Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
When you think of strength training, what images come to mind? Do you imagine muscular men lifting Olympic weights above their heads? Or intimidating free weights sections in the gym? These are stereotypical images, but the good news is that strength training comprises so much more than huge weights and bulging muscles.
Strength training is accessible to everyone. And if you don’t want to, you don’t even need to lift heavy weights. Or any weights at all, in fact. Yes, that’s right, you don’t need to lift heavy weights to reap the benefits of strength training.
What are the benefits of strength training?
Strength training has both physical and mental benefits.
On the physical side of things,it helps to build muscle mass, as you would expect. But it also strengthens bones and reduces heart rate too. And that’s not all; strength training effectively aids weight loss as it is associated with increased metabolism. So you don’t have to do hours of cardio to lose weight if you’d rather be doing push ups.
Strength training – like other exercise – has mental health benefits. Apart from being a helpful tool to alleviate depression, it also helps facilitate mental well-being by:
- Increasing self-confidence.
- Raising self-esteem.
- Alleviating anxiety.
- Boosting low mood.
- Increasing feelings of well-being.
Who is strength training for?
Human beings in general need physical strength to help with their well-being. “If you don’t use it, you lose it” rings true when it comes to strength training. If you don’t do enough of it, or do it improperly, you’ll lose muscle tone. And though you’d expect a decline in muscle mass over the years, letting it completely waste away can be bad for your health.
For instance, one study found that strength training in people over 60 helps increase or maintain muscle strength, slowed muscle loss, and helped maintain motor function.
The more muscle and fitness you have going into your sunset years, the better equipped you will be to maintain optimum health and independence.
The point here is that strength training is for everybody. Not just bodybuilders, gym bunnies, or athletes. Whether you’re a woman in your 20s or a man in your 60s, you could benefit from adding some strength training into your week.
Four strength training options that don’t involve lifting heavy weights
Luckily you don’t need to set foot in a gym to participate in strength training. So if the idea of strength training intimidates you, fear not. These 4 strength training suggestions are great ways to build a strength training habit.
1. Bodyweight exercises
The simplest form of strength training is to use the tools you were born with – your body weight. Body weight strength exercises involve overloading muscles by adopting positions that place an increased load on specific muscles.
Examples of bodyweight exercises include press-ups, planks, squats, lunges, and calf raisers.
There is always the option to make these exercises more difficult by increasing the dynamic explosion aspect and incorporating a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine. The benefit of advancing to a HIIT routine is that the increased intensity burns more calories.
2. Makeshift weights
Your house is full of articles that can help you build strength. If you want to work on your arm muscles, grab a tin of beans and crank out some bicep curls. You can increase your weight by using a bottle of juice. Or do squats and lunges while holding on to a book, milk carton, or a backpack with a few tins.
If you want to test yourself, extend your arm horizontally from your body while holding your household article, and see if you can hold this position for up to one minute. You may find a tin of beans suddenly feels like an Olympic weight in this position.
Look around your house – what can you find to help you strength train?
3. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are an excellent option for strength training without any weights. They can help strengthen the hard-to-access areas – such as the ankles – without needing weights or machines.
And they can increase the difficulty level of your regular exercises, allowing you to advance with your strength routine. Lunges with resistance bands around your calves or thighs are much harder than without!
Another benefit of resistance bands is they are light and transportable so they’re easy to take with you. If you’re looking for a way to exercise while on holiday or traveling, they can turn your hotel room into a gym pretty easily.
Typically resistance bands come in 4 different levels of resistance. They work by placing your muscles under tension. This study from 2019 suggests that resistance bands provide similar strength gains to weights.
You can anchor one side of a band to a fixed piece of furniture, loop it round a door, or use it on your own body (e.g. by looping it round an ankle or an arm).
4. Cable suspension training
Cable-suspension training is a system that uses ropes and cables that allow you to use a combination of body weight and gravity to build strength.
The specialist equipment can be used in your home and only takes up a little space.
An excellent example of suspension training is having your feet suspended in a cable, level with your hips, while you adopt the press-up position. This method increases the tension in targeted muscles.
There are over 50 different exercises available with cable suspension training. The variety of exercises available makes it a superb option for strength training without using heavy weights. Of course, it does require a bit more equipment than other options.
It’s time to integrate strength training into your life
Though strength training is often associated with lifting heavy weights, it doesn’t require you to lift anything heavy. Nor does it necessitate a trip to the gym – although you can easily make use of a gym without needing to venture into the bench press area. Everything you need to get started with strength training is within you.
And if you want to advance and increase the difficulty levels a little, you can use household items, resistance bands, or even suspension training equipment.
Lifting heavy weights is not the only way to gain strength. The good news? Strength training is accessible to everyone and you can incorporate it into your life in a way that suits you. Still not convinced? Find out whether cardio, hiit, or strength would be the best option for you.
Remember that exercise and good nutrition go hand in hand. If you’re looking to change your body composition and adopt a healthier lifestyle, the Whisk app can help you. Meal planning, detailed nutritional information, recipe health scores, and collections of healthy recipes to fit your dietary needs are all available in the app. And it’s free to download and use!
Words by Ali Hall