In August 2022, Nicole Kidman made headlines for having “perfect” arms. Her svelte figure was first featured in Perfect magazine and caused quite a stir. You can see her defined and sculpted muscles as she stands, flexing her biceps. And what admirable muscles they are! She is positively ripped and certainly no stranger to strength training.
Strength training is age and gender inclusive. Bear in mind Nicole Kidman is 55 years old in her striking images. Strength training might be the answer if you want to change your body composition.
It’s incredible; you don’t even need to lift weights to participate in strength training. Strength training is for everyone!
What is strength training?
Strength training also goes by the term “resistance training.” It involves using your own body weight or tools to build muscle mass. As the name suggests, strength training strengthens the muscles, but it also builds endurance in the muscles.
Strength training works by overloading target muscles to cause desired adaptations in terms of
- Muscle strength.
- Muscle mass.
- Muscle endurance.
Bodyweight strength training includes exercises like press-ups, squats, planks, and lunges. As the name suggests, you use your body weight to load the target muscles.
Free weights (such as kettlebells and dumbbells) and resistance bands are great options to advance to once you understand the basics of strength training.
The benefits of strength training
Strength training isn’t just renowned for building bigger and stronger muscles. It comes with an array of psychological and physical benefits.
In terms of the mental health benefits of exercise – and strength training specifically – were you aware that strength training can boost your mood? It does this by alleviating anxiety and increasing the release of endorphins – feel-good hormones? There are also links between strength training and an increase in self-esteem.
Other non-muscular physical benefits of strength training include
- Stronger bones.
- Decrease abdominal fat.
- Effective calorie burner.
- Improves heart health.
Many athletes use strength training as a way to avoid injuries and to complement their regular training routine.
With all the positive benefits associated with strength training, maybe it’s time to start?
3 simple ways to incorporate strength training into your life
Strength training can appear complicated and reserved only for fitness experts. Not knowing how to do something can serve as a deterrent. After all, heading into the gym to lift weights can seem intimidating if you’re new to it. But you don’t have to start bench pressing to enjoy strength training benefits.
If you follow these three simple tips to get started with strength training, you will be reaping the benefits in no time.
1. Start gently
Energy and enthusiasm are always commendable but be careful you don’t go from zero to hero. A great way to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine is to start gradually. Consider scheduling two strength sessions per week for a month and see how you get on.
You will also want to build the repetitions (AKA reps) and sets up gradually, along with any weight you may use. Tip three will talk more about reps and sets.
Pay attention to how your body feels during your strength training sessions. While it is natural to feel discomfort due to the challenge of strength training, be careful you don’t pursue through pain. A bit of muscle stiffness is fine, but injuries aren’t! Learn to discern normal sensations within your body.
2. Go to the gym
If you have access to a gym, it’s always a great idea to seek the advice of a personal trainer to help start your strength training journey.
A good personal trainer can set up a strength training plan for you with appropriate exercises for your fitness and strength. They will build your plan to ensure you recover and progress optimally.
Most importantly, personal trainers ensure their clients are doing exercises with the correct form and posture to maximize the benefit of each exercise and avoid injury. And you’ll also grow in confidence if you know what to do when you go by yourself later on.
Seeking the assistance of an expert during your early days will ensure you build good habits right from the start.
3. Consider reps and sets
Strength training involves repeating specific exercises a set number of times; this is a rep. After a short break, you may execute another set of reps.
So reps are the number of times you execute an exercise. And a set is the number of blocks of reps carried out.
On a training plan, it may look like this: 3 x 10 with 30-second rests between sets. If your exercise was push-ups, you would do 10 push-ups, then take a 30-second break, and repeat this 3 times in total.
When first starting with strength training, keep both reps and sets low. Three sets of 6 reps for bodyweight exercises or light, free weights are an excellent place to start. You can gradually increase the reps to twelve over a few weeks. After this, consider adding weight. For instance, squatting while holding a 5kg kettlebell.
The final rep of each set should feel challenging but possible. If it is unmanageable, you may need to lighten your weight or reduce the reps in your set.
As you progress, consider altering your reps, sets, rest period, and weight to ensure your practice is specific to your goals.
Strength training is not to be feared or avoided. Working on your strength has more advantages than just building strong and defined muscles. With correlations between boosted mental health, increased confidence, stronger bones, and less abdominal fat, it’s no wonder strength training is surging in popularity.
So what are you waiting for? You now have the means to get started; the rest is up to you. Good luck.
Words by Ali Hall