The great thing about strength training is that it can be done pretty much anywhere and by anyone. The benefits to be had are significant enough that, if you don’t already, implementing strength based exercises into your week would be highly advantageous.
Strength training is a form of exercise whereby a person would produce force, by lifting a weight, to overcome resistance. Sometimes referred to as resistance training, it helps to build strength, muscle mass and endurance whilst burning calories and reducing bodyfat.
Regular strength training increases muscle which is good for the bones and joints leading to a healthy body. You’ll find everyday tasks become easier, such as carrying groceries and walking up the stairs and thanks to the release of endorphins, you’ll have an elevated mood.
STRENGTH TRAINING BENEFITS
Whilst we have briefly touched on the common benefits of working out with weights above, let’s look at these in more detail.
Helps with weight management
Most people usually associate weight loss with cardiovascular exercise. However, regular strength training helps to build lean muscle, which in turns burns more calories. What’s more, an increase in lean muscles will speed up your resting metabolism so you’ll burn calories even when you’re not working out.
Produces a sense of wellbeing
Any form of physical activity, including strength training, can help to decrease anxiety and improve mood whilst helping to balance a person’s hormones. When hormone levels are not as they should be, this can have an impact on things such as mood, sleep quality and general wellbeing.
Strength training, when done correctly, can help to raise low levels of testosterone in males whilst helping to balance both progesterone and estrogen in women.
Improves strength and endurance
With repeated strength training you will begin to get stronger and this in turn, leads to improved endurance. People with higher levels of endurance typically have healthier joints, better circulation and suffer with less fatigue.
Improvement to body aesthetic
Lifting weight often will lead to improvements to your body composition. By building lean muscle tissue, you’ll automatically burn more calories helping to keep fat at bay. As we age, our metabolism begins to slow, becoming more noticeable from the age of around 40. What does this mean? It means that your body will consume less of the calories that you eat so they’ll be stored as fat. Lean muscle will help to fire up your metabolism making sure you burn excess calories.
Increase bone density
Consistent weight training will mean that your body adapts. As you regularly lift weights, your bones will become larger and stronger. This is to coincide with the repeated weight bearing exercises you perform. Your body changes so that you can continue to train and make progress. Strong bones provide support to the muscles and protect the body’s organs.
Improve brain function
Regular strength training will improve a person’s circulation throughout their body, including the brain. By boosting blood flow to the brain, ensures that it receives enough nutrients and oxygen, both of which are vital to overall brain function. Good circulation to the brain also helps to improve memory.
Improve quality of sleep
If you suffer from poor sleep quality, this may impact your general day to day activities. By incorporating strength based exercises you may see a reduction in sleep onset, the time it takes to fall asleep, and help to decrease the amount of time lying in bed awake.
Resistance training helps to reduce blood pressure, this in turn helps to alleviate the symptoms of stress. Stress is a major factor that affects people quality of sleep.
Improve balance and posture
Many weight bearing exercises involve working the core. Having a strong core will help support your entire body improving balance and posture, both of which help to keep aches and pains at bay.
CAN ANYONE DO STRENGTH TRAINING
It can be easy to get swept up into the excitement of working on your best physique but it’s important to consider a few things that can have an impact on your training. Take some time to understand the below before you start putting together your workout plan.
Your Current Ability
Don’t be tempted to compare yourself to elite level athletes and be realistic with your current ability. The changes to your body composition will come, but it takes time so don’t push yourself beyond your ability as this could be detrimental.
Your build will determine what exercises you can comfortably execute. For example, you may like the idea of doing some deep squatting to work your glutes and hamstrings but having a long femur bone could mean that this is easier said than done. Essentially, your anatomy will have an impact on range of motion for certain exercises and the weight you can lift. This is especially true of compound movements such as the deadlift and bench press.
Your lifestyle will impact your strength training when it comes to things such as other commitments and your diet. For example, family and work will determine when you can train and how often. Set a realistic schedule that is sustainable.
When it comes to diet, remember that food is your fuel. If you want to work on burning some fat whilst building lean muscle, you need to try and avoid consuming too many calories but keep your protein levels high. Remember that sticking to a healthy, balanced diet will help you achieve your goals and is conducive to better workouts.
STRENGTH TRAINING VS CARDIO
Cardio is an aerobic exercise such as swimming or cycling and requires a lot of oxygen, whereas strength training is anaerobic that uses up carbohydrates for energy.
Doing too much cardiovascular exercise, can have the opposite effect when it comes to burning body fat. This is because the body essentially enters preservation mode, slowing down the metabolism which then burns less calories.
Ever heard the saying ‘too much of a good thing’? Well, that’s true of cardio, if you do little to no strength training but copious amounts of cardio, you’ll likely see a reduction in lean muscle tissue and this is the cause of metabolism slow down. This essentially means you have stalled your calorie burning.
By comparison, strength training can be very progressive where you continually test and stress the muscles by increasing the weight and / or number of repetitions. It’s generally much less monotonous than cardio and requires more focus.
When you consider the aesthetic differences between a long distance runner versus a rugby player, they have very different body shapes. Typically, the runner will be exceptionally lean but have very little muscle. They train to improve their endurance so they can complete a long distance run in the fastest time possible. By comparison, a rugby player carries much more muscle on their bodies. They would likely focus on explosive strength exercises, which allow them to power through other players and change direction quickly.
Whilst both cardio and strength training would be considered essential for your well being and health, it’s important to find a balance between the two to maximise the benefits.
Of course, this also depends on your goals. If your objective is to build endurance for long distance running such as a marathon, then you’ll want to focus on cardiovascular exercise. However, if it’s to build muscle, tone up and lose weight then be sure to add in strength based training to your workouts.