Strength Training – How to Build Muscle and Reduce Body Fat
Strength training (also known as resistance training) is a great way to build muscle mass and reduce body fat. It can also help prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass that happens with aging. In addition, it can improve physical performance and help you maintain good posture.
The key to building strength is to perform weighted exercises that work the major muscle groups, says Neal Pire, ACSM-certified exercise physiologist and account manager at The Gym at Englewood in New Jersey. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing resistance-training workouts at least twice a week. You should perform 2-4 sets of 8-20 repetitions for each exercise. You should rest for a minimum of 2 minutes between each set. You should also allow at least 48 hours between each session to let the muscles recover.
Proper form and technique are essential for safe and effective strength training, explains Pire. The best way to ensure proper form is to work with a trainer or fitness specialist, who can teach you the proper techniques and provide supervision.
Start with light resistance or weights and one or two sets of eight to 12 repetitions, then increase the load each time until you can do at least 8 reps with good form. If you feel a pain, stop the exercise and try it again later in the day or with lighter weights.
Use a variety of exercise movements, including squats, bench presses, pushups, pulldowns, leg raises and other lifts. You can use a weight plate, dumbbells, or your own body weight to perform these exercises.
Begin with a warm-up, including a light cardio activity like walking or running. This will prepare your body for the heavy resistance that you’ll be using and give it the proper energy it needs to complete your set.
For power training, you want to do a heavier set each time, with less rest between sets. You’ll use a weight that’s at least 80% of your 1 RM, performing between 1-8 repetitions for 3-6 sets, then resting 1-3 minutes between each set.
Depending on your age and experience, it may be helpful to have a weight coach or personal trainer show you how to do these movements correctly. They can also help you choose the right weights to meet your goals.
Planks, which are held from your hands, sides or forearms, help strengthen your core and other muscles in your back and arms, says Yellin. They’re a simple, efficient exercise that’s easy to master and will add a lot of strength to your body over time.
Seated abdominal twists — also called lateral crunches, are a great exercise to help strengthen your oblique abdominal muscles and the rectus abdominus, or the upper part of your abs. They’re a great addition to any strength-training routine, as they require a little extra coordination and focus on the abs, says Yellin.
Deadlifts, which are held from a standing position or performed single-leg, can help strengthen your lower back and ankles. They’re also an excellent way to build core strength, Carey says.