As I would define it, strength training is any physical activity designed to increase muscle mass or fitness in a specific muscle group – an exercise using a resistance force to add stress to the engaged muscles.
It involves indulging your muscles more than its usual work rate. You overload your muscles. Any exercise can count as strength training if it consists of a medium to high-level effort and works on primary muscle groups in the body.
You should know that strength training is not just about lifting weights in a gym to build your body. It goes a lot deeper than that.
We can divide older strength trainees into three categories: those who never stopped training, those who relapsed, and those who never trained at all. But the benefits of strength training as you grow beyond 50 are undeniable.
Strength training is a significant part of the body’s overall fitness that has lots of benefits to everyone, primarily those with health issues such as obesity, high or low blood sugar levels, heart disease, arthritis, and many more. Studies have shown that strength training can counteract muscle weakness and physical frailness in older people.
Types of Strength Training
There are several types of strength training: isometric strength training, isotonic strength training, and isokinetic strength training. Don’t worry if you’re still wondering what any of this means. I will explain.
Isometric Strength Training: It is also known as static strength training. This type of exercise recruits muscles and exert tension without really lengthening or shortening the muscles. Your muscles are flexed but not expanding or compressing. Isometric training often involves moves that target your whole body.
And it’s perfectly acceptable if you perform activities that can engage your entire body all at once. Isometric exercises are well suited for those with limited workout space, knee discomfort, or if you need a change in your typical fitness routine.
Examples of isometric exercises are plank and side bridge, wall sit, and many yoga poses such as chair and tree poses. However, since these moves improve strength in one body position, they should complement more dynamic exercise regimens.
Isotonic Strength Training: Isotonic training keeps the muscle at the same tension or tone while it gets shortened. Many exercises you can think of are isotonic. You are moving your body out against an external weight or force through a range of motion intentionally. You are most likely familiar with most of the isotonic exercise regimens: squats, pull-ups, push-ups, stairs climbing, deadlifts, etc.
Isokinetic Strength Training: Isokinetic training makes you constantly work at a range of motion. Most isokinetic exercise uses specialized exercise machines that produce a continuous force regardless of how much effort you expend. The device controls the pace of the activity by fluctuating resistance throughout your set range of motion.
Your speed or movement remains constant regardless of how much effort you exert. The speed and range of motion can be set to a target to suit your needs. Isokinetic exercise can test and improve your muscular strength and endurance. Using the stationary cycle, which you can find at your local gym for a workout, is a perfect example of isokinetic training.
The Testosterone Factor
Most men over 50 seem to experience an inevitable loss of strength, energy, and vigour. But it shouldn’t be so. The frailness and reduced energy we often associate with ageing include difficulty walking for long distances, climbing, and carrying loads.
And these are all primarily due to muscle loss. The fact is, one of the main factors causing this muscle loss is inactivity. Let me give you a hypothetical example: pitch two men in their mid-50s, one man who has had years of training and being active with his body, and the other who spends most of his time sitting in front of the television watching old movies.
Let’s say you asked them to perform the same task, one they have never done before, but it involves physical strain and a small amount of flexibility. Who are you betting performs that task better? The one who has always been invested in strength training will do better. And with ease.
This scenario might seem obvious to you but let’s dissect this a bit. Firstly, the task is not strange to his body, and it has already grown a custom to doing kind of movements; secondly, his endurance is much higher, meaning his body is well equipped to deal with the strain. In this regard, that old saying is true for muscles: you either use them or lose them.
Constantly engaging your muscles will help you with doing any physical tasks. And strength training is by far one of the best ways to develop those muscles.
All men naturally suffer a drop in testosterone as they age. According to a report by David Paolone, a urologist at UW Health’s Men’s Health Clinic, “Nearly 39 percent of men ages 45 years and older have low testosterone. A low level is considered below 300 nanograms per deciliter.
And the prevalence of low testosterone grows with age: estimates show that it affects 12 percent of men in their 50s, 19 percent in their 60s, 28 percent in their 70s, and 49 percent in their 80s” (UW Health, 2017).
