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The importance of strength training

Have you got five minutes a day? Mel Young explains how you can use the time to get stronger.

Since I can remember, I have always been strong. Even as a child, I was stronger than other girls - and most of the boys!  

I was athletic, could run fast, throw a ball a long way, open the jar lids for my nan and was always picked first on sports day. I loved being strong, even at a young age, it felt empowering. 

Through the years, I have tried to maintain that level of strength through training and sport. And you know what? You can start to build strength with just five minutes a day.

What is strength?

Strength is the quality or state of being physically strong.

For me, strength is moving with ease, confidence, and balance, trusting your movement and function. It is to live your best life and maintain the lifestyle and hobbies you enjoy. 

What happens inside of you to create strength? 

Adding additional loading to your muscles creates microscopic tears in the muscle fibres.  This is fundamental in muscle development. The tears trigger the healing process, which adapts the muscle to prevent this type of damage in the future.

As the muscle heals from the strength work, cells called satellite cells begin to fuse and attach themselves to the damaged tissue to promote healing.  This increases the cross-section thickness and eventually transitions into new protein strands. 

The protein strands work with other components of the cell to create additional cells, which increase the size and strength of the muscle fibre and increase the mass and strength. 

When starting some form of strength training, or adding load, your muscles may ache for up to three days. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.  DOMS can happen because of the microscopic tearing, but it will lessen as your training continues.

Does muscle weigh more than fat?

One of the age-old myths! Muscle does not weigh more than fat. 

1lb of muscle is the same as 1lb of fat. The difference is that muscle is a dense tissue, allowing you to feel and look compact and smaller but weigh the same as another mainly holding fat. 

A 70kg woman carrying substantially more muscle tissue, to a 70kg woman carrying fatty tissue, will be two to three dress sizes smaller.

Muscle can also burn calories more effectively and store energy, enabling improved activity performance, reduce the risk of injury and lower the time of recovery. 

Who should do strength training?

Everyone should be doing strength training, whether it’s at home, at a gym or outside. It is so important to stay physically strong, especially as we age, to keep away from debilitating conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

Maintaining strength for everyday living is just as important as it is for sports performance and wanting to look good. Strength training creates positive mental stability increasing confidence, assertiveness and allows you to try new activities that you may have once thought impossible. 

As well as helping you to develop a healthier relationship with yourself, and allowing you to be a positive role model to those around you, strength training can help you to:

  • You sleep better
  • Have more energy
  • Be motivated to eat well

How do we get strong? 

Building strength doesn’t necessarily mean lifting huge weights in the gym, being surrounded by sweaty, grunting giants (unless that’s your thing). Strength training can be developed in different ways, starting with bodyweight exercises, and looking at how and where you move throughout the day. 

Taking the stairs instead of the lift is a popular piece of advice. Climbing two stairs at a time adds pressure and loading to the leg muscles helping them to gain strength. 

Joining a group of like-minded people, like Her Spirit, is a way of ensuring consistent training and a great way to meet people. Also, you’ll receive professional advice from coaches like me to help with technique and training ideas to help with motivation and ideas suitable for your individual needs.

It’s never too late to start and get busy at being strong. 

Five steps to becoming stronger with five minutes a day

  1. Plan - Book yourself into your schedule. Working out what time you’ll do your workout will help you to get mentally and physically prepared.
  2. Get ready – You need to be in comfortable clothing and, if you’re on a slippery surface, make sure to take your socks off before you start jumping around!
  3. Warm-up (1-2 mins) - Start with a couple of minutes marching or jogging on the spot, moving to some mobility moves of the major joints to help you prepare your body.
  4. Bodyweight movements (2-3 mins) - This should include the five primary moves: bending, squatting, pushing, pulling and core rotation. Try squats, press-ups and crunches or walking up and down the stairs.
  5. Remember to cool down – Especially if you start to increase the time of your workouts, it’s important to take a moment to stretch and catch your breath back – even if it’s just to check in with how you’re feeling after taking that time for yourself to exercise!

Is strength training for women?

Yes! Strength training is for women. If you’re ever unsure what to do with an exercise routine, finding a qualified instructor can help.

And you’re always welcome to come and join one of my strength or core sessions and our fantastic Her Spirit community! Signing up for the Her Spirit 30-day strength challenge or 30-Day Boot Camp, which takes less than five minutes every day for 30 days, means you can join a like-minded community of women on the same journey as you.

Why am I not building muscle?

Ever wondered why you’re not building muscle? Head over to Dr Daniel Grant’s blog, looking at 4 common reasons you’re not building muscle, from protein intake to how much you work out each week, and how you can build muscle mass safely while optimising your performance.