Strength training – The untapped pain reliever!

Exercise is an essential ingredient to living a healthy life along with good quality nutrition and lots of sleep. Many of us focus purely on achieving 10,000 steps a day without knowing why is this magic number so important. And is this the only number we should be looking at when it comes to exercise in our busy week? Well the answer as you guessed it is “No”. The magic 10,000 steps a day attempts to give a rough guide to achieve your cardiovascular goals for the week. Cardiovascular training is ideally performed in a steady state for a long duration, such as a brisk walk for 45 minutes straight. The other form of training that we should be performing is called resistance training or strengthening as we commonly know it.

So what exactly is resistance training?
Resistance training is any form of training that makes our muscles work against an external load such as gravity, free-weights, machine weights or exercise bands. When we perform a resistance exercise, we recruit muscle fibres within the contracting muscle. The heavier the resistance, the more muscle fibres we need to work together to overcome the force. The principle when performing resistance exercises is to first perfect the technique to minimise the risk of injury. The second thing to insure is that you contract the muscle through full range of movement and the third thing is to be in full control of the movement as the muscle shortens, holds and lengthens again. By performing resistance training at least twice per week, we can quickly train our muscles to work more efficiently together, which makes our bodies more effective at overcoming daily stresses placed upon it. In essence, we become stronger and have better stamina to work and play!

So do I need to go to the gym?
In short the answer is no! Gravity is the primary stressor on our bodies. It’s a 24/7 force that can never be turned off (unless you hitch a ride upwards with NASA). Body weight training is growing in popularity with many gym goers who have found that simply using body weight is enough to achieve the goals they want and help with injury prevention. We can perform some amazing feats of strength simply with body weight training.

But why do I need to do strengthening exercises?
Strength training has many amazing benefits on our bodies and minds. We need muscle strength to perform daily tasks such as climbing stairs, picking up the kids and the ever-impressive single trip shopping bag carry from car to house in the rain! We can never switch off gravity so we best master it! Strengthening exercises helps us to age better and continue an independent lifestyle in our later years. The training doesn’t have to be hard, it just needs to be consistent. Resistance exercises also help maintain bone health as muscle exerts a stress on our bones and promotes bone growth. Strengthening also improves our control of our bodies and helps us with balance and mobility. The combination of these factors are really important to prevent injury and protect us from trips and falls in our later years, which can be the difference between a near miss and a fractured hip. As many of us fail to perform regular resistance training our bodies struggle to cope with the daily demands placed upon it by our own body weight and the work we do. This is the leading cause of most trips to the physio with aches and pains in our back, neck and shoulders. Strengthening those areas is the most effective treatment to rid us of these pains and to keep those aches at bay!

Common misconceptions with strength training.
Many people believe that strengthening can only be performed in the gym with weights. This is not correct, strengthening can be performed in the comforts of your home. Many believe that strengthening will make them pile on muscle mass. Again, this is not the case. Strengthening to pack on muscle mass needs to be performed at a high resistance level and performed repeatedly over many months. You can target muscle strength, endurance, power or indeed hypertrophy if you wish by performing a specific number of repetitions, sets and speeds of contraction at a specific weight setting. So you can make your exercise goals specific to you.

So why not give it a go?
Try simple exercises such as a sit to stand from a chair, a desk top push up or some calf raises. The exercises should be performed with an emphasis on technique, slow controlled contractions and generally stick to within 10 repetitions and perform in 3 sets for each exercise. Give this a go twice per week and see the results unfold.
Having a problem designing a programme or with your exercise technique? Or would you like to try strengthening to get rid of those aches and pains? Why not give us a call? We are here to help.

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