According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need to do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice per week. Strong muscles build strong bones so you are less likely to get injured or develop osteoporosis. Lean muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate so strength training makes you more efficient at burning calories. A well developed muscular physique also enhances your body image and self-esteem. Create a successful fitness program by utilizing a variety of strength training techniques.
Weightlifting is a broad term to describe strength training with additional weight through the use of dumbbells, barbells, machines and kettlebells. Weight training benefits your muscles by using resistance to create micro-tears in your muscles. As your muscles repair and recover, they become stronger. Your weight training techniques will depend on your personal fitness goals. Train with heavier weights and perform less repetitions if you are trying to gain size. Create lean muscle mass without adding bulk by performing more repetitions with lighter weights. Regardless of your goals, to continue to make progress as you get stronger, you will have to increase intensity to avoid plateaus. To avoid injury, take adequate recovery and allow 48 hours in between working the same muscle groups.
Calisthenics is a category of strength training exercises which utilizes minimal equipment and involves dynamic movement of your body weight through muscular contractions. Pushups, pullups, lunges and calf raises are examples of calisthenics. Combine calisthenic exercises with weight training in the same workout or perform them on their own.
Isometric contractions involve static muscle contractions where the length of your muscle does not change during the exercise. Examples of isometric exercises include holding your body in a pushup position or balancing in a squat against a wall. Isometric exercises challenge your muscles by holding and supporting your body weight against gravity without using outside force or momentum.
Plyometrics use explosive movements to improve your strength, speed and power. Athletes such as sprinters and football players benefit from these exercises. An example of a plyometric exercise is the burpee where you squat down, jump your legs out into a plank position, jump back to your squat and return to a standing position. Other examples include jumping from the ground onto a box, or single leg hops. Exercise caution when you perform plyometrics to minimize your risk for getting injured.
Aerobic exercises such as jogging, cycling and walking require you to use the large muscles of your body to move. This movement strengthens the muscles as you get improve your cardiovascular fitness. To boost muscle strengthening, incorporate hills into your ride or walk.
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