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Strength training can be defined as an exercise type that is designed to increase lean muscle tissue, improve structural strength, decrease excess body fat, increase endurance, and provide several additional physical and psychological benefits.

In fact, there are so many health, fitness and mental well-being benefits associated with regularly performing a strength training routine that it is our belief that all fitness routines should include some form of strength training.

The term “strength training” can be used to broadly describe an exercise type that is designed to increase lean muscle tissue and improve muscular strength and endurance. All exercise types that promote increases in muscular strength and lean muscle tissue can further be defined as resistance training. Resistance training can then be defined as performing an exercise that forces the muscles to contract when moving an object of mass.

With the broader category of strength training, the exercise movements can be further defined based on the method in which the muscles are being exercised. In other words, different resistance type exercises will work the muscles through varying angles and in a different manner. For example, one resistance exercise type may primarily exercise the “slow twitch” muscle fibers, which are predominately responsible for sustained, slow muscle contractions while other resistance type exercises may focus on exercising the “fast twitch” muscle fibers, which support shorter, faster bursts of movement.

Forms of Resistance Movements

1. Isometric Training focuses on continuous muscle contraction with little to no joint movement. Included within the isometric exercise types are yoga and Pilates, which emphasize balance, flexibility, coordination and a calming of the mind.

2. Isotonic Training involves performing resistive movements that utilize free weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, medicine and exercise balls, kettlebells, and body weight. More specifically, isotonic exercises require the muscles that are involved in the movement to contract throughout the specific range of motion required to perform the exercise.

3. Variable Resistance Training involves performing exercises on large machines typically found at fitness centers and gyms. The variable resistance training machines equalize the weight that is being moved over the entire range of motion for each exercise. This form of resistance training differs from isotonic training. When performing an isotonic exercise, the stress on the muscle and joint from the weight that is being moved varies throughout the movement.

4. Isokinetic Training is quite often used by physical therapy patients, and utilizes resistance machines that match the force generated by the individual. In other words, as the individual pushes or pulls, the machine varies its resistance to match that of the individual. For individuals that are unable to generate a significant amount of force, the machine will reduce its level of resistance to match that of the individual. This form of exercise is very safe, which explains why it is a preferred form of resistance training for individuals who are performing physical therapy.

5. Plyometric Training focuses on performing explosive compound movements and is also known as jump training. This type of training is considered a type of functional fitness and is designed to not only improve an individual’s overall fitness level, but also improve their sports performance as well. However, caution must be taken when performing a plyometric training routine as the movements are explosive, increasing the risk for injury.

It should be noted that all forms of strength training are designed to improve muscle tone, strength, and lean muscle mass when performed with regularity. However, isotonic training is the quickest and most efficient way to improve structural strength and increase lean muscle mass. In addition, all forms of isotonic training provide countless other fitness and health benefits and, for this reason, should be included in all fitness routines.

It is important to understand how isotonic training increases lean muscle tissue and strength, and what is actually happening to the existing muscle tissue. When you perform a strength training exercise, you actually create tiny tears in the muscle tissue that was involved in the exercise. The muscle tissue is then repaired through nutrients delivered through the blood stream.

When you create tiny tears in the muscle tissue, the body overcompensates and repairs these tears by adding additional material to the muscle tissue, thus increasing the density and mass of the muscle. The intent of this process is to strengthen the muscle tissue and prevent these tears from recurring in the future.

Benefits of Strength Training

There are several health and fitness benefits that are solely derived from regularly performing a strength training routine. For this reason, it is our recommendation that all fitness routines include a strength training portion where all primary muscle groups are exercised at least twice per week. Below are several of the health and fitness benefits associated with regularly performing a strength training exercise routine:

Increase in muscular strength
Increase in strength of muscle tissue, tendons and ligaments
Improvement in flexibility
Reduction in excess body fatIncrease in Basal Metabolic Rate (i.e. number of calories burned per day)
Increase in lean muscle tissueIncrease in bone density
Improvement in muscular and cardiovascular endurance
Reduction in joint pain associated with Arthritis
Decrease in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure
Positive change in blood cholesterol levels
Improvement in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity
Improvement in strength, balance and functional ability in older adults
Improvement in athletic ability
Improvement in self-confidence and self-esteem
Improved calmness, centering and balance of mind.

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