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The Benefits of Strength Training – Why we Lift Heavy Weights

Strength training – also known as weight or resistance training – is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. The principal of strength training is to apply a load and overload the muscle, so it needs to adapt and get stronger. Strength training is not just for bodybuilders and athletes, it is great at preventing the natural loss of lean muscle that comes with aging (sarcopenia) and is an important part of your overall fitness for all ages, particularly those with health issues such as obesity, arthritis, or a heart condition.

A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance exercises. Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.

Specific combinations of reps, sets, exercises, resistance and force will determine the type of muscle development you achieve. General guidelines, using the RM range,include: 
·        muscle power: 1 – 6 RM per set, performed explosively
·        muscle strength/power: 3 – 12 RM per set, fast or controlled
·        muscle strength/size: 6 – 20 RM per set, controlled
·        muscle endurance: 15 – 20 or more RM per set, controlled. 

Vary your progressive resistance training program every four to eight weeks to maintain improvement. Variables that can impact on your results include: 
·        Sets
·        Repetitions
·        Exercises undertaken
·        Intensity(weights used)
·        Frequency/lengthof sessions
·        Rest between sets 

If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken and weights used, you will maintain anystrength gains you make.

Examples of Resistance Training

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or the gym. Different types of resistance training include: 
·        Free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells
·        Weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached to weights
·        Resistance bands – these provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be
         adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement
·        Body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups and chin-ups. Using your own body weight is
         convenient, especially if you don’t have time to get to a gym
·        Medicine balls or sandbags – weighted balls or bags

Starting Resistance Training

It is important to pay attention to safety and form in order to reduce the risk of injury. A registered exercise professional can help you develop a safe and effective program. To start,a typical beginner’s strength training program involves:
·       8 to 10 exercises that work the major muscle groups of the body and are performed two to
        three times per week
·       beginning with one set of each exercise, comprising as few as eight repetitions (reps), no more
        than twice per week. 
Your aim is to gradually increase to two to three sets for each exercise – comprising eight to 12 reps, every second or third day. Once you can comfortably complete 12 reps of an exercise, you should look at progressing further.

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