Strength training is a key 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 weightlifting) builds lean muscle mass. This makes both your muscles and bones stronger. It is very important as we 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, see a certified athletic trainer to help you come up with a safe strength-training program. You can find a trainer at a local gym or by asking your doctor or a friend. Tips for getting started:
- Begin each exercise with light weights and just a few repetitions (reps).
- Slowly add weight, never adding more than 10% in a 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.
- Over time, build up to 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps with a rest period of 60 seconds between sets.
- Stiffness the day after exercise is normal. Pain is not. If you are in pain, you did too much. Exercise for a shorter time or at a lower intensity.
Note: Before starting any type of exercise program, check with your doctor about any health problems 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 January 29, 2021.
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 January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 1/29/2021