There’s no question that people, especially younger folks, are becoming more and more fitness- and body-conscious. The joggers we pass every morning on our way to work are one manifestation of this trend. The growth of fitness centers and gyms is another.
But must people work out at a gym to tone and strengthen their bodies? In the opinion of many, the answer is not necessarily.
Muscles get stronger when they have to work against resistance. And, for most people, that can happen at home as well as at a gym, provided the activities are pursued safely and consistently. Wherever and however one decides to exercise, he or she must be patient and not expect results overnight. Individuals who’ve been inactive for a long time may want to consult a physician before beginning.
Here are some of the things individuals can do to gain strength by building muscle mass:
- Work with resistance bands or tubing. Resistance bands or tubing are typically long, thin rubber tubes designed to stretch during the workout. As they stretch, they provide resistance which makes muscles work harder and thus gain strength. Available at sporting goods stores and at many larger chain stores, they’re affordable and are easily portable so users can continue workouts even when traveling. Many are marked with the level of resistance they provide and new users will probably want to begin with lighter resistance and move up to heavier as they progress.
- Perform exercises that use body weight for resistance. These include sit ups, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, pistols, reverse crunches, etc. These exercises are functional and encourage the use primary muscle groups, secondary muscle groups, stabilizing muscles as well as the core. When you’ve done these for a while and they seem to be getting too easy, it’s time to add weights to strengthen their effect. If the aim is to build volume rather than strength, a lot of repetitions (up to 12) should be used; three to five sets with short rest periods between sets.
- TRX suspension trainer makes use of a total body training tool that makes use of the user’s bodyweight to create hundreds of exercises that can benefit any part of the body. The system is very versatile and can be scaled to help the user reach a training goal at any level. (www.trxtraining.com)
- Heavy gardening. While you won’t find gardening in any dictionary listed under “fitness”, the activities it involves, such as digging, shoveling, weeding, etc., require a fairly high level of physical activity and constitute a worthwhile workout. Gardening is also fun for most people and can provide an extra dividend in the form of fragrant flowers or veggies that are great for the diet!
- Yoga. Perhaps the oldest form of exercise, yoga gives a whole new meaning to the word “exercise”. Rather than physical exertion, yoga focuses on body position, mind control, breath control, rhythm and other factors. It offers many variations, each of which is designed to benefit a particular part of the body.
Stretching is important, so be sure to check out the stationary stretch videos on our website. For people in a consistent exercise routine, learn to stretch like the pros with this step-by-step video guide to dynamic stretching. We also have an entire video section on our website devoted to physical therapy exercises for joggers and runners.
- Contributed by: Joseph Ruhl, PT, Partner, E & A Physical Therapy