Free Weights vs Machines

Free Weights vs Machines,
What’s Better?

Free Weights vs. Machines - members strength training

Free weights or machines?

This debate has existed in the fitness industry since the first strength training machines were invented in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “____ is better.”

Machines and free weights both have benefits and drawbacks. Read below to learn which option is best for you.

Strength Training Basics

Strength training was created over 2,000 years ago with the Ancient Greeks (Feld, 2020). They would build strength and muscle by lifting rocks, bags of sand, and the original version of a medicine ball.

Thankfully, strength training equipment has evolved. In the 1860s, barbells and dumbbells were created (Soleyn, n.d.). They were followed by the creation of the kettlebells and resistance bands in the late 1800s, cable machines in the 1950s, and the first line of strength training machines in the 1970s (Feld, 2020).

While there’s consensus in the fitness and medical fields that strength training is good for overall health, there is much debate about what type of strength training equipment is most effective for strength gains or increasing muscle size.

The debate is usually simplified into two categories: free weights and machines.

Free weights are objects that are “free” of any attachment. You can move them anywhere. The most common free weights used are dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, and kettlebells.

Machines have a fixed path of motion and are often specialized for a specific movement. Most have weight stacks where the weight is selected by inserting a pin or flipping a switch.

Strength training with either type of equipment is effective for building strength, muscle, bone density, and for enhancing health. With that said, free weights and machines contrast in their strengths (no pun intended) and weaknesses.

Female strength training on a machine and male strength training with free weights

Free Weights vs Machines

Versatility

If you are looking to use one piece of equipment for as many exercises as possible, free weights are the best option.

A barbell (with a collection of weight plates), for example, can be used for a bench press, back squat, deadlift, curls, a shoulder press, and bent-over row. This one piece of equipment can be used to target all major muscle groups.

Dumbbells are also versatile, although a range of dumbbells are needed to account for the differing strength levels necessary for different exercises and to provide options for progressing resistance.

Machines are generally limited in their versatility. An example of this is the leg press. A leg press is generally only useful for two exercises: a leg press or calf raise.

Safety

Machines hold the advantage of providing a safer strength training workout. Machines offer more stability with most being seated and isolating movement in the targeted muscle groups.

There’s also no risk of dropping the weight on oneself. With a barbell bench press or a dumbbell shoulder press, a person could easily drop the weight onto their chest, head, or feet if losing control.

On a machine, dropping the weight translates to the weight plates simply dropping onto the weight stack… aka slamming the weights. While this causes a loud noise and should still be avoided for proper maintenance and courtesy, no weight actually lands on the lifter.

Free weights, in some cases, also place more force and compression on joints (Escamilla et al., 2001).

A research team in Australia tracked gym injuries over a 14-year period (Gray & Finch, 2015). Free-weight training was responsible for most of the cases, with 55% of the 3,000-plus injuries taking place during free-weight exercises. (Essentially all of the other injuries took place during non-strength training activities: group aerobics classes, boxing, treadmill running, and jumping exercises).

Muscle Growth & Strength

Traditionally, free weights are the go-to tool to maximize strength and muscle growth. But are they proven to be the most effective equipment for reaching these goals? The research isn’t clear.

One study found that the barbell bench press and its machine equivalent, the chest press, were equally effective in activating the muscle fibers in the chest, shoulders, and triceps (McCaw & Friday, 1994).

However, a study comparing a barbell squat with a leg press (on a leg press machine) showed that the squat was more effective for activating muscle fibers in the quadriceps and hamstrings (Escamilla et al., 2001), indicating that the squats might be more effective for producing muscle growth over time.

A recent study dove further into the question of which is best for muscle growth and strength (Schwanbeck et al., 2020). Men and women trained 2-3 times per week with either the free weight or machine version of the same basic movements.

At the end, the researchers measured both groups’ progress. Which type of equipment led to better “gains?” Neither. The free weight and machine groups had similar increases in both strength and muscle size.

Leg extension machine

So What’s Better, Free Weights or Machines?

Strength training with machines or free weights will enhance your health, bone density, strength, and muscle size. Your life will benefit from either approach.

If you seek versatility in being able to do the most with the least amount of equipment, if your space is limited, or if you want equipment that’s easier to transport, free weights are the best option.

On the other hand, machines are significantly safer. Free-weight exercises are responsible for the majority of injuries in gyms. Machines eliminate the possibility of injuries as a result of you or others dropping the weight.

Finally, when the workload is the same, machines and free weights produce similar levels of strength and muscle development.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Escamilla, R.F., Fleisig, G.S., Zheng, N., Lander, J.E., Barrentine, S.W., Andrews, J.R., … Moorman, C.T. (2001). Effects of technique variations on knee biomechanics during the squat and leg press. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(9), 1552-1566.
  • Feld, J. (2020). The constant evolution of fitness equipment. IHRSA. Retrieved from https://www.ihrsa.org/improve-your-club/the-constant-evolution-of-fitness-equipment/
  • Gray, S.E. & Finch, C.F. (2015). The causes of injuries sustained at fitness facilities presenting to Victorian emergency departments – identifying the main culprits. Injury Epidemiology, 2(1), 6.
  • McCaw, S.T. & Friday, J.J. (1994). A comparison of muscle activity between a free weight and machine bench press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8(4), 259-264.
  • Schwanbeck, S.R., Cornish, S.M., Barss, T., & Chilibeck, P.D. (2020). Effects of training with free weights versus machines on muscle mass, strength, free testosterone, and free cortisol levels. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 34(7), 1851-1859.
  • Soleyn, N. (n.d.). Strength performers and early barbells. Barbell Logic. Retrieved from https://barbell-logic.com/early-barbell/

Strength Training for Parkinson’s

Strength training for Parkinson's disease: Slowing the Progression

Strength Training for Parkinson's Disease Brain Anatomy

Due to high-profile cases in recent decades, the US is very aware of Parkinson’s disease.

Celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Ozzy Osborne, and late icons Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash are a few of the famous names who were/are inflicted with the disease.

In the US, 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed annually.

While Parkinson’s is not terminal, symptoms can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life.

Research has shown exercise, strength training, in particular, can improve symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading…

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system condition that causes tremors and affects bodily movements.

Dopamine levels diminish as a result of nerve cell destruction in the brain, resulting in a slew of symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

This disease manifests by disrupting physical abilities:

  • Causing tremors
  • Postural instability
  • Slow, rigid movement

Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s often suffer from:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Strength loss
  • Accelerated muscle atrophy

Muscle atrophy already accelerates after the age of 25, where individuals without Parkinson’s can expect to lose anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half of lean muscle every year on average, so you can imagine how adding Parkinson’s to the mix is particularly troublesome.

Brain imaging showing a loss in serotonin function as Parkinson's disease progresses. Red/yellow areas show that serotonin function reduces before movement symptoms develop. [Neurodegeneration Imaging Group, King's College London.]

Strength Training as a Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. With that in mind, science has focused on ways to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Among the proven treatment options is something we know well: strength training.

Strength training reverses some of the physical effects of Parkinson’s and can possibly match the physical ability of Parkinson’s sufferers to that of those without the disease.

Physiological Improvements

Physical improvements for Parkinson’s patients are demonstrated by a few studies, most notably research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a four-month study, 15 patients exercised in a full-body strength training workout three days per week.

The routine featured some of the familiar exercises we do at The Perfect Workout, including the leg press, chest press, and lat pull-down. The researchers measured a number of physiological and functional areas at the start and end of the study.

The strength training program was successful in reversing a number of areas generally affected by Parkinson’s.

The participants improved their strength by at least one-third in all major muscle groups. Muscle size increased, including a 36% improvement for fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers most responsible for performing challenging tasks).

The trainees were able to walk an additional 140 feet in a six-minute walk test, indicating better endurance, walking speed, and walking ability. Imagine being able to walk another 140 feet during a grocery trip or vacation with family!

Balance on one leg improved by 34%, meaning the people with Parkinson’s were able to stand longer on one leg and were less likely to experience a fall.

The most profound result was from the standing test.

The standing test in this study showed how many muscle fibers were needed for the Parkinson’s sufferers to stand from a seated position. At the start of the study, standing required a near-maximum effort (90% of muscle fibers). Imagine that: needing nearly all of your strength to stand from a chair.

At the end of the study, only 60% of muscle fibers were used to perform a stand. In other words, standing became much easier.

In fact, those with Parkinson’s disease used the same amount of effort to stand after the training program as people the same age who did not have Parkinson’s!

Balance Exercises

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends doing exercises to improve balance. Some simple at-home exercises include:

  • Walking heel to toe
  • Side leg raises
  • Wall pushups
  • Marching in place

Resistance exercises can also help to improve strength and balance overall.

A 2014 study noticed an increase in balance (and a lower rate of falling) during 12 weeks of strength training when compared to the months prior to training.

In another study, researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium assessed 28 studies using strength training or various types of activity to see what practices are effective for reducing falls and fall risk factors.

Twenty of those studies focused on strength training. The research shows strength exercises also led to improvements in walking speed, static balance, and balance while moving.

Parkinson’s at The Perfect Workout

Many of our members have been able to improve their conditions at The Perfect Workout, including Parkinson’s.

One of our members, Sandie from McGaheysville, VA has early-onset Parkinson's. She has days where she experiences more stiffness in her joints than others. Her trainer Melissa works with her as a team to assess how her body feels on each exercise.

“We're able to adapt each workout based on her energy level or her level of feeling, stiff joints or not. And she knows that no matter what by the end of the workout, she feels much stronger and she feels that that has helped her with some of her symptoms.”

To learn more about exercise’s role in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression, enjoy this presentation from Daniel M. Corcos, PhD, professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Corcos answers many of the questions about how to combat Parkinson's disease through progressive resistance exercise and endurance exercise.

Strength Training for Parkinson’s … It Helps.

As a whole, strength training improves muscle strength, muscle tissue, endurance, walking ability, balance, and the effort needed to perform daily activities for those with Parkinson’s.

