Strength Training Fact and Fiction

Pair of dumbbellsI just read a study recently published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. The researchers asked 129 older adults a series of questions to find out how much they knew about strength training. But before I tell you the results, how would you like to take the quiz yourself and see how you do?


1. True or False: Strength training will help build muscle mass.

2. True or False: Strength training prevents Alzheimer’s disease.

3. True or False: Strength training cures lung cancer.

4. True or False: Strength training helps arthritic symptoms.

5. True or False: Strength training increases rate of metabolism.

6. True or False: You need to use heavy expensive equipment to strengthen your muscles.

7. True or False: Men and women will have equal relative strength gains if they do muscular strength exercises.

8. True or False: Younger people gain more muscular strength when doing strength training than older people.

9. True or False: You should NOT do muscle strength exercises because muscles might be too sore afterwards.

10. True or False: You should do muscle strength exercises even if it increases blood pressure.

11. True or False: Muscle strength exercises should only be used for rehabilitation.

12. True or False: To get stronger, it is more important to increase the weight you are lifting than the number of repetitions.

13. Which of these four exercises will best improve muscle strength:

A: Walking
B: Stretching
C: Lifting weights
D: Standing on 1 leg

14. How many days a week should you do strength-training exercises?

A: 1
B: 2
C: 3
D: 4

15. How many days should you rest in between strength-training exercises?

A: 1

B: 2

C: 3

D: 4

16. When doing strength training exercises, you should lift enough weight so that your muscles tire after:

A: 3 repetitions
B: 5 repetitions
C: 10 repetitions
D: 20 repetitions

17. If you are able to lift a weight more than 15 times, you should:

A: lower the weight
B: increase the weight
C: keep weight the same
D: stop the exercise

18. When beginning strength exercise:

A: start with heavy weights
B: use minimum weight and build up
C: start with minimum weight and keep it the same
D: start with no weight and go through the motions

Here are the answers:

1. True. Strength training will help build muscle mass.

2. False. Strength training will not prevent Alzheimer’s disease. (But regular physical activity has been shown to reduce brain tissue loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.)

3. False. Strength training cannot cure lung cancer. (But aerobic activity will have a beneficial effect on your lungs in general.)

4. True. Strength training can reduce pain by strengthening muscles that protect the joint. It can also extend the range of motion in some joints.

5. True. Strength training does speed up your metabolism, which is an important part of a weight-loss program.

6. False. You can do strength training using inexpensive resistance bands and tubing, or even everyday household items like juice cans and bottles of water.

7. True. While women may not gain as much muscle mass as men when they do strength training, they will have the same relative strength gains as men.

8. False. People of all ages benefit equally from strength training.

9. False. Some soreness after strength training is normal and necessary to build stronger muscles.

10. True. Recent studies show that the increase in blood pressure during strength training is not as much as previously believed. People who hold their breath during an exercise have more of a risk of increasing their blood pressure. However, studies show that strength training can reduce stress hormone levels, which in turn will lower your resting blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

11. False. Strength training exercise should be a part of your exercise routine, along with aerobic exercise, flexibility, and balance training. You should make exercise a part of your life.

12. True. To gain muscle strength, you need to progressively increase the weight or resistance. For muscle endurance, you need to increase your repetitions. Muscle endurance and strength are both important.

13. C. Lifting weights is superior to walking, stretching, or balance training for improving muscle strength.

14. B, C, or D. You can do weight training between 2 to 4 times per week, as long as you leave sufficient time in between sessions for rest and recovery of the muscles. Weight training only once a week is not sufficient to improve muscle strength.

15. B. You should leave at least 48 hours between strength-training sessions in order for the muscle to fully recover. One day is not long enough and beyond 72 hours, you begin to lose the strength gains you have made.

16. C. Anywhere between 8 to 12 repetitions is required to sufficiently tire the muscle. If you can only lift a weight three or five repetitions, you are lifting too much weight and this is only recommended for experienced body builders. If you can lift beyond 15 repetitions, the weight is too light and you will not be see any gain in strength.

17. B. If you are able to lift a weight more than 15 times, you should increase the weight. That number of repetitions will help muscular endurance but will not increase your muscle strength. To do that, you need to increase the weight enough that you can do between 8-12 repetitions safely to fatigue.

18. B. When beginning strength exercise, use minimum weight and build up. Many people who are not used to doing strength exercise start with too much weight and get discouraged that they can’t lift it. It doesn’t matter how little weight you use to start. Concentrate on doing the exercises correctly. Steady progression of weight being lifted is what’s most important, not being able to lift more than someone else.

The survey produced some interesting findings. Many people in the study didn’t realize how important strength training is. And it didn’t seem to matter whether people participated in regular exercise programs or not. Just over half of the respondents knew that weight training was the best exercise to increase muscle strength. Thirty-seven percent thought that walking was the best one. While I am happy to see that many people have gotten the message that walking is important, we need to do more to let them know that strength training is also important for those who want to maintain independence and lead vibrant lives.

To your health,


Manini, T.M., Druger, M., Ploutz-Snyder, L. (2005). Misconceptions About Strength Exercise Among Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(4), 422-433.

Divine, J.G. (2005). Action Plan for High Blood Pressure. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Millar, A.L. (2003). Action Plan for Arthritis. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

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