Thumbnail image of: Strength Training: Lower Body Exercises, Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Strength Training: Upper Body Exercises, Illustration

Strength Training Basics

What is strength training?

Strength training, or weight training, means doing exercises that build strength. This includes using weights, resistance bands, or doing exercises such as push-ups or lunges that use your own bodyweight.

Strength training must be done gradually and carefully, but can be done at any age. It can help you:

  • Strengthen muscles, tendons, ligaments, and improve your fitness and health. This helps you do everyday chores and activities. It can also help prevent injuries and help you recover after an injury.
  • Burn more calories. Your body may burn calories at a faster rate long after you are done strength training. Burning calories can help you lose body fat and build lean muscle.
  • Keep your bones strong. Weight bearing exercise increases bone density. This decreases your risk of having osteoporosis.
  • Have better blood sugar control. Strength training can help you control your blood sugar levels with less insulin. This is very helpful for people with diabetes.
  • Lower cholesterol. Training helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels and raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
  • Lower blood pressure. Strength training helps lower your blood pressure and helps your heart work not have to work as hard.
  • Improve mood. Your energy, attitude, and sex drive may improve.

How often you do strength training depends on your health and your goals. Many people workout 2 to 4 days per week for 20 to 40 minutes each time.

What do rep and set mean?

Rep: Rep is short for a repetition. One rep means that you have done an exercise one time. Ten reps means that you have done the exercise 10 times, such as 10 push-ups.

Set: A set is the number of reps of a particular exercise that you do before resting or moving to another exercise. For example, a workout may call for 2 sets of 10 reps of each exercise. This means that you would do 10 push-ups, then rest for a short time, then do 10 more push-ups (another set). Then you would do sets of the next kind of exercise.

What else do I need to know before starting a strength training program?

Before starting any strength training program, talk to your healthcare provider. You can ask a certified strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer to design a program that will work for you.

You should also make sure to:

  • Eat right: You may need to eat fewer calories from sugar or carbohydrates, but make sure that you continue to eat enough protein. Protein helps you build lean muscle. If you train hard, but eat poorly, your body won’t respond to the workouts as well.
  • Change your workout: Every so often change the exercises in the workout, how many reps you do, how long you rest, the exercise order, or the number of sets you do. If you do the same workout week after week, your progress will stop.
  • Use good form: It is better to use less weight and do the exercise correctly than to lift too much and get hurt. Be careful toward the end of a set or workout when it is harder to have good posture and form.
  • Exercise your whole body: Do exercises for your upper body, lower body, back, and abdominal muscles.
  • Be realistic: Make sure you are realistic about your exercise program. It is better to workout 2 days a week regularly than to plan to workout 4 days a week and not stick to your plan.
  • Don’t overtrain: Let your body recover between workouts. It’s best to take a day or two off between strength training sessions.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-27
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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