Resistance training is that which takes place when the muscles apply force to an external resistance. This can involve free weights, machines, cables, bands, your own body weight, gravity and muscular tension. It is also referred to as strength training or weight training.
Here are just some of the benefits of incorporating resistance training into your program:
Faster metabolism Your BMR or basal metabolic rate is the rate at which you burn calories at rest. One major factor influencing this rate is the amount of muscle your body has. Unlike fat, muscle is active tissue and as such requires a continuous supply of energy. Therefore replacing fat with lean tissue will increase your overall energy expenditure making it far easier for you to maintain a healthy weight and favourable body composition.
Reduced risk of injury Resistance training contributes to a stronger core enabling you to maintain better balance. It also helps develop strong ligaments and tendons which support the joints, improving stability and minimising the risk of injury and falls. This is obviously particularly important as we age. Lack of lumbar strength has been associated with the development of low back pain and dysfunction so strengthening this area is crucial. Lower back pain is likely to affect over 80% of western society due to our sedentary desk-bound lifestyles.
Better sports performance Increased muscle tone improves speed, co-ordination and agility. An optimal sports specific training program will include a strength component to enhance performance in speed, power and agility.
Better posture Poor posture can stem from weak back muscles, preventing your body from standing tall. Strengthening these muscles can vastly improve your posture, often reducing muscular pain and allowing you to exude more confidence.
Increased confidence and self-esteem Strength training as with other types of activity can have a powerful psychological effect. The process of setting and achieving goals gives a boost to self esteem. Being fitter and stronger, means you are better equipped to deal with day to day challenges giving greater feelings of empowerment. And of course there's no denying that looking and feeling more attractive boosts confidence levels.
Reduced risk of coronary heart disease
Reduced cholesterol - A study in Beaumont Hospital, Michigan demonstrated that strength training has been shown to improve your good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL).
Reduction in Hypertension - Cardiovascular training is the best way to reduce your resting blood pressure, but weight training has also been shown to have a positive effect on dialstolic readings (the lower number), placing less strain on the heart.
Blood health - Weight training can lower serum lipids and blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels can damage the lining of your blood vessels over time and increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease and blood clots.
Reduced risk of type-II diabetes Studies have shown that weight training may improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which decreases the chances of diabetes. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23% in four months. A decrease in insulin release was significantly correlated with an increase in lean body mass.
Reduced risk of osteporosis As we age, we become more prone to bone density issues such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. This is especially true of women where it affects 1 in 4 in the post menopause phase when oestrogen levels are greatly reduced and the bones lose their density. Porous bones are weaker, have increased susceptibility to fractures and can reduce mobility. Strength training has been shown to not only stop the loss of bone density but it can actually increase bone density. Compressive, weight bearing exercises provide the stimulus from which bones can adapt and strengthen. The earlier you start training with weights, the better.
Aids management of arthritis Exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis. It helps to reduce joint pain and stiffness by increasing muscular strength around the joints. Flexibility and endurance also improve with weight bearing impact having a positive effect in controlling the condition.
Improved digestion A recent study by the Research Director of the YMCA in Massachusetts showed a 56% decrease in gastrointestinal transit time after three months of strength training. This is significant because delayed digestion puts you at a higher risk for colon cancer.
Exploding the myths surrounding resistance training
You may have heard the saying, 'muscle weighs more than fat'. Obviously that's not true. 1lb of muscle weighs 1lb, as does 1lb of fat. However, muscle tissue is denser than fat and therefore 1lb has a lower volume and takes up less space. So yes, through strength training you may gain a little weight, but it's lean, active tissue that burns calories and is smaller in size. Your shape will change for the better. Ignore the scales and instead see how your clothes fit.
Women often worry that training with weights will lead them to 'bulk up' developing large muscles. This is almost impossible to do. Muscle growth is largely dependent on testosterone and females simply do not have enough of the hormone within their bodies for their muscles to become very large. You will tone your muscles and have definition, without the 'bulk'.
It is impossible to turn fat into muscle, or muscle into fat. Your body can utilise fat as an energy source to enable an increase in muscle tissue, but it does not magically change its cellular structure. Each is unique.
For strength training, correct technique is extremely important. Some people feel daunted by the prospect of learning new skills. The best way to learn good form is to ask a professional who will not only guide you through correct technique, but will design a program to include the specific training protocol to enable you to fulfill your own aims, whether that be endurance, muscle mass, optimal strength or power. You will quickly acquire new motor skills that you will be able to incorporate into your daily life.
Give resistance training a try and soon you'll be reaping the rewards as you find it easier to perform daily activities that require pulling, pushing and lifting.