Strength training. Seems daunting to most who don't go to the gym to get their workout in. It can still seem daunting to those who go to the gym but stick to mostly the cardio equipment. It's understandable. Strength training has been viewed and marketed as a meat-head, Bro-lifting, paradise for a long time and for good reason. Getting strong is a great way for said meat-heads to get bigger and more muscular but there are more hidden benefits to it than meets the eye.
As a physical therapist, I feel I wouldn't be doing my job to promote health and wellness if I didn't take some time to educate people on the benefits of strength training. One of the core beliefs in most physical therapy teachings is that we should treat and educate patients as a whole. This means looking into other aspects of your life rather than focusing all our energy on the one thing you're coming to us for. These are things that will help our patients transition from just "surviving" their daily routine to "thriving" in their day to day life. Strength training is one of the ways to initiate this transition.
Strength training will make your body more resilient and less prone to injury during your daily tasks. As you begin lifting you will find that you feel stronger and also begin to move better. You'll find it's not quite as difficult to bend over and pick up your child, walk up the 3 flights of stairs to your apartment, or place the big bag of flour in the cabinet. This is because strength training will not only increase your strength (duh), it also improves your body awareness and movement patterns. Your body will feel more comfortable squatting down to pick up the groceries and carrying them inside. You feel more confident doing these activities because your body is now used to moving in these ways under load.
Strength training adds variability to your training. This is especially important for runners or those who stick mainly to cardio. When you perform you're favorite workout over and over again, day in day out, it can begin to cause imbalances in the body. The same muscles take the brunt of the work all the time and others get left on the sidelines. This can cause some of those tissues to get cranky and start acting up. What we want to do is get those other muscles off the bench and into the game. A great way to do this is through strength training. For example, if you run 5 days per week, try replacing 2 non-consecutive days with strength training and see how your body responds. If you're interested in this topic, I go more in depth in another blog post: "Why Variation is Important to Staying Injury Free".
Bone health. This is surprising to most people but loading your bones with an external load (aka weights) actually causes your body to deposit more bone generating material to the areas that are being stressed. That's right, that means stronger bones! This is our body's very cool way of adapting to a stimulus and making you stronger so that you can manage it for next time it happens. This is where the "use it or lose it" principal comes into play. You're body is not going to go through all this hard work generating more bone if there is no reason for it. This means that in order to keep your bones strong you must continue loading them. It is completely normal for bones to become slightly weaker as we age; strength training helps to prevent this from happening faster than normal and helps us continue moving well as well age.
Some people tend to avoid lifting because they fear they will become "big and bulky" after touching their first dumbbell. There is no need to worry though as I can assure you that it takes a whole lot of lifting and a whole lot of eating to pack on any size. Instead, once you take the dive, mastering the movements and adding weight will make you feel more accomplished and confident than ever to go along with the other benefits listed above. I recommend anyone starting strength training to do some research themselves and also consider working with a personal trainer to make sure they are performing the exercises safely and correctly.
If you are feeling pain or discomfort that is preventing you from incorporating strength training into your life, don't be afraid to reach out to learn more about what's going on.