Strength training uses weights or resistance to increase the strength and endurance of your muscles, as well as the strength of your bones. It is sometimes called resistance training or weight training.
The weights used in strength-training exercises include:
- your own body weight, as in push-ups and squats.
- free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, which you hold, or wrist and ankle weights, which you attach with straps.
- weight machines, which are devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached to either weights or hydraulics.
- elastic resistance bands, sometimes called TheraBands, which are like giant rubber bands that provide resistance when stretched, and are colour-coded according to the level of resistance.
An exercise professional can advise which weights and bands you should use. As a general guide, women might start with hand weights of 1 kg each and men might start with 2 kg. Once you can do 10–12 repetitions of an exercise easily and without strain, you can gradually add extra weight or use tighter bands.
You can buy free weights and resistance bands at sporting goods stores and some major retailers. Some people make hand weights from everyday objects, such as plastic bottles filled with water or sand. If you try this, use scales to check they are equal weight.
You may want to begin with exercises to develop your balance and strengthen your core muscles and then progress to the other strengthening exercises.
Try to do two or three sessions of strength training each week, on every other day. It is important to have rest days between the sessions.
Strength-training exercises involve a number of variables:
- repetition, or the completion of an exercise from starting position, through the movement, and back to the start.
- sets, which are a series of repetitions.
- rest, which is the time between sets.
During each training session, you will complete a number of sets of different exercises. An exercise professional can help design the best program for you. As a guide, you might aim for six to nine different exercises per session and choose exercises that target the major muscle groups of the arms, legs and torso.
For each of the exercises in a session, you might do:
- Six to 12 repetitions of the exercise per set
- One to four sets of the exercise per session
- 60–90 seconds of rest between sets.
A program should challenge your muscles without straining them, so that may also guide how many repetitions you do in a set to begin with. Once you become comfortable with a program, you can make it more demanding, but do this by small increases.
Check with your health care team before starting any new exercise program. Although we have provided strength-training exercises to suit most people, some of them may not be right for you.