For those wondering what the hell testosterone is, let me explain. It’s a hormone found in humans and other animals. It is the crucial male sex hormone (also found in females but with a much lower concentration). In men, testicles are the primary producers of testosterone. It regulates sex drive and plays a vital role in sperm production, fertility, muscle mass, bone density, fat distribution, and red blood cell production.
I hope now you can see the importance of this hormone. Production of testosterone increases during puberty and starts to drop after age 30. After you pass 30, the testosterone level in men starts to slowly drop at a rate of around 1 percent per year on average.
The drop in testosterone level is a natural result of ageing. Testosterone affects so many functions. It can lead to hypogonadism (a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough male hormones or sperm) or infertility when it drops below a certain level that is considered healthy. Another significant effect of low testosterone is the loss of muscle mass.
Testosterone plays a huge role in the development and regulation of muscle mass, and reduced hormone levels can result in a significant loss of muscle. Although low testosterone causes a drop in mass, the function and strength of the muscles do not diminish.
Muscle mass is simply the muscle in your body, including the skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, and cardiac muscles. Low muscle mass has its associated health risks. It can negatively impact your overall health.
Benefits of Strength Training
Many men think strength training is just for building biceps and an elusive six-pack. Perhaps that’s one reason older men won’t consider it.
They don’t care much about how their body looks and how others perceive them. I want to state that this way of living is entirely acceptable, but strength training is beyond that. If you’re going to build bigger biceps, strength training is essential for making that happen.
However, even if maxing out your muscle size isn’t your objective, strength training is still one of the best ways to reach your health goals.
Before your next workout, let me take you through some of the benefits of strength training, so you would take your exercise and subsequent sessions with the knowledge of why you put your body through it.
Strength and Fitness
This is quite obvious, yet we can’t overlook it. Strength training makes you stronger and fitter. Muscle strength is fundamental to carry out tasks daily, more so as you get into your 50s and naturally start to lose muscle mass. Strength training lowers the risk of having difficulty executing daily activities due to a lack of muscular fitness.
These daily activities might include climbing up and down a set of stairs, moving furniture or other heavy objects, engaging in sporting activities or hiking, and even just standing for long periods. In short, it takes the fun out of the things you love to do when you’re not fit and are unable to do them to the best of your ability.
Protection of Bone Health and Muscle Mass
Once we clock 30 or thereabout, we start losing an average of 1% of lean muscle mass every year, as stated earlier. According to a study published in 2017 for Bone and Mineral Research, it was found that functional performance was improved through 30 minutes twice a week of high-intensity resistance and impact training.
They also recorded higher bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass, with no adverse effects (Watson, Weeks, Weis, Harding, Horan, Beck, 2017).
Also, it is noted in the HHS guidelines that, for everyone, strength training activities help preserve or increase muscle mass which is vital for bone, joint, and muscle health as we age (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018).
Regulates Excess Weight
Many people think losing fat is about burning off as many calories as you can, so this might deter them from strength training because it’s not focused on achieving this. There are many more forms of exercise that prioritize this. For example, aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming helps you increase the number of calories you burn off your body; this can 100% help you to shred some pounds.
But strength training is also helpful even if you’re not burning so many calories during your workouts. Many research affirms that strength training is beneficial for weight loss because it helps increase your resting metabolism.
When you have a good strength training workout, it increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Your body continues to burn out calories after a strength training workout. Strength training keeps your metabolism active after the workout, much more than after aerobic activity.
A study published about “Obesity” in 2017 documented three sets of dieters: dieters who didn’t exercise, those who did only aerobic exercise, and dieters who performed strength training exercises four times a week for 18 months. Dieters who did strength training lost the most fat, averaging 18 pounds. Compared to the aerobic exercisers who lost 16 pounds and the dieters who didn’t exercise only losing 10 pounds!
