So welcome to my first post. I have lots of stuff floating around in my head that I’m keen to share, so I thought this would be a good place to do it. In these articles I will be giving advice, facts, my opinions, food for thought, and hopefully getting rid of a few myths. If anybody would like to request something for me to write about, or has any questions about the articles, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom. Anyway, on with the post…
So I have started with the topic of strength, as it’s something I feel very strongly about. I believe everyone who is able, should be participating in strength training on some level. Whether it be children, the elderly, your average gym-goer or experienced athletes. I challenge anyone to find me a downside of being strong. I’m not just talking strong muscles. Being physically stronger also includes having strong joints and bones, and usually a strong mind as well. It also doesn’t mean you have to be big and bulky, which is a myth that often puts people, especially women, off lifting weights.
Physical strength can be categorised into two key areas: A force we exert against something external in order to create movement, or secondly, creating an internal structure for other forces to be able to move upon. For example in an overhead press, you create a force against the bar to move it, whilst simultaneously creating a solid base of support for it and (and your arms) to move against. Both are so important, and there are numerous benefits to having strength in all areas. Examples include:
– Reduced risk of injury
– Reduced risk of back problems
– Reduced risk of degenerative disorders such as osteoporosis
– Increased ability to move and function in everyday life
– Increased fat burning (basal metabolic increases with higher levels of muscle tissue)
– Better quality of sleep
– Increased confidence
– Improved athletic performance
And there are many more. As I’m sure you’re aware, being physically weak usually means the opposite of all of these. How many people do you know who have injured themselves performing tasks such as DIY or changing a car tyre? Or even just bending down to pick up their child?
So to go into a little more detail, I’m lucky enough to work with all of these demographics and can see first hand the benefits being strong. I have worked with groups of children several times, and starting development early is something which I think isn’t stressed enough. Kids should be climbing trees and playing on the monkey bars in the park. Developing things like a strong grip and upper body. My dad used to tell me about a time he and his friends found a rope swing, played on it for hours, and then found every muscle from his abs to his arms were aching the next day! Must have been quite a workout! Next time they tried it, they didn’t hurt at all, because their muscles had adapted that quickly. These simple things that are fun for kids to do are amazing at developing basic and functional strength. Instead a lot of the children I see now spend all their time slumped over some form of technology. As a result they develop poor posture and flexibility, which are the two biggest factors I address when helping clients with back issues later in life. Prevention is most definitely better than cure, and what better place to start than at a young age.
With regards to older people. I have come across several in the latter stages of their lives, all of whom have benefited from getting their bodies stronger. For someone of that age, we’re not usually talking about a max bench as a goal, but simply being able to hoist themselves out of a chair and get up and down stairs without trouble. This comes back to my earlier point about forces; being able to effectively produce a force against the chair with their arms, and floor with their legs, to be able to create movement away from it and stand up. Sounds simple, but it’s something a lot of elderly people struggle with. The stronger they are, the better able they are to carry out these every day tasks, thus giving them a better quality of life. As an example, a lady came to me who was in perpetual agony as a result of problems with her back. After continued strength training, she is now virtually pain free. She was so happy when she was able to simply do her gardening again, something many take for granted.
I have also worked with athletes looking to rehabilitate injuries or improve their performance. Both of which can be achieved from strength training. Becoming stronger will help make you faster, improve your golf swing, enable you to throw harder or jump higher – basically any aspect of performance you can think of can be improved by simply getting stronger. Another major thing it can help with is injury prevention. The more conditioned your muscles and joints are to deal with whatever your chosen sport throws at them, the less injuries you’ll pick up. Think about the force exerted through your body every time your foot hits the ground when running, when you suddenly change direction in a game of tennis or football, when you throw a ball hard as you can in cricket, or make a tackle in rugby. The list is endless and applies to any sport. You’re either generating or absorbing force. Both of which your body needs to be strong to do well and without getting hurt in the process. Athletic injuries are often caused because the muscle or joint wasn’t strong and well conditioned enough to deal with the force it was subjected to. This also relates to people looking to lose weight. The stronger your body is, the more safely and effectively you are going to be able to exercise.
Finally I have also applied strength training to pre- and post-natal clients. Being pregnant is an extremely challenging time for a woman’s body. Keeping it strong will enable it to deal with these changes much more easily and recover quicker. Not only that, but it also better prepares the body for the daunting physical task of being a mum!
So there you have it. I could waffle on forever about this subject. In fact my biggest challenge was trying to condense it into a reasonably short(ish) article! There are so many benefits to getting stronger, yet there are SO many people who don’t do it. Get involved and start lifting. If you have kids get them off their Playstation or iPad, and get them active. Whoever your are, whatever your goal is, go and get yourself strong!