It's official, lifting weights just once a week slashes your chances of dying from any cause by 20%. The news just in – from Japanese researchers reviewing three decades' worth of studies – removes the last excuse we had for not hitting the gym at least once per week.
But what's the most effective and time-efficient way to get your required dose of muscle-strengthening activity, while working towards other physical goals, such as a leaner, stronger body, or a faster, more powerful golf swing? Read on to find out...
But now, a study in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine has concluded that a weekly, 30-60 minute weight lifting session can significantly improve your odds of beating various diseases and staying healthy. Here's RSNG's breakdown of what they found, along with our advice on how to optimise your own strength training:
1. Even One Workout Is Worth It We know what it's like. You start the week 100% sure you'll make time to be active, but come Thursday you've barely left a seated position in your house/ office/ car.
At such times, the temptation is to say "screw it, there's no point dragging myself down to the gym for a single, measly workout." Tempting but, as the study shows, entirely wrong. Even if you fail entirely to complete that ambitious, 4-times a week muscle split workout program, then a single session of lifting weights really can save your life.
The researchers found that 30-60 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity every week results in at least a 10% and as much as a 20% reduction in the risk of dying full stop, and in dying from heart disease and cancer. What's more, these results remained true whether you're 18 or 97!
The study also found that the results were 'J' shaped, as in the odds of living didn't get much better if you did additional workouts a week. But this is actually an advantage in the scenario above, and to benefit from progressive strength gains you definitely do need to up the training load (more on that later).
2. It Doesn't Have To Be Weights OK, so you might not have access to (or the thirst for) chucking weights around a gym, but there's more than one way to heft a load. The key to muscle-strengthening is that you need to apply the correct training stimulus to the muscle, by using resistance.
Clearly, you can use your own bodyweight to provide this resistance. Moves like pull-ups and dips are already fairly challenging, and you can raise the bar by wearing a weight vest, weight belt or even a backpack of books!
According to the scientists, even 'heavy gardening' counts, although there's probably a limit to how often you can dig up your own lawn...
Add in around 150 minutes of cardio a week and you cut your risk of dying by 40%
3. Adding In Cardio Gets Even Better Results If you're a running, walking or cycling fan then you'll be pleased to hear that if you add in around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, to at least one muscle-strengthening workout, then you double the reduction of your your risk of dying from any cause to 40%.
For golfers this is fantastic news because you probably more than cover off the aerobic part of this equation just marching around the golf course – good work!
4. Try To Up Your Game To Two Full Body Workouts A leaner, stronger physique was not built in a day, or even a week so you can afford to move from your one 'emergency' workout a week to further gains in stages.
Indeed, there's no point in going in hard and heavy and then injuring yourself or burning out. But if you are doing less than three muscle-strengthening workouts a week, then make sure they are full body, because there's no point focussing on individual muscle groups with this frequency.
Instead, pick three big compound lifts (such as the bench press, the squat and the row), which hit lots of muscle groups at once, and do these first, when your energy is at its peak.
You can then add in a couple of isolation exercises to target other muscles in a less energy-intense fashion – think biceps curls, cable triceps push downs or dumb-bell lateral arm raises. Alternatively, pick a workout designed to deliver strengths for a specific goal, such as the RSNG Full Body Workout For Golf Strength, designed by fitness consultant to the European Tour, William Wayland (scroll to the bottom of that article for the workout).
If you focus only on weight lifting and never on body mobility then you may develop unhelpful strength imbalances
5. Don't Neglect Mobility The usual objection to weight lifting, especially among sportspeople, is that it will somehow 'stiffen up' your body, or add ungainly bulk and limit your movement.
This really isn't the case and you run a higher risk of impaired mobility through underusing your muscles than activating them. That said, if you only focus on weight lifting and never on body mobility then you may develop unhelpful strength imbalances.
So, make sure you spend some time working on your ability to be strong throughout your muscles' and joints' ranges of motion. You can do this with a simple, quick morning routine such as the RSNG Golf Mobility Session with 'superhero' PT Don Saladino (again, scroll to the end of the article).
6. Keep A Log The key to seeing progress in muscle-strengthening is consistency. Weekly training is a great start that is easily built upon, but tracking your progress by noting down the weights and reps you are lifting will help you to stay motivated.
There's nothing more encouraging than seeing the numbers in your log going up, recording your progress as you feel yourself get stronger. When this happens try to progress each week, by increasing the weight you are lifting, the reps and sets, or the number of workouts, in small increments.
You only need to make a small step each week to see hugely rewarding gains – good luck!
WHAT NEXT? Looking for ways to optimise your workouts for golf strength? Then check out this advice from strength coach Michael Dennington
Photo by Greg Rosenke, Victor Freitas, Alora Griffiths, Filip Mroz, Scott Webb, Photo by Eduardo Cano Photo Co, Delaney Van on Unsplash