Strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program. Learn exactly what it is and how to get started.
Strength training (also called weight lifting) builds lean muscle mass, which increases your physical strength and your bone density.
It is especially beneficial as people age, because it reduces the signs and symptoms of:
- Back pain
Examples of strength training include:
Weight lifting, using:
- Free weights
- Weight machines
- Elastic tubing
- Body weight exercises, such as push ups or chin ups
If you have not lifted weights before, make an appointment with a certified athletic trainer to help you develop a safe strength-training program. You can find a trainer at a local gym or through a referral from your doctor or a friend.
Tips for getting started:
- Begin each exercise with light weights and minimal repetitions.
- Slowly increase weight, never adding more than 10% in a given workout.
- Do strength-training exercises 2 or more days a week. Allow at least one day between each workout for your bones and muscles to rest.
- Gradually increase the number of repetitions to 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with a rest period of 60 seconds between sets.
- Although stiffness the day after exercise is normal, if you are in pain, you did too much. Decrease the intensity or the duration of your exercise next time.
Note: Before starting any type of exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems you may have that would limit your exercise program.
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed February 3, 2014.
Exercise: how to get started. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20061215/2095ph.html. Published December 2006. Accessed February 3, 2014.
Growing stronger: strength training for older adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/index.html. Updated February 24, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2014.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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