Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, and Healthier (2023)

Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, and Healthier

Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program. Here's what strength training can do for you - and how to get started.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Related ArticleStrength Training: How-To Video Collection

Want to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently? Strength training to the rescue! Strength training is a key component of everyone's overall health and fitness.

Use it or lose it

Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age.

Your body fat percentage will increase over time if you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose over time. Strength training can help you preserve and grow your muscle mass at any age.

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Strength training can also help you:

  • Develop strong bones.By stressing the bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Manage your weight.Strength training can help you control or lose weight and can increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories.
  • Increase your quality of life.Strength training can improve your quality of life and improve your ability to perform everyday activities. Strength training can also protect your joints from injury. Building muscle can also contribute to better balance and reduce the risk of falls. This can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Manage chronic conditions.Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your thinking skills.Some research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise can help improve thinking and learning skills in older adults.

consider the options

Strength training can be done at home or at the gym. Common choices can include:

  • Body weight.You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, planks, lunges and squats.
  • Resistance tubes.Resistance tubing is lightweight, inexpensive tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from several types of resistance tubes at virtually any sporting goods store or online.
  • Free weights.Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. If you don't have weights at home, you can use soup cans. Other options might include using medicine balls or kettle bells.
  • Weight machines.Most fitness centers offer several resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines to use at home.
  • Cable suspension training.Cable suspension training is another option to try. In cable suspension training, you suspend part of your body - like your legs - while doing bodyweight training like push-ups or planks.


If you have a chronic condition or if you are over 40 and have not been active recently, consult your physician before starting a strength training or aerobic conditioning program.

Before starting strength training, consider warming up with brisk walking or another aerobic activity for five to 10 minutes. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than warm muscles.

Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions. When you can easily do more repetitions of a given exercise, gradually increase the weight or resistance.

Research shows that a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with the proper weight can efficiently build muscle in most people and can be as effective as three sets of the same exercise. As long as you push the muscle you're working to fatigue — meaning you can't lift another rep — you're doing the necessary work to make the muscle stronger. And tiring out with a higher number of reps means you're probably using a lighter weight, which will make it easier to control and maintain proper form.

To give your muscles time to recover, rest a full day between exercises for each specific muscle group.

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Also be careful to listen to your body. If a strength training exercise causes pain, stop the exercise. Consider trying a lower weight or trying again in a few days.

It is important to use proper technique in strength training to avoid injury. If you're new to strength training, work with a trainer or other fitness expert to learn proper form and technique. Remember to breathe during strength training.

when to expect results

You don't have to spend hours a day lifting weights to benefit from strength training. You can see a significant improvement in your strength with just two or three 20- or 30-minute strength training sessions per week.

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:

  • Aerobic activity.Do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread this exercise out over a week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits. But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can result in health benefits.
  • Strength training.Do strength-training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

By incorporating strength training exercises into your fitness routine, you may notice an improvement in your strength over time. As your muscle mass increases, you'll likely be able to lift weights more easily and for longer periods of time. If you stick with it, you can continue to build your strength even if you weren't in shape when you started.

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April 29, 2023

  1. AskMayoExpert. Physical activity (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  2. Physical activity guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. US Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 4, 2021.
  3. American College of Sports Medicine. Quantity and quality of exercise to develop and maintain cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Exercise prescription guidance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2011;43:1334.
  4. Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical activity. National Institute on Aging. Accessed March 4, 2021.
  5. Real-life benefits of exercise and physical activity. National Institute on Aging. Accessed March 4, 2021.
  6. BrownLE, ed. Types of strength and power training. In: Strength Training. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics; 2017.
  7. Laskowski ER (specialist opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 11,

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  9. Strength training: how many sets?
  10. Strength Training: How-To Video Collection
  11. strength training for kids
  12. Weight Training: Do's and Don'ts in Proper Technique
  13. Weights: Arms and legs on different days?



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