A basic strength routine can change your life
Strength training isn’t just about getting six-pack abs and big biceps. Along with stretching and elevating your heart rate with cardio, strength training is key to maintaining a healthy and active life.
“Building muscle helps improve everyday function and reduces the risk of age-related weakness and loss of bone density,” explains C.C. Cunningham, an Evanston-based certified strength and conditioning specialist.
“As we age, we lose muscle mass. How much [you lose] depends on the amount of activity you take part in,”
Cunningham adds. “Strength training should be considered one of the primary ways to prevent problems associated with aging.”
Even a simple strength-training program can make a difference in how you feel and your ability to do the everyday tasks that become more challenging as you age, such as lifting groceries and climbing stairs.
To get you started, Chicago-based personal trainer Terrence Terrell has chosen five strength-training exercises that hit all of the major muscle groups and are good for beginners.
“You can always add more, but these are some movements that will benefit the average male or female gym-goer, no matter what their fitness routine is,” Terrell says. As you become stronger and fitter, you can change sets, reps and weight used to increase the difficulty of each exercise.
To start, pick a weight you can lift with good form while still challenging your muscles.
Start with a light warm-up (five to 10 minutes of cardio) and stretch before and after lifting. Do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for each exercise, two to three days a week, and you should see changes in about six to eight weeks.
And of course: Don’t forget to breathe! Exhale as you lift, and inhale as you bring the weight back.
Terrence Terrell’s Strength-Training Tips
- Doing exercises incorrectly increases your chance of injury. If you don’t feel comfortable putting together and performing a routine on your own, hire a personal trainer or ask a gym staff member or knowledgeable friend to help you.
- Set smart goals that keep you accountable. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and on a timetable. “I want to get in shape” isn’t specific enough.
- Have patience. The body you want will come, but it takes time and consistency. There are no shortcuts, only hard work and dedication.