As I mentioned yesterday, strength training is very important as you age and plays a major role in longevity and your ability to live a fulfilling and independent life. But although exercise looks pretty basic, doing it incorrectly can cause some serious harm. To get the most out of strength training, there are some things you absolutely have to pay attention to.
Doing these things will help you maximize strength gains, minimize injury risk, and increase your overall enjoyment from your exercise program.
Get the Most Out of Strength Training
- Proper execution: By performing exercises improperly, your risk for injury goes way up. Improper form puts unnecessary stress on joints and can put an awkward strain on your muscles. Although getting a tutorial from a personal trainer is most effective, you can try to learn from videos, too. One of the main things to keep in mind is to focus on the muscle you are training—that is where you should feel it. A properly executed biceps curl or push-up, for example, should not cause pain in your lower back.
- Warming up and cooling down: Getting your muscles loose and limber before beginning your workout limits the chances of injury. I prefer doing an active warm-up where I warm up the area of the body I’m working on, as opposed to something general like walking on a treadmill. For example, if I’m doing back exercises, I will warm up by doing lightweight warm-up sets of rows before getting into my “working” sets. If you prefer, doing five to 10 minutes on a treadmill can also get the blood moving to limber up your muscles. Once the workout is finished, perform five minutes of stretching. This will help with recovery and minimize post-workout tightness.
- Breathing: Breathing is an important and often overlooked component of strength training. Breathe out when you’re exerting force (pulling or pushing) and contracting muscles, and breathe in when you’re releasing. Holding your breath during a push or pull can result in a cardiac episode for some.
- Avoid locking joints: In order to keep the stress focused on the muscle, avoid locking out joints like your elbows and knees. Maintaining a slight bend at the end of the rep instead of reaching the full extension helps with strength gains and protects your joints.
- Be patient: It can be easy to overdo it when you begin an exercise program. Adrenaline and trying to rush gains can lead to early exhaustion and could sabotage your efforts. Stick with a consistent, manageable program that provides long-term results.
- Listen to your body: When it’s time to advance, you’ll know it. Likewise, if you’re feeling drained or ill, take a few days off to recover.
These guidelines can help you exercise safely and maximize your gains and enjoyment. Before you know it, you’ll be flying through your workouts and waiting for the next one!