With this in mind, strength training is an excellent option to help stop or reverse the physical and functional effects of Parkinson’s disease.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age, 36(2), 773-785.
  2. De Kam, D., Smulders, E., Weerdesteyn, V., & Smits-Engelsman, B.C. (2009). Exercise interventions to reduce fall-related fractures and their risk factors in individuals with low bone density: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporosis International, 20, 2111-2125.
  3. Kelly, N. A., Ford, M. P., Standaert, D. G., Watts, R. L., Bickel, C. S., Moellering, D. R., … & Bamman, M. M. (2014). Novel, high intensity exercise prescription improves muscle mass, mitochondrial function, and physical capacity in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(5), 582-592.
  4. Volpi, Elena et al. “Muscle tissue changes with aging.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 7,4 (2004): 405-10. doi:10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2

Hip Strength And Mobility

Hip Strength And Mobility - What You Should Know

Female strength training for hip strength and mobility

The hip bone’s connected to the… everything!

Maybe not anatomically, but the hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the human body, and it is a hub for functional movement.

Having strong hip joints and surrounding muscles helps maintain mobility and our ability to perform basic activities of daily living.

Thankfully, maintaining hip strength and mobility can be achieved through a few exercises performed on a regular basis. To learn more, scroll down.

The Importance of the Hip Joint

Healthy hips are fundamental to many day-to-day activities. The hip joint is where the head of the thigh bone (femur) meets an indented space on the pelvis. Hips support our body weight when standing. They are also critical to the processes of walking, climbing stairs, running, sitting, standing, and bending over.

The hips are so important that our strongest muscles — the quadriceps and glutes — are located around and help move the hip joint. Unfortunately, the hip joint is an area that’s highly susceptible to the “wear and tear” of life and aging.

Hips are also the most common site of osteoporosis and fractures with advancing age. Every year, 350,000 hip fractures happen in the United States (Hopkins Medicine). When hip fractures occur, they lead to a loss of independence and, in some cases, a loss of life.

Threats to Hip Health

Osteoporosis, a condition of low bone density, is a “silent” disease. You don’t feel it. You don’t see it. However, people start losing bone strength in their 30s, and that rate of loss picks up after age 50. As a result, bones become weak and susceptible to breaking with an event like falling.

Because the hip joint bears the most weight, it can be heavily impacted by osteoporosis. The thinner “neck” of the femur is the biggest risk for bone density loss and subsequent fractures.

Not only is this the most common site of fractures, but it’s also the most severe place to have a fracture. About one in five older adults die within a year of having a hip fracture, and a large portion of those who survive lose mobility and independence (Schnell et al., 2010).

Osteoporosis isn’t the only concern for hip health. The hip joint is one of the most common sites for arthritis. It’s especially common for people who have experienced years of more-than-normal force on the joint. These individuals typically have a background in athletics, dance, distance running, or people who have been obese.

With arthritis, people lose hip mobility, the joint feels tight, stiff, and painful, and about a third of people with hip arthritis get a joint replacement (Quintana, Arostegui, & Escobar, 2008).

Hip Strength & Mobility

Suffering from hip osteoporosis or arthritis as we age isn’t inevitable. Hip health can be maintained or even improved by focusing on two factors: hip strength and hip mobility.

Enhancing hip strength and a full range of motion can reduce the risk of suffering from hip pain, hip injury, or losing independence (Carneiro et al., 2015; Snyder et al., 2009).

The question then becomes, “How can we enhance hip strength and range of motion?” Strength training.

Multiple studies show strength training 2-3 times a week can enhance hip muscle strength, bone density, and range of motion (Carneiro et al., 2015; Rhoades et al., 2000; Snyder et al., 2009). (Though our slow-motion strength training method can accomplish those things in just 20 minutes, twice a week.)

These studies used a variety of approaches, ranging from using a few lower body exercises to full-body routines. Only a few exercises, though, are needed to improve hip health.

Resistance Exercises for Hip
Strength & Mobility

Leg Press

The leg press is not only the most important exercise in a workout, targeting the largest muscle groups, but it’s also critical for hip health. The leg press and its exercise variations below strengthen the largest muscle that supports the hip joint: the gluteus maximus.

In this exercise, you slowly push through your heels, keeping your buttocks down in the seat, pushing each repetition to the point just shy of locking out your knees. You then resist the weight all the way down to the bottom of the range of motion, barely touching the weight stack, and slowly beginning again. Repeat until you achieve “muscle success”.

It also improves bone density in the hip and surrounding areas (Rhoades et al., 2000). The leg press also increases range of motion for several key movements that involve the hip joint (Rhoades et al., 2000).

Read about John Abel, who’s improved his hip health at The Perfect Workout.

Hip Abduction

Hip abduction, commonly referred to as the “outer thigh exercise,” or “ABD,” strengthens muscles that are vital for basic activities such as walking: the gluteus medius and minimus.

Performing hip abduction helps strengthen those muscles plus increases lateral hip mobility (Snyder et al., 2009). Between the leg press and hip abduction, hip mobility improves in all directions.

At-Home Exercises for Hip Strength & Mobility

The leg press and hip abduction are ideal for achieving the goals of adding hip strength and range of motion. There are home exercises, though, which can mimic those movements.

Chair Stands

To perform this exercise, you sit in a squat position and stand from a chair. The challenge is to have as low of a chair as possible and to use slow movement.

Position yourself to sit on the edge of the chair. Keep your chest up and look forward. As you slowly stand, push through your heels and the middle of your feet. As you lower yourself with bent knees, only briefly allow your butt to contact the chair before slowly starting upwards.

Repeat until you achieve muscle success. This exercise targets the same muscle groups as the leg press does: the gluteus maximus and quadriceps.

Standing Hip Abduction with Resistance Bands

Mimicking the muscles that are used in the machine exercise that has the same name, the standing hip abduction involves standing and holding onto a counter or chair.

Place a resistance band around the outside of both ankles. Train one leg at a time. Keep the other leg on the ground and use that for balance. The moving leg moves out to the side as far as possible, then slowly moves back toward the standing leg. Once the moving leg’s foot taps the ground, it should slowly move outwards to the side again.

Repeat until you achieve Muscle Success, then switch to train the other leg.

Hip Health Summarized

A healthy hip joint is critical. It’s the center of basic activities, such as standing, sitting, and walking. Therefore, we must keep the joint healthy.

Aging and the wear and tear of life’s activities lead to skeletal concerns, which increase the risk of hip pain, swelling, loss of movement, and fractures. To protect your hip joint, you can strength train with exercises involving the area.

These hip exercises help improve muscle strength, bone strength, and mobility. The specific exercises that are most important for hip health are the leg press and hip abduction. At-home replacements are using resistance bands during standing hip abduction and performing chair stands.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Carneiro, N. H., Ribeiro, A. S., Nascimento, M. A., Gobbo, L. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Júnior, A. A., … & Cyrino, E. S. (2015). Effects of different resistance training frequencies on flexibility in older women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 10, 531.
  • Quintana, J.M., Arostegui, I., & Escobar, A. (2008). Prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and the appropriateness of joint replacement in an older population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 168(14), 1576-1584.
  • Rhodes, E., Martin, A., Taunton, J., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Schnell, S., Friedman, S.M., Mendelon, D.A., Bingham, K.W., & Kates, S.L. (2010). The 1-year mortality of patients treated in a hip fracture program for elders. Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, 1(1), 6-14.
  • Snyder, K. R., Earl, J. E., O’Connor, K. M., & Ebersole, K. T. (2009). Resistance training is accompanied by increases in hip strength and changes in lower extremity biomechanics during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 24(1), 26-34.

Strength Training as a Sleep Aid

The Importance of Sleep & How Strength Training Can Improve It

Woman sleeping after Strength Training

As we get older, it becomes more challenging to bounce back after we don't get a good night's sleep.

We have so many demands on our time—jobs, family, errands—not to mention finding the time to relax and have fun. To fit everything in, we often sacrifice… Sleep 😴.

But sleep has an impact on our mental and physical health. It’s vital to gaining strength, losing fat, recovering from injury, and your overall well-being.

To learn about the importance of sleep and how strength training can help improve the quality of Z’s you get, keep reading.

The Importance of Quality Sleep

Sleep helps you feel rested each day. But while you’re sleeping, your brain and body don’t just shut down. Internal organs and processes are hard at work throughout the night.

Over time, skimping on sleep can mess up more than just your morning mood. Studies show getting quality sleep can help improve all sorts of issues, from your blood sugar to your workouts.

So what is enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) defines “enough” as: “A sleep duration that is followed by a spontaneous awakening and leaves one feeling refreshed and alert for the day.”

The keyword there is spontaneous, or without an alarm clock. The exact number of hours necessary to achieve that refreshed feeling varies. Still, for most adults, it’s between 7 and 8 hours a night. Here are some great reasons to get enough sleep:

Sharper Memory

When you’re running low on sleep, you’ll likely have trouble holding onto and recalling details. That’s because sleep plays a big part in both learning and memory. Without enough sleep, it’s tough to focus and take in new information.

Your brain also doesn’t have enough time to store memories so that you can recall them correctly later. Sleep lets your brain catch up, so you’re ready for new experiences.

Mood Boost

Another thing your brain does while you sleep is process emotions. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones.

Chronic lack of sleep can also raise the chance of having a mood disorder. [1]

One large study [2] shows that when you have insomnia, you’re five times more likely to develop depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even higher.

Refreshing slumber helps you hit the reset button on a bad day, improve your outlook on life, and be better prepared to meet challenges.

Healthier Heart

While you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of a rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle.

High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke. A good night’s sleep might protect against a heart attack.

The Circulation Study, which looked at the sleep habits of more than 52,000 Norwegian men and women, found that people who have insomnia most nights of the week face a 30-45% greater heart attack risk.

“It’s important that people are aware of this connection between insomnia and heart attack and talk to their doctor if they’re having symptoms,” said lead researcher Lars Erik Laugsand, MD, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The reason for the link may be that not sleeping enough causes high blood pressure and hormonal changes. Short-term downtime can have long-term payoffs.

Steadier Blood Sugar

During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of glucose in your blood drops. Not enough time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset — like leaving the volume turned up on your phone while listening to music all day. Eventually, the battery will crash and will need a recharge to keep going.

Your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs and blood sugar levels. Allow yourself to reach and remain in this deep sleep, and you’re less likely to get type 2 diabetes [3].

Germ Fighting

To help ward off illnesses, your immune system identifies harmful bacteria and viruses in your body and destroys them. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way your immune cells work. They may not attack as quickly, and you could get sick more often. Good nightly rest can help you avoid that tired, worn-out feeling, as well as spending days in bed as your body tries to recover.

