Successful And Safe Strength Training

Strength training requires both patience and diligence in achieving your goals. This is especially true if you are rebuilding muscle strength after a period of forced inactivity from an accident or injury, but is generally applicable in all forms of strength training.

Building strength requires a dedicated program of activities that challenge the muscles in increasing increments, allowing recovery time between activities for muscles to heal and grow stronger.

How do muscles grow stronger?

Muscles move the body by contracting, or growing temporarily shorter, which pulls the body part to which they are attached in the direction of the muscle group.

Strengthening the individual muscles or muscle groups requires adding resistance to the muscle's ability to contract. This is accomplished by active resistance, such as lifting a weighted object, or passive resistance, which involves keeping the muscles in a partially contracted position for an extended period, such as in yoga practice.

Adding additional resistance requires the muscle to work harder to compensate for additional stress. As more resistance is added incrementally, muscles experience small tears and inflammation. Muscles then heal and rebuild to meet their new requirements, and additional blood vessels are formed to supply more oxygen to the muscles.

Free weights or resistance machines or yoga ?

Each of these approaches to training will increase strength, and you can choose aspects of each type of training or use one method exclusively, according to your needs, goals, or personal challenges.

Free weights

Because free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells, have an unlimited range of movement, they offer a more complete strength training regimen. There is also no practical limit on the amount of weight you can aspire to lift. However, the additional range of movement is a double edged sword, because while you can strengthen secondary muscle groups while you are working on a specific muscle, you can also detract from concentrating on the primary muscle's training.

This is especially true if you attempt to lift more weight than the muscle can handle at the time. Secondary muscle groups assist the primary muscle, depriving that muscle of the full benefit of the activity. The freedom of movement in free weights also leaves a greater possibility of injuries, as the body must also keep the weight balanced as it is being lifted.

Resistance machines

These machines use pulleys and cables to work on specific muscle groups. While they are limited to only a linear range of movement, they also allow the activity to remain focused on the target muscle, minimizing help from secondary muscle groups. These machines are limited in the amount of resistance that they can provide, and the range of movement may not fully activate all of the muscle being used.

For example, some bicep machines only allow the bicep to contract and pull the lower arm upward. However, the bicep is also involved in turning the wrist upward, so that benefit cannot be exploited by a machine that leaves the wrist stationary. Still, resistance machines are optimal for those who are recovering from inactivity or injury. They allow you to use only the target muscle, while keeping other vulnerable muscles stationary and safe. The limited range of movement allows compromised knees and backs to remain safe.

Yoga and other passive resistance activities

These activities, which involve holding muscles in partial contraction, focus on muscle control and proper breathing, which is essential in any strength training. While yoga may appear daunting to some and ineffective to others, it encompasses many levels of training and can be used alone or in conjunction with other training to build both strength and endurance.

All methods of strength training require patience. Muscle groups will often grow in strength slowly, and you may reach a plateau point where you feel that you are not progressing. Your body needs time to build entire new systems of blood vessels to feed new muscle growth, and you may find that after a lull in strength building, you suddenly find overnight improvements.

Patience and persistence are the keys to successful strength training