Strength is the foundation of a long, healthy life.1
- Muscle mass is critical to maintaining metabolic health
- You loose muscle as you age (sarcopenia) so the stronger you are now the better off you will be in the future
- Resistance training is the best way to increase, or at least maintain, bone mineral density which prevents bone loss as you age (osteopenia & osteoporosis)
- Fast-twitch muscles help you maintain balance and let you catch yourself instead of falling
There is no such thing as “accidental” muscle. You must work hard and keep at it to get stronger. If you stop, you will waste away.
The Complete Strength Training Guide by Greg Nuckols weighs in at 54 pages and is a better, more concise resource than most books on the subject. Start there if you care about why and how strength training works. I will not attempt to summarize it here. But, if you don’t want to start by reading a short book, some of the key training concepts to keep in mind are:
- Consistency Goals are achieved in days and years; if you do what you need to do every day, even if it’s resting, and let the results build up over time.
- Progressive overload You must increase the amount of work you do in your training to get better over time; increase work by increasing weight, repetitions, speed, or a combination of these dimensions.
- Adapt to your needs YOU are responsible for avoiding injury and continue improving by finding the right balance of training stimulus and recovery that works for YOU.
It doesn’t make sense to invest enough time to gain the expertise required to develop your own training plans before you get started. Use a beginner-friendly training plan and learn what works for you as you progress.
- I started with Stronglifts 5×5 and added accessory work2 as needed.
- I have purchased several programs from Meghan Callaway Fitness for both specific results and general fitness; they are very good (don’t ask me about my adherence).
- I have heard good things about Couch to Barbell by Casey Johnston of Ask a Sowle Woman & She’s a Beast fame.
- Boostcamp has a lot of popular strength programs available in an app format; the one by Greg Nuckols looks especially promising.
Effective strength training requires enough resistance for progressive overload. This is usually accomplished by moving heavy things. Weight training equipment commonly includes:
- Barbells: Best for heavy, multi-joint compound movements
- Dumbbells: Compact & versatile but limited by grip strength
- Kettlebells: Best for dynamic movements
- Weight machines: Best for training muscles in isolation
Not having the “right” equipment does not prevent you from training. You can make gains with bodyweight movements, a handful of exercise bands, and jugs of water. Training at an elite level does require specialized equipment but you’re probably better off finding a specialized gym than buying it all yourself.
You can learn a lot about a gym from it’s equipment choices; if they only have weight machines and cardio equipment go somewhere else.
Buying fitness equipment is a slippery slope. Just because you have something in your home doesn’t mean you will use it.3 You can get a lot of mileage out of:
- A kettlebell or two I get a lot of use out of a good, 1 pood[^5] (35lb) kettlebell for “exercise snacks” during the workday.
- A pair of adjustable dumbbells I bought a set of Ironmaster adjustable dumbbells ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic to be the foundation of a home gym. They are great quality and spectacularly solid. There are other dumbbells on the market that adjust faster but I haven’t found any I can recommend without reservations.
- A chin-up bar the kind that fits in a door frame is fine
- A set of exercise bands elitefts makes some nice ones, as does Rogue
Everything else is a bonus.
I have fallen for this trap an untold number of times. It’s not just me; I have seen a spectacular quantity of aspirational fitness equipment in the background of Zoom calls with co-workers. ↩