Weight Control

When you’re well-rested, you’re less hungry. Being sleep-deprived messes with the hormones in your brain — leptin and ghrelin — that control appetite.

With those out of balance, your resistance to the temptation of unhealthy foods goes way down. And when you’re tired, you’re less likely to want to get up and move your body.

Together, it’s a recipe for putting on pounds. The time you spend in bed goes hand-in-hand with the time you spend in the kitchen and in your workouts to help you manage your weight.

Sleep Your Way Muscle Growth

As we sleep, energy consumption is lowered, allowing us to use the high-quality food we eat during the day to more efficiently build muscle. Growth hormone is naturally released, improving muscular recovery and regeneration.

Also, as we sleep, the brain recharges. This is important for building muscle because a rested brain is a motivated and focused brain. In simple terms, when you sleep, you recover.

When you recover, you replace, repair, and rebuild—all of which are needed for optimal progress.

Lower Cancer Risk

A 2011 study [4] published in the journal Cancer found that people who averaged fewer than six hours of sleep each night had an almost 50% increase in the risk of colorectal adenomas, a precursor to cancerous tumors, compared to those who clocked in at seven hours a night.

One study author said the risk increase was comparable to that of having a first-degree relative with colon cancer. Although more research is needed on the sleep-cancer link, some experts think that the hormone melatonin, which has been linked to DNA repair, may play a role.

It’s no secret that struggles with sleep increase as we age. These issues come from a variety of causes: illnesses, side effects of medication, changes in circadian rhythm, increased sensitivity to light exposure, inactivity, and elevated nervous system activity, to name a few.

While no one wants to experience the mental fog that comes from sleep deprivation, there are more significant consequences to sleep loss.

Some researchers believe sleep issues contribute to many aging-related health issues.

Sleep Deficiencies

Sleep can be powerful… if we get enough of it.

We know about the many benefits of getting good quality sleep, but what about the effects of not getting a good night’s rest?

Check out some of the side effects of sleep deficiencies when quality sleep is not a part of your nightly norm:

  • Long Term Mood Disorders
  • Sickness
  • Diabetes
  • Infertility
  • Weight Gain
  • Low Libido
  • Heart Disease

What Affects Our Sleep?

More is not better when it comes to exercise is kind of our philosophy. And when it comes to getting good sleep, we think the same motto can be applied. Rather than finding all the things you can do to improve your sleep, a better question to ask yourself is — What can I stop doing?

Smartphones, TVs, and Technology

Bedtime routines nowadays commonly include scrolling social media or watching Netflix. Although it may be an attempt to wind down for the night, too much tech before bed can mess with your sleep.

Studies show that scrolling social media in bed before hitting snooze is associated with sleep and mood dysfunction [5]. Those who have higher “in-bed” scrolling times, over an hour or so, are more likely to have insomnia, anxiety, and short sleep times overall [6].

Tech before bed doesn’t just cause feelings of anxiousness, it affects the way our brains are wired.

Our circadian rhythm, a natural 24-hour cycle responding to light and dark, is most sensitive to light in the evenings. Naturally, when it gets dark and we approach bedtime, our brains produce melatonin which promotes sleep.

Research shows that exposure to LED lights, particularly in the evening hours, suppresses melatonin secretion.

So when the light from our phones, tablets, and TVs is pouring in, it interferes with sleep production, sleep efficiency, and quality of sleep.

Eating Before Bed

Latenight snacks and nightcaps. Sounds fun right?

We say go for it… sometimes. But when it becomes the norm, it’s likely doing more harm to your sleep health than good.

Studies suggest that eating later in the evening and closer to bedtime can lead to eating more meals overall, weight gain, and higher daily caloric intake [7].

In fact, the closer dinner time is to bedtime shows there’s higher increase of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) [8].

Alcohol and Sleep

A review of 27 studies [9] shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality.

According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while. Still, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. It’s the stage of sleep when people dream, and it’s thought to be restorative.

Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and rob you of needed Zs.

“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at The London Sleep Centre.

“Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea,” or pauses in breathing that happen throughout the night. The more a person drinks before bed, the more substantial the disruption. “One to two standard drinks seem to have minimal effects on sleep,” Ebrahim says.

“REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If you rely on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”

Exercise Before Bed

What about exercising before bed?

Research shows doing vigorous exercise less than one hour before bed can potentially impair sleep quality [10].

While high-intensity exercise within an hour of going to bed can inhibit quality sleep, it's proven to be extraordinarily beneficial for quality sleep any other time of day.

You can schedule your high-intensity 20-minute workouts any time of day, ideally concluding at least one hour before bed.

How Does Strength Training Improve Sleep?

Thankfully, strength training works as a sleep aid for many men and women who were previously poor or average sleepers.

Strength training can improve sleeping habits in less than 10 weeks, although its possible benefits can happen even sooner.

While resistance training does not increase the ease of sleeping for all people, it also has not demonstrated negative sleeping effects on anyone in research. In other words, it won’t hurt, but it certainly may help.

For at least some people, just a small amount of strength training is all that’s necessary to notice a significant difference in sleep.

This was noticed in a study led by a researcher at Harvard [11] Men and women around 70 years old participated in a brief strength training program that involved five exercises that targeted the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body.

Each of these exercises was performed for one set with weights that were very challenging. The trainees exercised three days per week.

After 10 weeks, the strength-trained individuals experienced a 40% improvement in self-assessed sleep (according to detailed pre-and post-intervention questionnaires).

This was even more impressive when considering that the control group, who met twice per week for health education sessions, saw no improvement.

Dissecting the results even further, all 15 participants in the strength program either improved or remained the same. This indicates that, at the very worst, strength training won’t keep you up at night. If it has any effect, it will help you sleep.

The people in the study who strength trained were poor sleepers at the start and benefited from getting more sleep in a number of ways.

At the end of the study, self-assessed daytime dysfunction decreased and ratings of vitality and social functioning improved. Oddly enough, social functioning scores actually improved in the strength group more than the health education group, who socialized as part of their education classes!

Another study performed at Texas Tech University showed a similar improvement in sleep after three months of strength training with an older group who averaged closer to 80 years of age [12].

Female member talks about better sleep from strength training
Female testimonial on strength training and sleep

What have we learned?

Sleep is majorly important in our physical and mental well-being. It’s vital to recovering from workouts and helps to prevent mood disorders and sleep deficiencies.

We know that social media consumption, scrolling our smartphones, and watching TV as part of our bedtime routine is not only preventing us from falling asleep, it is impairing the quality of the sleep we get and contribute to anxiety and depression.

And taking comfort in snacks and alcohol late at night increases the chances of developing diseases such as GERD or sleep apnea, both of which cause intermittent sleep interruptions.

To increase your chance of quality sleep, strength train consistently and free yourself from the aforementioned deterrents in the remaining couple of hours before bed.

We’ve seen similar experiences with our members at The Perfect Workout. After they begin training with us, some report that they’re sleeping better than they have in years…or ever.

Although improved sleep is not promised, strength training is highly unlikely to hurt your ability to sleep…and can be a much more desirable solution than taking sleep aids or medications to help you catch some quality Z’s.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Al-Abri, Mohammed A. “Sleep Deprivation and Depression: A bi-directional association.” Sultan Qaboos University medical journal vol. 15,1 (2015): e4-6.
  2. Neckelmann, D. et al., Chronic Insomnia as a Risk Factor for Developing Anxiety and Depression, Sleep. 2007; 30 (7): 873-880.
  3. Zhu B, Quinn L, Kapella MC, et al. Relationship between sleep disturbance and self-care in adults with type 2 diabetes. Acta Diabetol. 2018;55(9):963-970. doi:10.1007/s00592-018-1181-4
  4. University Hospitals Case Medical Center. (2011, February 8). Lack of sleep found to be a new risk factor for colon cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208112741.htm
  5. Sushanth Bhat, Genevieve Pinto-Zipp, Hinesh Upadhyay, Peter G. Polos, “To sleep, perchance to tweet”: in-bed electronic social media use and its associations with insomnia, daytime sleepiness, mood, and sleep duration in adults, Sleep Health, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2018,Pages 166-173, ISSN 2352-7218,
  6. Blume, C., Garbazza, C. & Spitschan, M. Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood. Somnologie 23, 147–156 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11818-019-00215-x
  7. Reid KJ, Baron KG, Zee PC. Meal timing influences daily caloric intake in healthy adults. Nutr Res. 2014;34(11):930-935. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2014.09.010
  8. Fujiwara Y, Machida A, Watanabe Y, et al. Association between dinner-to-bed time and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100(12):2633-2636. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2005.00354.x
  9. Ebrahim, I.O., Shapiro, C.M., Williams, A.J. and Fenwick, P.B. (2013), Alcohol and Sleep I: Effects on Normal Sleep. Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 37: 539`-549. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12006
  10. Stutz J, Eiholzer R, Spengler CM. Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2019;49(2):269-287. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0
  11. Singh, N. A., Clements, K. M., Fiatarone, M. A.  (1997). Sleep, Sleep Deprivation,  and Daytime Activities A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Exercise on  Sleep. Sleep, 20(2), 95-101.
  12. Ferris,  L.  T.,  Williams,  J.  S.,  Shen,  C.  L.,  O’Keefe,  K.  A.,  &  Hale,  K.  B.  (2005).  Resistance training improves sleep quality in older adults—a pilot study. J Sports  Sci Med, 4(3), 354-60.

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle?

How long does it take to build muscle, before and after photo

“When will I see results?”

This is one of the most commonly-asked questions when someone starts The Perfect Workout. It’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.

The answer is complex because it’s based on many factors. Also, “results” could mean many different things: fat loss, added strength, more energy, better sleep, or visible muscle growth.

It’s safe to say most people want to be able to see some muscle definition. So, in this article, we will discuss what the research says on when you should start noticing muscle growth, what are not signs of muscle growth, and how that timeline can be expedited.

Why We ALL Want Muscle

Before we deep dive into all things muscle growth, it’s important to keep this in mind – strength training is not just for growing bigger muscles. In fact, strength training does so much more for your overall health and longevity than simply looking toned and muscular.

