop there. Strength training has been proven to:

  • Manage cardiac disease
  • Assist with bone and joint health
  • Help manage blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Progress weight loss goals
  • Boost mental wellbeing

In fact, one recent study found that muscle-strengthening workouts lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, all types of cancer, diabetes and mortality when performed 30 to 60 minutes per week.

> Related: Top 3 Physical Activity Goals for Weight Loss

And it’s a great supplement to cardio – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

If your primary goal is weight loss, you may favor the treadmill or elliptical – but strength training can give your efforts a boost.

“So many people default to cardio,” Brazeal says. “It’s a common mistake to overdo the cardio without eating enough. While you might lose weight, you’re also losing muscle. It’s your muscle mass that’s your engine to burn calories.”

The sweet spot is pairing cardio with strength training. When you put these together, you can lose weight, build muscle, and fuel your body all at the same time.

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Not into lifting heavy barbells? There’s lots of ways to strength train.

Even if you’re not ready to take on the squat rack, there’s many ways you can incorporate resistance training. The key is finding ways that put tension in your muscles, and you can do it in many ways:

  • Lifting barbells
  • Using dumbbells
  • Swinging kettlebells
  • Incorporating resistance bands
  • Performing lunges up a steep hill
  • Taking walks with a weighted backpack

Build your strength training routine in 4 steps

The best part about resistance training is you can do it anywhere. It’s easy to do at home, in the gym, or outside – morning or night.

Here are some simple ways to get started:

1. Talk to your doctor

If strength training is new to you, or it’s been a minute since you’ve hit the weights, start by chatting with your primary care provider.

Your provider can help establish your baseline numbers, discuss specific concerns, and share exercise advice for your health and age. They can also recommend trusted trainers and nutritionists to work with.

2. Start small

If you’re brand new to strength training, ease into it!

Start twice a week with 30–45-minute sessions, which include warm-up and cool-down time. Use proper form and pay attention to how your body feels. If something doesn’t feel right, check in with your trainer.

3. Include global exercises

While your trainer will customize your plan, here is a basic resistance training framework to follow as you map out your workouts:

  • Push exercises work the muscles in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Examples include push-ups, chest press or chest flys.
  • Pull exercises activate the upper back and bicep muscles. Examples include pull-ups, curls or rows.
  • Leg exercises target the upper thighs, hamstrings, and glutes. Examples include squats, lunges or deadlifts.
  • Core exercises strengthen the abdominals, lower back, and pelvic floor. Stay away from sit-ups early into your new routine. Examples include planks, dead bug or bird dog.

4. Stay consistent

Strength training is not a single workout or short program. That’s why Brazeal says to skip the 6-week, 8-week, or 12-week program and instead think of this as a lifelong activity.

That also means fighting the urge to throw in the towel, even when it’s hard.

“Remember that you will have bad days, good days, bad weeks, and good weeks. It ebbs and flows, and don’t give up. When you’re consistent over time, it all averages out,” Brazeal says.

And most importantly – have fun with it!

Strength training isn’t just functional – it can be fun!

Choose the workouts you enjoy, stick with the routine, and keep your goals front and center. When strength training becomes your forever lifestyle, that’s where the magic happens.