What Is Strength Training? A Complete Guide

Whether it’s the first day of the year or the middle of October, now is always a good time to start focusing on health and getting fit and strong. One of the best ways to do that, backed by plenty of research and scientific evidence, is through strength training a.k.a. resistance training.

But we understand – resistance training can feel intimidating, especially if you don’t know what it entails. There’s nothing quite like carrying around or lifting heavy weights, and if you’ve never done it before, you may feel overwhelmed when starting.

Don’t worry! We’ve created an entire guide on answering the top questions, such as what strength training is and the many benefits you can reap out of it.

So if you’re beginning your fitness journey, here’s a strength training 101 to get you started:

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What is Strength Training?

In technical terms, strength training is a form of exercise where your muscles contract against an outside force. Usually, this outside force is in the form of weights, such as dumbbells or weight machines. It can also be in the form of resistance, such as resistance bands or even body weight. 

Examples of Strength Training:

When you picture strength training, you might be thinking of the incredibly talented powerlifters at the Olympics who lift giant weight plates on a barbell. Or you might be thinking of the exercise machines at a gym.

Both of those are examples of strength training. But they aren’t the only examples of this type of exercise! You might be surprised about what is considered weight training:

1) Body Weight –

First and foremost, using your own body weight can be considered strength training. From squats to push-ups, using your body as resistance amounts to building up your muscle strength. 

It’s one of the best ways to start your journey into this type of exercise. And for many people, different training programmes involve only body weights. 

For example, some people might enjoy yoga, or they might prefer to use pilates instead. 

2) Free Weights –

Another popular type of strength training is the use of free weights. These can include anything from dumbbells and barbells with plated weights to kettlebells and medicine balls.

This kind of equipment is called “free weights” because the weights aren’t attached to any other object, frame, or equipment. You just pick them up and start using them (appropriately, of course).

3) Resistance Equipment –

One you might have forgotten about (or maybe you’ve never heard of it in the first place!) is resistance equipment. 

This includes resistance bands that you can step into or put your arms through. It can include resistance straps that you can step on to apply resistance. Or it can include resistance machines to help your muscles contract and grow stronger.

4) Weight Machines –

Finally, we have one of the most popular (or at least well-known) types of strength training – weight machines.

These are the machines you see at the gym or fitness centres. The idea is to either add weights to the machine so you can build muscle depending on which muscle group the machine helps you target.

Who Is Strength Training Best For?

Before diving into this form of exercise, you may be wondering who it’s best for. The great news? Resistance training is one of the top forms of exercise for most people. The incredible health benefits that come from it are valuable for people from all walks and stages of life. 

Of course, we always recommend having a complete physical from your physician beforehand and getting an “okay” from them before you begin training.

That being said, this form of training provides awesome physical health and mental health benefits for people, including:

People Who Are New to Exercise

If you are brand new to exercise, or if you haven’t exercised in a while and consider yourself a beginner, you might think that strength training is something that comes further down the road.

We’d argue that’s not usually the case!

It’s intimidating, which may be why many who are new to exercise choose to focus on forms of cardio first. But the benefits of resistance training for people who are new to exercise are unmatched. From lean muscle mass to stronger bones, and higher calories burned in 24 hours, this kind of training and conditioning are top-notch exercise options.

If you’re brand new to exercise, and you want to get started, then we highly recommend working with a coach or a trainer to guide you through the fundamentals.

Runners and Athletes

Runners and athletes are also prime candidates for strength training. Using weights and resistance to increase muscle mass and bone density is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of injury, no matter what type of exercise you’re doing elsewhere. 

Plus, particularly when it comes to running, building more muscle aids in faster pace times and even helps produce higher energy levels overall.

Elderly Individuals

Believe it or not, age shouldn’t be a deterrent for beginning strength training programmes

While building strength for elderly clientele may look different than it does for someone who is in their 20s, the benefits are still incredible.

From an improved quality of life, including better mental health, to greater ranges of motion which can reduce the risk of falls, resistance training for the elderly shouldn’t be overlooked. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Strength Training?

There is a reason why it is considered one of the best forms of exercise out there. The health benefits are unbeatable. While we could spend all day talking about this, we’ve boiled it down to the top 7 benefits of strength training:

1) Gain Strength

First and foremost (and perhaps the most obvious), resistance training helps you gain strength. You’ll notice with consistency that you’re stronger than before ever by adding a strength training programme to your weekly routine. 

And when you become stronger, you’ll find that many of the day’s tasks are easier than before. Carrying in groceries or even lifting your kids will feel like a breeze.

2) Lose Weight and Burn Calories More Efficiently

Many trainers and coaches help clients add strength training exercises to their workout routines to help them lose weight.

And for good reason. Training with some form of resistance or weights helps boost your metabolism. As you begin to build more lean muscle mass, those muscles use up calories in a more efficient way than fat does. 

That means even when you’re not working out, your body is burning up calories. And it’s not just for a short time after you finish working out, either. Studies show that your metabolism sees a boost for up to 72 hours after a strength training workout!

3) Helps Manage Heart Health and Blood Sugar Levels

While resistance training improves the outside of the body, it also does just as much good for the inside of the body.

Studies have shown that consistent strength training programmes can lower bad cholesterol and improve circulation due to the strengthening of the walls of the heart and blood vessels. 

Similarly, stronger muscles help better insulin sensitivity. Because of this, focusing on building lean muscle mass can aid in blood sugar management, which can reduce the risk of developing diabetes. 

4) Improves Mental Health

This form of training improves mental health as much as it does physical health. By adding a consistent programme to your workout routine, you may encounter a boost in your mood and self-confidence. You might also notice reduced anxiety once you start to maintain your fitness routine.

