Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Benefits of strength training

If you have picked up any sports focused magazine recently you will probably have seen some articles on strength training to aid your performance and to help keep injuries at bay.

Here, I am going to take you through why incorporating a strength regime into your weekly exercise “is a must” for your soft tissue and joint performance.

Importantly, strength work is not just relevant for sports people to aid performance but is very beneficial for all of us in our everyday lives to help keep injuries at bay. Plus, heading into cooler weather, and with gyms now open again, it is the perfect time to start. But, there is no excuse if you are not a gym person as strength exercises can easily be done at home too!

What is strength training?

They are exercises which make our muscles work harder than normal, by using resistance (e.g. from using free weights, resistance bands, kettlebells etc) or using our own body weight. 

Why strength training is important? For everyday life too!

When we are walking the forces on the hip joint are up to 2.5 times your bodyweight and when running the impact of the body with the ground generates an impact force in your legs which can be over 6 times your bodyweight (the force depends on your speed and weight). These forces are high because the force has to support your body weight and produce a change of momentum as you land, changing the downward motion into an upward motion for the following stride.

Don’t worry though this doesn’t mean our strength training needs to focus on lifting and pushing 2.5 times our bodyweight to be able to walk well and keep injury free as impact forces are dissipated, absorbed and reused amongst the soft tissues for continued momentum. This does rely on our soft tissues being healthy and responsive.

From the age of 25 we start to lose muscle strength and this loss starts to accelerate in our 40’s. From the age of 35 bone density starts to reduce naturally too.

So these facts clearly demonstrate why exercising to build and maintain strength is very important for everyday life, especially where repetitive movements are involved I.e. walking, running, cutting, playing an instrument etc.

So, the key benefits for performing strength based exercise:

  • Stay healthy by preventing injuries that result from weak muscles, tendons, or ligaments
  • Develop muscular power that enables speed and mobility - for example for runners a fast finishing kick, cyclists to improve their speed and endurance and football and racket sports quick reaction speeds and agility. 
  • Build neuromuscular coordination (this is the connection between our brain and our muscles and fascia) that improves running, cycling, walking economy (so this means efficiency). Our muscles are made up of lots of tiny muscle fibres (smaller in diameter than a hair) and they form muscles bundles (groups) and training strengthens the familiarity of movement.
  • Build our sporting capacity and endurance (to exercise longer, walk or run further)
  • Slow down the natural rate of bone and muscles loss from ageing. 
  • Our soft tissues don’t just move our joints, they support them from excessive forces. 
  • Promote new bone growth and maintain the existing bone structure. Bones benefit from different forms of loading.
  • The feel great factor from exercising and doing something for a healthy body and mind.

Strength training comes in many forms, it doesn’t only have to be from lifting a dumbbell, so it could be from active gardening tasks, resistance band exercises, body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, exercise classes, cycling or walking uphill. To improve our strength any exercise needs to be performed until you need a short rest before repeating the activity. For example, when using free weights heavier but fewer reps is better than many with a light weight and when running or cycling incorporating short quick bursts is beneficial.

For sports focused people remember your sport is your sport specific training and strength work supplements this, as it is your general soft tissue preparation.

Maintaining your strength means you can keep doing the things you love.

As a Soft tissue specialist, treating your muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and joints to so you can perform your hobbies and tasks, train and exercise which all helps to boost and maintain our health and well-being.

If you are experiencing any niggles or problems with particular movements or sports then it is best to sort these out, feel comfortable and have a rehabilitation plan of exercises before starting and trying strength training.

Please let me know if I can help treat you with hands-on massage treatment and/or advice for rehab plans.

Written October 2020

1. A J Van Bogert, L Read, L M Nigg 1999, An analysis of hip joint loading during walking, running, and skiing
2. Lenhart et Al. 2014