When I first started strength training in April 2020, I had next to no knowledge. My only experience with exercise had been going for walks and using the elliptical at the gym a few times. I wanted to try something new and this seemed like the perfect challenge. If this somewhat matches your experience or if you have completely different reasons for getting into strength training, look no further! Firstly, strength training has many benefits.
Increased muscle mass and strength
Strength training can make you stronger. The increase in muscle mass can be motivating for continuing your workouts, but it can be surprisingly useful in everyday life too. It can allow you to do simple tasks such as carrying groceries inside, going up multiple flights of stairs for work or a class, going for a walk with friends, or playing with your kids. Strength training also can make these activities easier and more enjoyable.
Managing weight and body fat percentage
Strength training, just like cardio, can help with weight management. You won’t immediately begin to gain muscle mass after one workout. Depending on your routine and consistency, you can train to gain, maintain, or lose weight. Remember, weight should not be the only measurement you use to track your progress, and the same goes for BMI. Calculating your body fat percentage and taking measurements in various places on your body can be great methods to track your progress.
Improved health conditions
Strength training can lead to the improvement of many health conditions, including heart health. These workouts can strengthen the heart and blood vessels, leading to decreased blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also lower blood sugar levels which leads to a decreased risk of diabetes. Other health conditions that can be addressed include obesity, chronic pain, arthritis and depression.
Increased bone strength
Along with muscle mass, bone strength also can increase from strength training. During these exercises, you put stress on your bones. This causes the bones to rebuild themselves stronger and can lead to a reduced risk of fractures, breaks and osteoporosis.
Increased balance, joint strength & flexibility
By engaging in strength training, you will gain better support and control of your body, which increases balance. Better balance and control lead to a reduced risk of falls. It also improves joint strength and mobility, providing extra protection against injuries in general. Strength training also increases joint range of motion (ROM), allowing for greater flexibility. One study found strength training and stretching to have the same effects on range of motion.
Better quality of life
In general, strength training can improve your quality of life. There have been multiple studies and reviews that have found that it leads to higher confidence and self-esteem. Examples could be performing tasks more efficiently or having a positive body image. Exercise leads to the production and release of endorphins, mood-boosting hormones, so a regular exercise routine can make for a positive mindset as well.
Now that we know the benefits of strength training, how do we start?
First, you’ll need access to some sort of equipment. This could include free weights, resistance bands, weight machines or suspension equipment. The best way to get access to a lot of equipment for a lower price would be through a gym membership. Most gyms have a variety of free weights and machines to choose from. However, at-home equipment can still be a great option. Free weights can usually be found online or at a local store. You could use household objects such as soup cans or water bottles as well. If all else fails, many strength training exercises can be done without weights.
After figuring out the best equipment option for you, the next step is picking the right workout.
If you’re looking for someone to show you exactly what to do, then I would suggest meeting with a personal trainer. Most trainers will allow you to book one session at a time, but other trainers have specific programs you can join. About a year or so into my fitness journey, I did a 12-week personal training program in which my trainer provided me with a workout plan, a nutrition plan and skill-building lectures and worksheets to ensure I would be able to continue these habits on my own. Although personal training has countless benefits, especially for beginners, it can be pricey.
However, cost-effective options can also provide results. With a gym membership, there will likely be a schedule with classes available to members. This option works well for people who thrive in group environments with live coaching. It can be motivating to work out with a group of people because seeing them push through the hard parts can push you to do the same. Another option could be at-home workouts through platforms such as Beachbody or YouTube. Based on my own experiences, both platforms have a lot to offer. YouTube has a much wider variety of content from countless different creators, and nearly all the fitness videos will be free. Beachbody, on the other hand, does require a subscription, but it offers a full library of fitness and nutrition programs created by professionals.
If you’d like to try to create your own routine, this article offers some simple exercises that can be done at home without free weights.
With these options to get started in mind, we’re ready to get started, but now we need to find ways to stay motivated. My biggest piece of advice would be to keep your reason for starting strength training at the forefront of your mind. Whether you have to set a daily reminder in your phone or leave notes around the house for yourself, remembering that reason will continue to push you to work hard. On top of that, don’t give up if something doesn’t work or you’re not seeing progress right away. Try something new! Workout programs will never be one-size-fits-all, so be willing to try something else when another thing doesn’t seem like a good fit. Setting attainable goals for yourself can be motivating as well, especially at the beginning of your journey.
Above all, make sure it brings you joy. Starting your fitness journey should be fun and exciting, even though the workouts themselves might be difficult at times. Good luck!