5) Increases Ranges of Motion, Including Mobility and Flexibility

A great strength training programme can help you develop a better range of motion, which includes mobility and flexibility. As you train more consistently, you’ll find that, other physical activities that you found strenuous before, might now seem easier.

6) Decreases Your Risk of Falls and Injuries

By focusing on building strength, you’re improving the stability of your body. Your legs become sturdier, as do your knees and ankles. And your core becomes much stronger, too, which aids in balance. All of those factors contribute to a decrease in falls and injuries. 

In one study alone, 23,407 adults over the age of 60 showed an amazing 34% reduction in falls once they began a well-rounded exercise programme that included resistance training.

7) Creates a Better Quality of Life

Overall, resistance training can help you create a better quality of life, even as you grow older.

From being able to stay more active and complete physical activities easier to an increase in both mental health and even energy levels, a strength training programme is one of the best investments you can make for your life.

How to Start Strength Training in a Safe Way

With so many incredible health benefits, it’s only natural to want to jump into a strength training programme straight away. But, if you’ve never done it before, or if you haven’t learned the fundamentals, you can easily find yourself in over your head. 

There are a few things you need to consider before starting your fitness journey. One of the main ones is the possibility of injury. Here’s what you need to know before getting started:

What Are Possible Injuries?

Adding weights or resistance to your exercise programme is, no doubt, an excellent option. However, if you’re not careful, there are possible injuries from doing so that can leave you down and out for days, if not weeks or months. 

The most common types of injuries from strength training include: 

  • Strained muscles, particularly in the back, biceps, and shoulders
  • Tendinitis, especially in the elbows, knees, or in the Achilles tendon
  • Disc herniation in the spine
  • Pulls and tears, particularly in the hamstring

Injuries may occur due to many reasons, but often, it’s because of one of the following:

  • Improper form. There is a specific way to lift weights or to add resistance to your workouts, no matter which body part you’re targeting. From back pain, such as disc herniation, to pulls and tears, improper lifting form is one of the most common causes of strength training injury.
  • Doing too much over time, without giving yourself proper rest. Ultimately, this results in an overuse injury. Many injuries that are a result of inflammation are because of overuse, including elbow, knee, and Achilles tendon tendonitis.
  • Doing too much at one time. This is known as an acute injury and is usually caused by lifting too heavy without properly building up to it. Strained muscles and even pulls and tears are the results of an acute injury. 

How to Avoid Injuries While Strength Training?

Avoiding injuries comes from understanding the fundamentals of the exercise you’re doing. Learning proper lifting forms, knowing your body and working your way up to heavier weights are all crucial in reducing the risk of an acute injury.

Additionally, following a strength training workout programme that incorporates variety every time your workout will allow your body to rest. That reduces the risk of overusing your muscles, which can cause strains and tendonitis. 

Strength Training for Beginners: The Most Frequently Asked Questions

There will always be questions when it comes to resistance training – and no question is off-limits! As you begin this journey, be sure to ask plenty of them so you can avoid injury and see the benefits of this form of exercise.

What Does Strength Training Mean?

Strength or resistance training refers to adding weight or resistance to a workout programme to build stronger, leaner muscles. When you add weight or resistance, you’re allowing your muscles to contract against the outside force. That is what builds strength.

What Are the 3 Main Types of Strength Training?

  1. Muscle Endurance Training: This is where beginners typically start. The idea is to lift a higher volume, meaning a higher number of repetitions, at a lower weight. This allows you to practise form and build up a tolerance for moderate-intensity and higher-intensity workouts. 
  2. Circuit Training: This involves going through a series (or circuit) of several exercises until you reach the last one. In between each exercise, you typically rest for an allotted amount of time (often 10-90 seconds). You might repeat the circuit once you’ve reached the end, depending on the programme. It’s an excellent type of strength training to get heart rates pumping – almost like a combination of cardio and resistance strength training.
  3. Max Strength Training: Once you’ve developed your endurance for strength training, then you might transition into max strength training. This includes bringing your number of repetitions down but increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting.  

What Is Strength Training Good For?

There are many different benefits of resistance training. With a well-rounded, consistent routine, you can see benefits, such as:

  • Improved mental health, self-esteem, and mood
  • Improved heart health and blood sugar management
  • Weight loss and calories burned more efficiently
  • Increased range of motion, flexibility, and mobility

Is It Okay to Do Strength Training Every Day?

Like most other types of exercise, you don’t want to do strength training every single day. You’ll need to build in time in your workout routine to give your body rest. So instead of having a heavy training session on one day, you might go for a brisk walk to give your body time to recover.

Why Is Having a Personal Trainer or a Coach Beneficial for Strength Training?

Having a personal trainer or coach is a major benefit for strength training, especially if you’re a beginner. Even if you’re not, one can help you create a workout routine that targets your goals. 

As a beginner, a personal trainer or coach will also guide you through the fundamentals so you can be sure you’re using the proper form and technique. This will cut down drastically on the risk of injury. 

Plus, a personal trainer or a coach can also help hold you accountable to your goals so you’re sure to meet them! 

Why Join Aura Leisure?

Aura Leisure members enjoy free access to two of our exclusive programmes — Fit for Life and Lean3.

  • With Fit for Life, our fully qualified and professional trainers will give you a personalised and tailor-made program that focuses on your own unique goals. You will also get the most up to date fitness and nutritional advice to aid you on your journey. 
  • The Lean3 program focuses on Strength Training, HIIT Training and Nutrition to guarantee you results in 6 weeks!

Ready to kickstart your fitness journey? Become an Aura Leisure member today!

Regardless of the kind of membership you’re looking for, chances are we’ve got it!

Not sure yet? You can also book a free trial at Aura and get full access to our gym, pool and group exercise classes on a trial basis.