Strength Exercise

Written by: Vojko Strojnik, Ph.D.

Most athletes know that strength allows a more efficient and safer movement. It doesn't matter if it is endurance or explosive sports. What about people whose goal aren't top results? Is it worth for them to do strength exercises?

With the term strength we mean the ability of developing large forces, explosiveness, and long resistance to large forces.

Strength has many faces. They can be connected to productivity, body shape, pain reduction, well-being ... The list doesn't end here. I am sure most of us would find ourselves in one of those pictures.

Strength and Age

Strength has a diverse meaning in the lifecycle. In the young age we are usually strong enough that we don't feel special limitations during movement. Despite that, the sitting lifestyle weakens our muscles so much that this is no longer true. Reduced ability of movement starts with pain in joints and soon we are faced with trouble and limitations which numerous elderly people are facing.

With the old age and weakness strength exercise is becoming more and more important. After the age of 50 muscle mass begins to gradually decrease. The only way to slow down the reduction (temporarily also for increase) of muscle mass is suitable strength exercise.

At the same time tissue rejuvenation is in progress which makes the body biologically younger and therefore more capable. This way we can look at strength exercise as a rejuvenating hormone therapy without negative side effects. Quite the contrary – a set of other positive effects appears, such as better control over drainage, less pain in joints and muscles, etc.

At younger age the key importance lies on endurance exercise which strengthens the heart, but in the old age strength exercise becomes more important, as it can lengthen the mobility and functional abilities into old age. Who doesn't remember our oldest Olympian Leon Štukelj who demonstrated with an example of himself what can be achieved with proper exercise.

Goals of Strength Exercise

Goals of strength exercise in narrower sense include better functioning of the neuromuscular system, like better muscle activation, which means developing bigger force at the same size of the muscle and being able to achieve this faster. We can learn to prepare muscles for bigger forces and reflex control in movements such as bounces and runs, and in movements connected with hits.

On the other hand, with strength exercise we increase the size of our muscles, their ability to withstand large amount of acidity, and make them capable of functioning against large forces longer.

To achieve preferred goals we need to choose the right methods of straining and classify the exercises in the right sequence (cyclization).

Goals of strength exercise can also be more practical, such as getting stronger, improving the figure, reducing pain, etc., which usually includes other exercise besides strength exercise, such as exercise for endurance, flexibility ...

Methods of Strength Exercise

Workout method is a way of straining, which eventually with repetition causes certain change in functioning of the body. Every workout goal with strength exercise in narrower sense has its own method or even a group of methods.

Workout methods are:

  • methods of maximum muscle efforts (for better activation of individual muscles),
  • mixed methods (explosive movements such as bounces and throws),
  • reaction methods (for improving the reflex activation and controlling muscle stiffness),
  • methods of sub-maximal muscle strains (for increasing muscle mass),
  • methods for endurance in strength (acidity of muscles),

Methods differ according to weight of burden, number of repetitions in a set and number of sets, pauses between repetitions and sets, and a way of performing repetitions in sets.

For bigger efficiency of exercise we perform methods in organizational form that is called exercise on stations. For the need of sport recreation in most cases so called circular workout will correspond.

Strength Exercises

Exercises are intended to localize the exercise effect. With exercise we can select a muscle or muscle group which we want to stress with a certain method. Therefore, only by choosing the exercise (often exercise notes with only lists of exercises exist) we haven't done anything yet unless we have selected a corresponding exercise method or load.

Choice of exercises will be big. We can use natural forms of movement which are appropriate for starting periods of exercise, but mostly for children. More stylish forms of these movements are gymnastic exercises that expose specific muscle groups more and have bigger potential to increase muscle strength.

With various tools (rubber bands, straps, etc.) we can diversify the selection and execution of exercises even more. Typical strength exercise is usually connected to exercises on stations, exercises with dumbbells and barbells that have greater potential for increasing muscle strength.

Strength Workout and Injuries

Properly executed strength exercise is safe. Here I don't want to speak about that, but rather about how we can use strength workout to increase safety and reduce risk of injuries in muscles and joints. If injuries already happened we can reduce or even eliminate their negative consequences.

Strength workout is a major part of exercises with back pain. Stability of a foot, ankle, knee, and shoulder is closely connected with it.

Strength workout is efficient if we perform it properly. You can read more about strength exercise, its methods, and watch exercise demonstration in the second part of advice on how to protect the spine.