Strength training has long taken a back seat to cardiovascular endurance training in public health. We’ve been told to focus on endurance exercises like walking and jogging. Strength training is a luxury – for the young, for athletes, or for the vain.
Decades of research say the opposite – more muscle and strength extend life (and quality), decrease disease, keep body-fat in check, and so much more.
Without strength training we lose 1% of our muscle mass every year after age 30. When we lose muscle mass we degrade our metabolic health and make chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension more likely. This is primarily because of insulin resistance which increases as we lose muscle and drive diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, etc.
Putting this in action:
- Train 2 days per week – you can work all of the muscles in your body with just 4 exercises. Push something (bench press or push up), pull something (row or pull up), squats or split squats, and deadlifts or lunges. To put a cherry on top you can do a plank variation and carry something very heavy.
- Ignore your biceps – unless you can train every day, don’t worry about isolation exercises like bicep curls. You’ll get the same results with compound exercises that involve your biceps like rows or pull-ups (assisted is where 99% of people start).
- Use lower reps – the point of strength training is to get stronger. Light weights for high reps doesn’t provide enough challenge to make your body stronger. For the first 2-4 months use higher reps like 10 and 12, but afterwards focus more on rep ranges like 3 sets of 8, 4 sets of 6 and 5 sets of 5. The lower the reps the heavier the weight should be. (Only increase the weight you lift with integrity.)
- Progress – track at least some portion of your workouts and work at getting better. For example, if you start out doing knee push ups, work towards doing toe push ups on an incline, and eventually the full thing. This is the principle of progressive overload in action. Without a progressive challenge for your body it will stay the same or move backwards.