Up until this past century, strength training mainly consisted of weight training with heavy barbells. Thanks to new developments in technology, there is now a multitude of equipment and exercises that can be used for this purpose.
First, let’s define strength training, also commonly referred to as resistance training. Strength training is, basically, the building of muscle strength, size, and anaerobic endurance using resistance, such as weights, gravity, or elastic and hydraulic forces that oppose muscle contraction. Training consists of using these different methods to increase muscle output and strength or target the building of specific muscle groups.
How does resistance training work? The concept behind strength and resistance training is to continually manipulate and change the amount of force, the number of repetitions, and exercises used in order to achieve changes in your muscles. Lower weight and resistance with higher repetitions will increase muscle endurance while higher amounts of weight with fewer repetitions increase strength and muscle mass, the latter being the foundation of any muscle gaining program.
When strength training, it is always important to practice the correct form. This will help prevent injury and muscle strain and will help you better meet your training goals. Improper form can cause you to transfer your weight to other parts of your body. This causes the targeted muscles to not be effectively challenged. The threshold is never achieved, and therefore, the muscles do not gain the desired strength.
One of the earliest and most popular methods of strength training was weight lifting. This method uses gravity as resistance in the form of weight stacks, plates, and dumbbells. The resistance initiates at the joint angle where movement begins as the corresponding muscles attempt to overcome the inertia of the weight’s mass. The challenge when trying to increase muscle output is to gradually overload the muscles by performing slow repetitions so there is constant resistance.
Another method of strength training is the use of resistance bands. In contrast to weight lifting, elastic resistance provides the majority of resistance at the end of the muscle’s movement, when the equipment being used is at its’ highest point of tension.
In strength and resistance training, if your body is holding still against the force, it is called an isometric exercise. In isometric exercises, the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contractions. The muscle strengthens at the joint angle where the muscle contracts. When a part of your body is moving against the force, it is called an isotonic exercise. In these types of exercises, muscles strengthen throughout the entire range of motion. The amount of weight or tension should be chosen so that you can successfully achieve the number of repetitions without causing injury or excessive overload.
Strength training is a beneficial part of any well-rounded fitness and muscle program. Safety, especially in using correct form, should always be your first and most important consideration in strength and resistance training, as well as in any other fitness regiment.