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Why Strength Training is Important?

Many people who’ve decided to get fit or lose weight are great at getting out and going for a walk or a run, and maybe you’ve grown to love doing cardio at the gym. But if you’re not including strength exercises as part of your exercise program, you’re missing out on a key component of health and fitness.

Completing regular strength exercises has been shown to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories during and after exercise!

Benefits of Strength Exercises

  • Improved muscle strength and tone
  • Weight control
  • Increased bone density and strength
  • Boosted metabolism
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Prevention and control of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis

Options for Strength Exercises

  • Using your own body weight – easy and free! Strength exercises include push-ups, chin-ups and abdominal crunches
  • Free weights such as dumbbells or barbells
  • Resistance bands – light and portable, these bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement
  • Weight machines such as those found in gyms

Research into Strength Exercises

A recent study showed that 10 weeks of strength training can increase your resting metabolic rate by seven percent and reduce fat by 1.8kg. Strength exercises also improved the study participants’ physical performance, movement control, walking speed, cognitive abilities and self-esteem.

On top of that, a US study found that we lose muscle mass at a rate of 10 to 15 percent after 50 years of age if we don’t do anything to slow the process, and this rate of loss increases after 65 years of age. So a 70-year-old woman could have 50 to 70 percent less strength than she had at 30 years old.

However, the rate of muscle decline is dependent on physical activity, with those who are physically inactive losing muscle mass and strength more quickly.

What more evidence do you need to get started on building up those muscles? Include them in your regular mix of ways of working out and you’ll soon see the benefits for yourself.

A 12WBT Strength Workout

To show how easy it is to bring strength training into your routine, we’ve given you a sample 20-minute strength workout using exercises from our 12 Week Body Transformation program.

This workout focuses on the legs, back, triceps and ab muscles using a gym set-up. The secret to strength training is to focus on different body parts each day of the week, so on other days you’d want to work the chest, biceps and shoulders.

Warming Up

Do a five-minute warm-up on any cardio machine and work at approximately 70 percent intensity. For example:

  • Cross trainer, level 5 to 8, hill program.
  • Treadmill, steady state jog (7.5 to 9km per hour).

Your strength workout

These exercises should take 10 to 20 minutes. Run through the whole program twice if you’re feeling game!

Assisted chin-ups:

  • Set the equipment to weigh 60 to 80 percent of your body weight.
  • Exhale as you pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar, then lower yourself down to a full stretch.
  • Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps, resting for 30 seconds between each set.

Pullover on a fitball:

  • Sit on the fitball holding one dumbbell, with both hands pressed against your chest. Carefully roll down the fitball so you are lying with your head and shoulders on the ball, hips off the ball in a straight line.
  • Raise the dumbbell with both hands so your arms are almost fully extended above your chest. Keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Bracing your core muscles, lower the dumbbell behind your head, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Exhale as you pull the dumbbell back up over your head.
  • Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps, resting for 30 seconds between each set.

Hamstring curls on a fitball:

  • Lie on the floor with your arms alongside your body, palms facing down. With straight legs, place your heels and calf muscles on the fitball. Have your feet hip width apart and flex your toes back towards you. Lift your hips up off the floor and lock your midsection tight so that your body is straight and is supported by the shoulders.
  • Keeping your torso straight and stiff, bend your legs and roll the ball towards your butt. Keep your feet flexed and squeeze the backs of your legs and your inner thighs. Use core strength to maintain your balance and hold your body in place.
  • Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps, resting for 30 seconds between each set.

Tricep push-ups:

  • Get down on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Draw your abs in, lift your chest up between your arms and drop your shoulders back and down (away from your ears). Tuck your chin in slightly and look directly ahead at the floor. Your toes can be hip width apart or together.
  • Keeping your core muscles activated, inhale as you bend your arms and lower your upper body so that your chest is about 10cm off the floor. Exhale as you straighten the arms to return to the start position.
  • Do three sets of 8 to 12 reps, resting for 30 seconds between each set.

Squat jumps:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Switch on your core.
  • Squat down by sitting your butt behind you (imagine you are sitting down on a kiddie seat) and swing your arms back as though you’re going to touch the ground with both hands. Spring up off the ground and swing your arms above your head as if you’re about to shoot a basketball.
  • Do as many squat jumps as you can in 60 seconds.

Stretching: Ensure you stretch for a good five minutes after strength exercises, focusing on all the muscle groups used.