We all know that adding strength training to an exercise regimen is great for our health and fitness. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old, able-bodied or disabled, you can do it!
Strength training can help maintain bone density, help improve digestion, it may help lower LDLs (the bad cholesterol), and not to mention the fact that it will make you stronger, improve your balance and muscular control, and help you burn calories at a higher rate.
Many of you may be toying with the idea of starting some sort of strength training program and some of you may already be well on your way, training almost every day at an intense rate. As a personal trainer, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from individuals is: “How many days a week should I workout?”
The truth is, it depends on many factors. The answer is never easy, is it? First of all, it depends on your level of fitness. A beginner should start out slowly, doing a complete workout for all of the major muscle groups about two times per week. A time period of at least 48 hours should pass before tackling the same muscle groups again. A more advanced resistance training program may work each muscle in a more intense fashion, but again, rest is needed to allow the muscle group to recover before the next workout. For example, I’ve been “pumping iron” for more than 25 years. I train with weights Monday and Tuesday; lay off the weights on Wednesday; resume again on Thursday and Friday, then off again Saturday and Sunday. Rest and recovery is as important as the exercise itself.
Certain precautions should be taken. 10 minutes of aerobic exercise provides a good overall warmup. Some stretching after weight training may decrease the amount of post-exercise soreness you could feel. You should also gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts to allow your muscles to adjust to the changes. Soreness is inevitable for all of us who lift, but if you pay attention to your body and give it the recovery time it needs, you are less like to get injured.
Of course, there are different levels of soreness. If you feel slightly stiff and a light soreness when you stretch your muscles, which I’ve dubbed “muscle awareness”, then it is probably okay to exercise that muscle group. However, if you feel so sore that it hurts to move those muscles, then it’s wise to take a day off from the weights. That workout could be replaced with low-level aerobic exercise or very gentle stretching.
If your muscular pain does not go away after three or four days and or you feel pain around a joint, you need to consult your physician to rule out more serious injury.
Jack LaLanne reminds us: “Just move something every day!”
Health and happiness, Kriss
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