You never really realize how important strength is until you need it. We have all been there at one point in our lives.  You go to pick something up and wait, what happened? Why can’t I pick up/move this? I could a few years ago.  What is going on?

Heard of the term use it or lose it? I’m sure you have.  You most likely have heard it as a child from your parents. I know I have said to my kids plenty of times over the years.

In terms of exercise, if you don’t use your muscles and challenge them, they become weaker.  I’m sure you knew of someone back in school who grew up on a farm doing physical labor. That kid was strong as an ox.  Why? Their muscles were used on a daily basis and were challenged doing chores on the farm.

I was always a skinny kid. I was very lean and somewhat muscular.  I guess I had what you would call a skinny athletic build.  I dabbled in weight training during my teens. (You can read about my path through strength training here)

Like most guys, I got into weight training to build some muscle mass and attract girls. Eventually that led into bodybuilding style workouts.  Doing one, maybe two body parts a day and just focus on doing multiple exercises, reps, and sets for that particular bodypart.  It works. It works really well. I was building muscle and starting looking like this guy:

muscle building, lean mass
“To be the man, you must lift like the man.”

Maybe not exactly like him, but I was on my way.

At some point I was hitting a wall and stopped progressing in every guys favorite exercise, the bench press. I was convinced that I had to hit this particular weight for 3 sets of 6-8 reps before I would go up.  I was struggling. I hit a wall. I almost gave up and was convinced that 185 was my ceiling.  The guy I was training with finally said to me, “Just add five pounds to the damn bar and get it over with!”  So I did.  An interesting thing happened. The weight felt about the same as the previous weight and I was able to hit the same reps. I felt empowered. I felt on top of the world.

This empowerment that I felt carried over into other areas in my life as well.  I started to go up in a lot of my other lifts and my strength levels soared. My studies at school became easier.  Instead of remembering information, I started to understand it and relate it to other areas of the body. The body is an incredible collection of systems that work together to accomplish a task. Understanding that helped my grades significantly.  This all came about because of a little empowerment due to pushing a little more weight.

I understand that my example isn’t for everyone.  That’s fine. Strength training is incredibly specific. It may not be about a particular lift. It could be anything.  When I was working at an obesity treatment center in the 90’s, most of the clients that were on the program didn’t give a damn about a bench press, squat, pullups, or any other exercise for that matter. What they did care about was feeling better and losing weight.  Part of their exercise program was to do some type of strength training, whether it was part of a class, on their own, or personal training.  It is amazing what building a little strength did for those folks. They walked a little taller, had a little more pep in their step, and just felt more confident.

Strength training will make anything you do easier. Need to lift heavy groceries? Strength training will help with that.  Have weak, painful knees? Strength training builds strength and stability in the muscles that surround the knees.

Worried about spending a lot of time doing strength training? Don’t.  Building strength can be done a minimum of 2-3 days. An hour at most.  All you need are the basic exercises. Nothing fancy. That’s it.

As we age, strength is extremely important. The biggest problem with older folks is the lack of functional strength and balance.  Maintaining muscle mass and strength will help prevent falls, maintain balance, and allow you to do everyday tasks with ease.

Benefits of Strength Training

Building strength has many powerful benefits:

  • Increasing muscle mass
  • Increased strength
  • Slight increase in cardiovascular capacity
  • Increasing resting metabolic rate
  • Improved running/cycling economy
  • Decreased in resting heart rate
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Increase in HDL’s (good cholesterol)

Probably the most powerful of all these benefits to me, is the psychological benefits.  Feeling good about what you have accomplished and building your confidence by building your strength is empowering.

I have been lifting off and on for over 30 years.  I’ve tried so many different types of strength training over the years, I can’t keep track.  The one thing I can tell you is this: I thoroughly enjoy challenging my body.  I don’t try to kill myself every time but I have always felt good about what I have accomplished in the weight room and that has definitely extended to other areas of my life.  Strength training can do that for you too.

 

authored by dave radin

 

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