What are the benefits of strength training?
In a nutshell, strength training helps people to:
- Build muscle
- Burn fat and lose weight
- Balance hormone levels
- Improve cardiovascular capacity
- Increase overall energy level
- Help avoid injuries
- Improve overall health
Did You Know?
Each person begins to lose strength, at a gradual pace, starting in his or her mid-twenties or early thirties. This is why strength training is so important for people of all ages. However, doing strength training in the right way is critical. With proper technique and form and using your core stabilizer muscles correctly you can avoid injuries and you don’t need to use a ton of weight. In fact, heavy weight training can overstress your body, jar your joints and even be harmful to your immune system by releasing excess cortisol, a stress hormone.
Generally speaking, it is recommended that weight training be done with moderate weight, slower repetitions and limited rest periods between sets. This approach helps you to build muscle and strength more quickly. In addition, it provides a more effective cardiovascular workout that enables you to burn fat faster than other traditional cardiovascular exercises (e.g. treadmills, elliptical machines and riding recumbent bikes).
Is It Safe?
Strength training using weights has been shown to be both safe and effective and with proper instruction, you should never get injured from this form of exercise. However, many people do incur injuries from weightlifting, mostly because they are using improper form. Often, individuals who suffer these injuries may not even realize that they have poor form. It is this lack of awareness or understanding that can be an ongoing contributor to their various pains and injuries if left uncorrected.
General Health Benefits
Science has shown that having more muscle mass helps to stoke your metabolism. Additionally, having more muscle acts to lower insulin resistance, meaning that you will need less of this sugar-controlling, fat-storing hormone. The significance of this is that when you have a healthy insulin sensitivity, your body is better equipped to fight off diabetes and other inflammatory illnesses.
Strength training also helps to enhance your cardiovascular system (believe it or not, more than standard cardiovascular exercises!) It all starts with strengthening your core. Once you have proper functional core strength, you are positioned to strengthen your larger muscles more safely. This is key because having strengthened larger muscles increases blood flow to the joints and surrounding muscles. Not only does this have cardiovascular benefits, it also helps increase stabilization and decrease general joint pain, slowing the progression of arthritis.
Currently, there is no solid evidence indicating that strength training can prolong your life. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence strongly indicating that we can change the trajectory of decline with strength training.
Recent studies have found evidence suggesting the combination of strength training and proper nutrition trigger a signal within our bodies that calls for an anabolic environment. When an anabolic environment is present, there are increased growth factors that suppress fundamental aging indicators. One method to achieve an anabolic environment is through the use of hormone supplementation. Typically this is not an ideal course as there potentially adverse side effects, especially with long-term use. A healthier and more sustainable course for achieving elevated growth factors, such as IGF-I and other growth hormones, is through strength training.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence showing how strength training helps boost testosterone input, both for men and women. In recent years, we have seen a higher incidence of people with erratic hormonal levels and men with low testosterone. A natural approach to normalizing these hormone levels through the use of strength training makes the most sense since there are no potential negative side effects.
Beyond the physiological effects of aging, as people become less active, the aging process accelerates greater than the “normal” rate of aging. Studies have shown people benefit by adopting an active lifestyle and focusing on building muscle, especially since strength training is a macroscopic growth factor that counters the signaling of the aging process.
Reference: Barbell Training is Big Medicine by Jonathan Sullivan MD, PhD.
Weight Loss Effects
Strength training has been proven time and time again to be one of the best ways to burn fat. Following muscle-taxing exercises, a wave of repair and regeneration takes place within your body for several hours. In addition, your body runs on high gear during this phase, burning extra fat to replenish the energy in your muscles and to rebuild your glucose stores and tissue. It is this cycle that enables your body to burn far more fat from strength training than you would ever burn from a workout on a treadmill or bike. With strength training, you are still running your metabolism hard for the rest of the day, even after you leave the gym.
To maximize effects, a combination of strength training with interval cardio workouts is optimal. This combination works well at burning fat because it creates a glycogen defect. The sugar you get from carbs after you workout goes to muscle tissue instead of fat cells thereby ramping up your metabolism after-the-fact, during the recovery. Strength training with a weight that is just heavy enough to inflict a bit of trauma on the muscle fibers (myofibrils) is key, as your body fixes the slight damage over the next couple of days. During this process, your metabolism is still burning more calories, even at rest. While we recommend cardiovascular exercise in addition to strength training, do it on your off strength training days or after your strength training is finished. Moreover, for added benefit, take your cardio workout outside if possible.