Development of Better Body Mechanics
Your body becomes more balanced, coordinated, and well postured. Older people are at a higher risk of falling because of inadequate physical functioning. You can reduce the risk of falling by some pretty high margins through a strength training exercise.
Body balance is dependent on the strength of the muscles that keep you on your feet. The stronger your muscles, the better and steadier the balance.
Osteoporosis Prevention and Management
Osteoporosis is a health condition commonly found in older people. The condition weakens the bones, making them more likely to break. It can develop over several years, so people don’t realize it’s happening most of the time.
Muscular bodies have strong bones. Strength training significantly increases your bone mineral density. Any weight-bearing exercise that involves gravity pulling down on your body stresses you and helps strengthen the bones and muscles.
Also, every time a muscle contracts, it pulls on the bone attached to it, which arouses the cell in the bone to secrete structural proteins that move minerals into the bone. If you want great results in this regard, focus on standing weight-bearing, such as squats and lunges.
In a 2014 Journal of Family and Community Medicine study, just 12 weeks of strength training with squats increased lower spine and femur (thigh) bone mineral density by 2.9 and 4.9 percent, respectively.
Management of Chronic Diseases
Many studies have documented the numerous benefits of strength training to help other health issues. Strength training has been shown to help people in managing chronic diseases. If you have arthritis, strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain.
Or you have low or high blood sugar strength training that can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and improve the use of insulin in your body.
Boosting of Energy Levels and Improvement of Moods
When you engage in strength training, your level of endorphins gets elevated, which, in turn, lift energy levels and improves your mood. All exercises boost your mood and give you a sense of happiness. Still, for strength training, additional research that’s looked at our body’s responses to such workouts offers further evidence that supports it has a positive effect on the brain (Strickland and Smith, 2014). Also, there is evidence showing strength training may help you sleep better.
Burning of More Calories
Your metabolism is boosted. Strength training helps boost the calories you burn during and after your workout. When you perform strength training, your body demands more energy based on how much you’re exerting (meaning the intenser you’re working, the more energy is required). After the workout, your body goes into a state of recovery which burns even more calories because it needs the energy to heal.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Along with aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening physical activity helps improve blood pressure. I recommend you doing muscle-strengthening activities twice a week plus 150 minutes of moderately intense workouts at minimum to help reduce hypertension and minimize the risk of heart diseases.
Perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of strength training is the probability that it will lead to a longer life. A 2015 study in The Lancet found that grip strength accurately predicts death from any cause. The study suggests that lean muscle mass better measures a person’s overall health. Having solid muscles has a direct correlation to living a longer life.
Getting Started with Strength Training
Maybe you are completely new to strength training, perhaps you have experience and are well versed in training your body, but you’re looking for a better routine. You might be somewhere in between but find it hard to stay consistent.
Whatever the case, let’s start your training afresh, a clean slate from now on. Let me guide you through everything, and if you follow my plan right down to every detail, I guarantee you this journey will be a breeze.
First, you need to commit. It’s easy to start something, but to persevere through thick and thin, takes genuine skill. You have to be sure of the benefits you stand to achieve and beyond that, making it a lifelong attitude. There is no need to be intimidated by this because once you learn it and adapt it to your life, it becomes easy, and you will find yourself enjoying every moment of it.
Strength training comes down to two simple things:
The movement of any weight against a resisting force. It can even be your body weight. Any exercise that puts high stress on your muscles can be considered strength training.
Progressive overloading, doing more than the last time. Let’s say you started with five push-ups today; in 1 week, you’re doing 6. Your muscles will have to constantly adapt and rebuild to get stronger.
Knowing these principles is the foundation of your strength training journey.
Do You Have to Take Supplements with Strength Training?
Strength training boosts fat loss by enhancing both the afterburn after exercise and increasing muscle size, thus increasing resting metabolism.
Some people might also use natural fat burners as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to increase metabolism or decrease appetite. When combined with a healthy diet, it will further increase the loss of excess body fat – and may also have other beneficial effects.
Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.
While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.
Besides, it should be noted that supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. Pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise.
In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.