We all know that strength traiing is an essential part of a fitness routine. The question is, what is the best way to incorporate strength training, and therefore building muscle mass, into a routine?
First things first, listed below are some of the benefits, if you are not conviced that incorporating a strength training regimen is necessary. This component of fitness:
– Developes strong bones
– Controls weight
– Reduces risk of injury (increasing muscle mass will protect joints, which will decrease the chance of an injury occuring)
– Boosts stamina (yes, strength training does contribute to cardiovascular fitness)
– Helps manage chronic illnesses
– Sharpens mental focus (which is increasingly important as we age)
To read more about why, with a regular strength training program, you can reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, and burn calories more efficiently, the Mayo Clinic does an excellent job discussing this and more in their article.
Now that you understand the “why,” the next question is “how” to incorporate strength training into a fitness routing. This answer is not as easy because there are a lot of options: should you buy a set of dumbbells for in-home sessions? Should you join a gym for a variety of weights and machines? Should you attend a class? All of these are good choices. Therefore, your decision must be made based on what is going to work your body to its fullest potential in the amount of time you have. Consider Pilates. If you have never taken a class before, you might think Pilates is for women, or ballerinas, or even a class you would choose for relaxation or meditation. These are common misconceptions. Pilates is for men, women, and people of all fitness levels.
Let’s talk about weight lifting. If you are just starting to incorporate weight-lifting into your routine, start with light weights, to prevent injury, allowing yourself to gradually add more weight as you become stronger. This process may be very slow or happen quickly,depending on fitness and activity level. Most of the exercises in weight training focus on one muscle group. For example, bicep curls are for the biceps, leg extensions are for the quadriceps, etc. In addition, if you have never weight trainined before, it is important to seek out a professional training to learn a variety of exercises, ensure your weight training is being done correctly, and that you are lifting the approriate amount of weight.
Pilates is different. While I client needs to be aware (and certainly make the teacher aware) of any personal limitations and/or injuries, the movements in a Pilates class involve the entire body, with the goal of building long, lean, strong muscles. For example, consider the Pilates “hundred;” in addition to working the core, or abdominal muscles (which actually should be activated throughout an entire Pilates class), this exercise involves the biceps, triceps, and deltoids (because the arms are pumping up and down); the glutes, inner thighs, and quadriceps are all activated as well (because the legs are being held together in the air). Because Pilates is about using your own body weight and resistance to improve and increase muscle condition, even someone sustaining an injuring or recovering from a surgery can participate in a class.
The Bottom Line: Although more muscles will be simultaneously worked in a Pilates class and the class is geared to be suitable for all populations, a Pilates class is a more efficient strenght-training workout. Keeping that in mind, any type of strength training exercises or classes you choose are beneficial and many, including Pilates, can be done in the comfort of your own home. Without strength training incorporated inot your routine, a key component of fitness and health is missing. Whether you opt for a core-strengthening, full body workout at a Pilates class, or decide to pick up a five pound set of dumbbells for lunges and curls at home, strive to “feel the burn” at least three days each week!
Attention: Always consult a physiicna before adding a new fitness activity to your routine or starting a strength-training program.