It’s clear, Australians are a ‘glass half full’ nation.
Over 60% of Australian adults say they are ‘into exercise’ and there are currently more than 3,300 gyms across the nation.
Clearly, the intention and positivity is there, but unfortunately the stats don’t line up.
A new study of nearly 200,000 Australians reveals that nine out of 10 do not meet the guidelines of twice weekly strength training! Strength training can include lifting weights (barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells), using resistance bands or body weight (push-ups, sit-ups, squats).
“The key finding is that around 90 per cent of Australians do not meet the global and national muscle-strengthening activity recommendations,” the paper’s authors said.
“Given the multiple health benefits associated with participation in sufficient muscle-strengthening activity these findings are of a public health concern.”
This is the first study to show the population needs to seriously lift the bar on strength training.
“The findings are based on self-reporting,” said lead author, Dr Jason Bennie of Victoria University’s Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living. “People tend to over-report. The figures get a little frightening when you think about it like that.”
We are now living in a time when a lack of exercise is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the world. This is shocking when considering the proof and research based around the importance of combined aerobic and strength training.
Research has shown that benefits of strength training include improved metabolism, bone density, blood lipid profile, physical and mental performance, reduced body fat, reduced blood pressure and reduced risk of diabetes.
The first global guidelines to include muscle-strengthening activities were released by WHO in 2010. They state that we should incorporate strength-building activities, involving major muscle groups, a minimum of two or more times each week.
The Australian guidelines did not include strength training until 2014, which perhaps explains why we are slow on the uptake.
Bennie believes there’s more to it though.
“There are negative stereotypes associated with weight-lifting,” he says, adding that it is seen as “hyper-masculine”. “Females may think they will put on a lot of muscle and there might be an association with Arnold Schwarzenegger-type characters.”
We believe this despite the bulking-up myth being debunked time and time again.
“It should be pointed out that strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth) are two different things,” explains Libby Babet, founder of Agoga and BUF Girls. “You don’t have to make your muscles all puffy and huge in order to get stronger … not at all. To grow your muscles like bodybuilders do, you have to put in a lot of time and effort – and eat a LOT!”
There is also the fear of injury, although research does not support this fear.
Bennie believes we need a public health plan to provide the places, spaces and support for people to get lifting in a safe way.
“We need to make weight training easier,” he says, suggesting people may seek professional advice for technique. “A lot of people don’t know where to start.”
Did someone say Raw…?
Babet agrees. “I actually think that a lot of the time, the reason people don’t do enough strength training is that they’re just not sure what to do, or how to go about it,” she says. “The weights room in a gym can be a terrifying place for the uninitiated.”
Luckily, the weights room is not necessary for results and there’s no need to start Olympic lifting. We don’t need to break ourselves to achieve gains.
“Small changes in muscle activity will provide health benefits,” he says. “Small steps, small changes can have benefits.”
Strength training according to Fitness Australia
- “When training for general health or initiating a resistance training program it is recommended the entire body be trained two-three times per week on non consecutive days.”
- “When undertaking strength training for general health, at least one set per muscle group is recommended. However two-three sets of eight-12 reps may be associated with greater health benefits especially as fitness improves. In novice individuals aiming to maximise strength, one-three sets per exercise is effective in the early stages of training.”
Raw Training has been designed to effectively incorporate strength training through weights (barbells & plate weights), resistance bands and body weight training to ensure the biggest results in the shortest period of time.
Why not add a few Raw sessions to your training and see how your body responds? Your body, health, fitness levels and overall wellbeing will thank you…