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Weekly Wellness: Strength training is not just for bodybuilders

<p>Getty Images North America</p>

Getty Images North America

Our weekly fitness column, “Weekly Wellness,” is back again. This week, Matt Gallagher, from MFC Sports Performance in Darien, talks about the benefits of strength training, which will help you build muscle while not turning your body into that of a bodybuilder.

Welcome back to Weekly Wellness. With the first three articles, I laid the foundation for everyone to understand my perspective on burning fat, building muscle mass to aid your body’s metabolism and how a few minor changes in your wellness routines could lead to big changes in your body. One of those changes was to shift some of your focus away from cardiovascular workouts and add more strength training workouts to your routine. So let’s take a look at strength training and how it can work for you.

Intro to Strength Training

When done properly, strength training builds muscle. Improving your physical strength has been proven scientifically to be the single greatest mode of exercise to build muscle tissue. The process enlarges your muscle fibers and thickens your tendons, ligaments and bones all over your body, from neck to toe.  

Just so we are on the same page, when I say strength training, I am not referring to bodybuilding training or physique training. I am referring to the type of exercise that must be done to improve your bodies force production in the most basic human movement patterns possible. I am referring to utilizing strength training exercises that improve your ability to walk, run, sit, stand, twist, turn, jump and sprint. These are exercises that help to enhance your well-being and make you a more graceful, supple and stable person. All while building muscle and improving your body composition at the same time. Talk about an efficient mode of physical training!

Before talking about specific strength training exercises, I should mention that not all exercises are safe for every person attempting them. There are many factors that affect whether an exercise is appropriate for a person, and some of them include injuries or tender areas, mobility in certain joints or lack thereof and current level of strength.

Types of Strength Training

So what are these exercises that make a person stronger, more muscular, and leaner? In my opinion, the most effective forms of strength training include: 

1. Bodyweight strength training: This form of training uses only the person’s weight as the resistance to the movement, such as push-ups or pull-ups.

2. Variable Resistance Machines: the safest form of strength training, which doesn’t require the use of a safety spotter during your workout. They provide controlled motion throughout the exercise and allow you to target specific muscle groups. 

3. Resistance band work: The elastic exercise bands are an inexpensive form of exercise equipment which provides continuous tension to the muscles being used in any given exercise.

4. Free weight training: This type of training includes the use of barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. This incorporates more muscle groups, to help the body handle balance and coordination issues during any given free weight exercise. It also is more versatile, as it allows for more variations of exercise movements.

The most basic human movements include:

• Pushing your body away from the floor: best represented by doing squats

• Pulling things off of the floor: deadlifts are the best example of this

• Pulling objects to your body or your body towards an object: you can do this with inverted rows or pull-ups

• Pushing objects away from you or pushing your body away from an object: this includes push-ups and presses

These four basic movement patterns must be included in a strength training program to ensure total body muscle recruitment and balanced strength/muscle development. This goes for the most elite athletes or the brand new beginner in fitness, and is independent of age, gender and ability. In order to achieve the most gains from your workouts, most of your strength training should be performed with either bodyweight or free weight selections, depending on the exercise and desired load (weight).  

The Takeaway: While there are many other factors that determine the effectiveness of strength training, the take home message here is that basic, proper strength training can have a tremendous effect on your muscular development and the rate at which you burn fat. It would be well worth your time and energy to utilize this proven method of exercise.

If you are brand new to strength training, it would be wise to seek out professional help in this area, such as a personal trainer at your local gym. There have been tremendous strides in recent years in the strength and conditioning field, and a whole population of trainers and coaches just waiting to improve lives through fitness and proper strength training.  

Matt Gallagher is the Fitness Director at MFC Sports Performance in Darien, which specializes in functional training for both adults and younger athletes. You can reach Matt by emailing him at Matt@MFCSportsPerformance.com

This content was submitted by a member of the community. We’d like to hear from you, too! To share stories, photos, video or events for our calendar, please email Community News Manager Michael Cronin at michael.cronin@wrapports.com or use the online submission tool.

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