(BPT) – Strength is an important aspect of overall wellness, but many people can have a difficult time making it an integral part of their fitness routine. In fact, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, six in 10 American adults don’t do any muscle-strengthening activities on a regular basis. Strength training or building lean muscle is important to protect your health long term. Increasing lean muscle mass can also help to reduce the risk of injury to ligaments and tendons, and can also improve your posture, through core strength and back muscles. If you’re curious about starting strength training or want to make bigger strides with your current workout efforts, there are certain steps you can take to help you reach your goals.
What can you do to position yourself for success? Registered Dietitian, Michelle Ricker, RDN, CPT-ACSM, CPT-NASM, and director of Worldwide Health Education and Training at Herbalife, shares her expert insight.
Step 1: Go bigger for fewer reps
When you’re training for endurance, the goal is to go as long as you can in whatever activity you’re doing. Strength training is different. You want to challenge your body with weight and focus on targeted reps that have a specific impact.
“If you are looking to build strength, instead of endurance, your workouts should be focused on lifting heavier weights and keeping the reps between 6-12,” said Ricker. “By increasing the weight and lowering the reps, you will be able to increase strength over time.”
You want to choose a weight that you can lift comfortably, while still being challenged. Ricker said the goal is to work the muscles to a perceived exhaustion, which helps build lean muscle mass and therefore strength.
Step 2: Prep and use proper form
One essential part of strength training is making sure you’re doing it the right way. Proper form matters to ensure you’re exercising muscles correctly to encourage growth and make gains.
Proper form also matters because it helps prevent injury. If you’re not sure you’re doing resistance training or strength exercises correctly, consider taking a class or hiring a trainer to help. There are also many fitness communities you can join to get peer support.
Incorporating Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) 15 minutes prior to lifting weights or during your strength training, can also help improve lean muscle mass. BCAA is a general term for the essential amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine that are metabolized by the body and used as sources of muscle energy. They have been shown to aid in muscle growth and ease muscle soreness.
Step 3: Make diet matter
It’s important to fuel your muscles with proper nutrition when focusing on strength. You may need to increase calorie intake and/or focus on getting in those critical macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates specifically) both pre- and post-workout. Muscle protein synthesis can only occur with the appropriate amino acids and carbs to bring the protein into the muscles, said Ricker.
“The biggest thing I see that people do wrong when trying to build strength is boosting protein too high and not incorporating carbs,” she said. “People are still afraid of carbs, because they’ve been trained to think they lead to extra weight gain, but the truth is that carbohydrates are a very important fuel for an athlete. They supply energy, while protein facilitates muscle building and recovery, which is why eating a carbohydrate food paired with protein can maximize lean muscle strength and size.”
Step 4: Take supplements to power your work-outs
“To build body muscle, we need to apply stress to our muscles through progressive resistance or strength training. This process requires energy, and creatine supplies a primary source of energy for this process. Therefore, ensuring we are consuming an adequate amount of creatine is essential if we want to see progress in our strength,” Ricker said.
To get adequate creatine and amino acids through the diet, she also suggests consuming red meat, an excellent source of creatine, protein, vitamins and minerals, to your strength-building meal plan. Eating pumpkin seeds, nuts, sesame seeds and cooked quinoa, which help our bodies produce more creatine naturally for those who follow a plant-based diet.
To simplify the process of getting high-quality creatine, many people opt to use a supplement such as Herbalife24 Prepare, which contains 2mg of creatine per serving. It’s an easy way to boost your pre-workout routine and helps boost your performance by providing 100mg caffeine for energy, mental focus, and performance*, as well as nutrients to support movement and blood flow*.
Step 5: Plan rest days
Resting your muscles is an essential part of a good strength training program. A good strategy is to rotate muscle groups on different days so different sessions are focused on certain parts of the body, providing a ‘rest day’ for those muscle groups worked.
For example, Monday you work your legs. Tuesdays you work your arms and shoulders. Wednesday you work your back and core. This rotation helps work muscles consistently but also provides adequate time for rest, recovery and muscle growth. From a nutrition standpoint, having a post-workout protein shake with high quality protein and the correct protein to carb ratio, like Herbalife24 Rebuild Strength, will also help repair and support muscle growth*.
Strong muscles are important at every age. If you are interested in increasing your strength through exercise and proper nutrition, these steps can help you make progress you can feel proud of.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.