  • Here are some good reasons to build muscle:
  • Avoid muscle loss
  • Avoid metabolic rate reduction
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase metabolic rate
  • Reduce body fat
  • Increase bone mineral density
  • Improve glucose metabolism
  • Increase gastrointestinal transit speed
  • Reduce resting blood pressure
  • Improve blood lipid levels
  • Reduce low back pain
  • Reduce arthritic pain
  • Reduce depression

As you can see from all those benefits, building muscle isn’t just for looks. But if you are concerned about getting “big and bulky” or want more information on how strength training affects men vs women, this might be the article for you.

Muscle soreness from muscle building on a woman's quads

Misleading Signs of Muscle Growth

Muscle growth starts almost immediately when strength training begins. However, gaining a noticeable amount of muscle takes a little longer. Before discussing a timeline, let’s talk about what are NOT indicators of growing muscles.

Muscle soreness

“I like being sore the next day because I know I did something.”

Most of us have said or felt this way after a workout.

Soreness, although gratifying for some, is not a sign of whether or not you stimulated your muscles to grow. Read that again.

Sore muscles simply indicate that you did something new or unusual for your muscles.

Walking 20 miles in a day would likely cause most of us to have sore leg muscles, but it won’t help to grow your muscles.

Early strength gains

Being able to lift increasingly heavy weights is typically a sign that your muscle cells are becoming larger. The exception to this is at the start of a new training program or regimen while your body learns to lift weights efficiently.

For the first few weeks, people gain strength due to neurological adaptations. In other words, the nervous system becomes more efficient and effective at stimulating coordinated movement on the exercises. This makes the movement [lifting heavy weights] more automatic and seemingly easier.

After a few weeks, gaining strength is primarily a result of muscle growth and less due to deceptive neurological adaptations.

The post-workout muscle “pump”

One of our favorite parts of the strength training experience is having swollen muscles following the workout.

Why?

It’s aesthetically pleasing (and we’re all a little guilty of checking ourselves out in the mirror once or twice after the workout). This effect, known as “transient hypertrophy,” is due to a short-term increase of blood plasma in and around muscle cells. It gives the muscles a temporary appearance of looking larger and more shapely … aka, the “pump.”

The pump only lasts a few hours and isn’t a direct indicator of muscle growth.

Before and after photos of muscle growth

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?

Now that we know muscle soreness and a post-workout mirror check aren’t reliable ways to gauge muscle growth, how do we know when we’re building muscle? And how long does it all take?

The muscle growth timeline was studied by researchers at the University of Oklahoma. CT scans were conducted weekly on men who started a strength training program. Similar to The Perfect Workout, the participants in this study trained twice a week.

After just one week, muscle fibers became 3.5% thicker.

  • Muscles grew steadily after that point:
  • 4.5% larger at the end of week 2
  • 6% at the end of week 3
  • 6.7% at the end of week 4
  • 8% at the end of week 5
    Finished at 9.6% larger at the end of the study (eight weeks)

The conclusions are that muscle growth starts immediately and steadily continues after that point.

You might be thinking, but when will I be able to see more muscle definition? When is it noticeable?

Researchers noted that about 7-8% growth is the point when this change can be seen. According to the study, this should take about 3-5 weeks to start noticing muscle growth. And according to exercise researcher Dr. Ellington Darden, “Genetically gifted men can probably reach their maximum size in 24 months.” (Read: not the norm.)

How can people notice initial changes in muscle size?

Common ways to see this is clothes fitting differently, pants feeling tighter in the thigh or hip area, or “new” muscle lines appearing in the thighs or arms.

How to Build Muscle Faster

The timeline of 3-5 weeks is when you could start to see muscle growth. That timeline could be longer. Part of that timeline and how much muscle you grow in general, is largely determined by your training habits, other complementary habits, and genetics.

Genetics and biology do play a role in your potential for muscle growth, as discussed in our article about the differences between male and female muscle growth. In Dr. Ellington Darden’s book, The New High Intensity Training, he discusses genetic potential for muscle growth.

In short, the length of major muscles determine genetic potential for muscle growth because longer muscles can be wider and wider muscles lead to more volume. So you can’t do much about those sorts of things. But there are three key things you can do.

Here are three factors in your control that impact how much muscle you grow and how quickly you notice it.

1. Exercise consistency and frequency

How much exercise you do is a big factor in determining the amount of muscle growth. Training three times per week will likely increase muscle growth quicker than training once or twice per week.

Of course, you can plan to train three times per week, but if you are frequently missing sessions, those plans won’t convert to actual results.

It’s also important to know that training three times a week would only be beneficial if you’re trying to get bigger-sized muscles and that strength for longevity and better health is separate and sufficient with 1-2 workouts a week.

2. Full range of motion exercises.

The most common strength training error we see in gyms is a lack of full movement. For example, you might see this in a dumbbell curl where the person only lowers the weight halfway down before starting the next rep.

The vast majority of studies comparing full movement to partial movement show that lifting the full movement enhances muscle growth.

3. Eating enough protein.

Protein is broken down by the body into amino acids, which are used to repair and rebuild muscle tissue following workouts. The amount of protein you consume is critical to your rate of muscle growth.

Your daily intake in grams should be equal to or greater than your weight (lbs.) multiplied by 0.75.

For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., you should eat at least 113 grams of protein each day (150 x 0.75 = 113). If you weigh 200 lbs, eat at least 150 grams per day (200 x 0.75 = 150).

Summary

You might start seeing changes in your muscles around one month in. To gain more muscle immediately and in general, train frequently, consistently, use a full range of movement, and eat ample amounts of protein daily.

Whether you see the muscle changes, know that your body is changing in a positive manner after just one week. Your muscles are growing, you are gaining strength, and your health is improving in several ways that you may or may not notice.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

DeFreitas, J.M., Beck, T.W., Stock, M.S., Dillon, M.A., & Kasishke, P.R. (2011). An examination of the time course of training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy. European Journal of Applied Physiology. DOI 10.1007/s0042-011-1905-4.

Deldicque, L. (2020). Protein intake and exercise-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy: an update.

Lemon, P. W. (2000). Beyond the zone: protein needs of active individuals. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19(sup5), 513S-521S.

Schoenfeld, B.J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Schoenfeld, B.J. & Grgic, J. (2020). Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: a systematic review. SAGE Open. 

Schoenfeld, B.J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J.W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training in muscle mass: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.

Campbell, W.,Crim, M., Young,V. and Evans,W. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 167-175. 

Evans, W. and Rosenberg, I. (1992) Biomarkers, New York: Simon and Schuster. Forbes, G. B. (1976). “The adult decline in lean body mass,” Human Biology, 48: 161-73. 

Harris, K. and Holly R. (1987). Physiological response to circuit weight training in borderline hypertensive subjects. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19: 246-252. 

Hurley, B. (1994). Does strength training improve health status? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 16: 7-13. 

Hurley, B., Hagberg, J., Goldberg, A., et al. (1988). Resistance training can reduce coronary risk factors without altering VO2 max or percent body fat. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20: 150-154. 

Keyes, A., Taylor, H.L. and Grande, F. (1973). “Basal Metabolism and Age of Adult Man,” Metabolism, 22: 579-87. 

Koffler, K., Menkes, A. Redmond, W. et al. (1992). Strength training accelerates gastrointestinal transit in middle-aged and older men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 24: 415-419. 

Menkes, A., Mazel, S., Redmond, R. et al. (1993). Strength training increases regional bone mineral density and bone remodeling in middle-aged and older men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 74: 2478-2484. 

Risch, S., Nowell, N. Pollock, M., et al. (1993). Lumbar strengthening in chronic low back pain patients. Spine, 18: 232-238. 

Singh, N., Clements, K. and Fiatarone, M. A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. Journal of Gerontology, 52 A (1): M 27 – M 35. 

Stone, M., Blessing, D., Byrd, R., et al. (1982). Physiological effects of a short term resistive training program on middle-aged untrained men. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal, 4: 16-20. 

Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter, (1994). Never too late to build up your muscle. 12: 6-7 (September). 

Westcott, W. and Guy, J. (1996). A physical evolution. Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today, 14 (9): 58-65. 

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines. 

He is also author of 20 fitness books including the new releases, No More Cellulite, Building Strength and Stamina, Strength Training Past 50, Strength Training for Seniors, Complete Conditioning for Golf, and Strength and Power for Young Athletes

The Impact of Strength Training and Inflammation

the impact of strength training and inflammation

woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation
woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation

It’s the reason why omega-3 fatty acid supplements have become popular in recent years.

It’s one of the major reasons why we floss. It’s a big detriment of smoking.

It’s the target of medications taken for arthritis, headaches, and menstrual pain.

Inflammation is one of the major players in the development of heart disease (some medical professionals think it’s the primary cause).

It’s a sign of atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes developments.

The list goes on and on…

Related Post: Strength And Your Health

We use the term “inflammation” often, but what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself. When inflamed, our bodies are trying to remove or destroy an unwanted presence, such as foreign bacteria, or we are repairing damaged tissue.


Inflammation is good when the body attempts to heal itself and is successful…


However, it can become destructive when it’s not able to eliminate the cause of irritation and triggers disorders such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders or more serious illnesses like cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation

Common signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, heat, and pain. But inflammation in the body can also show up in some unexpected ways. Below are some inflammatory responses to look out for:

Joint pain

The most common symptom people experience is sore joints, particularly in the knees, shoulders, and elbows. One easy way to understand if pain you’re experiencing is inflammatory is if it's been diagnosed with anything that ends in “itis.” Such as bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, etc.

Headaches

If you're somebody who experiences headaches or migraines on a chronic or regular basis, that could be a result of inflammation in your body.

Skin breaking out

Breaking out with pimples on your face, or experiencing itchiness, eczema, and rashes are signs of inflammation.

Weight gain

Unexplained weight gain, puffiness or bloating can be responses, particularly to inflammatory foods.

Digestive issues

Gastrointestinal complications and chronic tummy troubles are signs of an inflamed gut.

Allergy-like symptoms

Runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing may not be symptoms of an allergy, but inflammation.

Depression

Anxiety, mood disorders, and depression have been linked to chronic inflammation [2].

Fatigue

Feeling really tired or lethargic, experiencing insomnia, having trouble sleeping are common signs.

Frequent infections

Experiencing frequent infections can be a result of long-term inflammation.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation can be acute or chronic, and the difference is critical. Examples of acute scenarios are sore throats, cuts on our skin, or irritated gums (which is why we floss, to prevent irritants). Acute inflammation is immediate but lasts for a few days or weeks.


Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a major issue. This occurs when an acute situation lingers, an autoimmune problem exists, or when there is some other chronic irritant. Chronic is the type found with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


Both acute and chronic can be localized in the body, but inflammation which affects the entire state of the body is known as systemic inflammation.


We measure inflammation by looking at cytokines.

What are cytokines?

Cytokines are proteins that influence the survival and proliferation of immune cells. They also have a key role in initiating the inflammatory response. Some cytokines are anti-inflammatory and some are pro-inflammatory.


Also, C-reactive protein (CRP) is another substance produced by the liver that indicates systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered as a sustained two-to-three fold increase in some cytokines and CRP.

Strength Training and Inflammation

Flossing, omega-3 fatty acid intake, and low-intensity physical activity help decrease systemic inflammation. However, strength training’s impact on inflammation isn’t as well known.


Researchers at the University of Connecticut recently analyzed the few studies that do exist on the relationship between the two [1].


Microscopic muscle damage occurs during strength training, especially during the lowering phase of a repetition. The researchers found a variety of results with strength training and inflammation….

Does Lifting Weights Cause Inflammation?

As a result of workout-induced muscle damage, inflammation rises in the short term, and the production of several cytokines increases (although not all are pro-inflammatory).


As a whole, the cytokines released right after strength training have two major responsibilities: repair the muscle damage and regulate new muscle growth. Both are positive responses.

Does Weight Training Reduce Inflammation?

Fortunately, strength training also actually improves chronic inflammation. A 12-month study using strength training with overweight women averaging 39 years old showed a decrease in CRP.


A nine-week study featuring young men and women training with heavier weight loads caused a decrease in one pro-inflammatory cytokine.


Strength training also improved CRP in a three-month study with old and young populations. These were just some of the positive results reported by the University of Connecticut researchers.


The researchers did note that intensity was a key factor. A seven-week study of young men showed that heavy resistance strength training improved two anti-inflammatory cytokines to a greater extent than lighter weight strength training. Another important factor was rest. According to one study, when adequate rest isn’t achieved, exercise can be pro-inflammatory.


What is the mechanism causing strength training to benefit chronic inflammation? The researchers stated that muscle gained from strength training increases the body’s daily energy expenditure (metabolism) and insulin sensitivity (a state key to preventing diabetes), and both of those results decrease the requirement for pro-inflammatory cytokines and CRP.

Should You Strength Train or Not With Inflammation?

Overall, strength training increases some acute inflammation markers by breaking down muscle tissue, but those markers lead to long term health benefits by rebuilding the muscle stronger.

Therefore, strength training’s positive effects on chronic inflammation levels are probably part of why it is shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

To maximize your health gains, eat well, train with a challenging strength training program (like slow-motion training!), and get adequate rest between your workouts.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

1. Calle, M. C., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutrition research and practice, 4(4), 259-269.


2. Lee, C. H., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Frontiers in immunology, 10, 1696. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

Best Exercises for Women over 60 + Workouts To Avoid

Best Exercises for Women over 60 and The Workouts To Avoid

Woman Running in athletic wear

One of the most common questions we get from someone beginning an exercise routine is “What are the best exercises for me?”

While there are tons of resources on the best exercises for losing weight or the best exercises for specific conditions, women in their 60s are in a unique time in their life. Not considered a young adult, but just barely considered a senior. This requires specific guidance.

So what are the best exercises for women over 60?

There are many factors to consider while answering this question: cardio vs. weight training, what to do and what not to do, how often to exercise, and what’s worked for real-life people.

In this article, we’ll cover it all.

If you’re a woman over 60 this is for you. If you’re not, well, stick around, you may be able to help someone who is.

Jump to a Topic:

woman over 60 lifting weights with a personal trainer

Should Women Over 60 Lift Weights?

Yes, women in their 60s (and all ages, really) should lift weights. Muscles aren’t a young man’s game. Men and women can gain both strength and muscle at all stages of life.

A big reason why this is so important is muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Muscle loss can also contribute to limited physical ability, low energy, and decreased metabolism.

Muscle Loss Over Time Infographic

Research shows there are enormous benefits of strength training for women 60 years or older such as:

  • stronger bones
  • improved balance
  • a lower fall risk
  • enhanced memory and focus
  • reduced blood pressure and blood glucose
  • increased protection against the development of many chronic diseases.

Should Women Over 60 Do Cardio?

The short answer – it depends on why you’re doing it. The long answer, we need to dive a little deeper…

Cardio is an aerobic activity that significantly increases the heart rate, thus conditioning the cardiovascular system. The most common cardio activities are walking, biking, running, and swimming.

Many people do cardio with the intent to achieve fat loss, which is not all that efficient. But many others do cardio to meet psychological and emotional needs.

Going for a walk or run can be a great way to decrease stress, clear your mind, enjoy nature and improve your overall feeling of well-being.

A potential problem is that cardio activities create more opportunities for getting injured. High-intensity cardio like running, sprinting, jumping, or anything that involves explosive movement involves high levels of force.

And we know that force is the leading cause of injury in exercise.

Force formula translated for exercise

Because women in their 60s are at higher risk of injury such as falling (WHO), some of these activities might want to be avoided.

Running, jumping or any high-impact activity can also be hard on the joints. Genetics and pre-existing conditions also play a part here. Some of us are blessed with knees that will never give out, making it possible to withstand activities like this, with little to no challenges.

While the rest of us experience joint issues, cartilage loss, or an injury that makes activities like this painful and unsustainable.

If you’re in the latter group, activities like walking and swimming might be ideal for you, especially in your 60s. Both create little to no impact on the joints – and they’re fun!

Slow-motion strength training (SMST) can produce cardiovascular conditioning, fat loss, and muscle strength gain. When doing SMST, there is no need to do cardio or aerobics. But if it's something you like to do, then choosing one that is most enjoyable and safest on the body is ideal.

To answer the question of whether or not women in their 60s should do cardio- here’s our answer:

  • If you’re doing it to lose weight, no. Focus on increasing lean muscle mass with effective strength training and nutrition. This is a much more efficient way to lose fat.
  • If you’re doing it to meet physiological or emotional needs and enjoy an activity that does not hurt or result in injury, then go for it!

As always, partner any aerobic activity with weight-bearing exercises to avoid accelerated muscle and bone loss.

Weekly exercise schedule Monday through Sunday

How Often Should a 60-Year Old Woman Exercise?

It is recommended for women over 60 to exercise twice a week.

When we say exercise, we specifically mean high-intensity strength training. Anything else is considered recreation… and it's important to have both. Read more about exercise vs. recreation to learn the distinction and why it's so important.

Because high-intensity exercise is so demanding on the body, it requires ample time to fully recover between training sessions. By taking more time than necessary to recover, you potentially miss out on time spent doing another results-producing training session!

Training once a week is a good option for some people. Compared to working out twice a week, once a week exercisers can expect to achieve approximately 70% of the results of those who train twice a week.

This may be ideal for someone who has extremely low energy levels, is battling multiple health issues, or has a budget best suited for once-a-week training.

Graph of the body's total recovery resources

On the days in between high-intensity workouts, it is okay to be active and move the body.

Remember when we talked about doing activities that meet psychological and emotional needs? Consider rest days a great opportunity to do those activities and avoid other high-intensity or strength training exercises.

In short, most women over 60 get the best results from working out twice a week, or once every 72-96 hours.

What Are The Best Exercises For Women Over 60?

The best exercises for women in their 60s are ones that are going to help build and maintain muscle mass. These exercises should also be safe on the joints and support bone strength.

Dr. Bocchicchio, a creator of slow resistance training, also states that exercise should be something we can retain throughout a lifetime.

The best exercises should be:

  • Safe: injury and pain-free
  • Efficient: can be achieved promptly, ideally 20 minutes, twice a week
  • Effective: achieve temporary muscle failure and produce measurable results
  • Sustainable: can be done for a lifetime

Several specific strength training exercises are beneficial for a 60-something woman, but we suggest focusing on these 5 impactful exercises: Leg Press, Chest Press, Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl & Abdominals.

Leg Press

The Leg Press Machine is an incredible piece of equipment because it allows you to fully target the biggest muscle groups in the body: the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at bone density changes in women between 65 and 75 years old following a year of strength training.

During the study, the trend of bone loss that comes with age not only stopped but also reversed.

The leg press was the only major lower body exercise performed. In addition, it was credited with helping the lower back, as no direct exercise was performed for the lower back muscles. By improving bone density, the leg press reduces the risk of fractures in high-risk populations… that’s women over 60.

The leg press provides as much or more bang-for-the-buck as any one exercise does.

Chest Press

The chest press is a highly effective way to strengthen the pectorals (chest muscles), triceps, and anterior deltoids. These muscles are critical in lifting movements. Your anterior deltoids are responsible for lifting your arms in front of you.

Holding groceries, blow-drying your hair, lifting a suitcase into an overhead bin, or pushing a heavy door open are examples of activities that can become easier with stronger deltoids.

Chest Press Machine and Anatomy Graphic of muscles

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown could be considered the “leg press” of the upper body.
This exercise targets the Latissimus Dorsi (the “lats” or wings of the back), Trapezius (“traps” or upper back), Pectoralis Major (chest), Posterior Deltoids (shoulders), Biceps brachii (front of the upper arm)

Training the lats improves the shape of your back. As lean muscle tissue is added to the lats, it gives a ‘V’ shape to your back. Gaining muscle in your lats might help make the appearance of “love handles” become less noticeable.

The pulldown also helps improve aesthetics with your arms. The biceps and shoulders are key players in this exercise and will help make your upper arm muscles more defined.

Leg Curl

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves.

These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are partly responsible for walking, squatting and bending the knee.

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement
performed during the Leg Curl. Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs, and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee. The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee and pull your thigh backward (hip extension).

This exercise is crucial in maintaining overall leg strength and function.

Leg Curl Machine and anatomical graphic of muscles

Abdominal Machine

The Abdominal Machine works – you guessed it – the abdominals, specifically the rectus abdominis. Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles. Strong abdominals help with balance and stability in everyday activities, sports (like golf and tennis) and can help to prevent falls.

By consistently doing these big five exercises, you strengthen all the major muscles in the body, creating and maintaining a strong foundation for future workouts and everyday activities.

