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Strength Training in Austin, Texas at Raw Power Gym

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Strength training has become ever popular due to the overwhelming evidence supporting its benefits for the heart, strengthening bones and muscle, improving balance, mental wellness, and helping in losing or maintaining weight.   Routine strength training for people of all ages and fitness levels helps prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass. We all naturally experience something called, “Sarcopenia” which is age-related muscle loss.   According to Harvard researchers, for most of us starting at age 30, we lose 3% to 5% of our muscle mass per decade and roughly 30% of our muscle mass over our lifetime. However the good news is that just because we lose some muscle mass, it’s not necessarily gone forever.  We can reverse and increase muscle mass lost from aging with dedication and strength training as it’s never too late to rebuild muscle mass and maintain it.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is also referred to as resistance training, weight training, and muscular training.  Generally speaking strength training is physical movements wherein you use your body weight or equipment (e.g., resistance bands, iron dumbbells,  and or a machine) to build strength, muscle mass, and endurance (Source)

The most common types of strength training are:

  • Muscular Building: using moderate-to-heavy weights to stimulate muscle growth.
  • Muscular Endurance:  usually involves using body weight or a high amount of reps with light weight, and aimed at improving your muscles’ ability to sustain being exerted over a length of time.  
  • Circuit Training.  Involves performing a series of exercises for a set number of reps or prescribed amount of time while allowing for only a short rest between the exercises.
  • Maximum Muscular Strength.  Usually involves low reps (typically  2–6) coupled with heavy weights to increase overall strength.  This type of strength training is for experienced people who have perfected their form.
  • Explosive Power.  Involves combining speed and power to increase overall power output and practice by athletes to increase their ability to perform explosive movements.

The Benefits of Strength Training  

Did you know strength training improves bone health and enhances brain function? Beyond being an essential component for developing muscles, the benefits of strength training (also called weightlifting or resistance training) extend to all aspects of your mental and emotional wellness.

According to research, people who do not strength train lose about 5-8 pounds of muscle every decade after age 40. This then reduces your daily metabolism by about 50 calories and as you grow older the decline of muscle becomes even more extreme. By the time we’re 70 years old, most of us will have lost about 40% of our muscle and 30% of our strength.   Strength training is an effective, and the only way,  to slow this natural process.  

1. Lower Abdominal Fat

A study published in the research journal Obesity, reported how Harvard researchers concluded strength training to be more effective at reducing abdominal fat than cardiovascular workouts (exercise). Strength training burns calories while increasing lean muscle mass, stimulating  metabolism. It turns out your metabolic rate is influenced by your muscle mass, so as you strength train reducing fatty tissue and increasing lean muscle, your metabolism accelerates resulting in the burning of more calories. According to the American Council on Exercise this metabolic boost that’s triggered from strength training is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption

2. Better Cardiovascular Health

Abdominal fat, known as visceral fat that collects around your vital organs, is linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  This is because visceral fat releases certain hormones and proteins causing inflammation that damages blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and other cardiac problems.  So, reducing or preventing entirely the build up of excess abdominal fat by strength training is certain to improve heart health.  The Journal of Applied Physiology published research concluding regular strength training produced better-functioning “good” cholesterol,  lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar control,  and healthier triglyceride levels lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease compared with those who never strength trained.    

3. Reduced Cancer Risk

Abdominal fat, known as visceral fat that collects around your vital organs, has also been associated with an increased risk of cancer. A Study from the journal Oncogene concluded visceral fat cells generate high levels of fibroblast growth factor-2, or FGF2, a cancer-triggering protein.

4. Lowered Injury Risks

Weak muscles place stress on their connecting tendons which can result in tendinitis.  The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, reported strength training increases the diameter and amount of collagen fibrils in tendons, increasing their strength and helping prevent injury.  Thus strength training lowers the risk of overuse and repetitive injuries from other sports (swimming, basketball, running, cycling, tennis, etc.) because it strengthens your joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and bones.

5. Improved Mood

A ​JAMA Psychiatry​, study determined resistance training, a type of strength training, reduces the frequency and severity of symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.  This is largely due to the exercise-triggered endorphins (the feel-good chemicals) coupled with the personal sense of achievement usually felt following strength training workouts.  Strength training can also better your hormonal balance by invigorating the production of hormones like growth hormone and testosterone while inhibiting stress & weight gaining hormones like cortisol.  Lastly, there is research showing a significant connection between strength training and a healthy positive body image, including body appearance and satisfaction.

6. Improved Flexibility and Mobility

Research  in the Journal Isokinetics and Exercise Science determined by taking your joints through their full range of motion during strength training, you can increase that range of motion or flexibility over time.  In fact WebMD has published research supporting strength training as superior for achieving flexibility than simply stretching along as strength training can build muscle and improve flexibility and mobility –  while simultaneously..

7. Elevated Body Image

Research, including a Journal of Extension study determined consistent strength training enhances our self-confidence and improves body image and perceived physical appearance – no matter the actual aesthetic results. Improvements in energy levels and mental health, as personal achievement and self accomplishments, can be catalysts for a positive overall body image.

