By: Becky Chase M.S., RCEP
Leah Baron M.S.
JinLyi Mah PSU Exercise & Sports Physiology Student-Intern
The goal of strength training is to build strength, increase our muscle’s body ability to utilize energy without oxygen and to increase the size of skeletal muscle. The body’s muscular strength is used in almost every daily activity from sitting down and standing up to mowing the lawn. Men and women start to lose muscle mass and strength as early as age 30. It is important to maintain our ability to perform activities of daily living with strength training.
Many people think of dumbbells and barbells when thinking of strength training. There are many other forms of resistance training including bodyweight exercise, suspension training, bands, and machines. No form or type of resistance training is superior to another; what matters is that you are working hard and providing enough of a stimulus to maintain or increase the strength of your muscles during the aging process.
Bodyweight and gravity are used as resistance during bodyweight exercises. Common examples of bodyweight exercises are a push-up, pull up, sit up, and jumping. All bodyweight exercises can be made more or less challenging with small adjustments. A push-up is less challenging when done at an incline with hands on a chair, table or wall. This places less body weight on your arms and chest and more towards the legs making the exercise easier for beginners.
Suspension training is a mode of strength training that uses bodyweight and a form of straps. The most popular suspension training device is Total Body Resistance Exercise, TRX. This fitness tool is made out of high-quality nylon straps with handles at the bottom which can hold up to 1,400 pounds. TRX has become very popular and can be seen in most fitness facilities, yet only a handful of people are willing to give it try. It is designed for all fitness levels and abilities. By changing body position, resistance will increase or decrease making the exercise easier or more difficult. Every muscle group in the body can be trained using the TRX and almost every bodyweight and free weight exercise can be performed using the TRX including some exercises that can only be performed with a suspension trainer.
Bands and tubing are often used in resistance training when dumbbells are not available. The further the band or tube stretches, the more resistance there is provided. Bands and tubes come in a variety of colors, each color dictates a different resistance level. An advantage of using bands and tubes compared to other strength training modalities is only one or a few bands are needed to perform a multitude of exercises. Other advantages include low cost and easy storage.
Strength machines are even more common than dumbbells or barbells for strength training. Strength machines are usually found at fitness centers, though some multi-use strength machines like a Total Gym are available for home use. There is a strength machine for almost every muscle group in the body and some gyms provide all of these machines in one location. Strength machines are very popular because of their ease of use and safety. However, many strength training experts disapprove of strength machines. Strength machines isolate muscle groups while decreasing the need for supportive stabilization muscles.
Which modality of strength training is best? The answer is none of them! All strength modalities have advantages and disadvantages. To maintain or improve muscular strength throughout the day, it is important to always provide enough resistance to make a positive change in the muscle and to change your exercise routine about once a month, to keep the body responding. Many people like a variety of strength training types to keep their workout fun and exciting. For any exercise, it is crucial to use proper technique to avoid injury and get the most you can out of the exercise. It is advised to have a certified trainer to demonstrate and guide these exercises to ensure proper form and prevent unwanted injuries.
RehabFit is a fitness center for people of all ages and abilities with special attention to members with medical conditions and diseases. RehabFit features cardio machines, dumbbells, TRX suspension trainers and strength machines. Becky and Leah are exercise specialists at RehabFit and are happy to help with any strength training modality and all fitness. Stop by RehabFit to take a tour at Boulder Point in Plymouth or call (603) 238-2225. No referral needed!