Of all The Five Components of Fitness, strength is the most all-encompassing of bio motor learning. Strength is defined as “the degree to which force can be applied.” There are no time constraints in which the force can be applied. Power is utilizing strength in the shortest amount of time. Everyday mundane tasks such as turning a key, drinking a glass of water, or standing up require some form of strength.
Although an incomplete strategy, many fitness professionals adhere to the adage “combine resistance training with cardio” as the primary formula for structuring workouts. Most people know that cardio means performing some sort of moderate activity for a minimum of 2 – 3 minutes. These cardiovascular activities can include jogging, elliptical machines, stair climbers, cycling etc. But most people become completely lost when navigating resistance training on their own. Here are the four ways to perform resistance exercises:
Popularized after World War II, an isometric exercise is exerting force against an immovable object. For instance, putting your back against a wall, lowering yourself into a squat, and then holding that squat for 30 seconds is an isometric exercise. There is no joint movement involved. Strength is only increased in the joint positions worked during the exercises. The most well-known and utilized isometric exercise is planking. Planking and its variations are arguably the most effective core exercises in fitness because all the abdominal muscles are worked, in addition to other muscles in the arms and legs. Isometrics are very beneficial when intermixed within an exercise routine.
2. Free Weights
Free weights normally refer to equipment moved in the performance of an exercise. The weight is free to move in any direction and in any manner the lifter can manage. Barbells, dumbbells, and kettle bells are usually the primary tools for resistance training. Most serious and competitive lifters utilize free weights. Free weights demand stabilization and muscular control. Whole body dynamic exercises such as the clean and snatch are impossible using weight machines, and can only be done using free weights.
3. Weight Machines
Weight machines are the easiest and most popular resistance devices. They present a lower risk of injury and are preferable for younger athletes and novices looking to gain strength. The machines are easier to set up, provide better support, require less skill, and are more comfortable than free weights. Strength can be increased on almost any weight machine with consistent exercise, and machines come in a variety of options targeting multiple parts of the body. Weight machines are relatively expensive. If buying a weight machine for home use, be cautious on buying cheap versions that are poorly constructed because they can be dangerous and lead to injury.
Perhaps the most ancient form of strength training, calisthenics involve resistance exercises using body weight as the resistance. Novices and children should learn to use their own body weight before moving on to free weights and machines. Pushups, pull-ups, leg raises, walking lunges etc. are all great tools for developing strength with one’s own body weight. Calisthenics are excellent for people who are unwilling to join a fitness facility, or simply do not have much time to work out. Even a seasoned fitness pro derives great benefit from calisthenics and finds a way to incorporate them into workouts with free weights and machines.
A well-rounded strength program contains all forms of resistance training. As more people cancel their gym memberships and opt to work out from home, having a general understanding of different resistance training options adds great value and efficiency to a workout. For instance, if I wish to work out my chest, I may do a series of chest presses with dumbbells (free weights). And then later in the workout I can use a machine to perform a chest incline press (weight machine). Lastly, I’ll perform a series of pushups (calisthenics) and every third pushup hold my position at the bottom for 5 seconds (isometric). Working out is stressing the body in a safe effective way, and allowing the body to repair itself stronger than before. Multiple diverse stressors allow the body to keep adapting and improving. Resistance training is a great tool to develop lean muscle and strength, and all the different forms should be utilized.