8. Bone Health / Osteoporosis Prevention and Management

Strength training is essential for encouraging bone growth early in life and maintaining bone density and strength as we age.  Most of us reach peak bone mass by the time we’re 25-30, and gradually start to lose bone mass by the time we’re 40, with loss accelerating more as we get older.  Muscle mass is critical for bone, joint, and muscle health!  A Journal of Family and Community Medicine study, concluded 12 weeks of regular strength training with squats increased femur (thigh) bone and lower spine mineral density by 2.9% and 4.9%, respectively.  It turns out strong bodies produce strong bones, and strength training significantly increases bone mineral density.  You can say strength training “loads” the bones,  triggering them to produce a denser, more mineralized boney matrix.  Plus, when muscles contract, they pull on the bones they’re attached to, stimulating  cells within bones to generate structural proteins and draw minerals into the bone.  

9. Boosted Brain Health

Strength training can invigorate your brain over the course of your lifespan, and the benefits are  stronger for seniors coping with cognitive decline. Research in the Journal of American Geriatrics, determined that seniors with mild brain impairment that weight trained twice-weekly for six months significantly improved cognitive tests scores. However, when participants replaced strength training with stretching, their cognitive test scores declined.

What the Beginner can Expect in Strength Training

Generally when a client is new to strength training, the initial objective is to master basic movement patterns to ensure exercises are being performed safely and effectively.  The may involve bodyweight exercises focused on balance, core stability, and fundamental movement patterns. After you feel comfortable with basic movement patterns, we’ll try adding external forces (e.g., weights, resistance bands, and machines).  

The types of exercises  will depend on your fitness goals, such as trying to build muscle or increasing muscular endurance.  For general muscular fitness,  we’ll select a weight that allows you to perform 8–15 reps for 1–3 sets while maintaining proper form.

If it’s difficult to manage through at least 8 reps or you’re unable to maintain good form, the weight is probably too heavy for you (except in the case of advanced lifters working toward strength goals). On the other hand, if you can easily breeze through 15 or more reps,  increasing the weight would be advisable.   Gaining strength and building muscle comes through challenging your muscles.   It’s always a good idea to “progressively overload”, meaning increase the reprs, weight, or amount of sets as you become stronger.

Most people feel a measure of soreness a day or two after a comprehensive strength training workout.  This is normal and known as “delayed onset muscle soreness” but should not rise to the level of actual pain or keep you from performing your daily activities. Most people realize the optimal gains from having 2 to 3 strength training sessions per week.  This kind of schedule gives your muscles enough idle time between sessions, rest and enables your muscles to heal and grow. 

How to Get Started with Strength Training

When it comes to strength training, most feel changes with the first session, and see changes within weeks, while it can take a few months for others. Your level of fitness and the makeup of your body prior to starting a strength training program influences how rapidly you’ll see results.

Having clear and specific goals defined and targeted allows you to plan, map and focus on your strength training journey.  As long as you can vision your success and are serious about gaining muscle mass, there’s no reason you can’t see the results you’re aiming for and deserve.  You can be sure to receive personalized one-on-one attention from our staff of experienced trainers.  

Strength training and weight lifting in general is commonly misunderstood as a pursuit of “bulking up” and thus is often neglected in favor of cardio exercises for fitness goals. 

Strength Training Frequently Asked Questions

What is better for strength training, machines or free weights (barbells & dumbbells) weights?

Both approaches have their positives and depend largely on your primary strength goals. Benefits of machines include: quick and easy to use, injury prevention and useful to focus on isolated muscles. However possible downsides of machines are:  not practical or representative of everyday movements which could restrict stability and neglect development of smaller muscles. Advantages of free barbells & dumbbells include:  exercises and training with them is helpful for strengthening functional, everyday common movements. The downside includes: it can take more time to learn the proper techniques, and barbells & dumbbells do present a bigger injury risk.

I’m new to strength training, where should I begin?

Everything depends on your goals, but in general, beginner’s should consider starting by selecting 8 to 10 exercises covering the main muscle groups: shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps, back, lower body, and abdominals.  Aiming for about 8 reps for each exercise that can progress up to 10-15 reps is a solid starting point.  Complete one set of each exercise initially and you can ladder up to a second and third set when you’re comfortable doing so.  Be sure to do a thorough post workout stretch and repeat this routine 2 – 3 times a week, but never on consecutive days.

I’m a woman,  will I bulk up strength training? 

Strength training’s most common misconception, particularly among women is that it will inherently make you overly muscular.  Yes your body will get toned and muscles defined, however strength training will not make you overly muscular.   Research has found that high oestrogen levels work against women in bulking up without also using artificial drugs.

Additionally, one study determined that testosterone only increased significantly in men after strength training and not women (and only significantly when the strength training involved using heavier weights). The bottomline is that without extra testosterone or human growth hormone, women are biologically incapable of building big muscles like men.

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