Exercises Women Over 60 Should Avoid

Are there any exercises that women over 60 should not do? This is not an easy answer, and here’s why…

We know women in their sixties who are thriving, have more energy than ever and are just as strong as they were in their 30s. We also know women in their sixties with decades of injuries, are caretakers for others or are in a fragile state.

A quick Google search will tell you to avoid all heavy lifting or to walk and do water aerobics. We’re not going to do that.

It would be crazy to say that all women 60 to 69 should never do one type of exercise. But for some of the most common injuries or limitations we see in 60-year-old women, there are some exercises to be careful with.

Joint Issues

If you’re someone who experiences joint issues such as osteoarthritis or experiences chronic inflammation, high-impact movements like running, jumping, and burpees are probably not for you.

Shoulder Injury

Postural issues, limited range of motion, rotator cuff injuries – these should all be exercised with care and adjusted to account for the specific injury. Some exercises to avoid or alter are overhead press, skull crushers, full range of motion on chest exercises, pushups, lat pulldown, chest fly, and lateral raises.

We have worked with clients with ALL of these injuries. Most are capable of doing all exercises with alterations. If possible, avoid NOT doing these and work with someone who can help you safely accomplish a workout with a shoulder injury.

Knee Injuries

Injured knees are unfortunately very common in women over 60. However, this does not mean avoiding leg exercises. Finding a way to safely exercise the lower body is extremely important because working the biggest muscles in the body has the greatest overall effect on gaining muscle and bone density… and losing fat.

With that being said, it's vital to know how to do leg exercises with proper form to avoid further injury.

Exercises such as squats and lunges require very specific mechanics to be effective and safe. We recommend only doing those exercises if you’re very familiar with how to do them, or are working with a trained professional.

What about the exercises that are painful, no matter what? We’ve had clients over the years experience discomfort on the leg extension, despite alterations made to their range of motion, seat settings, and amount of resistance. So, we don’t do those!

Pain is a helpful indicator. Anything that hurts, besides the burning of muscles hitting temporary muscle failure, is your body’s way of saying, “Hey, something isn’t right.”

Listen to your body, and remember this rule of thumb: If the exercise isn't safe, it's not worth doing.

Woman over 60 recovering from exercise

The Perfect Workout Case Studies: Exercise Routines for Workouts for Women Age 60-69

For over 20 years we’ve helped more than 40,000 people improve their health and fitness – many being women in their 60s. Each person who works with us has a different body with limitations, a history of injuries, different wants, needs, and goals to achieve. This creates a need for customization.

Below are case studies of real clients and their ideal workouts based on their age, goals, limitations, and preferences. Identifying information has not been included to maintain client privacy.

Woman over 60 exercising with a personal trainer

Client A: Busy 64 Year Old Nurse With Multiple Injuries

64-year-old woman, from Orange County, CA
Works part-time-two 12 hours shifts as a nurse in addiction and psychiatric units. Also cares for her ill mother.

Goals:

  • Increase strength, lean muscle mass, endurance, flexibility, and improve posture
  • Strengthening of the upper body, lower body, strengthen around hips and knees.
  • Wants to be able to do everyday daily activities again without having to compensate for her injuries, ie. squat down, lift to a cabinet for a jar, reach under her sink.
  • Wants to be able to garden again.

Medical:

  • Arthritis/Joint Degeneration – neck, R-hip capsule
  • High Blood Pressure – well managed with medication
  • Joint injury – L-knee ligament, R-hip labrum tear
  • Spinal Injury – C-spine fused C3-6, surrounding discs herniated
  • Thyroid Condition – Hashimoto's thyroiditis
  • Surgeries – L-foot, hysterectomy
  • Low back pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to focus on working the major muscles without straining the neck, a common side effect of this exercise.

Chest Press (vertical grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Avoided for a long time due to spinal injury (neck). Recently introduced with very lightweight to gradual work on range of motion and resistance increase.

Hip Abduction: Targets outer gluteal muscles. Client performs the exercise for approximately 2 minutes, at a slightly lower intensity level to account for labrum tear and arthritis. Back support is included to adjust for spinal injuries.

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip)

Preacher Curl: Targets the upper arms and forearms. Client performs the exercise with a decreased range of motion (3-hole gap ~ 3-inch decrease).

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the abdominals for approximately 1:30-2 minutes. This helps her to engage and fatigue the muscles without overextension or flexion of the spine.

Leg Extension: Targets quadriceps and muscles surround the knee. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Curl: Targets hamstrings. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs the exercise with a limited range of motion (sitting further away from the footplate) to account for spinal injuries and knee injuries. Lumbar support is used.

Client B: Very Active Before Injuries

A 63-year-old woman from Chicago, IL
This client used to live a very active lifestyle: walked 20-25 miles a week, did yoga, weightlifting, and pilates.

Goals:

  • Reverse Osteoporosis
  • Be able to go on walks again
  • Build bone density and muscle in thighs and legs
  • Regain strength and fitness level she had before.
  • Improve muscle tone – shoulders, arms, thighs, calves. No timeline. Exercise pain-free!

Medical:

  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Osteoporosis/ Osteopenia
  • Tear in the labrum, where the biceps tendon connects. Doctor says to work on pulling motions*
    • the neck does not have complete ROM in her neck
    • pain when pressing or reaching right shoulder rotated forward

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles and arms and helps with *pulling motion. Client performs with palms facing toward each other to keep shoulder joints closed, decreased range of motion (5-hole gap ~ 5-inch decrease).

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 1-2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip).

Time Static Crunch: Targets abdominals. Client performs isometric bodyweight exercise alternative to the machine that requires overhead positioning of the arms (shoulder injury).

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs exercise normally, along with lumbar support.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Hip Abduction, Tricep Extension, Leg Extension, and Leg Curl.

Client C: New to Strength Training & Ready to Enjoy Retirement

A 63-year-old woman from Dallas, TX
Recently retired and wants to be able to enjoy vacationing and everyday activities without worrying about getting injured or not being able to “keep up.”

Goals:

  • Lose 50 pounds
  • Wants to be much healthier. Strengthen and tone all over. Get back into shape.
  • Be more active. Have the energy to do her daily activities without feeling winded or like she can't do it
  • She would love to enjoy an upcoming trip by walking everywhere (many steps)
  • Strengthening up legs, toning the upper and lower body
  • Wants to feel more confident and stronger to be able to enjoy life without worrying about hurting

Medical:

  • Two knee replacements
  • Scope on Left knee: scar tissue removed a bundle of nerve fibers located directly below patella
  • Occasional right shoulder pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Chest Press (Vertical Grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Client performs the exercise with a 4-hole gap, which decreases the range of motion and helps prevent additional shoulder pain. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs the exercise with legs out from behind the stabilizing pads and lifts knees slightly up toward the chest. This helps to prevent any additional strain on the knee and can help achieve better muscle-mind connection.

Leg Extension: Targets thighs and muscles surrounding the knee. Client performs exercise normally but does so with caution to avoid any knee pain. This exercise is particularly important to help strengthen her legs for walking and maintain strength around the knee.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Feet are placed higher up on the footplate, creating a more open and easier angle on the knee joints. Client occasionally performs an isometric hold toward the lower turnaround of the exercise when experiencing pain or pulling sensations in the knee. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Tricep Rope Pulldown: Targets triceps. Client often performs this exercise instead of Tricep Extension due to shoulder pain in a raised position.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl Hip Abduction, Hip Adduction, Preacher Curl, and Compound Row.

Summary

You might be thinking, all the roads we’ve taken in this article have led to slow-motion strength training. And while that might be mostly true, it's not the only thing a woman over 60 should ever do to move her body or achieve overall wellness.

Women over 60 can and should be exercising. For the purpose of exercise, high-intensity weight training is recommended. It's safe, effective, efficient, and sustainable for just about every age and injury.

Women over 60 should do cardio activities that bring them joy, stress relief, and socialization. These activities should be safe for the body and not interfere with the true purpose of exercise.

Exercising twice a week is recommended to get maximum strength training results. All other recreation should be done on a desired basis.

The best exercises for women over 60 are compound movements that target the biggest muscle groups in the body, such as leg press and lat pulldown. These help to build and maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and help with fat loss.

Injuries and limitations should be considered when exercising. Working with a trained professional like a Certified Personal Trainer is ideal when working out around injuries. However, pain is a key indicator of when NOT to do a certain exercise or movement. So, use your best judgement.

The Perfect Workout team with in studio and virtual personal training

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

To share this article with someone you know, copy this link and share away!

  1. Rhodes, E. C., Martin, A. D., Taunton, J. E., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British journal of sports medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  2. Paw, M.J., Chin, A., Van Uffelen, J.G., Riphagen, I., & Van Mechelen, W. (2008). The functional effects of physical exercise training in frail older people: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 38(9), 781-793.
  3. Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. (and others) Effects of Regular and Slow Speed Resistance Training on Muscle Strength, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2001, Vol 41, Iss 2. Pp 154-158
  4. The Nautilus Book, Ellington Darden, Ph.D., Copyright 1990 Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, P. 85
  5. Body Defining, Ellington Darden, Ph.D., Copyright 1996 Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, Pp 19,34,35 4 Peterson JA. Total Conditioning: A Case Study. Athletic Journal. Vol. 56: 40-55, 1975

Quickly Recover from Surgery + (best way to avoid)

Prehab Is Your Best Chance At Quickly Recovering From Surgery

“When my doctor gave me two choices about the pain in my right shoulder- Either live with it or have surgery, I felt hopeless.”- Sherry Chriss, client.

Facing surgery is scary and quite common for a lot of adults. Although every surgery can’t be avoided, one solution to prepare for a swift recovery and potentially avoiding surgery altogether is slow-motion strength training. We call this prehab or “prehabilitation” and it’s happening in our studios and virtual training sessions every day.

Prehab for Total Knee Replacement

One of the most common surgical procedures our clients face is a Total Knee Replacement (TKRs), and they are as popular as ever. More than 381,000 TKRs take place every year, and researchers expect that number to grow six-fold in the next 20 years [1].

The surgery can be very helpful as it enables people with severe knee osteoarthritis to decrease or eliminate their pain while improving their functional ability. However, a TKR also leads to a period of inactivity during recovery, and that inactivity has drawbacks. People lose about 60% of their quadriceps strength within the first month following surgery.

