Being physically strong is a major component of being healthy. Strength is a relative term: It might mean something completely different from one person to the next. Either way, some form of strength training should be included in everyone’s life to maintain health and human fitness. It is often the missing link in many people’s movement and physical practices, and it can dramatically benefit function and performance. Strength can be viewed as a reserve tank that has no limit to how much it can be filled up. The more you have in the reserve tank, the easier life becomes in many areas. Strength training will help you maintain good movement, joint function, and physical capacity. It will help you build and maintain muscle mass, improve body composition, maintain bone density, and decrease stress. Here are some reasons why strength training can be additive to your life:

1. Life efficiency, work capacity and injury prevention:

Being stronger will make your entire life easier and will allow you to be more efficient. Strength training allows you to practice quality movement in a controlled environment. It allows you to strengthen fundamental movement patterns that will show up in your daily life, at your job, or in your sport. It allows you to develop motor control, stability, and technique when encountered with an environmental load or obstacle.  At a baseline level, strength training should include the following:

  • Hinges
  • Squats
  • Loaded Carries
  • Pushes/presses
  • Pulls
  • Rotation control exercises

If these critical movements are a part of your strength routine, you are on the right track. Becoming more efficient and strong will not only improve your physical capacity, but it will greatly reduce your likelihood of injury or pain. When done correctly, the effects of strength training will seep over and reward you in other areas. Having more strength will allow you to pick up that couch with good mechanics and avoid blowing your back out. It will allow you to shovel the driveway without injuring your shoulders. It will help you to breeze through a day of spring cleaning without being sore for a week. In addition, it will give you an entire repertoire of practised movements to choose from when performing tasks. That case of water that you need to pick up looks alot like something you have practiced and mastered numerous times at the gym while deadlifting, and that large load of groceries that you need to carry feels like nothing when your body is used to carrying loads with good form.

kettlebell-deadlift                                     carry

 2. Maintaining muscle mass and body composition:

Strength training is key for building and maintaining muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is important for many reasons. Beyond the age of 30, it becomes of extremely important to build and maintain muscle mass, as physically inactive people can lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade. The good news is, if we strength train we can maintain this muscle mass over time as we age. Muscle is metabolically active tissue which is effective at burning fat, and will drastically help maintain an ideal body composition. Additional muscle tissue also helps protect against a variety of chronic, metabolic, and age related conditions.

One example noted by Dan John (world renowned strength coach) is that women who can do at least 3 pullups and can deadlift 135 pounds at least 3 times, tend to keep and maintain their fat loss goals. The more strength and muscle reserve you have, the less ‘perfect’ you have to be regarding fat loss. The bigger we can make your strength reserve, the easier it is to attain and maintain your body composition.

3. Maintaining joint health/mobility and bone density:

Strength training is great for our bones and joints, and serves as an ideal way to maintain and improve bone density and joint mobility. Proper strength training will allow you to practice and improve joint stability (control in the presence of change). It will allow you to test the control of your muscles, to better support and protect your joints over time. It allows you to bring your joints through their full ranges of motion in a controlled setting, which helps maintain joint mobility. Strength training will also give you a schema of how to move, lift, bend, carry etc., which will help to ingrain good joint mechanics in everyday life. Good joint mechanics over time will serve as protection from excessive wear and tear of our joints. In addition, strength training and weight bearing exercise is an important factor in the maintenance of bone density/health. Load bearing exercise provides a mechanical stimulus to our bones which allows them to respond by improving their density and resilience.

Needham, MA 112711 Iron body Studios trainers Eric Gahan and Artemis Scantalides photographed on November 27, 2011 by Essdras M Suarez/ EMS Photography at Needham location.

4. Improving athletic/sport performance:

Strength training helps with performance. There is a reason that they strength test athletes at the highest levels in sport. Many teams and organizations have specific strength standards that they require their athletes to meet. Having a large reserve of strength shows that you will be able to handle yourself in a variety of different situations, especially in contact sports. More importantly, it gives athletes a blueprint of how to generate force and stability through their joints and spine, which translates well to sport performance. If you had to choose between 2 athletes of the same skill level, age, and size, with one of them being 20% stronger…who would you choose? In addition, strength training helps with performance in many sports and activities that many people do not even link to strength. Running is a prime example of this, as it requires a large amount of hip and core strength and stability as you hurl your entire body weight through the air. Once again, adding 20% more general strength to a runner with the same technique and skill level will drastically improve endurance, performance, and injury prevention.

Strength training is a valuable tool that should be additive to our lives. It has many additional benefits related to mental health, focus, stress reduction, and overall well being. If done properly, it is a critical factor in the maintenance of good health. Everyone should strive to live better through strength.

-Mike

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