Health Crisis: Only 1 Out of 4 Americans Participate in Strength Training Programs

Health Crisis: Only 1 Out of 4 Americans Participate in Strength Training Programs


We all know that “smoking is bad for you” and “lack of sleep is unhealthy,” but what you may not know is that failure to participate in strength training is also a health hazard.

A recent article from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published in the Los Angeles Times stated that only 25 percent of Americans take part in strength training programs. That same survey found that only 19.4 percent of Americans participated in ACSM’s recommended amount of cardiovascular and strength training activities.

Strength training is important for improving bone density and preventing osteoporosis; it speeds up connective tissue growth, and increases muscle mass therefore improving balance, reducing injuries, and improving quality of life.

ACSM currently recommends the following for strength training:
• Each major muscle group should be trained 2-3 days per week, including your shoulders, forearms, trapezius (traps), lower & middle back, chest, biceps, triceps, abdominals, gluteus maximus (glutes or buttocks), quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

• Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting an exercise program.

• 2-4 sets of each exercise will help improve strength and power

• 8-12 repetitions per exercise will help improve strength and power; and 15-20 repetitions will improve muscular endurance.

• Adults should wait at least 2 days between resistance training sessions to ensure proper recovery of muscle tissue, and to reduce the risk of injury.

If you are not currently strength training you may need to check with your doctor to see what type of program is right for you. An exercise specialist at your gym or fitness center can help you set up a program that meets your fitness goals and needs.

This may seem overwhelming for those new to strength training, so check back next week and we will share how to create a beginning strength training program! It’s easier than it seems!

Read the Los Angeles Times article on strength training.

For more information on the benefits of strength training read ACSM’s article, “Resistance Training and Injury Prevention.”

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office


  1. nick

    What is the best way to periodize a training plan to reach maximum strength gains? I’ve read that you start with lighter wts and more reps ~15 reps for a period (how long is ideal for a period when you’re a relative beginner), then transition to an 8-12 reps period, and finally 5-8 reps period. Also how might you incorporate “negatives” where you put on more wt than you can lift and lower the wt as slow as possible into a workout routine.
    Thanks for any comments or links to designing a workout program.

  2. Kelli Collins

    Hi Nick! Good question. It’s best in the beginning for those new to strength training to use a light enough weight to get enough sets and repetitions as they need to feel comfortable with the movement, and to learn proper technique. Once the foundation for proper technique is set, they can use a resistance that will help them reach their strength goals. Proper form and range of motion must be in place prior to adding resistance. Higher repetitions, 16-20, are best for muscle endurance, and 8-12 repetitions are best for healthy strength gains. Many body builders and Olympic weight lifters will use the 5-6 repetitions until they feel fatigued, as to put on muscle mass or cause hypertrophy. Although you may want strength gains, it’s best to incorporate endurance training as well.

    The general recommendation is 8-12 repetitions. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training to either fatigue, or until another rep cannot be completed with proper form. Remember that you only want to change one variable at a time and different variables will have different outcomes. These variables include reps, sets, weight and frequency. This means you do not want to add a fourth day of strength training the same week you add more weights, or sets, or reps.

    Linear periodization is one of the most common forms of strength training. It consists of microcycles and mesocycles. A microcycle is 4 weeks, and mesocycle is 4 microcycles. ACSM recommend that after one mesocycle, the weight should be increased by about 10 percent.

    An example of the linear training plan is below:
    • Microcycle 1
    o 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps
    • Microcycle 2
    o 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps
    • Microcycle 3
    o 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps
    • Microcycle 4
    o 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps

    Negatives are a great way to eccentrically load your muscles. Emphasis on the eccentric or negative phase of an exercise has been proven to cause the most muscle soreness from a workout. The increased muscle soreness, although not proven, is believed to be from a greater amount of micro-tears in the muscle, where if given the proper amount of rest and nutrients, the muscle would rebuild itself causing muscle hypertrophy. Negatives are great, even for beginners, who are trying to learn exercises they otherwise cannot complete, such as pull ups and push ups. There should always be a spotter included in every negative training program, if not all resistance programs. Negative strength training can allow some people to use up to 50 percent more muscle mass. Because of this it is necessary to have a spotter.

    Thanks for reading!

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