Considering that information, it’s no surprise that people with TKRs have demonstrated slower walking and stair-climbing speeds when compared to their peers.

Medical Diagram of a before and after total knee replacement

Studies Show...

Researchers at the University of Louisville conducted a study comparing people who “prehabbed” against those who did not (control group) for five months prior to surgery. Like our clients, the individuals who strength trained fared very well.

The exercise group trained three times per week prior to the surgery, including exercises such as the leg curl and leg extension. Following the surgery, both groups received the same physical therapy.

Watch one of our clients on the Leg Extension! 

Before the surgery, strength training prevented knee pain from increasing and improved the participants’ functional abilities like getting up from a chair, walking speed, and stair-climbing speed.

One month after the surgery, the control group experienced losses in quadricep strength and walking speed, whereas the exercise group did not (when compared to baseline tests). Three months later, functional ability and strength in the operated leg were greater in the exercise group. 

Overall, the study found quadriceps strength was associated with greater functional ability and less knee pain. Researchers in a study out of the University of Delaware found the same connections when monitoring quadriceps strength days before and one year after a TKR [2].

They also noticed that quadriceps strength before surgery also predicts dynamic balance a year after surgery. Dynamic balance is tested by seeing how quickly a person can stand from a chair, walk around a sharp turn, and then return to the chair.

Balance and strength are some of the most important benefits of slow-motion strength training, especially in older adults who fear falling.

How Long Do You Prehab For?

If a TKR or any other major joint surgery is in your future, you might wonder how long you should train for prior to the procedure. As mentioned, the study included five months of prehabilitation, although we have clients who have only trained for 3 months leading up to their surgery and still experienced a quick and less-painful recovery period. Obviously, the earlier you start, the more strength you will build prior to surgery.

The process of strengthening before a surgery just makes sense. The joints are healthier when their surrounding muscles are stronger. Strength training before a joint replacement surgery allows you the opportunity to build healthier joints and muscles that you will simply work to maintain after surgery, instead of having to build them for the first time.

If a surgery like TKR is in your future, or you want to do whatever you can to avoid one, slow-motion strength training is the solution.

Clients Who Have Avoided Surgery:

In addition to those who have prehabbed before surgery, we’ve helped many people prevent injuries and avoid surgery altogether.

Michael Slosek

Michael, 66, had been told by his doctor that he needed a hip replacement. He also wanted to lose weight, gain overall strength and stamina, and a 20 minute workout was very appealing to him. Michael’s strength training results speak for themselves:

  • No longer has back or hip problems
  • Has more energy and stronger muscles
  • Able to hit the golf ball 20-30 yards further at the driving range
  • Has been able to avoid hip replacement surgery


“The Perfect Workout has a great thing going. You feel like you have a workout when you come here. I’ll continue to do it.”

Mary Jane Bartee

When you have medical conditions like fibromyalgia, osteopenia, and pelvic prolapse, you’re going to be very careful about exercise. “Anything that’s fast-moving and aggressive aggravates it,” says Mary Jane (MJ) Bartee. Slow, safe movement is what first appealed to her about slow-motion strength training. MJ’s strength training results are nothing short of fantastic:

  • Her most recent bone density test showed that her osteopenia is gone
  • The pain from her other conditions is more manageable, resulting in less medication
  • Her pelvic prolapse has greatly improved, to the point where the doctors aren’t talking about surgery anymore


“It’s quick and accommodating,” says MJ. “20 minutes and I’m done. It’s something I do for myself, and as long as I’m functioning as well as I am, I’ll stick with it.”

Her Story of injury prevention

Sherry Chriss

After unsuccessful physical therapy and cortisone shots for an injured shoulder, Sherry was desperate for an alternative to surgery. She was also distraught about the effects of menopause, including loss of bone density, decreased upper body strength, and weak legs. A year after she began strength training at The Perfect Workout:

  • Sherry’s bone density scan improved, surprising even her doctor.
  • She no longer has shoulder pain, and no longer needs surgery.


“I enjoyed it right off the bat, and little did I know how fantastic it would turn out to be. My husband and I have both seen great results, so we’re committed to doing The Perfect Workout for the rest of our lives!”

Don’t wait for post-surgery to start building up strength. In fact, surgery may not be necessary if you take action now. It only takes 20 minutes, twice a week and you’ll get a lifetime workout guaranteed to get you stronger.

  1. Topp, R., Swank, A. M., Quesada, P. M., Nyland, J., & Malkani, A. (2009). The effect of prehabilitation exercise on strength and functioning after total knee arthroplasty. PM&R, 1(8), 729-735.
  1. Mizner, R. L., Petterson, S. C., Stevens, J. E., Axe, M. J., & Snyder-Mackler, L. (2005). Preoperative quadriceps strength predicts functional ability one year after total knee arthroplasty. The Journal of rheumatology, 32(8), 1533-1539.

Is a Personal Trainer Worth It?

Is a personal trainer worth it?

We lay out all of the research-backed facts, so you can decide for yourself.

Female Personal Trainer with real female client

The hardest thing about starting a fitness journey is simply starting. The second hardest? Knowing what to do to actually get results.

Part of this struggle comes from seeing social media feeds with workouts, meal plans, and transformation photos – not to mention a million diet products being marketed to us all day, every day. It’s confusing.

The other part is trying to do it alone.

Every fitness journey is unique, but one major catalyst to achieving desired health and wellness results is having someone to coach you- a personal trainer.

You may ask yourself, is a personal trainer worth it?

In this article, we talk about the research-proven advantages of working with a personal trainer and why it's absolutely worth it.

Jump to a Topic:

7 Benefits of Working with a Personal Trainer

Studies comparing people working with personal trainers versus people who trained themselves found that working with a professional trainer offers the following benefits:

7 Benefits of Personal Training Infographic

1. Better Workout Quality

Too many of us know firsthand that it's possible to work out – a lot – and see no results.

The “magic” of strength training is a result of a few ingredients, including choosing the right resistance for each exercise and putting in enough effort.

Research shows that when not working with a personal trainer, only 9-34% of trainees choose weights that are challenging enough to provide great results (Dos Santos et al., 2020).

People also generally fail to work hard enough without a trainer. In one study, about 57% of people without a trainer failed to push to complete exhaustion (“Muscle Success”) on ANY exercise (Dos Santos et al., 2020).

Whether you get results is entirely up to you and the effort you put forth. But a Personal Trainer has the knowledge and passion to help you give it your all.

Research shows that supervised exercise leads to achieving more strength, muscle growth, and weight loss (Mazzetti et al., 2000).

Two separate studies by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., and one study by Ellington Darden, Ph.D., demonstrate that slow-motion strength training produces 50% to 59% faster improvements than regular weight training.

Any challenging workout, like slow-motion strength training, is a physical and mental feat. This makes it incredibly easy to talk yourself out of giving your best effort when the exercise becomes tough and your muscles start to burn.

A Personal Trainer is the coach in your corner pushing you to give your absolute best. They become the voice you need when your own starts to deceive you.

2. Exercise Safety

Working out alone? It’s easy to perform exercises incorrectly without someone watching your form or correcting bad habits. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know and could be exercising with incorrect form every time you’re in the gym.

Working out with a friend? Having a workout buddy can be great because it increases your chances of sticking with it. But taking direction from someone who is not Certified is like having your friend “crack your back” instead of getting adjusted by a Chiropractor. Despite the good intentions, relying on someone other than a trained professional could do more harm than good.

A Certified Fitness Trainer should have extensive education on how to safely coach others through an effective workout.

At The Perfect Workout, our certification goes beyond books and heavily involves hands-on training with real people. We test our trainers’ knowledge and expertise with numerous written and practical exams. All Personal Trainers are AED/CPR certified and are required to complete continuing education as part of their employment with The Perfect Workout.

Real Male client testimonial

3. Staying Motivated, Consistent, & Accountable

Exercise helps with health and longevity, but it doesn’t work if people don’t do it consistently.

Only one in five adults in the US consistently reach the recommended amount of weekly exercise (Harris et al., 2011).

When starting an exercise program, about half quit within six months (Larson et al., 2018).

The vast majority of people don’t hire personal trainers. Looking at the data, this approach isn’t working.

Considering about half of people quit workout programs within six months, strategies to stick with exercise are critical to reaching one’s fitness goals.

Studies show that people who work with personal trainers are more likely to develop a better attitude towards sticking with exercise (McClaran, 2003). In addition, people are also more likely to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles that would otherwise cause them to quit.

If that’s not enough, hear what some of our clients have to say about how we help with consistency:

  1. “I can do anything for 20 minutes, twice a week.”
  2. “20 minutes, twice a week made it easy to stick with it.”
  3. “I look forward to my personal training sessions.”
  4. “I see the benefits and I’m getting results, so I know it’s working.”
  5. “My trainers encourage me when I want to give up.”
  6. “It’s a great routine to start out the day.”
  7. “I like having an appointment on the books. It helps me stay accountable.”

Working with a trainer provides an additional level of accountability that is likely needed by most people.

Chances are you don’t bail on your doctor when you need a checkup, but it's really easy to bail on your workouts when you’re doing them on your own.

Why is that?

Because when you have an appointment on your calendar and another human on the other end of the appointment counting on you to show up, you do it.

By keeping you accountable, they ultimately keep you consistent and consistency breeds results.

Real client's personal trainer testimonial

4. Professional Guidance

Believe it or not, there is a method to exercising safely and effectively. A Personal Trainer will analyze your ability and your performance to decide how to continually challenge you.

This includes how to properly adjust your body to workout equipment, whether or not to increase or decrease range of motion on an exercise, to lower or raise the weight, etc.

The results are in the details, and a Personal Trainer knows what to look for.

Playing the role of a professional for our own needs benefits us by saving money. We trade our time to learn and develop skills to save the cost that comes with hiring a professional.

Besides coaching and providing accountability, working with a personal trainer makes sense for several reasons. We are limited by time, having only 24 hours each day to sleep, eat, work, spend time with family, manage our homes, etc.

We simply don’t have the time to be “professionals” in many areas. Outsourcing that responsibility to a professional saves time. It also ensures that we’ll receive more educated and experienced guidance with in-session coaching and overall workout program design.

But many people try to serve as their own personal trainers.

People design their own workout plans, coach themselves through their training sessions, and guide their own long-term fitness journeys.

