The idea of incorporating strength training into daily exercise can seem intimidating to people. There are quite a few common misconceptions about what, exactly strength training is.
- “Body building isn’t for me – I don’t want to get buff!”
- “I’m a woman, weight lifting could be bad for me if I do it too much.”
- “I don’t want to pay for a weight gym – I spend most my time running anyway.”
- “I don’t need muscle strength to keep up on my regular workouts.”
- “Doesn’t resistance training take special equipment?”
- “Cardio is the healthiest exercise anyway.”
Some of these statements are outright false, but others just don’t capture what strength training is all about. All of these misconceptions can unfortunately keep people from realizing how beneficial strength training can be. And, yes, it is beneficial for everyone.
Definition: Strength training uses resistance to build muscle strength, increase endurance, and maintain flexibility.
We are so convinced of this fact that we want to spend some time laying out clear reasons why everyone should be strength training. And we mean everyone. To start, strength training is not just for men – it’s great for women too!
#1: Weight Lifting Can Help You Lose Weight
Despite what the diet pill commercials tell you, weight loss is not always an easy process. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight. Weight loss is a fantastic health goal, and it takes a lot of perseverance and determination.
Strength training can help you achieve both!
For starters, weight lifting and muscle training makes your metabolism more effective. Over time, strength exercises increase your resting metabolic rate. This is the rate that your body burns calories when you’re not engaging in any kind of exercise at all. It is also determined by your muscle mass.
When you increase your muscle mass, you increase your body’s ability to burn calories. When you pair that with a healthy diet and a good amount of cardio, resistance training actually makes you better able to lose weight.
Because having stronger (and bigger) muscles means a higher metabolism, it also helps you keep the weight off once you achieve your own personal fitness goals.
Strength exercises also have a secondary benefit to weight loss: they keep you motivated. We all know that hour-long runs or marathon Zumba sessions can get boring after awhile. By switching things up, resistance training lets you keep your personal fitness new and exciting. It’s a kind of mental change of scenery, increasing your performance and maintaining your motivation.
#2: Strength Training Gives You Lots of Options
You’ll notice that our definition of strength training does not include bodybuilding as a primary goal. And it doesn’t say that you have to spend hours free lifting weights to strength train.
That’s because you don’t. Building muscle strength doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours with the dumbbells – even though free weights are a great way to build strength. The best strength training workouts include a variety of all of these options:
- Body Weight Fitness: Like the name implies, body weight fitness uses your body for the resistance part of resistance training. Options here include pullups, pushups, crunches, planks, and more. As you spend more time with strength exercises, you’ll find that you’ll be able to do more complicated rotations.
- Resistance Tubing: This is most common with physical therapy after an injury, but using rubber tubing is a great option for muscle training for anyone. This is a great option for keeping up with your muscle strength at home.
- Free Weights: These are the dumbbells we mentioned above. Other free weight options are weight bars and barbells (those large weights that usually require a spotter). Weight gyms will usually have a wide range of free weights for all skill sets and preferences.
- Weight Machines: For those really focusing on muscle strength, weight machines are greater. These let you focus in on specific muscles as you rotate through. They might look intimidating at first, but they can be a ton of fun.
So there you have it – weight training is anything but limiting!
#3: Resistance Training Helps You Resist Chronic Conditions
Like many other forms of exercise, weight training can dramatically reduce stress. Stress is not just an annoying mood at the back of your brain. It can actually affect your entire body’s well being.
One study found that regular resistance training reduced oxidative stress – which lowers your risk of developing cancer.
“People who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intense resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent.”
~ Aleisha Fetters, writing for Fitness Magazine
Strength training has also been shown to improve heart health. As Fitness Magazine reports above, you can dramatically lower your blood pressure with less than an hour of resistance exercise. Blood pressure pills achieve similar results. But are they as much fun?
Muscle training and weight lifting can help you essentially slow the effects of arthritis, back pain, and even diabetes. These are all conditions that affect your muscle and joint strength. That’s right: strong muscles often lead to strong bones. Strength training can help you resist the deterioration of bone mass that comes with age.
“One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workouts.”
