Strength training is an extremely important routine that should be part of everyone’s fitness plans.
It is a concept that revolves around lifting weights or using your body’s weight to achieve goals of muscle hypertrophy, endurance, and efficient force production.
Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by strength training and believe it is an athlete-exclusive routine, or worse, strictly for the “meat heads”. But this could not be further from the truth. Strength training is in fact one of the most universal training methods that can and should be adopted by almost everyone. The reason for this is it creates in-roads to all areas of life and will effectively increase performance in all activities. Talk about a magic pill, right?
In fact, if you talk to your physician today, he/she will suggest that you start lifting weights regardless of your age and physical condition. This is because science continues to unveil the amazing effects of strength training on our bodies even though it has been around for so long!
In this article, we will discuss the major health benefits of strength training, as well as the difference between cardiovascular training and resistance training.
Who should be doing strength training?
The short answer is, everyone!
Whether you’re fit or overweight, young or old, healthy or sick, strength training can offer you many benefits and very little risk!
Note that there are some contraindications to strength training.
According to the American Heart Association, individuals with the following conditions should avoid lifting weights, unless otherwise cleared by there physician:
- Unstable angina
- Uncontrolled hypertension (systolic blood pressure ≥160 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥100 mm Hg)
- Uncontrolled arrhythmia’s (electrical issues in the heart)
- Untreated congestive heart failure
- Cardiac valve problems (e.g. aortic stenosis)
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a complex disease that involves abnormal growth of the heart tissue)
You may have noticed that all these conditions have something in common; the heart. The issue stems from strength training’s relative intensity. Typical strength training programs cause massive blood flow to the muscles, which can exacerbate preexisting cardiovascular diseases. This being said however, an individual could tone down the intensity of a program and take more time to rest in between sets of exercises to compensate. This may reduce the efficiency and thereby the total results of the program, but I would allow a person to receive the benefits of strength training over time, and safely.
The benefits of strength training
During strength training, you’ll be recruiting more muscle fibers to perform the particular exercises than you usually would in a more cardiovascular driven program.
This will help you lift greater weights and perform more advanced exercises. This recruiting process is very specific and efficient.
Naturally, muscles have limits and once you exhaust those limits, your muscle fibers will endure microscopic tears.
Your body, of course, has to repair these tears, but since it’s pretty smart, it will “over-repair” them. In other words, your lean muscle mass will increase because the body is adapting to the stress that you put them through. Because of this repair process, your muscles in a sense will have adapted, and will now be better prepared to handle the relative stress/ intensity again. This in a nutshell, is what it means to get stronger.
Increased BMR and fat loss
Basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is a biochemical parameter that’s used by healthcare professionals to calculate how many calories your body needs every day to keep your organs functioning efficiently.
This number is dependent on several factors, including age, body type, gender, degree of physical activity, and lean muscle mass.
The last two factors can be influenced by strength training, which inadvertently increases your BMR. This really just means that you will utilize more calories at rest. This is obviously a positive thing due to the fact that the more energy your body utilizes the less it needs to store, meaning you maintain less fat as energy.
Over time,a strength training routine is the best thing you could do to increase the strength of your muscles. By increasing your muscle mass and endurance, you’ll notice the difference in your daily routine, from having better control over your own body, having better balance, to things like climbing stairs or picking up something awkward. Being stronger creates definitive in-roads to all other activities. This is due to the nature of strength training pushing you to lift heavier weights. As you progress and lift heavier and heavier weights your overall capacity increases, meaning anything short of your “max” becomes “sub-maximal”. What this means is that your ability to move weight less than your maximum increases. So if you think about it, the stronger you get the greater the difference between your maximum and your sub-maximum becomes. This disparity between the max and sub-max grows as you become stronger, this is indicative of progressive endurance for lower intensity weight. So to keep it simple, you can create endurance gains by simply getting stronger!
As we now know, the nature of strength training is to lift heavy weights relative to your person. By doing this, you expose weakness’ in your body. When you lift heavy, it shows you areas you will need to work on that you likely would not know about without having lifted heavy. This creates a unique system of success. You lift heavy, therefore you learn about your weakness’. By learning about your weakness’ you can intentionally work on them. Doing this makes you stronger and able to lift heavier. Which continues the cycle of constant success!
An good example of this is would be when you round your upper back during a squat. If this happens, you may want to strengthen your core and lower back muscles. By doing this, you would become stronger in the squat, and the cycle would perpetuate itself.
This goes the same for balance, coordination and mobility which is overall access and quality of active range of motion. Basically, being strong makes you really good at controlling movement in all forms.
It’s a simple equation; strength training will increase your lean muscle mass. More muscle mass means more calories burned at rest. More calories burned, less fat stored.
This equals improved physique and fitting into those outfits you always wanted to wear.
Reduced risk of several diseases
Regular exercise is an excellent tool to reduce the risk of several debilitating ailments, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease). Strength training specifically strengthens neurological bonds and helps with the ability to utilize dopamine more efficiently, which has been reported to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
Strengthened bone density
As we age, our bone density gradually declines; this puts us at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis, which is a medical condition characterized by recurrent fractures.
The risk of osteoporosis is especially prevalent in post-menopausal women and individuals who have low vitamin D and calcium levels.
Strength training has been shown to significantly increase bone mineral density by up-regulating the activity of osteoblasts (cells responsible for building bones), reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Strength training vs. cardiovascular training
Cardiovascular training is described as the aerobic exercise that aims to raise your heart rate and blood pressure to a certain point. Examples are jogging, sprinting, and jumping rope.
This type of exercise is beneficial to endurance, cardiovascular health, and weight loss. However, it provides negligible hypertrophy (muscle growth) benefits or overall strength increases.
Which exercise should you do?
It depends on your goals!
Implementing strength and cardiovascular training into your exercise routine is extremely helpful to reap the benefits of both routines.
Note that we used the terms training and exercise interchangeably in this article; however, these two concepts can be very different.
Learn more about the difference between training and exercise by reading our article on the topic here!
Strength training is something that we should all be doing. It is not exclusive to high-performing athletes, everyone could benefit from lifting weights.
We hope that we managed to change your mind about strength training. Nevertheless, if you have any questions or thoughts you can contact us at District Athletic Club or better yet, come try one of our Strength Training classes! Our expert coaches and fun environment are everything you need to start your strength training journey! You can start off with a week pass for free!