Unless you’re a doctor, a physical therapist or you’ve been in the fitness industry before, chances are a Personal Trainer knows more about health and fitness than you do.

You wouldn’t try to clean your own teeth instead of going to the Dentist. So why would you try and improve your physical health on your own?

In addition, you learn new things about your body, your health, and your habits when you work with a Personal Trainer. And the more you know, the more opportunities you have to make changes you may need to reach your goals.

5. Workout Customization

A Personal trainer makes your workout personal. Everyone’s body, fitness level, and abilities are different.

A good trainer will not have the 45yr old man who wants to lose 30lbs do the same exact thing as the 77yr old woman who wants to reverse osteoporosis.

It's necessary to tailor any exercise approach to the individual’s goals.

Although group classes or follow-along- guides can be fun, you don’t get the customized approach. You don't have someone completely focused on you to see if you’re doing an exercise correctly, doing it safely.

A video, guide, or group fitness instructor doesn’t know your goals, your injuries, limitations or how you tend to hold your breath a little before you hit muscle success.

At The Perfect Workout, your first session with a Personal Trainer dives deep into your goals and health history so we can best help you achieve your health and fitness vision.

6. Judgement-Free

Walking into a big box gym can be an intimidating experience. You may think others are watching you workout, judging how you look, or why you’re lifting weights that way. This makes exercise an uncomfortable experience.

A Personal Trainer is devoted to helping you look and feel your best. You don’t have to worry about what you look like, how little you know about exercise or how many times you’ve failed your diets in the past.

This is a safe space where you can share your fitness needs and ask your trainer all kinds of questions, even ones that you might feel silly asking.

At the Perfect Workout, you’ll work with a Trainer every single workout and will always be in the comfort of a semi-private environment.

Real testimonial from Female client, who is with her dog

7. Support System

When you work with a personal trainer, you sign up for an overall transformation. Losing weight and gaining strength are common reasons people start a new workout program. However, gaining confidence, improving mental health, and learning to love their bodies, are some of the biggest and best benefits of working with a Trainer.

A Personal Trainer is your built in support system for this journey you’re on and at The Perfect Workout, you’re never at it alone.

So... IS a Personal Trainer Worth It?

Working with a personal trainer has tremendous value. A trainer’s supervision leads to more effective workouts. It helps us stick with a fitness program. Ultimately, a personal trainer’s help greatly increases the chances that we’ll reach our health and fitness goals (Losch et al., 2016). .

Bias aside, we’d say a personal trainer is definitely worth it. 😏

  • Dos Santos, W. M., Junior, A. C. T., Braz, T. V., Lopes, C. R., Brigatto, F. A., & Dos Santos, J. W. (2020). Resistance-trained individuals can underestimate the intensity of the resistance training session: an analysis among genders, training experience, and exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
  • Harris, C.D., Watson, K.B., Carlson, S.A., Fulton, J.E., & Dorn, J.M. (2011). Adult participation in aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities — United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(17), 326-330.
  • Larson, H.K., McFadden, K., McHugh, T.F., Berry, T.R., & Rodgers, W.M. (2018). When you don’t get what you want–and it’s really hard: exploring motivational contributions to exercise dropout. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 37, 59-66. 
  • Mazzetti, S.A., Kraemer, W.J., Volek, J.S., Duncan, N.D., Ratamess, N.A., Gomez, A.L., … Fleck, S.J. (2000). The influence of direct supervision of resistance training on strength performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(6), 1175-1184.
  • McClaran, S.R. (2003). The effectiveness of personal training on changing attitudes towards physical activity. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 2(1), 10-14.
  • Losch, Sabine et al. “Comparing the Effectiveness of Individual Coaching, Self-Coaching, and Group Training: How Leadership Makes the Difference.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 7 629. 3 May. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00629

Full Range of Motion While Strength Training

Full Range of Motion While Strength Training

Female Lifting weights with full range of motion

Strength training isn’t simply “lifting things.” In fact, there’s a science to strength training. When that scientific approach is used, great results are achieved.

One of the pillars of exercise is effectiveness – and one science-backed way to ensure exercise is effective is to lift challenging weights using full range of motion movements. (Pushing or pulling a weight as far as you can possibly go on an exercise.)

Unfortunately when many people do lift challenging weights, they sacrifice range of motion.

  • Examples of shortcutting range of motion include:
  • Leg Press: Beginning with the thighs far away from the body instead of closely, leaving very little room for movement.
  • Leg Curl: Not pulling the heels all the way back on the leg curl, past 90 degrees.
    Biceps: Curling the weight 90 degrees or less before lowering the weight.

This is concerning as full movement is key to achieving the benefits of strength training!

Full and Partial Range of Motion
Source: Health Fitness Club Connect

Why Do People Lift With Limited Range Of Motion?

Before we get into the benefits of full movement, why do people lift with partial ranges of motion? There are a few reasons:

  • Lack of awareness of good form. We’re not all exercise professionals. Many people we’ve seen in public gyms simply might not know what full range of motion is, or they don’t know it’s value.
  • Strengthening a part of a movement. Our muscle strength varies in an exercise. On the leg press, we are weakest at the start and strongest when our knees are almost straight. Some use partial reps in the weakest part of the movement to gain more strength. Your personal trainer might recommend this if they feel it’s the best course of action to modify an exercise and help reach your goals.
  • Limited joint movement. For older adults, people with arthritis, or people who had periods of severe inactivity (i.e. bed rest), joints may be very stiff. Thankfully, for those of you who fall into this group, strength training will help you increase range of motion by lengthening muscle fibers and reduce stiffness by producing synovial fluid, an oily substance made by the body to lubricate joints (Interdisciplinary Toxicology). In fact, a research article featuring 11 studies and over 450 people concluded that strength training is just as effective as stretching for improving joint movement.
  • Injury/pain. If you have a joint which was previously injured, has pain, or is arthritic, it’s possible that you are performing a partial range of motion in some exercises. This is a wise approach as it’s better to move in a limited but pain-free range of motion than to avoid the exercise entirely. Your personal trainer might recommend this if they feel it’s the best course of action to personalize the exercise to your body’s needs.
Partial Range of Motion Infographic

Benefits of Training With Full Range of Motion

Unless pain, injury, or joint stiffness limits movement, The Perfect Workout’s trainers coach lifting through a full range of motion on each exercise. This is intentional and one of the important ingredients in The Perfect Workout formula.

There are a few benefits to training with a full range of motion:

  1. More strength gained. People who train with a full range of motion gain more overall strength than those who train in a partial movement.

  2. More strength at all angles. If you only perform only half of the leg press movement, your thighs and butt will only become stronger in that half of the movement. Therefore, training through a full movement leads to greater muscle strength at all angles of a joint’s movement.

  3. Additional muscle size growth. In almost every study comparing full versus partial movements, using a full range of motion led to superior muscle gains.

  4. Increased flexibility and reduced stiffness. Using as much range of motion as possible in a strength training exercise will help lengthen muscle fibers and reduce stiffness by producing natural joint-lubricating synovial fluid in the body (Interdisciplinary Toxicology).
Benefits of Strength Training with Full Range of Motion

How to Find Your Ideal Range

Not everyone’s range of motion is going to be the same. Finding your ideal range of motion on an exercise may require a little bit of trial and error in the beginning. Your trainer will adjust every exercise to your body’s needs, including range of motion, using a combination of “adjustment points,” “axis points,” “hole gaps,” and other seat settings.

Adjustment Points

Adjustment points help to… that’s right, adjust parts of the machine to properly fit your body. Whether you are long in the torso or short in the legs, your trainer will use adjustment points to align your joints to the right place and help find your perfect seat setting and range of motion.

Most adjustment points are easy to find on machines because they are often brightly colored handles or pins. Look for yellow dots or handles on our Nautilus machines.

Axis Points

Some machines also have what we call axis points, or axis of rotation. These are typically seen on isolation exercises where one muscle group is targeted and one joint is used, like on our Preacher Curl machine.

Think of these axis points as guides to be lined up with the joint used during the exercise. On our Preacher Curl there is a red dot that serves as an axis point for the elbows. Ideally, you want the elbow joint lined up with this point the entire exercise to allow for proper extension and flexion during the range of motion.

Most adjustment points are also brightly colored and just as easy to find on machines. Look for red axis points on our Nautilus machines.

Axis points for finding your range

Hole Gaps

Hole gaps help increase or decrease the distance of an exercise’s starting point (and therefore the total distance traveled in an exercise) by inserting a pin to hold a gap between a weight plate or set of plates in a weight stack. For instance, someone with shorter arms using a Compound Row machine would want to increase the hole gap to bring the handles closer to them so that they can reach the handles at the beginning of the exercise.

Your trainer may also increase a hole gap to create an easier range of motion at the beginning of an exercise, or decrease a hole gap to make the exercise more challenging.

It may feel a little bit like musical chairs when trying to figure out your ideal range of motion and seat settings. Get in the machine. Get out. Make an adjustment. Repeat until you find your sweet spot. Luckily, all trainers at The Perfect Workout are experts and finding this for you and can do so quickly.

Hole Gaps for finding your range

If you are reading this but use partial movements due to past injuries or pain, don’t stress. You can still gain strength and muscle in a partial range of motion.

Ideally, your joints will become stronger and healthier over time. As this happens, you and your trainer will increase the range of motion until eventually reaching a full movement.

Client Testimonial from The Perfect Workout

Training through a full movement leads to better results. The Perfect Workout’s trainers will ensure that you are safely lifting as far as you can during each exercise. As a result, you’ll become the strongest and fittest “you” possible.

  • Afonso, J., Ramirez-Campillo, R., Moscao, J., Rocha, T., Zacca, R., Martins, A. … Clemente, F.M. (2021). Strength training is as effective as stretching for improving range of motion: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
  • Pinto, R.S., Gomes, N., Radaelli, R., Botton, C.E., Brown, L.E. & Bottaro, M.J. (2012). Effect of range of motion on muscle strength and thickness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2140-2145.
  • McMahon, G.E., Morse, C.I., Burden, A., Winwood, K., & Onambele, G.L. (2014). Impact of range of motion during ecologically valid resistance training protocols on muscle size, subcutaneous fat, and strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(1), 245-255.
  • Schoenfeld, B.J. & Grgic, J. (2020). Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: a systematic review. SAGE Open.

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