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First, let’s talk about what strength training is. According to the Internet Oracle Wikipedia, Strength Training is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. There are many different methods of strength training, the most common being the use of gravity or elastic/hydraulic forces to oppose muscle contraction. In other words, lifting weights. Strength training isn’t just important, it’s imperative! Strength training is absolutely the most important kind of exercise for any and all individuals to participate it. Building muscle through resistance training helps to burn fat, regulate blood sugar, and control cholesterol levels. Muscle also helps to improve your posture and strengthen bones. And if you do any type of physical activity, from running 5ks to burlesque dancing, to playing with your kids, to pole dancing, improved muscular strength will improve your ability to complete those tasks. What Type of Exercises Should I Do? In general the kinds of exercises that are best for most individuals are multi-joint, multi-muscle exercises. It is important to cross-train, meaning MIX IT UP! Cross training refers to a training routine that involves several different forms of exercise. Cross training is a beneficial training method for maintaining a high level of overall fitness. For example, you may use Kettlebell training, Pole Dancing and Flexibility classes each week to improve your overall aerobic capacity, build overall muscle strength and reduce the chance of an overuse injury. Cross training limits the stress that occurs on a specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways. Benefits of Cross Training * Reduces exercise boredom * Allows you to be flexible about you training needs and plans ( if you can’t make the Pole Dancing class, you can go to a Barre class) * Produces a higher level of all around conditioning * Conditions the entire body, not just specific muscle groups * Reduces the risk of injury * Work some muscles while others rest and recover * Can continue to train while injured * Improves your skill, agility and balance You can easily tailor cross-training to your needs and interests; mix and match you classes and change your routine on a regular basis. How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting for Maximal Benefit? If you are new to strength training, it is probably best to err on the side of caution. Most first timers should do exercises with little weight, and focus on learning and perfecting their form for each exercise. Since proper form is about the best way to maximize strength gains while minimizing injury risk, it needs to the priority, regardless of your skill level. (I often see very big, strong guys at the gym using improper form to lift, risking injury) Once proper technique has been mastered, begin increasing the weight a little bit at a time, continuing to maintain proper form. How Many Sets and Reps Should I Be Doing? Personally, I think the biggest general key is not letting your muscles get used to one distinct pattern. Switch up the amount of resistance you are using, as well as your set/rep combination. Your goal is to confuse your muscles and encourage them to grow. High intensity, interval training, such as ChickFit, is a phenomenal way to confuse your muscles. Diana Boyle owner of Embody Pole Fitness, in Corona, CA. Finding inspiration from the amazing people around her continues an ongoing series of articles exploring the empowerment of modern women. Amateur writer, part time IT professional, three quarter time pole dancing diva and full time mom she give her thoughts (in no particular order) about what is great about being a woman today…

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