No disrespect to aerobic exercise, but if you want to get fit and conquer every challenge that comes your way — both inside and outside of the gym — strength training is the way to go. You can’t scroll through any social media feed without some fitness expert or athlete urging you to not only lift weights, but to lift heavier ones. And professionals concur: Strength training has some remarkable advantages.
But what are the true benefits of strength training? And should you give it a try if you’re already satisfied with your current workout routine? Here are nearly twelve reasons that will persuade you to grab those weighty dumbbells.
The Advantages of Strength Training
By incorporating strength training into your fitness regimen, you’ll enhance your muscular power, bone health, flexibility, and more.
Desire well-defined, muscular physique? “If individuals desire more delineation, they should lift heavier weights, as they cannot develop larger muscles due to low testosterone levels,” says Jason Karp, Ph.D., M.B.A, a certified running coach by USA Track and Field, exercise physiologist, and author. “Thus, lifting heavier weights has the potential to make one’s muscles more chiseled.”
Strength training may have a reputation for causing bulking up, but that’s a misconception. The more your weight comes from muscles (rather than fat), the more pronounced your muscles will appear. Additionally, it’s challenging for individuals with low testosterone levels, which affects their potential for muscle growth, to attain bodybuilder-like musculature, says Jen Sinkler, an Olympic lifting coach, certified kettlebell instructor (RKC-2 and KBA), and author of “Lift Weights Faster.” To truly bulk up, these individuals would practically need to live in the weight room.
Enhances Bone Health
Strength training not only conditions your muscles but also strengthens your bones. When you execute a curl, for instance, your muscles exert force on your arm bones. The cells within those bones respond by generating new bone cells, says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., the founder of Women’s Strength Nation. Over time, your bones become sturdier and denser.
Consistency is key here, as studies have indicated that lifting heavy weights over an extended period not only maintains bone mass, but can even generate new bone, especially in the high-risk group of post-menopausal individuals.
Targets Body Fat, Not Muscle Mass
Develop additional muscle, and you’ll maintain your body burning calories all day long — that’s the science behind why weight training focuses on more body fat than many other fitness modalities. “Lifting weights can enhance your lean body mass, which amplifies the number of total calories you burn during the day,” states Jacque Crockford, C.S.C.S., representative for the American Council on Exercise.
Burning additional calories post-exercise in addition to building muscle? It may sound too good to be true, but it’s actually supported by research. In a 2017 study on overweight adults age 60 and over, the combination of a low-calorie diet and weight training resulted in greater fat loss than a combination of a low-calorie diet and walking workouts. The adults who walked instead of weight trained did lose a comparable amount of weight, but a significant portion of the weight loss included lean body mass. Meanwhile, the adults who did weight training maintained muscle mass while losing fat. This suggests that while aerobic exercise burns both fat and muscle, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat.
May Reduce Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
Weight training can help diminish your risk of severe health conditions, in part by assisting in minimizing excess visceral fat. In case you didn’t know, there is more than one classification of body fat. Subcutaneous fat is found right under the skin, and it’s the fat that you can feel and see, while visceral fat is found deep in the body and lines your vital organ, according to an article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Both types of fat are necessary components of the body’s composition, and both are distributed differently based on numerous individual factors.
However, an excess of visceral fat can put you at a greater risk of developing illnesses such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study. But weight training can assist: The UAB study found that the women who lifted weights lost more visceral abdominal fat than those who just did cardio. Furthermore, it found that the women who continued weight training kept the visceral abdominal fat off for a year, even if they gained weight overall. So in summary: Weight training can enhance your cardiovascular health by preventing an excess of visceral fat.
Burns More Calories Than Cardio
Simply sitting on your behind reading this, you’re burning calories — if you lift weights, that is.
You may expend more calories during your one-hour cardiovascular class than you would while lifting weights for an hour, but a publication in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research revealed that women who engaged in weightlifting burned an average of 100 additional total calories in the 24 hours following their training session. A separate investigation published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Metabolism found that, after a 100-minute weight training session, basal metabolic rate in young women increased by 4.2 percent for 16 hours post-workout—resulting in burning approximately 60 more calories.
Furthermore, the impact of this advantage of weight training becomes amplified when you enhance the load, according to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Women who lifted heavier weights for less repetitions (85 percent of their maximum load for 8 repetitions) burned nearly twice as many calories during the two hours following their exercise compared to when they performed more repetitions with a lighter weight (45 percent of their maximum load for 15 repetitions).
Why is this so? Your muscle mass chiefly determines your resting metabolic rate, also known as the number of calories you burn through fundamental life processes. “The more muscle you possess, the more energy your body expends. Every action you undertake, from teeth brushing to sleeping to browsing Instagram, will result in a higher calorie burn,” states Perkins. Moreover, this could be particularly advantageous depending on your objectives. (Nevertheless, calorie burning isn’t the sole factor to consider; the additional health advantages of weightlifting are just as—if not more—crucial.)
Fortifies the Entire Body
Using lighter weights for more repetitions is excellent for cultivating muscle endurance, but if you desire to enhance your strength, increasing the weight load is vital. Incorporate multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, and rows into your weight training routine and you’ll be astounded by how rapidly your strength increases.
This specific advantage of weight training yields significant results.
Everyday tasks (transporting groceries, pushing open a weighty door, lifting a child) will become simpler — and you’ll experience a sensation of being an unstoppable force, too.
Painful hips and aching knees don’t have to be a regular occurrence during your morning jog. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints can assist in preventing injuries by aiding in maintaining proper form and enhancing the integrity of your joints.
So go ahead, squat with a deep range. Your knees will express gratitude. “Correct strength training is actually the solution to joint problems,” says Perkins. “More robust muscles can firmly keep your joints in place, so you won’t have to be concerned about your knee acting up during your next run.”
Enhances Athletic Performance
This may surprise long-time runners, but it’s an advantage that should not be dismissed. Stronger muscles directly contribute to improved performance, without question. Your core will become more capable of supporting the weight of your body and maintaining proper form during other exercises, such as running. Additionally, your arms and legs will possess more power.
Moreover, since weight training increases the quantity and size of muscle fibers fueling your performance, weight training might actually aid in burning more calories during your cardio workouts, according to Perkins.
Researchers from the University of North Dakota compared immobile stretches with weight training exercises and discovered that resistance workouts with a complete range of motion can enhance flexibility just as effectively as your typical static stretching routine.
The crucial point here is “full-range,” as pointed out by Sinkler. If you cannot complete the entire motion (i.e., going all the way up and all the way down) with a specific weight, you might need to use a lighter dumbbell and gradually progress to it.
Enhances Heart Health
Cardiovascular exercise is not the only form of exercise that affects your heart health. In reality, weight training can also improve your heart health. In a study conducted by Appalachian State University, individuals who engaged in 45 minutes of resistance exercise at a moderate intensity lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent. That’s equivalent to or even better than the benefits associated with most blood pressure medications.
Instills a Sense of Empowerment
Pumping some serious iron doesn’t only empower individuals in the movies.
Lifting more substantial weights – and developing strength as a consequence – brings about a significant boost in self-confidence, and this could potentially be the most significant advantage of weight training. Not only will your physical strength be evident, but also your demeanor.
“Strength possesses an interesting manner of extending to all aspects of your existence, both within and outside the gym,” declares Sinkler. By consistently pushing yourself to accomplish tasks that you once deemed unachievable, your assurance flourishes.