Being strong isn't just for boys. And it doesn't mean big muscles and lifting people over your head in wrestling rings. Experts used to think that strength training for teens was bad. They said it could stunt your growth, make you muscle-bound, and cause injuries. But that's old news. Today, every athlete, girl or boy, knows that you're not fit
if you don't strength train. That doesn't mean you have to lift weights in some sweaty gym. Strength training can be as simple as carrying groceries and as graceful as ballet dancing. back to top
What is strength training?
Strength training (also called resistance training
) is any exercise that focuses on a major muscle group
, for example, the biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, abdomen
, upper and lower back, hips, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Strength training exercises make these muscle groups work a little harder than they're used to (also known as isolating and concentrating ).
like running and swimming are great for your heart and lungs (and for burning fat
). But strength training increases your muscular strength and endurance
, boosts your metabolism
, keeps your bones strong, improves your balance, and keeps your body toned. Put the two together and you're getting in shape
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Should I strength train?
There are many reasons to strength train. Some girls do it to improve their athletic performance. Others want to feel more confident. Girls who are recovering from an accident or have limited mobility
strength train because it makes them stronger and because many of the exercises can be done sitting or lying down. But remember, no matter how much cardioexercise you do—running, dancing, aerobics, and so forth—and how well you eat, your fitness program isn't complete without strength training. back to top
How do I learn how to strength train?
One of the great things about strength training is that you don't need to join a gym or be a sports star to do it. Having a Fitness Friend
who knows how to strength train or having access to a coach or personal trainer is great, but it isn't required. Whether you get your instructions from a reliable book, a strength training video
, a professional trainer, or the Net, always follow the directions for an exercise carefully! You will be less likely to hurt yourself and more likely to get the full benefit. back to top
What do I need to strength train?
Here is some of the equipment you might need for your home strength training gym:
- a 3- to 5-pound pair of dumbbells
- a 10-pound pair of ankle weights
- an exercise mat or thick towel
- a chair and mirror
If you don't have dumbbells, you can fill two 12-ounce soda bottles with sand and use them instead. Keep in mind that do-it-yourself weights might break, weigh different amounts, or be easy to drop. Of course, you can strength train without dumbbells. Push-ups, abdominal crunches, and tricep dips are all exercises you can do using your own body weight for resistance
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Where do I begin?
The goal of strength training is to work a muscle group
until it is fatigued. That is, until you feel you just can't lift the weight again. It doesn't mean lifting until you are in pain. When strength training, you repeat the same move several times until you start to feel a slight burning sensation in the muscle as it starts to tire. This is normal lactic acid
buildup and, in fact, is good because it means that your muscle is really doing its job. Muscle fatigue is different from muscle pain. If you feel pain in a muscle or joint, you are doing an exercise wrong or you have injured yourself. If it hurts, STOP IMMEDIATELY and see your health professional or an adult you trust. back to top
Guidelines for strength training
- Always warm up your muscles before you start.
- Try to strength train two to three times a week, but not 2 days in a row.
- Try to do two to three sets of eight to 10 repetitions for each major muscle group.
- If you can do 12 repetitions of the same move easily, the weight you are using is too light. Try increasing the weight by a pound or two.
- If you can't do at least 8 repetitions, the weight is too heavy. Try decreasing the weight by a pound or two.
- Exhale when you lift the weight, and inhale when you lower the weight.
- Lift slowly to the count of three, and then lower to the count of three. Faster isn't better!
- Rest for at least one day between your strength training workouts so your muscles can recover.
- If you feel any pain, STOP IMMEDIATELY. back to top