KEY POINTS:

1. Strength training works your type 2 muscle fibres, which are used for activities that require strength and speed. 

2. Strength training doesn't just make your stronger. It also helps to prevent various chronic illnesses and diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

3. If you've never done strength training before, you should get some advice from a Registered Kinesiologist or certified strength and conditioning specialist to learn the proper techniques.

When you do strength training you are engaging different energy systems and muscle fibres than you use when you’re doing aerobic training. This type of exercise is more intense and requires that we create more force with our muscles than what we need to do when we’re doing light to moderate intensity aerobic activity. Just think of the difference between hiking in the woods vs. carrying heavy bags of groceries. One requires a little bit of energy over a long time (hiking) and the other requires a lot of force over a short period of time (carrying). Both are critical for health and performance.

We have 2 main kinds of muscle fibres: type 1 which are aerobic endurance fibres that we use to do light activity and type 2 fibres that we use for activities that require strength and speed. By engaging your type 2 muscle fibres, you are working the full spectrum of your muscle fibres. This develops your total muscle strength and prepares your body for situations when you have to pick up the pace – like the final kick when the finish line comes into sight, or sprinting for a bus. 

Muscle growth occurs when the micro-tears work in conjunction with a molecule called mTOR that is produced during a strength session to stimulate the production of new actin and myosin protein chains. In essence, you break them down to build them up!

The molecule mTOR doesn’t just stimulate your muscles to get stronger, it does some amazing things as it circulates throughout your body during and after a strength session. mTOR’s basic effects are that it activates fat, liver and brain cells and increases your general health by making you stronger and more efficient. But it is also believed that mTOR can help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, among others. These effects mean that strength training is as important for our health as cardiovascular activities.

Strength training is also great if you want to improve your body composition and lose fat. Muscle tissue burns fat most easily. If you can increase your muscle mass, you will have more metabolically active tissue that will burn fat as fuel, even at rest. Remember that when you are strength training, you may gain some weight, even though you are losing fat. Your focus needs to be on body composition, not the number on the scale. So keep in mind that this kind of weight gain is healthy for you.

Worried that you are going to get big and bulky if you lift weights? Don’t be. The reality is that unless you make a decision to get into bodybuilding, you will find that lifting weights for strength simply improves your body composition, helps you feel better and slows the aging process—all without developing big, bulky muscles.

It is critical to maintain proper form when you’re doing strength training. Get some help to learn the right exercises for you and how to build a training program. See a Registered Kinesiologist, or certified strength and conditioning specialist. A good standard to look for is someone with a degree in kinesiology who is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS).

Today's POWER-UP: Muscular Meditation

Muscular meditation is any activity where you move in a repetitive, rhythmic pattern. Examples include walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, rowing and paddling.

We’re looking for any type of exercise where your muscles are contracting in a consistent pattern over a period of time. This form of movement helps to put the brain in a state where it can relax and your mind can wander.

If you do this regularly, it can be very powerful for stress reduction, as well as for decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.