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The Art of Movement Edition 51: Why Regular Strength Training is a Non-Negotiable Game Changer

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Edition 51 - Why Regular Strength Training is a Non-Negotiable Game Changer No Matter Who You Are

So from my long list of habits (supposedly healthy ones) I have been gathering throughout my life, perhaps the one dearest to my heart (alongside football and athletics) is strength training. Since first joining a gym aged 16 it has given me purpose - and initially just gave me a bit of confidence getting a bit of muscle on my little twiglet arms. I started off clueless (as we all do), swinging dumbbells around with my mates and doing wonky bench presses with absolutely 0 leg days, then gradually began learning more, getting qualified, adding the odd deadlift here and there to an absurdly torso-centric programme. Finally, it was in my Bournemouth Uni years that I became a fully paid up disciple of the strength training community, where I learned the importance of ‘whole body strength’ and the effect it could have on reducing my injuries and improving my life in football and life in general.

Strength training cannot be ignored, as hard as we may try to look the other way! On a cellular, neuromuscular, hormonal, and genetic level (did you know genes can be turned on or off?) - lifting some heavy weights a few times a week is one of the most important hobbies you could ever choose to do. Aside from the fantastic benefits of improved confidence, resilience, energy and feelings of well-being, here are some other slam dunks you can almost bank-on by embarking on a solid strength training programme:

Reduced Risk of Injury: Strength training strengthens not only your muscles, but the tendons and ligaments which stabilise the most important structures of our body. This offers us the protection that we need during intense activities and most importantly gives us the confidence to go out there and get stuck into them. Think of your strength work as the insurance you buy before embarking on an adventure - you are ensuring your trip goes smoothly.

Improved Running Performance: Strength training increases our rate of force development (RFD) and improves the total amount of force and power we can produce each time our foot strikes the ground, this enhances our running economy (so it literally costs you less energy to run at the same speed as before). We’re doing it faster, more efficiently and not feeling as bad in the process, giving you win-after-win which creates a compounding positive snowball effect.

Better Sports Performance: Strength training also helps improve sports performance by influencing an endless number of performance markers, whether that is top speed, lactate threshold, jump height, reaction time, change of direction speed, as well as improved coordination and balance. It is a no-brainer for all athletes (I know there are many top athletes who hate the gym - and I still insist. Strength training doesn’t necessarily require a gym).

Combat Sedentary Life: Many people simply struggle getting out of the sedentary trap we have all been sucked into, often to the extent you may not trust your body to be able to run, or jump, or lift something heavy. Starting with some simple strength training basics can help you create a foundation, a platform to go and do those things you want to do, whatever they are. Targeted strength work will improve your posture by activating and utilising the muscles that support the spine, shoulders, and hips, improve flexibility by increasing muscle range of motion and also loosen and lubricate the joints to reduce stiffness. Strength training is proven to help increase bone density and strength, reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, which should be compelling for anybody no longer in their 20’s and 30’s to promote the longevity of their health.

And Finally, Enjoy the Twilight Years… Think about it - we should all be playing the long game! Nobody wants their later years (should we be blessed to make it so far) in this world to be spent in pain, inactivity and isolation. Sadly our society has failed us at the very first hurdle by neglecting to prepare us for a healthy life; that is, we weren’t taught how to move correctly at school, we were taught how to sit still. We weren’t taught how to brace the spine when we squat, how to hop, skip and jump explosively, how to run with good form, lift our own body weight, or pull ourselves up to a bar. We reach our teens and childhood activity levels decline, we find part-time jobs, studies and social interests while exercise and movement takes a back seat. Before we know it we have left school and the golden opportunity to equip and instil you with all the physical tools and know-how to be fit and strong well into your 80’s and 90’s vanishes in a puff of smoke.

Regular strength training for older populations (>60 years) has been found to increase muscle strength and mass, while improving motor unit recruitment, as well as increasing firing rates (Mayer et al., 2011). The study recommended that healthy old people should train 3 or 4 times weekly for the best results, however improvements are still possible with less frequent training in those with initially poor muscle strength, mass or motor unit recruitment. Muscle mass can be increased by training at 60-85% of maximum effort (7-20 reps), and rate of force development can be increased by training at intensities above 85% (6 reps and below).

3 months of strength training was also found to have increased muscle strength in 45 older women (average age 64), and more emphatically-so for the groups of them who had been supplementing fish oils for either 60 days prior to the strength training or throughout (Rodacki et al., 2012). Other studies have found multiple benefits including improved sleep, and the wealth of research combines to bear overwhelming evidence that strength training should be as big a part of your retirement plan as the wholesome holidays and new-found life of leisure!

‘As a result, strength training in the elderly is of utmost importance in improving quality of sleep and psychomotor characteristics improvement.’

Research collated using Full references at the end of the newsletter.

“Running doesn’t make you weaker. Not strength training makes you weaker” - Dr. Scott Carlin

Movement of the Week: Kettlebell Deadlift

3-5 sets of 5-8 reps

That’s all for this week! Check out my Patreon channel for video episodes, on-demand workouts, training programmes, training guidance/advice and more!

Thank you, Gabriel

Reference List:

The intensity and effects of strength training in the elderly. Authors: F. Mayer, F. Scharhag-Rosenberger, A. Carlsohn, M. Cassel, S. Müller, J. Scharhag. Published in Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 2011.

Fish-oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women. Authors: C. Rodacki, A. L. Rodacki, G. Pereira, K. Naliwaiko, I. Coelho, Daniele Pequito, L. C. Fernandes. Published in The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2012.

The Effect of Strength Training on quality of sleep and psychomotor performance in elderly males. Authors: K. Irandoust, M. Taheri. 2017.

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