Strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program. Learn exactly what it is and how to get started.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training (also called weight lifting) builds lean muscle mass, which increases your physical strength and your bone density. It is especially beneficial as people age, because it may reduce the signs and symptoms of:
Examples of strength training include:
Weight lifting, using:
- Free weights
- Weight machines
- Elastic tubing
- Body weight exercises, such as push ups or chin ups
How to Get Started
If you have not lifted weights before, make an appointment with a certified athletic trainer to help you develop a safe strength-training program. You can find a trainer at a local gym or through a referral from your doctor or a friend.
Tips for getting started:
- Begin each exercise with light weights and minimal repetitions.
- Slowly increase weight, never adding more than 10% in a given workout.
- Do strength-training exercises 2 or more days per week. Allow at least one day between each workout for your bones and muscles to rest.
- Gradually increase the number of repetitions to 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions with a rest period of 60 seconds between sets.
- Although stiffness the day after exercise is normal, if you are in pain, you did too much. Decrease the intensity or the duration of your exercise next time.
Note: Before starting any type of exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems you may have that would limit your exercise program.
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Exercise: how to get started. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(12):2095-2096.
Growing stronger—strength training for older adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/growing_stronger.pdf. Accessed October 13, 2017.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 12/1/2015