The benefits of including strength training as a lifestyle and exercise routine staple is becoming increasingly acknowledged in today’s society.
While general physical activity in the form of aerobic tasks such as walking, riding and running are still important activities to maintain satisfactory joint and organ health, they have limitations in stimulating physical strength and resilience.
The Australian Government’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend individuals to complete muscle strengthening activities on at least two days per week for those aged between 18 & 64, and for those older than 65, to incorporate strength based activities as they are able.
Strength training has been shown to have many health benefits such as improving bone mineral density, maintaining skeletal health and managing body composition, but what impact does it have on injury reduction?
Strength Training and Injury Risk
Strength training has been studied among multiple population groups (young and old) and has determined similar outcomes in each.
Along with increases in muscular strength, a reduction in injury rate by as much as 75% have been observed in studies comparing individuals who participated in strength training to those who did not.
The benefits when looking at acute non-contact injuries (think muscle strains) and overuse injuries was particularly evident in those that participated in a high level of sport and reduced the burden of injury on atheltes immensely.
So while it can be strongly asserted that strength training has a profound impact on reducing injury risk, how does it work?
Mechanisms of Strength Training
There are a number of proposed mechanisms regarding how resistance training improves the body’s resilience, and a lot if it can be related back to load as a stimulus for change.
Our bodies are constantly changing and adapting to our environment and load provides a stimulus for which we are forced to respond to. This can either be negative or positive depending on the amount of load and is also subject to other intrinsic mediating factors such as sleep, diet and stress to name a few. If these factors are suitable for growth, then we will observe changes to our body composition such as increased muscle fiber incidence and density.
Similarly as important is the way our nervous system responds to the stimulus of load. Strength can be largely expressed as a neural quality as we observe significant improvements in strength with little changes to body composition. As our neural networks become more efficient, we express this in improved displays of strength.
So we know that our body and nervous system can respond positively to load and resistance training, but how do I know what is the right dose for me?
Where to start with Strength Training
The perfect training dose is subject to a number of personal and environmental factors. We need to consider age, medical history, current level of health, training history, lifestyle and individual goals.
As a general rule, your starting point will relate to the body of work and physical activity you have done over the past 4 to 6 weeks, so an active person will have a higher entry level than a sedentary individual with no history of training.
It is important that we adapt our frequency, intensity, specificity and progressive overload to each individual case, but a safe starting point for an individual with no history might be
|Frequency||2-3 days per week|
|Intensity||Moderate intensity, no higher than 6/10 on a rate of perceived exertion scale over the session|
|Specificity||Low skill, multiple joint/whole body movements, some use of machines|
|Progressive Overload||No more than 12-20 repetitions and 3-4 sets of 5-6 exercises (<1hr) in a single session|
The style in which you train will be defined by your goals (specific sport vs general fitness) and what you enjoy doing, as adherence relies heavily on enjoyment and perceived value so you need to have fun while you’re doing it!
It doesn’t have to be mindless as there are endless different avenues to explore with strength training so the help of a coach is vital early on to develop a plan and get you moving in the right direction!