Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier

Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program. Here's what strength training can do for you — and how to get started. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Want to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently? Strength training to the rescue! Despite its reputation as a "guy" or "jock" thing, strength training is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone.

Use it or lose it

Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.

"If you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you'll increase the percentage of fat in your body," says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age."

Strength training also helps you:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
  • Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.

Consider the options

Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Common choices include:

  • Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
  • Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
  • Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
  • Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.
Apr. 24, 2013 See more In-depth

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