Strength training? We’re not saying you have to copy Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, the famous hulks of the 80s. These two pictures of virility still represent something that has very little to do with strength training: body building. In body building, the focus is on shaping the body, while strength training is to be seen as a form of body hygiene. Just as you brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay, you can, indeed should, strengthen your muscles regularly to prevent postural problems and to – literally – be able to stand on your own feet for as long as possible. It’s not a question of striving for the perfect body and grimacing and screaming while lifting colossal weights – which is, of course, the image that continues to deter many people from strength training, at their own loss.
Reducing the danger of falling
What is shocking is that from the age of 25, muscle mass gradually decreases if the body isn’t exercised. Back problems, for example, are often the result of weak muscles, because all the body’s pressure is passed directly on to the vertebrae. Those who are weak on their legs are more likely to fall, especially at an advanced age. Such people are sometimes not even able to get up from a chair alone. So anyone who trains their muscles in a targeted manner – whether on machines or with their own body weight and a few aids such as a theraband – takes a big step towards remaining independent for as long as possible. Strength training even prevents osteoporosis as it not only strengthens muscles, but bones too. Endurance athletes should also be aware of the importance of strength training. Runners, for example, who run for miles but neglect to strengthen their torso muscles will find their performance levels decrease while their risk of injury increases due to one-sided muscular strain.
Better late than never
How quickly the muscle mass shrinks without measures being taken becomes apparent after an operation: anyone who is unable to exercise a muscle group for a long time is amazed at how quickly that area of the body becomes frail and thin. The good news is that by specifically building these muscles up again, you can usually return to your former condition. It’s never too late to start strength training, as even at an advanced age, progress is made quickly. When correctly performed, strength training is extremely effective. Stretching exercises must also be included to prevent the muscles from shortening. When training on machines, choose a weight that allows you to do the exercises for a few seconds and repeat them. If the resistance is too low, the training effect is lost. The basic rule is not to perform exercises with short fast movements as this destroys the training effect and increases your risk of injury.