Does Strength Training Get on Your Nerves?

Does Strength Training Get On Your Nerves?

It seems that Strength Training is getting short shrift these days.  According to the CDC, who tracks this every year, only 24% of Americans over 18 are getting the recommended dose of aerobics and strength training.  That is, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (30 minutes, 5 times a week), and 2 sessions of strength training every week. 

The CDC also noted that 46.9% of Americans over 18 are doing their bit and getting the recommended dose of aerobic activity.  Not bad!  Notice, however, that when you combine it with strength training, the numbers go way down. 

There is a stat from the Journal of Preventive Medicine indicating that 60% of Americans don’t do ANY strength training on a regular basis. (They used CDC data for this, by the way.) 

Enough of that!  Statistics can definitely put a person to sleep! 

Strength Training Can be an Afterthought

All this shows that strength training is not something that people are flocking to do.  In fact, it may be a tough sell.  As the stats indicate, It is clearly more difficult to get motivated to do some strength training.

Why? In a nutshell, it is easier to lace up and go for a walk than to figure out how to do some strength training and keep it safe and comfortable. 

Some of us may not be aware of the enormous benefits that strength training gives us.  It can reduce things like getting type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.  It’s also good for your circulation, which means that it helps reduce the chance of stroke or heart attack. 

It is also good for your bones.  It creates strong bones, which helps to reduce the chances of getting osteoporosis. It does this by pulling on tendons that connect your muscles to your bones.  Your bones respond by getting stronger. 

Strength Training and Your Nerves

Strength training is good for your nerves.  It can be great for reducing stress (like if someone is getting on your nerves). 

That aside, there is another very important thing going on with strength training and nerves. 

You may have heard that, when you do strength training on one side of your body (like your right leg), your nerves share some of the stimulation with your other leg, which results in some training for that side.  This is becoming a somewhat promising way to help people who have diminished function on one side of their body.  It is not a big effect (one article said about 7% improvement), but it is still significant. 

There are some implications from this that all of us need to know when it comes to strength training.  Once we become aware, it MAY make strength training more exciting! 

When we start strength training, it is the nervous system that adapts first. Your nerves jump in there and start getting the job done.  Once your muscles have been working harder consistently, they start to lay down more tissue and more protein.  It takes more time to do that than it does to make adjustments in your nervous system.   

When you strength train, your nerves get excited.  On a local level, they learn to fire up more quickly, and at the same time they inhibit pathways that are not excited.  It goes further.  Your central nervous system gets involved too, and everything starts working together. 

The bigger the effort, the bigger the nerve response.  That’s because nerves will need to fire up lots more muscle units in order to get the job done.  For example, if you watch Olympic lifters or people in strength contests, you will notice that they lift very quickly.  That’s because they have trained their nervous systems to fire up maximally all at once.  Many professional athletes train this way as well, so that they can recruit a lot of muscle all at once.  It is called neuromuscular training. 

What does that have to do with the rest of us?  What if we don’t want to build muscle or compete in sports or the Olympics?

Let Your Nerves Work for You

The point is this:  With strength training, you get all the benefits mentioned above for your health.  You also get the benefits that your nerves give you.  Because they are getting more involved with your muscles, you can get stronger even if you don’t bulk up.  Your nerves are getting better at calling the shots.  And THAT means you will become more coordinated, will move more efficiently, and can do more without getting injured.

One other thing:  Knowing what nerves are doing for you gives you a different perspective on why it is so important to do a decent warm-up before aerobics or strength training.  Get your nerves firing up, and everything will go much better.  A good warm up involves getting all of your body moving using large, easy movements for about 5 minutes.  

If you are new to strength training, the Mayo Clinic has a great primer, including videos on how to strength train using body weight, tubing, free weights, or machines in the gym.  Notice that most of these exercises can be done at home or in the office. That keeps it convenient and cheap!  Here’s the link: 

Mayo Clinic. Strength training: How-to video collection

One final note:  You don’t have to spend hours on this.  You can complete 10 exercises in as little as 15-20 minutes. Just be sure to warm up first! 

Cheers,
Kristen

© 2024 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: K-Angle | iStock

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