Two women happily doing strength training with a dumbbells together.

Why Do We Need Strength Training?

Many of us focus on cardio exercises for the many overall health benefits or when our main goal is to lose weight. But did you know that strength training is just as important?

#1 You Need Strength for Daily Activities

You need strength to carry your groceries, you need strength to lift your luggage onto the overhead cabin, you need strength to run after your kids all day long.

Strength training is defined as physical activity that improves muscular fitness by exercising your muscles against external resistance. Regular training is needed to help increase, maintain and reduce the loss of muscle mass — which occurs naturally as we age.

Naturally, all athletes need strength training of some form to avoid injuries and also boost their performance but this applies to the ordinary person too, regardless of your fitness level.

“Anyone who exercises should adopt a strength training programme to strengthen muscles for their everyday life. I believe the simplest of all movements should be achievable, such as jumping a far distance, moving heavy dead weight and pulling yourself over a wall,” says Lewis Chua, a weightlifting athlete who represented Singapore at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

#2 Strength Exercises Make You Feel Young Again

Lifting and loading feels easy when we are strong

Chua, who owns functional gym Solitude of Strength, adds, “Strength training is the new anti-ageing formula … because it strengthens and keeps joints healthy, [and promotes] a full range of mobility.”

#3 Strength Training Also Helps With Weight Loss

As you gain more muscle through strength training, your resting metabolic rate will increase and that results in a higher calorific burn throughout the day — this means you continue to burn fats even while resting or sleeping!

Besides trimming you down, strength training also builds stronger muscles, connective tissues, and bones while increasing joint stability. So as we get stronger, the risks of heart disease, diabetes, injury, back pain, and arthritis are lowered. The American Heart Association even recommends strength training at least twice a week.

Fear of Bulking Up and Gaining Weight After Strength Training

But some people — men and women included — are afraid to embark on a strength training exercise programme as they fear becoming big and bulky after lifting weights.

“That’s not even remotely true. To look like those guys and girls [you see] in the magazines takes incredible effort. It requires a training regime that requires more than three to four hours in the gym daily for at least three to five years. So, a measly 45-minute strength workout twice a week isn't going to make you look like that, ever,” Chua assures.

Blast the Fats With Effective Weight Training and Cardiovascular Exercise

Skipping is a good cardiovascular endurance exercise

If you are looking for the best way to shed fat and get lean though, you might want to combine your strength training with cardiovascular exercises.

Instead of spending hours doing steady-state cardio (like swimming or running for long distances at a steady pace) though, consider supplementing your strength training with high-intensity interval workouts at the end of your session.

For instance, try this training workout: hit the treadmill for a full out sprint for 30 seconds before resting for a minute and then repeating it for three to five more times. Insufficient time is not an excuse as you can always do a Tabata workout, which only takes up four minutes.

Types of Strength-Training Exercises

Stretch before and after workouts, and practise good form to avoid injuries when doing any endurance or strength training workout programme.

There are different types of strength training that you can take up, depending on your goals. For instance, there is strength endurance (for triathletes), explosive strength (for Olympic weightlifters) and maximum strength (for powerlifters).

Know Your Body Before Starting Any Strength Exercises

Before you engage in any form of strength training though, there are some things to look out for.

“Do a movement screen and if you’ve got some pain, address and fix it. Don’t work through it! Next, invest in a good coach to teach you to do what you want to do properly. Don’t just join a group class of 20 and expect to learn techniques properly,” says Shern Ario Lim, physiotherapist at Level and owner of Work Lift Balance.

Start with lighter weights first. There is always a bigger risk when you move heavier loads, especially when you don’t have the right technique and are impatient for results. However, all these risks can be mitigated if you don’t rush for progress and focus on good form.

“In my practice [as a physiotherapist], I’ve seen more ‘injuries’ in people who are generally sedentary. The injury risk is there regardless of what sport you do and I think that has a lot to do with poor body awareness and the lack of activity, so get moving!” Lim adds.

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