There are numerous benefits to strength and resistance training; greater strength, increased mobility, reduced injury risk, improved quality of life, and many others you’ve undoubtedly heard before. But how does exercise increase bone density? One of the understated benefits of strength training is bone mineral density and preventing osteoporosis. Strength training and load bearing exercise is one of the primary tools you can utilize to maintain or build up your bones.

The first thing you should do if bone density is a concern to you is check with a doctor. Any recommendations or concerns they might have will guide any plan a trainer will write for you. Bone density, like many fitness attributes, is something that can take a while to develop so it’s extra important to avoid any potential roadblocks.

Smart programing and consistency are key

Since bone density is something that takes a while to develop, building an optimal program for you is the next step. One of the interesting things about using exercise to build bone density is that it works similar to growing muscles in that you can target certain areas of your body.

One of the oldest examples of this comes from martial arts. In Karate, it’s common to strengthen the bones in the hand and wrist by striking a Makiwara, a post wrapped in leather or rope. In Muay Thai, fighters often kick banana trees to harden their shins. Both of these are ridiculously impractical for most of us to do. Fortunately, you can target most of your body by using a variety of strength training exercises without the distress.

Typically, the best “bang for your buck” strength exercises are multi-joint, compound, load bearing exercises, or exercises that use a lot of joints, a lot of muscles, and have you working against gravity. In the simplest terms, you can do strength and resistance training exercises. Three of the biggest and best exercises that you can try are the barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Does this mean you need to get your hands on a barbell as soon as possible? Yes and no. The primary advantage of barbell exercises is that you can load extra plates onto a bar in line with how your strength is progressing. The downside is that they can sometimes feel intimidating on the first approach, and it’s important to have a trained coach make sure you are using the barbell properly. Circumventing that intimidation factor is much easier than you might think. While the squat, bench press, and deadlift can be performed with a barbell, that doesn’t mean that they can only be done in that way. In fact at Hyatt Training you’ll find these exercises being done in barbell-free variations more often than with the barbell.

The deadlift

Using the deadlift as an example, numerous variations exist outside of the conventional straight bar deadlift. Deadlifting can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, medicine balls, sandbags, and many other implements. One the most popular variations is the trap bar deadlift, also called the hex bar deadlift. Trap bars are those special bars shaped like a hexagon that you can step into rather than step up to. Trap bars usually have two sets of handles available with one set being a little higher than the other. This taller set of handles lets you reduce the range of motion of the deadlift and make it easier to maintain good form while you are learning how to do a hip hinge style movement like the deadlift.

Like many strength training exercises, the deadlift is just one of many tools that you can use as part of a larger fitness routine to improve your health. There are many ways to do different beneficial exercises and the best way for you is likely different than the person standing next to you. However, having smart programing in place built specifically around your goals is a key factor of success.

Health and wellbeing extends much further beyond just bone density, as do the benefits of strength training. However, if bone density is a concern, then utilizing strength training can be a fantastic option to bolster your body and improve your health.

Sources:
Almstedt HC, Canepa JA, Ramirez DA, Shoepe TC. (2011). Changes in bone mineral density in response to 24 weeks of resistance training in college-age men and women. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):1098-103. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d09e9d. PMID: 20647940.

Benedetti, M. G., Furlini, G., Zati, A., & Letizia Mauro, G. (2018). The Effectiveness of Physical Exercise on Bone Density in Osteoporotic Patients. BioMed research international, 2018, 4840531. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/4840531

Haff, G. G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Fourth). Human Kinetics.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., ; Katch, V. L. (2016). Essentials of exercise physiology. Wolters Kluwer.

Rhodes EC, Martin AD, Taunton JE, et al. (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


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Hyatt Training Portland personal trainer Travis RobeAuthor Travis Robe is a Personal Trainer at Hyatt Training with a CSCS and BA in Kinesiology. In addition to his experience with strength training, he is also a lifelong martial artist. He believes in using fitness as a way to build discipline and confidence to overcome any challenge life may present you. Learn more about Travis, or get in touch with him by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com


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