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The Four Pillars Of Health & Fitness: Part 2, Strength Training

“It’s never too late to start exercising, but you should never stop.” – Dr. Peter Attia (a general physician who now focuses his efforts on longevity and healthy aging)


In our last blog we started to dive into the four pillars of fitness: (1) stability, (2) strength, (3) aerobic efficiency, and (4) anaerobic performance.


In our last blog, we took a deep dive into stability, what it is, and why it’s important. If you missed it, find that article on the blog page.


Today, we’ll focus on strength, or more specifically, strength training.

 

WHAT IS STRENGTH TRAINING?

Strength training (or resistance training) works and builds muscle through the use of:

  • Dumbbells

  • Barbells

  • Ankle cuffs

  • Weighted vests

  • Resistance bands

  • Leveraging bodyweight to create resistance (for example, plank, squats, lunges, etc.)


Building muscle is important in maintaining balance, bone density, and metabolic health.

 

BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING

Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.


Without intervention, the average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90.


  • Bone health: Strength training can increase bone density. This is important to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and even reverse some bone weakness if osteoporosis does occur.

  • Muscle development: It’s natural for muscle to diminish as we age. In fact, muscle loss starts as early as our 30s. Building and maintaining muscle mass is important for joint health, mobility, weight management, and general strength.

  • Weight management: Hormonal changes, chronic conditions, and lifestyle factors lead to increases in body fat percentage over time. Strength training can help us reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, and boost metabolism. Some studies have also shown the benefits of strength training for blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity.

  • Mental health: Strength training (and really all exercise) can reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Not only is exercise an opportunity to focus on the task at hand without paying attention to life’s stressors, but you also get an increase in energy levels and an endorphin boost which can last for hours.

  • Cognitive function: Strength training has been shown to enhance focus and learning in older adults.

  • Reduce fall risk: Strength training can improve balance, spatial awareness and perception, and enhance ability to comfortably complete activities of daily living. Strength training will also improve flexibility and range of motion, which further joint stability.

  • Increase confidence: Strength training pushes you to adapt both mentally and physically. Success with exercise carries over into every facet of life. Not only will you become more equipped to handle physical challenges, but you will also become mentally tougher and more resilient.

  • Increase metabolism: Muscle is calorically demanding – the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you will burn at rest.

 

STRENGTH TRAINING VS. CARDIO

There’s a widespread myth that the best workout is the one that burns the most calories. Gyms like Orange Theory, Spin, and Crossfit have made a fortune off this because they exhaust you, make you sweat, and boast about the calories you burned. Unfortunately, this type of training rarely gets you where you want to go in the long run.


The truth is, both strength training and cardio are important for a well rounded program (next month, we’ll dive into the third pillar of fitness: aerobic exercise).


The exercise you should do more will depend on your individual goals. If you want to enhance endurance, cardio is important. If you want to build & maintain muscle, and improve balance & bone density, strength training is the way to go.

 

TYPES OF STRENGTH TRAINING & STRATEGIES

Just like there are different ways to do cardio (bike, run, swim), there are also different types of strength training regimens.


Using an integrated approach can increase progress while minimizing risk of injury. With any program, the most important thing is consistency!


Types of Strength Training:

  • Stabilization Endurance: The primary goal of this type of exercise is to improve mobility and flexibility, core strength, improve postural alignment, and muscular and aerobic endurance.

  • Strength Endurance: This type of exercise builds on the foundations built in the stabilization phase and enhances core strength & joint stabilization, as well as muscular endurance.

  • Hypertrophy/Muscular Development: The goal of hypertrophy training is to increase the size and capacity of muscles. In this context, the volume, load, and complexity of exercises is increased.

  • Maximal Strength Training: Similar to hypertrophy/muscular development, the goal of maximal strength training is to build muscle. This strategy increases load, weights used, and number of sets.

  • Power Training: This goal of this strategy is to increase force production – for example, speed, agility, and power for sports.

 

Remember, my number one rule of exercise is no pain during or after! Exercise should be challenging! You may experience muscle soreness and discomfort – but we don’t want to push through pain, it will lead to diminishing returns.

 

SAMPLE OF STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES



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