Two weeks ago I bought myself a Christmas present: a bench press set with barbell and weights from JB Sports. With the dumbbells that I previously kept, I hung a full-size mirror on the cement wall, installed a portable speaker for the iPod Nano and created for myself a mini-gym at home.
Strength-training. Is it essential in sports? To musclemen like LeBron or Manny P. or Nadal—we know that weight-lifting has elevated their status to the top-most echelon of sports. But, to you and me, ordinary folks, is lifting weights important? To our fitness?
I ask because, apart from the two months that I spent at the Pacquiao Fitness Gym (that’s Alex, not Manny, Pacquaio) at the JY Square two years ago, I’ve resisted lifting much weights in the past.
Swatting that tennis racket at the Sancase Tennis Club or pounding the Osmeña Blvd. asphalt roads while running, I’ve done a lot—but, muscle-building? Nah. Very minimal.
Scouring the internet for answers, I stumbled upon the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health website (www.dsf.health.state.pa.us) and, their article entitled “Women and Physical Activity – ?The Importance of Strength Training,” is invaluable. And though the write-up is targeted for women, the contents, obviously, also apply to men. I’ve paraphrased the article; here are seven benefits of strength training:
1. Increased Strength. Strength training improves your ability to lift objects. Having muscle strength allows one to lift heavier objects. Muscle endurance allows for the lifting of light objects more frequently. Also, many find that strength training makes daily tasks a little easier.
2. Improved Bone Health. Strength training has been effective in increasing bone density and strengthening tendons and ligaments. Developing strong bones reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and decreases the risk of bone fractures.
3. Maintained Muscle Mass. Beginning around age 20, adults lose about one-half pound of muscle each year partially due to decreased activity levels. Strength training can help to slow or reverse this muscle loss.
4. Controlled Body Fat. Many people do not strength train because they fear gaining weight. Building muscle actually helps to more effectively burn calories; muscle burns three times the amount of calories that fat burns.
5. Decreased Risk of Injury. Improving muscle strength increases flexibility and balance, which decreases the risk of falling and other related injuries. Developing strong bones and muscles can help to reduce the severity of falls.
6. Improved Body Image. Studies have reported that strength training can increase self-confidence and body image. Once results are noticeable, many tend to continue with their routine workouts because they have an improved self-image.
7. Reduction in Disease Symptoms. Many people who have arthritis, depression, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis have reported a decrease in symptoms of these diseases when they routinely participate in strength training.
These are excellent points. On my part, starting January 1, I’ve revised my all-cardio-workout to now include strength training. Running or swinging that forehand on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, I now incorporate lifting weights every M-W-F.
I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, I’m a beginner. Compared to my younger brother Charlie, for example, whose physique is sturdy and hefty, I’m gaunt and feeble. My bench press? Ha-ha. A frail 80 lbs. Bicep curls? Only 25 lbs. It may be lightweight—but it’s a start.
To me, the exercise that inflicts the most pain? The abdominals. It’s funny because, when I look back, up until six years ago when I turned 30, I never had a “stomach.” But ever since that middle part bulged, it’s never subsided. And so I consider the quest for that “six-pack” the most painful: crunches, sit-ups, leg-raises.
For as my 10-year-old daughter Jana would say: You always pass flab on the way to hard-abs!