No matter who you are, you need exercise to stay healthy. But walking into a gym can be intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the different types of training styles and equipment. Strength training is an ideal gateway into other forms of physical activity, because it can be as mild or intense as you like. It’s also good for those who have trouble with cardiovascular exercise, and can even help prepare your body for more cardio-oriented workouts in the future.
This article is designed to be a comprehensive introduction for the beginner, so no prior knowledge is needed to benefit from this overview. We’ll start with some basic questions, then move on to an explanatory list of equipment, followed by advice on how to get started.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training workout is a broad category that includes all types of exercises geared toward improving muscle strength and increasing muscle size.
Who Typically Engages In Strength Training?
All athletes, to some extent or another, engage in strength training exercises. From body builders to ballerinas, strength training workout is an integrated part of nearly all athletic regimens. Non-athletes can also take part in strength training exercises as part of their daily physical fitness routine.
Individuals involved in physical therapy will often use some form of strength training to help regain control over an injured or atrophied limb or muscle group. However, physical therapy should always be done under the advice of a doctor or physical therapist to prevent injury.
What Is It Good For?
Building stronger muscles has numerous health advantages. By creating stronger support for the skeletal structure, strength training can prevent injuries. The muscle maintenance that comes from strength training prevents muscular atrophy and improves overall physical endurance levels. Many people also report increased physical control and awareness of body after engaging in long-term strength training exercises.
How Does Strength Training Workouts Work?
Typically, strength training workout involves using some form of resistance and repetition of movement. This could be barbells, a thera-band, or even a can of beans if you need something in a pinch. The type of strength training you do will depend largely on the type of results you want.
So now that you’ve got a general idea about what strength training is and how it works, let’s move on to the types of strength training equipment available. The next section will define the main types of equipment, as well as how and when to use them.
Widely known by the brand name Thera-Band, a resistance band is like a giant-sized rubber band (if it’s in a circle) or a very large strip of elastic. This is a versatile piece of equipment, and a very low-key introduction to strength training. Many dancers – who tend to have a great fear of ‘bulking up’ – use resistance bands to help increase muscle strength and endurance. Innumerable exercises exist for resistance bands, and they can be used to increase strength on nearly any part of the body.
These are the non-adjustable weight lifting bars that you’ll find in a multitude of different weights and sizes. Dumbbells are a preferred method of strength training at home, as they don’t take up much space and often don’t require a very strong body to start. Dumbbells are designed to be used with one hand (as opposed to barbells, which can use two), and can be used in pairs or individually. Like resistance bands, there are a number of different exercises one can perform with dumbbells, some requiring only a narrow range of movement. These are often used in physical therapy as a mild and versatile training device.
Unlike dumbbells, which are a single piece, barbells are comprised of a long or short metal bar with weight plates at each end. These are what probably come to mind when you imagine a body builder lifting weights. Although designed to be used in fewer ways than resistance bands or dumbbells, barbells offer a lot of flexibility in terms of weight and equipment. The user can determine the number and weight of plates he or she wants to lift, so it can be completely customized to the user’s abilities.
If you haven’t done any strength training before, you should work up to barbells with dumbbells and resistance bands.
Squat Racks and Smith Machines
Both squat racks and Smith machines are designed for use with barbells. While they differ greatly in usage, the overall principle is the same. Both devices can help strength trainers lift barbells safely without a spotter. It’s important to make sure you fully understand how any type of equipment works before attempting to use it, and it’s helpful to have a trainer show you in person how to use it to your best advantage.
Some experts argue that weight machines are the best, safest way to begin strength training workout. Unlike free space equipment (everything we’ve discussed so far falls into this category), weight machines have the advantage of ensuring that your body is properly aligned when using resistance/weight training. Weight machines work by allowing the user to manipulate a handle or handles to lift the attached weights. There is less opportunity for accidents, especially serious accidents, which is another reason some trainers recommend using a weight machine before a free space workout.
This, of course, is just an overview of the most common and commonly accessible types of strength training tools, not an exhaustive list.
So How Do I Get Started?
That depends largely on your preferences, lifestyle, and availability. If you have a gym membership, you can stop by and try out some of the weight machines. If you’re concerned about your ability to commit to a regular gym schedule, purchase a set of dumbbells and begin a low-key workout at home after work. It takes very little time and money to start down the road to physical fitness.
Strength training workout is arguably the easiest sort of fitness routine to start. If you’re strapped for time, strength training workout can take as little as a few minutes a day. If you have concerns about your level of stamina or reservations about jumping into cardiovascular activity, strength training is an idea choice for you.