One of the biggest myths among novice gym goers is that strength training is not so important. “Men focus on pumping iron and bodybuilding and women focus on aerobics. But they forget that strength building sets up the foundation," says Kamal Chhikara, head coach and owner of Reebok CrossFit Robust gym in Delhi. “But I am glad to see that the new generation of fitness enthusiasts is focusing on strength."

“In fact, the next step after a person has developed a certain level of desired mobility and flexibility is to work on his strength," adds Chhikara.

Strength training keeps the heart healthy, reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, and builds bone density. This, in turn, helps the body withstand more stress. It also slows down the ageing process and helps in gaining muscle mass, which eventually leads to weight loss. And according to a December 2017 paper in the journal Sports Medicine, strength training releases endorphins that help in reducing anxiety.

The best thing about strength training is that you don’t really need much equipment. And with a couple of changes in grip and pattern, you can focus on different muscles and add resistance.

“Suppose you are hanging on a bar and pulling yourself to touch the bar with your chin. If you just change your grip and decide that instead of your chin, you want to touch the bar with your neck, this exercise will become more challenging and also target a different set of muscles," says Chhikara.

The key to building strength is consistent training and focusing on all muscle groups. “You need to focus on all muscle groups because an imbalance in strength can lead to injuries," says Delhi-based Vinay Sangwan, trainer and owner of Anytime Fitness gym. “Also the rule of thumb is to do between 5-10 repetitions. No more, no less."

The addition of simple equipment such as dumbbells can turn squatting into an intense strength exercise.
The addition of simple equipment such as dumbbells can turn squatting into an intense strength exercise.

Sangwan also suggests sticking to a routine, and same exercises, for at least four-five weeks and then changing them. “Sticking with a routine helps in steady development of muscles. It also gives you an opportunity to add load and resistance to get more out of the same exercises," he says.

Both trainers emphasize on the importance of taking it slow, for the muscles to recover and grow. A good practice is to work on each muscle group twice a week, they suggest.

“What you could do is start with working on one muscle group a day and then graduate to two a day to create a balance," says Sangwan. “So you could work on the shoulder and chest muscles one day and the hamstring and quad the next day, for example."

What also helps is having a goal in mind. The strength requirements of a marathon runner are different from an Olympic weightlifter. If you are not looking to participate in an Ironman challenge or a marathon, it is important to work on each and every single muscle group of the body.

“For such people, I would make a plan that involves the basic movements, such as squats, pushing and pulling," says Chhikara. “And as they adapt to those movements, I will add loads and patterns. The basic idea is to include the basic movements in our daily lives so our body gets used to them."

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