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The good news about strength training

By Mitch Felipe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:42:00 01/21/2008

Filed Under: Health

MANILA, Philippines?People often think strength training is difficult, demanding and less beneficial than cardio workout.

But strength training should not be missed or delayed since it is essential for well-balanced and better fitness results.

Others quit strength training because, when they become busy and abandon their program, they notice a change. So they say, ?I will never do weights again. Whenever I stop, my body becomes flabby.?

Positive results

A list of good things about strength training should encourage you to start incorporating it into your workout or inspire you to continue your existing program.

It has numerous benefits.

According to studies of exercisers doing regular strength training, effective fat loss can be achieved since increase in lean mass can improve one?s metabolism by up to 15 percent. You can burn more calories during workout and even while at rest.

Increase in strength also means more energy to perform other activities that will improve endurance, balance, coordination and flexibility.

Studies show that lifting weights at least twice a week can relieve health conditions like arthritis, heart problems, depression and diabetes. It also reduces falls among older people, improves mood and induces better sleep.

It can be done anytime, anywhere.

You do not need any equipment to continue strength training so you can maintain your muscle mass. The American Council on Exercise considers body-weight workout as one of the top fitness trends for 2008.

Simple body-weight programs can be done at home, at work or while you travel. Exercise machine or equipment is not required to maintain your muscle mass, shape and strength, and exercise combinations are easy to execute, but can be challenging.

This type of training is applicable to all types of exercisers, especially women who just need moderate weight-training intensity. With a realistic program, you do not have to worry about terminating your strength program in the future and developing flabby arms and thighs.

The body-weight exercise program that I often ask my clients to do when they are busy or are traveling includes 15-25 repetitions of push-ups on knees or on toes for the chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Then 15-25 repetitions of half or full squats for buttocks and thighs. Proper form, muscle contraction and breathing target core muscles throughout the exercise set.

You can do it for less than 20 minutes.

What if you can only spend 15 minutes on strength training twice a week? It is not a rule to do it for at least 45 minutes. You can just target eight to 10 exercises for major muscle groups per exercise.

A study found that one set of each of the exercises had the same effect as doing multiple sets. Of course, if you do more sets, you burn more calories per exercise session.

Also part of fitness prediction trends for 2008 is a focused express workout. This can be a group class lasting less than 30 minutes that focus on one element of fitness or body part like a day each of core training, upper-body strength, balance and agility and aerobics.

It can be cheap.

It is still recommended to ask a credible fitness professional regarding proper form, programming and exercise execution to avoid injuries and get results faster than just buying a magazine and doing the workout program on your own.

Fitness instructors offer free exercise consultation. If you feel that you need to pay for sessions until you are confident that you can do the routine on your own, then pursue your plan. It is still a good health investment.

You do not want to injure your knees or lower back and spend more for rehabilitation.

It became a misconception that strength training was only for well-off individuals who needed to pay a trainer for every visit. You can do it for free provided you have enough knowledge and foundation to execute a program on your own after fitness training and consultations.

It can adjust to your needs.

Consider doing full-body weight training by joining a group exercise class for fun and variety. It uses lighter weights either in the form of exercise balls, dumb bells or body bars. Ask the instructor to check your form and give you feedback after the class so you can work on areas that need improvement.

If you feel that strength training with or without equipment is not your type, then consider Pilates or yoga. These exercises will give you training benefits like core stability, strength improvement, toning, balance and flexibility.

The 2005 yoga study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise showed that subjects who performed Hatha Yoga three times a week improved their abdominal strength and endurance by doing 14 more curl-ups and six more push-ups after the eight-week study period.

E-mail the author at mitchfelipe@ gmail.com

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