- Strength or resistance training is necessary to ensure our skeletal muscles are healthy and in great condition.
- Strength training offers many benefits, including a faster metabolism and positive mental health.
- You don’t need to spend a lot of money to purchase tools and equipment to do strength training. You can even practice it at home using nothing but your own body.
Do you lift groceries from the car to your kitchen cupboard, carry supplies or documents around the office? Do you run to the nearest coffee shop to get that much-needed cup of java? Every single day, we face countless tasks that require us to use our muscles. Many of us view cardio as the miracle cure for the “perfect” body and often overlook the need to perform exercises that ensure your muscles are in top condition. Go to any gym and you’ll see the treadmills and ellipticals occupied, while the weight room is quiet.
Skeletal muscles, also called voluntary muscles, are attached to our bones and allow our bodies to move. These muscles help us complete strenuous tasks and allow us the flexibility to move with less risk of getting injured. Strength training focuses on keeping these muscles in excellent form and is essential to ensure our bodies function properly.
Strength training, or the use of resistance to build strength and enhance the skeletal muscles, offers plenty of benefits other than an attractive physique and improved strength.
The Many Benefits of Strength Training
1. Strength Training Helps Boost Metabolism
Strength training builds muscle, and these muscles burn a higher percentage of calories even at rest. This results in an increase in your metabolism (1). Thus, when you gain muscle, you’re likelier to lose fat and acquire a healthier body composition compared to straight cardio (2). (Yes, the widespread belief that nonstop cardio is the key to staying lean is false.)
It may not immediately affect your overall weight — because muscle is denser than fat — but it’s not uncommon to notice a change in your physique and body competition. In fact, your clothes might end up baggy even though the number on the scale has gone up!
Whether you’re working out to get fit or if you simply want to maintain good health, strength training will help you achieve your goals.
2. Strength Training Reduces the Risk of Fractures
Once we turn 30, we lose around 3% to 5% of our muscle mass. This means if we simply leave it as it is, our bodies could eventually become weak or fragile. The solution to keeping our muscles and our bodies in top shape is strength training.
The muscles developed through strength training help our bodies maintain flexibility and mobility and reduce the risk of fractures. Studies also show that strength training improves athletes’ physical performance (3, 4).
3. Strength Training May Help Fight Depressive Symptoms
When you do strength training, your body produces endorphins, natural painkillers that also help improve our mood. This is a natural and effective way to encourage a happier mood.
In fact, some research has found that these exercises can indeed help reduce depressive symptoms and promote positive mental health (5).
What Are Some Ways to Do Strength Training?
Now that you know some of the benefits of strength training, it’s time to get to work. What are some examples of strength training exercises?
Most gyms have the necessary equipment for doing strength exercises but even if you’re not a gym member, you can still do strength training at home without spending a lot of money to purchase expensive training tools and equipment.
Depending on your level of fitness, your own body weight might be all the resistance you need, meaning push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges are all effective options. If you need to increase the difficulty level, simply do more reps. If you need more resistance, kettlebells and dumbbells are affordable and handy to have around the house.
And if you belong to a gym…
Of course, if you have access to a gym, you’ll have a wide variety of equipment to choose from. Consider incorporating popular compound movements like squats and deadlifts. These work multiple muscles/muscle groups simultaneously. It’s functional fitness at its very best, because you squat and deadlift every single day, even if you don’t realize it.
Plus, compound movements help you work out efficiently, in case you don’t have too much time to spare. You get more out of them, faster, compared to movements like bicep curls, which work a much smaller area and far fewer muscles. (Note: This isn’t to say bicep curls don’t offer any benefits. They just don’t pack as big of a punch as compound exercises.)
Before trying out a new exercise routine, always remember to consult your physician.
There are many benefits of strength training, including stronger muscles, better flexibility and mobility, excellent form and an improved mental disposition. These are all essential for good health and will help us complete our everyday tasks efficiently and safely.
Start incorporating some of these exercises into your training programming. You’re sure to see an improvement.
- “Resistance training during a 12-week protein supplemented VLCD treatment enhances weight-loss outcomes in obese patients”, Jo, E., et al., 2017.
- “Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity”, Beavers, KM, et al., 2017.
- “Effects of Strength Training on Postpubertal Adolescent Distance Runners”, Blagrove, RC, et al., 2018.
- “The Importance of Muscular Strength: Training Considerations”, Suchomel, TJ, et al., 2018.
- “The impact of exercise on depressive symptoms in older Hispanic/Latino adults: results from the ‘Caminemos!’ study”, Hernandez, R, et al., 2018.