Focus Area 4: Increasing Muscle Strength

Strength or Resistance Training means working out against a moderate resistance to tone muscles and build their strength. The resistance can take many forms: it can be your own body, free weights, or weight machines.

Besides increasing your strength, this type of training can improve your bone strength. This is especially crucial for post-menopausal women who are particularly vulnerable to the disaster of bone thinning. Strength Training can also help you manage your weight.

By strengthening your muscles, you will increase your muscle mass. Because muscle uses many more calories than fat to sustain itself, you'll burn more calories. And it's never too late to start. Studies with elderly individuals enrolled in strength training programs show they are able to build muscle mass and become more mobile and independent.

The Nuts and Bolts of Strength Training

A proper strength training program works all the major muscle groups of the body:

  • Lower Body
    • Buttocks
    • Thighs (front and back)
    • Calves
  • Upper Body
    • Chest
    • Back
    • Shoulders
    • Upper Arms (front and back)
  • Middle Body
    • Abdominals (stomach)
    • Lower Back

At least 2 or 3 strength training sessions each week are needed to see strength improvements. It is important to give muscles at least a day to recover between workouts. If you want to strength-train every day, work different muscle groups on consecutive days: for example, work the lower body one day and the upper body the next. This way, your muscles will get the rest and recovery they need. If you don't rest your muscles, you may actually prevent strength gains and cause injury. But don't wait too long between workouts — you don't want to lose any gains you've made!

It's Your Choice! You can choose to work without equipment, with free weights or with machines. Or, you may want to create a program that uses a combination of these activities.

a description of strength training without equipment

a description of strength training with free weights

a description of strength training with machines

a sample strength training tracking form

create a tracking form for your own use