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Strength training

Strength training: increase muscle mass for your well-being and better sports performance

Strength training is essential for every fitness programme, from the athletic preparation of a runner to the training of a powerlifter, and should also be the basis of any fitness training, and an excellent complement when cardio training is practised. Whether you want to put on mass or become faster, strength training is an essential ingredient, as well as having positive effects on health and psychophysical well-being, even for the over-50s.

Strength is a crucial skill for many sports and bodybuilding. For many, it is possible to train the attitude to strength simply by using overloads, but the specific protocol is indeed much more complex.

Benefits are not limited to increasing physical power, as strength training also helps to protect muscle mass and ensure the health of the bones, maintaining balanced body weight by decreasing fat mass and increasing lean mass. In addition to this, medical studies have shown that for older people, subject to a higher risk of falling due to worse physical condition, strength training reduces the risk of falling by 40% compared to those who have not exercised on strength training.

Strength training: definition and basic principles

According to the definition of the American College of Sports Medicine, strength training is a physical activity aimed at improving muscles by training a single muscle group or an entire kinetic chain against an external resistance, such as an external weight or the weight of one's own body. Strength training also helps to develop better body mechanics, bringing benefits to balance, coordination and posture. The basic principle is to apply a load and overload the muscle so that it has to adapt and become stronger.

At 30 years of age we start to lose 3 to 5% of lean mass per year due to ageing. To avoid all this, it just takes 30 minutes, twice a week of high intensity or impact strength training, to improve functional performance, as well as bone density, structure and strength in post-menopausal women. Combined with a healthy and balanced diet, people who trained strength in a year lost 8 kg compared to 7 kg for people who only did an aerobic activity and 4 kg for people who did not do any activity.

How is this possible? Strength training helps to increase metabolism, that is to say, the speed your body at rest burns calories during the day. Your body burns calories during the workout and continues to burn them after strength training through a process called Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, informally called afterburn).

Some extra benefits of strength training

When you do strength training, your body requires more energy depending on how much energy you are using; this means that the more calories you burn during the workout, the more calories you will burn after training while your body is recovering.

Strength training helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, increasing energy and improving your mood. Studies show that strength training can be just as effective as medication in reducing arthritis pain, also helping to improve glucose control and thus reducing the risk of diseases such as type-2 diabetes. Thanks to the natural endorphins produced by our brain after training, your mood will improve, increase energy levels and improve the quality of your sleep.

Basic rules for balanced strength training

To develop a good strength training programme, you need to choose the correct exercises that challenge your central nervous system and muscles, while at the same time allowing you to perform the specific training routine.

It has been scientifically proven that the most effective exercises in weight workout and strength training are those involving as many joints and muscles as possible, and therefore multi-joint exercises are especially recommended. Without any doubt, the three core exercises that cannot be missing in a proper strength training program are:

  • Squats

  • Deadlifts

  • Bench Press

On the other hand, within programming, some core principles must undoubtedly be respected to achieve your goal.

  • Number of training sessions: specific trainings ranging from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 4 per week.

  • Number of exercises: from a minimum of 2 exercises (Squat/Bench Press - Bench press/Deadlift - Squat/Deadlift) to a maximum of 5-6 exercises including some complementary ones; e.g: (Squat,Bench press, Deadlifts, Military Press, Traction and/or Dips,Good Morning with a barbell)

Summary

  • Give preference to quality over quantity. The better the movement, the stronger you will be

  • Dedicate from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 4 days a week to strength training

  • Choose exercises involving several muscle groups (kinetic chains) and several joints (multi-joints)

  • Do not overload your CNS: always trying to reach the limit; take some time to rest, to speed up recovery and to safeguard the integrity of the work you carried out

Essential gear to practice strength and weight training at home

The basis of strength training is resistance work or training with overloads, as the body's ability to develop and improve strength is a consequence of the counteraction of increased resistance. Therefore, it is only by working with progressively increasing external overloads that it is possible to train strength optimally. All forms of activity with overloads are technically forms of strength training. Depending on how the training develops, this form of strength training will have a more precise meaning. For example, training for hypertrophy, which is also a form of strength training focusing on the improvement of muscular strength.

On Hi-Fi Tower you can find a wide range of equipment to practice strength training in complete safety and comfort. Let's have a look at the main equipment to create your home gym.

Power rack

The power rack was invented in the 40s, and it’s very similar to a "parallelepiped scaffolding"; in truth there are many types of power racks, from simpler models to more sophisticated ones. It can be considered the best ally for a weightlifter - but also of a bodybuilder - as it guarantees safety and practicality especially when performing the fundamental exercises: squat, bench press on a flat weight lifting bench with barbell, pull-up (or pull-ups at the bar). Note: if well adjusted, the power rack allows you to perform the deadlift in partial excursion, sometimes recommended for subjects with very long levers or with rachis or knee or pelvis complications. The same concept can be applied on good-morning, the Romanian deadlift and rear lunges.

Barbell

The barbell is also widely used in traditional gymnasiums where fitness and bodybuilding are practised and obviously in weightlifting and powerlifting gyms. It is certainly the best-known tool among those used in functional training and strength training, and it cannot be defined as unconventional. The barbell remains the reference tool for strength training, as it is infinitely loadable, in the sense that you can put as many weights as you want. The good grip and the ability to grip it comfortably with both hands make it exceptionally well suited to developing strength under stable conditions. It remains very uncomfortable for single limb exercises.

Kettlebell

The kettlebell is a cast iron ball with a handle. In this tool, the centre of gravity that is not on the handle, as a result of which the load is unbalanced. This tool is used in the physical preparation of the Russian army and on the internet, you can find numerous videos showing Russian soldiers training with it. The possibility of using the kettlebell with only one hand allows you to train more stability, strength and coordination of each articulation as the use of the limbs separately leads to fewer constraints and consequently more stabilisation work on the smaller muscles.

Sandbag

The sandbag is a canvas or jute bag filled with sand, rice or other cheap material. This tool is the most affordable choice for strength training. Moreover, being soft, it is incredibly comfortable when it has to be supported by the body during the execution of specific exercises, its deformability causes instability of the load which leads to greater activation of the stabilising muscles to compensate for this situation.

Water bag

A water bag is another overload tool characterised by instability. It is a plastic bag containing a certain amount of water. The liquid, as it moves, leads to unbalance of the user which will be compensated by the activation of postural muscles and joint stabilisers.

Clubbell

The club or clubbell is an iron club with a handle at the bottom. This tool varies in length and weight, and both parameters contribute to making the use of this tool more or less demanding. The handle of this tool has an unbalanced load and is used mainly with circular movements that take advantage of the tool's inertia to perform very articulated gestures. The clubbell is a great tool for improving coordination, but its use requires a lot of precision in the movements, it is certainly very technical. Still, these characteristics make it particularly effective to improve the proprioceptive and control aspects of the gestures carried out.

Sledgehammer and mace bell

A sledgehammer is like a mason's hammer but with a weight that can vary from 5 to 40 kg. The mace bell, on the other hand, is a bar with a spherical weight located at one end. Both these two tools have a load at one end of a bar with a length of about 1 metre, so if you hold these tools on the opposite side of the weight, you get a strongly unbalanced load.

Core trainer

The core trainer consists of a punch anchored to the ground with an attached hinge to insert a rocker arm. This tool involves the execution of movements of the rocker arm fixed to the ground at one end and is held by the athlete on the other end, allowing movements in all directions: vertical, horizontal, oblique and circular. This tool is particularly useful for performing torsional and fast strength training exercises.

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