~ Troy Tuttle, exercise physiologist at University of Texas
The experts have spoken: cardio isn’t the only kind of exercise that’s good for your entire body. Think of strength training less as muscle training and more as bringing power to your entire body.
#4: Strength Training Can Help You Make SMART Goals
Besides keeping generally healthy, exercise is all about one thing: setting and achieving goals. Whether you’re training for that 5k or looking to compete in a triathlon, you can keep personal fitness new and exciting with goal setting.
Conveniently enough, weight lifting and strength building can help you make SMART goals for your fitness. Consider this:
- Specific: On top of your weight loss or running goals, weight training goals are extremely specific. Work your way up to that 100lb bench press or that 25lb curl.
- Measurable: Weight lifting goals are exact, and they can be tracked over time. If you feel discouraged, all you have to do is look back at all the progress you have made!
- Actionable: All gyms have the amenities to start basic strength training. It’s not rocket science, and personal trainers can help you get a jumpstart on your goals.
- Reasonable: There’s no reason to make yourself into a bodybuilder. You can decide which weight lifting goals fit your own personal fitness goals, and go from there.
- Time bound: Since weightlifting goals are so specific, they are usually achieved within a short period of time. Many beginners to strength training can add 10-20 pounds to their reps each week.
Adding in a weight lifting goal on top of your cardio is a great way to step up your personal fitness game.
#5: Building Muscle Strength Does Not Mean You’ll Bulk Up
When we say resistance training is a great exercise option for everyone, we mean everyone. Unfortunately, many people assume that strength training is the same thing as bodybuilding. This makes many women want to stay away, since they’re not interested in bulking up their forearms.
But the truth is, strength training has enormous benefits for both men and women. The best weight workout does more than builds muscles.
“Improvements are made in muscle tone, strength and endurance and not necessarily in size. As muscles become toned, the body begins to lose fat tissue and becomes more firm. When it comes to training, anything that is considered a healthy practice for men is also healthy for women.”
~ Women’s Heart Foundation
Strength training workouts for women may focus in more on toning, on endurance, and on firming up the muscles. They can also focus on core strength. In many cases, strength training workouts for men focus more on muscle size. But these two approaches are not gender-specific, and are entirely dependent on your personal fitness goals.
Insight: There’s a lot of debate about whether women should train like men or not. When it comes to strength training, it’s less about what should be done and more about building up to your own personal strengths and abilities.
#6: Using Weight Lifting as Cross Training Helps You Perform
We want to make one thing clear: we are not saying that strength training is the only form of exercise, or even the best form of exercise.
Instead, weight lifting is most beneficial when it is used alongside other aerobic and cardiovascular exercises. In fact, weight training can help you perform better in these forms of exercise. Running, swimming, and team sports – you can reach a new level with all of them by taking the time to build muscle strength.
“Resistance workouts – particularly those that include moves emphasizing power and balance – enhance strength and stability. That can boost confidence, encourage you to stay active, and reduce fractures another way – by cutting down on falls.”
~ Healthbeat, from Harvard Health Publishing
The benefits of strength exercises to other forms of physical exercise go on and on:
- Strength training gives you better flexibility.
- Muscle strength improves joint strength, which helps avoid joint pain.
- Strength exercises improve your balance and posture.
- Muscle training actually gives you better running form.
- Building muscle strength gives you more power as you run, helping you run faster.
Incorporating strength training as part of your workout routine will help you run better, get stronger, and build endurance for all kinds of physical activity.
Strength Training as a Personal Fitness Goal
The key in all of these strength training approaches to start small, and slowly build your way up. Strength training for beginners is exactly that: the beginning. You shouldn’t try to bench more than your body weight during your first week, and you should plan to build on your skills with body weight fitness.
Strength training for beginners is all about building. You’re not only building muscle strength, but you’re also building up to your ability and finding your best weight workout. Personal fitness training is called ‘personal’ fitness for a reason.
Hopefully we gave you a better understanding of how to incorporate strength training into your own personal fitness goals. All in all, resistance workouts help you work toward a happier, healthier and stronger you. If nothing else, it is a fun addition to those long cardio workouts.
So what’s stopping you? Let’s get started today!