The importance of strength training

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Our LFA Master Trainer Paul Russell shares his thoughts on the importance of strength training.

The camera has to have a zillion mega pixels, there needs to be enough RAM to run an intergalactic space station, and the battery has to keep up with some heavy YouTubeing action. Choosing a new mobile phone is a serious business, and we will consider and compare various technical specifications in order to arrive at our final decision. It’s a process that can take many hours, over many weeks, and sometimes many months. 

And then we choose the case. Because we like the colour; or it's got a picture of our favourite wrestler on it, or a unicorn, or it's shiny. And there is nothing wrong with wanting a nice looking case, but being nice looking is a secondary function, because the job of the mobile phone case, is to protect the mobile phone.

Being covered in glitter and sparkles might well appear to improve the experience of a great many things in life, but its affect is probably short term. 

Like bending down to pick up your phone from the carpark floor, briefly enjoying the magical popping and bouncing of light reflecting from your case as you imagine you are on the red carpet for your latest blockbuster movie, only to turn it over and realise you've smashed another screen.

And in many ways the mobile phone is a lot like the human body. It’s clever, and brilliant and fun to be with, requires charging every night; and if you drop it you might break it. Price is generally the reason we don’t buy the good case, but this is misguided, as a good case will never cost as much a replacement screen, or the excess due on an insurance claim.

Price is also the reason we might avoid strength training, only this time the cost isn’t financial but rather time and maybe the uncomfortable experience of doing something new. However not paying is equally misguided, as having a broken body is not even a little bit fun to live with.

So what is the cost of strength training? Well you’re going to need to do it at least a couple of times a week, and it won’t be as quick as a 5k run. There might also be a process of learning new movement’s, and while you’re learning you might experience some frustration or embarrassment – though with a great trainer or friend beside you, hopefully you can avoid these feelings.

But not many new movements. Though there are a myriad of variations, fundamentally you need to do a movement focused on your legs, another for your hips, then one that involves pushing something with your arms and a final one to pull something with your arms, and ideally be in a standing position for at least half of these.

The benefits of having a strong ‘case’ are many, and some more obvious than others. Being strong means enjoying life with fewer aches and pains, being less prone to injury, maintaining a physical lifestyle, playing sports not only at a higher level but beyond the ages that others have to stop, and life in general just gets, easier. But there’s more.

A body that is strong has obvious positive connotations with the young, but as we age the value of strength perhaps becomes even greater. Not only as the result of more robust bones and joints, but muscle in the older adult is a currency worth more than gold. As we age it’s something we lose much quicker, so having enough muscle on our bodies following a period of illness or injury can literally be the difference between returning to an active independent life or needing the support of walking sticks, wheelchairs and carers.

If you want to extend your playing days, run faster, jump higher, keep up when racing against or wrestling with the children, ache less, enjoy greater independence, reduce your chances of injury, move better, carry less fat, tighten your wobbly bits, boost the health of your bones and joints, improve posture, and develop the mental resilience to better cope with the stresses of life, it really is as simple as finding something heavy, and picking it up – though ideally of course, with great form.

Here are our go to lifts for building strength, and how they might be employed for different people:

The focus on all strength training is movement quality, so never load a movement before you have learned a movement. Aim for 3 sets of each exercise, resting for 2-3 minutes between each - though for experienced lifters this means 3 ‘good’ sets, and does not include any warm up sets. For health-related strength training we recommend you complete 5 or 6 reps of each lift, but you might like to go 2 reps below this if your goal is performance strength oriented (increase rest by 1 minute), or 2 reps above to build more muscle (rest 1-2 minutes).

Think of these as your core lifts, and complete each at least once a week but no more than 3 times. Even for experienced lifters, begin your training with loads that are comfortable and increase by small amounts each week to enjoy maximal gains.

Your new ‘case’ will be feeling good within just a few weeks, and initially you will make big jumps and enjoy great progress, but keep in mind it will take some time for the body to adapt and you will reach a stage where progress is painfully slow – this is normal. Don’t worry about the numbers, aim for consistency and the benefits can be yours for life.

 

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