- Cancer Information
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- Exercise after a cancer diagnosis (including videos)
- Strength training (video)
Strength training (video)
Strength training uses weights or resistance to increase the strength and endurance of your muscles, as well as the strength of your bones. It is sometimes called resistance training or weight training.
The weights used in strength-training exercises include:
- your own body weight – e.g. push-ups and squats, yoga and pilates
- free weights – such as dumbbells and barbells, which you hold, or wrist and ankle weights, which you attach with straps
- weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached to either weights or hydraulics
- elastic resistance bands – sometimes called TheraBands, these are like giant rubber bands that provide resistance when stretched; they are colour-coded according to the level of resistance.
An exercise professional can advise which weights and bands you should use. You can buy free weights and resistance bands at sporting goods stores and some major retailers. Some people make hand weights from everyday objects, such as plastic bottles filled with water or sand. If you try this, use scales to check they are equal weight.
We outline some simple strength-training exercises, including exercises to develop balance, strengthen core muscles and build strength. Each exercise is accompanied by a how-to-video, to show you exactly how the exercises should be done.
|If you have cancer that has spread to the bones, ask an exercise professional for advice on suitable exercises.|
How much strength training should you do?
Try to do 2–3 sessions of strength training each week, with a rest day between sessions. Strength-training exercises include several parts:
- repetition – the completion of an exercise from starting position, through the movement, and back to the start
- set – a series of repetitions
- rest – the time between
During each training session, aim for a series of exercises that target the major muscle groups of the arms, legs and torso. An exercise professional can help design the best program for you.
As a guide, you might do:
- 6–10 exercises
- 6–20 repetitions of each exercise per set
- 1–4 sets of each exercise per session
- 60–90 seconds of rest between sets
A program should challenge your muscles without straining them, so that may also guide how many repetitions you do in a set to begin with. Once you become comfortable with a program, you can make it more demanding, but do this by making small adjustments.
|Check with your health care team before beginning any exercise program. Although we have provided strength training exercises to suit most people, some of them may not be right for you.|
Watch exercise videos on strength training for:
A/Prof Prue Cormie, Chair, COSA Exercise and Cancer Group, and Principal Research Fellow – Exercise Oncology, Australian Catholic University, NSW; Rebecca Cesnik, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, ACT; Dr Nicolas Hart, Senior Research Fellow, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Council WA; Stephanie Lamb, Life Now Project Officer, Cancer Council WA; John Odd, Consumer; Sharni Quinn, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Jane Turner, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
Coping with cancer?
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Life after cancer treatment
Programs and support for people who have finished treatment
ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors