If you've always wanted bigger biceps or stronger quads, strength training is crucial, but it can be intimidating for beginners or those just starting. A common misconception is that you have to look like a bodybuilder to strength train, but that can't be further from the truth. Strength training encompasses many different types of training, from Olympic lifting to simple body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, planks that won't make you bulk up. More than just building muscle mass, strength training offers many benefits, both physically and mentally, that makes it worth incorporating into your lifestyle. Here are just a few examples.
Build Up Cardiovascular Health
While cardio training is an obvious choice to improve cardio, strength training can be just as effective. A study revealed that even if you don't do any actual "cardio," pumping iron can strengthen the heart and even protect you from having a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke. The study collected information on 12,591 men and women with an average age of 47. They found that lifting weights for less than an hour a week could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent, even if study participants didn't get the recommended amount of aerobic exercise every week. The American Heart Association recommends strength training, with or without weights, at least twice a week.
Protect Bone and Muscle Mass
Around age 30, we start losing 3-5 % of lean muscle per year thanks to aging. Less muscle means greater weakness, less mobility, and a higher risk for fractures from falls and broken bones. Strength training can not only play a crucial role in slowing down this process of bone loss, but it can build bone! Placing stress, tugging, or pushing on the bones through resistance training can nudge bone-forming cells to take action. What's more, strength training focuses on building the bones that are most susceptible to injury in the hips, spine, and wrists.
Improve Posture & Balance
Posture is how your entire body aligns (muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons). When all of your body's components are in alignment and working properly, it relieves tension, stress, pressure on your joints, protecting you from injury. Everyday lifestyle habits such as crossing your legs, sitting at a desk all day, hunching your back while standing can all create bad posture over time. Strength training can help undo these "default" positions that cause negative postural effects. By focusing on weak points that cause bad posture through specific exercises, you can help strengthen those muscle groups and, in turn, improve your posture. Dead lifts, for example, work the leg muscles, lower back, and core; this ends up strengthening the spine over time. Weak core muscles, which causes slumping, can be strengthened by doing simple plank holds. This guide can help you determine which muscle groups to target to strengthen weak areas that are causing postural issues.
Boost Energy & Mood
Physical activity affects mood by altering the circulation of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins. A Harvard study found that ten weeks of strength training reduced symptoms of clinical depression symptoms, insomnia, and improve resilience under stress more effectively than counseling. In short, poor physical fitness can lead to ill health, which then leads to depression and anxiety. Any type of exercise, whether aerobic or strength, can distract from everyday worries, enhance body image and confidence, and provide opportunities for social support. Meeting the challenges of exercise can also improve self-confidence. Another theory is that a regular exercise routine presents a controlled form of stress on the body, supplying a type of "vaccination" against uncontrolled stress on the body such as depression or anxiety.
Lose weight (& Keep It Off for Good)
Cardio has always been associated with quick weight loss, but a Harvard study found that men who lifted weights 20 minutes a day had less stomach fat than those who spent 20 minutes doing cardio. For women, strength training reduced the risk of fat in the stomach region. The key is what happens once the muscle is built. In general, muscle burns more energy (calories) throughout the day so having more muscle jump starts the metabolism. A study found that after 9 months of strength training increased study participants' resting metabolic rate by an average of 5 percent. You can increase the number of calories burned by increasing muscle mass. The key to gaining muscle mass is increasing the intensity and elevating heart rate in your workout routine. Workouts such as circuit training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), or simply using heavier weights for fewer reps can all increase metabolic rate, elevate heart rate, build muscle, and burn more calories over time.