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Blog Blog features the latest fitness and clean eating advice from John Holley, MS, CSCS. Blogs focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and getting the most out of your workouts.


John Holley

Strength is the quality or state of being strong, the capacity for exertion or endurance, the power to resist force.

What determines strength?

Size matters when it comes to strength, but it isn’t everything. A strong person is someone who uses the maximum number of muscle fibers possible, as determined by the number of motor neurons activated prior to movement. The more motor neurons that are activated, the greater the number of muscle fibers which will contract. This is why intensity matters when it comes to your workouts. Safely upping the intensity of your workouts will force more muscle fibers to engage, which will increase your strength.

Challenging yourself during your workouts will also increase the coordination of your muscle fibers within a particular muscle because the firing of your motor neurons will synchronize. In fact, this is the reason beginners seem to experience greater gains than experienced lifters. Another reason for strength gains is improved intermuscular coordination during more complex movement such as lunges, squats, pullups and pushups. Consistent workouts train the chest to work with the arms, shoulders and core in order to do pushups, for instance. This cooperation between muscle groups translates to greater strength.

Why is strength training important?

The first answer which may come to mind is, “to look better naked,” but there are other benefits. Chief among these is protecting your bone mass through regular strength training workouts. Men and women lose bone and muscle mass as they age, but you can prevent and reverse the ravages of time. Better body mechanics and coordination are another way in which weight training and body weight workouts benefit you now and in the future.

Your long-term wellness is affected because strength training plays a role in disease prevention. Regular workouts help maintain healthy body composition, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. If you suffer from arthritis gym time can decrease pain.  If you live with diabetes, going to the gym may improve glucose control. Exercise is also a vital component in preventing osteoporosis and heart disease.

Want more good news?  Strength training elevates your level of endorphins, which serve to improve your mood. Studies have also linked regular workouts to reduced levels of stress, improved sleep quality and improved self-image.

Now, the one you’ve been waiting for…strength training burns calories during and after your workouts. The after-burn of a strength training session is a result of the repairs being done to the muscles you worked. For this reason, wait a minimum of 48 hours before you strength train the same muscle groups again. Yoga, low-impact cardiovascular exercise or rest, are recommended between workouts.

Remember to consult with your doctor before you begin a program of strength training. Also, if you are new to exercise or if it has been a while since you worked out, you may want to book a few sessions with a credentialed trainer in your area. She will ensure you use good technique and can help you build effective and safe workouts.