Historically, exercise in this country has been driven by the exercise physiologists and cardiologists crowd, Dr. Ken Cooper being the primary case in point. His aerobics commandments of the 1970’s started the whole running fitness boom and many have not looked back.
As a result, fitness for many came to be defined by aerobic fitness only which is a really a very narrow, biased view of true fitness. Fitness is really multi-factorial and includes:
- Aerobic fitness
And strength among others.
One of these traits that has really been a poor step-child of the aerobics craze has been strength training. Finally, in the last several years, strength training has been given more of it’s just due as people realize its vital role in a well rounded fitness program. No place is this more important than as we grow older.
Even the esteemed American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have come out with a position paper advocating the importance of strength training as a key component in middle and older age populations.
Notice all of this has talked about strength training not just weight training. That is because weight training is just one of many strength training modalities. Others modes of strength training include
- Bodyweight exercises
- Gymnastics movements
- Medicine ball training
- Clubbell training
Even heavy rope training has its place in strength training.
Even within strength training there are various tools at your disposal such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, functional cable systems and sleds to name a few.
The attention to strength training has come about because of the realization of the plethora of benefits that a sound strength training program can create. Just a few of these benefits include:
- Increased bone density
- Better balance
- Building of lean body mass (LBM)
- Improved power
- Increased tendon, ligament and connective tissue strength
- Increase mobility
- Better coordination esp. if done through full ranges of motion
There are very few, if any, forms of exercise that has this impressive list of benefits. All of these benefits together mean better function, movement, and the ability to do the activities of daily living (ADL’s) much easier.
That is why strength training has been a key component of all good physical therapy programs for a long time because of its value in restoring full function.
And there are some physical traits that strength training can develop that simply can’t be done with other modes of training despite their claims to the contrary.
Among those are strength development and building lean body mass.
In order to develop strength in any meaningful fashion, you need to provide progressive overload (overload the muscle gradually) – and Yoga and Pilates are hard pressed to do that except with deconditioned people.
Do Yoga and Pilates have a place in a fitness program? Absolutely, but not as a mode of strength straining.
When it comes to building muscle, strength training is King. Nothing else even comes close.
Why is building muscle so important? Here are just 2 BIG reasons.
First. Muscle is functional and drives movement/mobility. You can't move without muscle.
2nd, we lose about 1% of our muscle (LBM) every 2 years after the age of 30 so by age 65 if you don’t do something to counteract this you will have lost over 12% of your muscle mass.
The loss of muscle as we get older has huge implications on your ability to maintain a healthy weight and staying independent as the decades go by.
So if you don’t have a strength training component to your fitness program, start one today. It is never too late. Many studies have shown the efficacy of strength training on populations in their 70’s and 80’s.
If you’re not sure what to do, hire a professional trainer who does and have them design and teach you a program that's appropriate for you.
Train hard and train smart.
Bruce Kelly MS CSCS is a personal trainer and owner of Fitness Together in Media Pa.