Strength or resistance training involves using your muscles against a progressively stronger or heavier counterforce, such as pushing against a wall or floor, lifting a dumbbell or pulling against a resistance band.
Strength training increases your muscle mass, tones your muscles, and strengthens bones—they need the pull and tug of muscles against them to absorb calcium.
It also helps maintain strength for your everyday activities—lifting and carrying groceries, climbing stairs or getting up out of a comfortable chair.
Currently, the national guidelines recommend strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
One set of 8-12 repetitions per session is effective; some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better.
Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between sessions.
Here are the tips as recommended by Harvard Medical School:
1. Warm up and cool down for 5-10 minutes. Walking is a good warm up, stretching a good cool down.
2. Focus on form, not weight. Poor form prompts injuries and slows gains. Align your body properly, and move smoothly through each exercise.
At first, start with no weight or little weight and concentrate on slow, smooth lifts and controlled descents.
3. Work at the right tempo. Using momentum in lifting or lowering weight negates strength gain. Use a count of 3 while lowering a weight, hold, then use a count of 3 while raising it to the starting position.
4. Be mindful of your breathing. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling, and inhale as you release.
5. Slowly increase weight or resistance to keep challenging muscles. Choose the right weight for you; it’s the weight that tires the targeted muscles by the last two repetitions but still allows you to maintain good form.
If you can’t do the last 2 reps, choose a lighter weight. Once it feels too easy to complete the reps, add 1-2 pounds for arms, 2-5 pounds for legs.
Or you might add another set of reps, up to 3 sets. After adding weight, you should be able to maintain good form, and the targeted muscles should feel fatigued after the last 2 reps.
6. Stick with your routine, performing each component set of exercises 2-3 times per week.
7. Most importantly, give muscles time off. Strength training causes harmless but important tiny tears in muscles that require 48 hours to recover/heal between strength training sessions. It’s the knitting up of the tears that grows stronger muscles.
My Take on the tips: Form is of extreme importance. During the 80s, I had my own exercise studio and a Cable TV exercise/wellness program. Prominently displayed was a little poem I’d written:
Trims you very nicely.
The poem was inspired by one of my piano instructors, the late Dr Harold Fink of Lake Erie College, who taught me that practice didn’t make perfect; only perfect practice made perfect.
The same is true of any exercise routine.
Source: Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, April 13, 2013