In today’s day and age, everyone’s looking for the next miracle drug. The next big breakthrough to feeling better, losing fat, improving appearance and improving overall physical and mental health.
But what if that drug is already out there, and has been for arguably thousands of years?
I want to keep it simple today and lay out for you a laundry list of reasons why resistance training is that said breakthrough. Not just why it’s beneficial, because we’ve all heard of some of the benefits it provides at one point or another. But I would argue that it is essential for taking a proactive and preventative step towards better quality of life.
So without further ado:
Resistance training builds bone density. You may think that lifting weights only benefits your muscles, but did you know that it positively affects your bone health, too? By sticking with a consistent resistance training routine, your body continually lays down osteoblasts, connected cells that synthesize bone, in order to adjust to the external load you’re placing on your skeleton. This is especially important to middle-aged and senior-aged women with osteopenia or osteoporosis. If this is you, don’t shy away from lifting weights – embrace it! It will help lay down some new bone foundation, improve your bone mineral density and make you less brittle.
Resistance training makes you strong and improves self-confidence. Simply put, life in general is better and easier the stronger you are. You are capable of doing more (yes, especially outside the gym) and are able to tolerate more external stress that you place on your body over time. The more you are able to do, the better you look and feel about yourself, the higher your self-confidence soars.
As an example, anyone who has/currently is playing organized sports and follows a thorough, periodized program with their fellow teammates can relate to this feeling. Holding each other accountable and encouraging one another in the weight room builds a brother/sisterhood and is an empowering feeling. Look good, feel good, play good.
And no ladies, lifting weights will not make you bigger or more bulky.
Resistance training is functional. We all squat down onto a chair or toilet every day. How about getting up and down off the floor or walking flights of steps? Or even reverse lunging downwards to tie our shoes?
It helps to build a solid training plan that mimics things that you already do in every day life. It gives you a sense of purpose. Best believe that if you can tolerate multiple sets of squats, lunges or step downs with proper technique, doing those already listed tasks outside of the gym will become a real piece of cake.
Resistance training burns more calories. As already stated in a previous blog post, the intensity of the exercise is more important than the duration. It’s all about that afterburn, the amount of calories you continue to burn upwards of 24 hours post-workout. Research proves time and again that the afterburn post-resistance training and interval training far exceeds long duration, steady-state cardio. Maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of our workouts and burning more calories and fat is what we all want, isn’t it?
Resistance training is cardio! Yes, you read that right. You don’t need to run on a treadmill in order to categorize or rationalize it as cardio. As my boss Mike Stare, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, CNS likes to say, “Let’s see you complete a circuit consisting of squats, push ups, lunges and lat pulldowns. If your heart rate isn’t elevated, check yourself into a hospital immediately – something is seriously wrong.”
It’s true. Your heart doesn’t know the difference between running or lifting weights. All it knows is it needs to work harder to supply blood and nutrients to working muscles in order to fill the demands you’re placing on your body.
Resistance training can help relieve acute and chronic pain. Of course there is a multifaceted approach we use to figuring out and determining what is causing someone’s acute or chronic pain and why, and every case is different. To stay on track with this post however, it’s amazing how much easier and pain-free people can move with the incorporation of a resistance training program. So long as proper technique, intensity level and volume is being used of course.
Sounds backwards, right? “I’m in pain, so you’re telling me I should work out anyway? Shouldn’t I rest until it heals instead?”
Yes. And no.
As a fitness professional, I can always adjust your plan at a moment’s notice. Got a bum knee? You still have an upper body and posterior chain (back of the legs) you can work on that won’t affect your knee. That shoulder that’s bothering you? We can still squat, lunge, front plank and even do upper body pulling movements properly without doing further damage. Even if modification of the exercise is necessary. That’s my job.
It’s about doing the right things, correctly.
We pride ourselves here at Spectrum and next door at Orthopaedics Plus on being biomechanic specialists. Whether your pain is minimal or truly excruciating, come in anyway. This way I can help you figure out WHY it’s bothering you, and prescribe the proper exercises, sets and reps you can do in lieu of whatever issues you’ve got going on.
This will keep you on track with your fitness goals and keep you off the sidelines just wishing things would get better.
Resistance training helps fight against debilitating disease. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, dementia, obesity, arthritis, asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol just to name a few.
Consider just this one piece of research:
A 2012 study in the journal PLOS Medicine showed that 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week increased life expectancy by 3.5 years. Those in the study who upped their exercise intensity increased life expectancy by 4.2 years.
Understand that this wasn’t a small group of college students measured over a few weeks either. This review looked at data of more than 600,000 people. Pretty amazing.
Resistance training helps make you a better runner. Consider this piece of research I found on runnersworld.com:
In another study published in 2005, researchers assigned participants different training schedules to be performed twice a week for 12 weeks. The groups included running endurance training on its own, strength circuit training on its own, endurance and strength training together and a control group. Lo and behold, the group that combined endurance and strength training improved an average of 8.6 percent in a 4K time trial, increased their V02 max by an average of 10.4 percent and ran to exhaustion 13.7 percent longer than the other groups.
At the very least, resistance training has proven to help prevent injury and preserve lean muscle tissue during your aerobic training. Losing lean muscle mass is detrimental in training and race day performance for a lot of runners, so be sure to sprinkle in at least 2 days of a full-body resistance training routine per week to counteract this problem.
Resistance training helps improve flexibility. Flexibility is defined as the ability to move joints around a particular ROM. Static stretching can play an important role to any training plan, but are you already getting enough of an active stretch while lifting weights?
From a physiologic standpoint, a case can be made as to why strength training might impair flexibility. Muscles are encased in a dense sheet of connective tissue. It has been shown that heavy resistance training causes an increase in collagen in these structures. Collagen is a fibrous tissue that has limited stretch capability (in comparison to muscle, which is more elastic), and an intramuscular increase in collagen would seemingly reduce a person’s range of motion.
The truth is, studies have repeatedly shown that those who train with weights on a regular basis are at least as flexible as sedentary individuals. In many cases, flexibility is even improved as a result of resistance training!
It is important to note, though, that muscles adapt to the specific range in which they are trained. This is why, from a flexibility standpoint, it’s essential to train through a complete range of motion. Full range movements allow the associated joint to approach its stretch capacity. In effect, lifting weights acts as its own form of flexibility training; stretching is already incorporated into the movements.
So there you have it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner modifying your exercises to learn and ingrain proper motor patterns and technique or a seasoned veteran going for a 400+ deadlift PR. The benefits only continue to build through consistency and discipline with your program.
Take control of your health! There’s no better time to start, continue pressing forward or get back on track than right now. Of course if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me with a comment below!