If you are new to the world of fitness, you might think that strength training is best left to athletes and bodybuilding competitors. This couldn’t be more wrong. There are so many health, mental, and physical benefits of weight training that you just cannot afford to leave it out of your fitness regime. Here are 21 super reasons to include weight training in your fitness program starting today.
1. Weight Training Builds Muscle Mass
The secret to gaining muscle is to get stronger.
The more weight you can lift, the stronger you get, and the more muscular you will be. Whether your fitness goal is to lose weight or gain strength, there is a lifting routine that is sure to deliver maximum results for you.
Weight training, or resistance training, involves toning and strengthening your muscles by contracting them against some sort of resisting force. Two core types of resistance training will help you build muscle:
- Isotonic exercises – where you contract your muscles through your weight lifting motions
- Isometric exercises – where you contract your muscles against a stabilized object, for instance, doing a push-up against the floor
Both kinds of strength training make you stronger and will get you into great shape.
Remember, according to experts, you need to give your muscles time to recover from weight training to let them repair and grow. Some say you should rest for up to 72 hours, while others suggest eight hours of good sleep is ample recovery time.
A personal trainer and your own body will help you figure out what works best for you.
2. Weight Training Increases Your VO2Max
VO2 is your body’s ability to utilize oxygen.
VO2 is measured in units of oxygen used per kilogram of your bodyweight per minute. While VO2 sessions typically last a short period of time and are performed at high intensities, your strength training routine can increase your oxygen intake.
Researchers have found that when aerobic training is combined with strength training, not only can you significantly improve your overall performance, but you can improve your VO2max.
This means your body can deliver more oxygen to your muscles, enabling you to perform better and get stronger. You will feel less fatigued, and your resting heart rate will be lower, which can make for a longer life, according to a Harvard study.
3. It Protects the Most Important Muscle of All – Your Heart
Weight training can offer major benefits if you have heart disease, says the American Heart Association (AHA).
The AHA has approved weight training for people with several types of heart disease. Just the way it has been proven that people with heart disease can benefit from aerobic exercise, so too can they enjoy significant benefits from moderate weight training regimes.
Want to know the best exercises for heart disease? Check out this video:
4. It Also Boosts Your Metabolism
An increase in muscle mass leads to a boost in metabolism.
That means weight train equals more calories burned.
If you really want to burn fat quickly, lifting weights should be your priority. A total-body strength training routine will build significant muscle mass and give your metabolism the kick start it needs.
Jamey McGee, the fitness director at Wellness Center at Meadowmont, the University of North Carolina Healthcare System, recommends lifting weights twice a week. He suggests not wearing ankle or wrist weights to try and get your weight training sessions done, as it can do damage to joints.
Instead, opt for machines, body-weight training, resistance bands, and other weight training equipment.
An exercise physiologist or personal trainer can help set you up with a personalized strength training program to target your muscles and get you burning calories hours after your workout.
5. Lifting Weights Helps Build Stronger Bones
The 1987 Mechanostat Theory states that bones can sense strain and adapt their structure in response. This means that when you subject your bones to weight lifting, they can change and strengthen. Conversely, bones not subjected to lower loads weaken to the point of atrophy.
The three most helpful exercises for overall stronger bones are squats, lunges, and step-ups.
6. And It Helps You Fight off the Blues
Do you get up every day only to join the rat race, wash, rinse, and repeat? Maybe life, in general, has got you down? Weight training can help!
If you need an instant mood booster, pump iron. Wake up feeling groggy and down? Lift weights.
Sure, training may be the last thing you want to do when you feel stuck in a rut, but a study from Harvard suggests that just ten weeks of weight training can reduce the symptoms of clinical depression more successfully than various forms of counseling.
Whether you’re going through a bout of the blues of battling with depression, weight training could be just the natural medicine you need.
Here is a video that explains the benefits of weight lifting on depression:
7. It Also Leads to Greater Flexibility
While you may have always wanted to touch your toes or rest your foot behind your neck, you may find you haven’t done enough strength training to get that flexible.
A study conducted at the University of North Dakota saw researchers try to determine how full-range resistance training affects flexibility and strength compared to static stretches.
They found that resistance training routines can increase flexibility.
The trick is to use the full range of motion when performing your weight lifting repetitions. You’ll become more flexible and therefore able to exert more force when attempting heavier sets.
Don’t give up yoga just yet, simply add a few days of weight training per week!
8. You Can Do It Anywhere You Want
Are you fed up with trying to get to the gym after a full day of work?
Maybe you’re tired of having to wait to use the equipment you really want to?
Good news – you don’t need machines, barbells or dumbbells to build muscle. Weight training can be done anywhere you want, whenever you want.
In fact, body-weight exercises take advantage of the laws of leverage and motion, which means you can grow stronger without a single excuse! Add a couple of affordable dumbbell sets to your home equipment setup, and you’ve got all you need to keep working out.
9. Weight Training Leads to Improved Cognitive Function
Weight lifting isn’t just for muscles, it’s for your brain, too.
Luckily, the brain is a dynamic organ, designed to adapt and change continually.
A healthy lifestyle can support overall brain health and encourage the growth of neurons. Your brain’s memory center, or hippocampus, can grow new cells right into your 90s, provided you know what to do.
One study found that adults who regularly engage in weight training enlarge their hippocampus up to two percent per year.
According to a psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, John J. Ratey, there is loads of evidence that exercise results in massive cognitive gains and can help fight off dementia.
Exercise can protect the brain by improving blood flow, improving the survival of neurons, increasing the production of nerve-protecting compounds, and altering the way damaged proteins remain in the brain and lead to Alzheimer’s.
This video explains it better:
10. It Also Amps Up Your Productivity
Exercise improves all aspects of your life, including productivity and alertness.
It increases blood flow to the brain which sharpens your awareness and gets you ready to tackle your job. The stronger you get, the more energy you gain, too. So, you’ll feel more awake at your desk.
Being on top of your game means you will perform your work the best you can.
11. …And Boost Your Self-Esteem
Weight training improves your physical appearance. For many, that means a massive self-esteem boost.
If you’re sick and tired of the reading on the scale, weightlifting can transform your life. It develops confidence as you push yourself to new heights.
Research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered that cancer survivors who regularly indulged in weight training felt better about their appearance and were more satisfied with their relationships.
The study found that no matter how much weight training people did during the year-long experiment, their self-perception improved.
It seems that the act of just spending time with and on your body can make you feel better about yourself.
12. Lifting Weights Can Help You Bust Boredom in Your Workouts
Just like tucking yourself into bed at the end of a long day is comforting, so is a familiar workout routine. But, sticking to the same old warm-up, aerobics class, and cool down can hinder your results.
Kick your stale workout to the curb and start challenging your muscles with weight training. Try supersets to ramp things up.
Supersets give you the gift of doubling your workload and volume per workout while enhancing overall performance and packing on just the right amount of muscle.
That means you get in and out the gym much quicker and you will keep your heart rate up for hours after your workout. You’ll be more excited about your workout, and you’ll get to burn major calories.
Here is a great video explaining supersets:
13. It Also Helps You Improve Your Attitude
How often do you get involved in road rage?
How irritated do you get queuing in the grocery checkout line?
Good news: weight training makes you happier! Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham had a group of people perform three weight lifting workouts a week, for a period of 6 months.
The results? Participants significantly improved their scores on tests measuring overall mood and anger. Anger had dropped significantly while mood had happily gone up.
14. Plus, It Lowers Your Risk of Cancer
Cancer evokes fear in all of us. It often crops up without warning. You can go from perfectly healthy to diagnosed with the dreaded “C” in just a moment. And you may not have much time left.
But, there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of developing certain kinds of cancer.
Research suggests that people with stronger muscles who do regular weight lifting are 40 percent less likely to die from the disease.
The findings propose that muscular strength is vital for eating healthy and staying slim. This protects the body against tumors.
Experts tracked the lifestyles of more than 85,000 individuals over a 20-year period. Each person underwent regular check-ups and tests of muscular strength. Those who regularly did weight lifting had the highest muscular strength and were less likely to develop a deadly tumor.
It was found that it is just as important to maintain healthy muscle strength as it is to keep slim.
Take a look at these cancer survivors who benefited from weight training:
15. Weight Training Improves Cardio Strength
When it comes to working out, we’ve always been told that aerobic activity is best for increased performance and overall health, and resistance training is purely for muscle gain.
False. A study from Appalachian State University has proved that weight training packs some serious cardio health benefits.
During the study, researchers took a look at changes that happened to blood flow and arteries after 45 minutes of two different types of exercise: 30 minutes of cycling and a set of eight weight training movements.
They found resistance training to be more beneficial than you may have thought. The weight training carried out during the study produced greater blood flow to the limbs whereas the aerobic activity decreased stiffness but failed to increase blood flow.
What’s more, the strength training workouts resulted in a longer-lasting decline in blood pressure.
16. …And Improves the Quality of Your Sleep
You already know that a healthy lifestyle involves regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep. But, getting that balance right is essential for your overall health and fitness.
When you lack sleep, it affects nearly every other area of your life. It also prevents your muscles from recovering and building.
Weight training helps you fall asleep quicker and fall into a deeper sleep. This is when your muscles grow.
A good night’s sleep helps keep your hormones balanced and that then aids muscle repair (it also means you’re less grumpy).
Sleep encourages tissue repair and growth and revitalizes you, so you’re more energetic for your next workout.
When you fall into a deep sleep, your growth hormone-releasing hormones (GHRH) release even more growth hormones into your body.
This video explains it best:
17. It Helps You Boost Stamina and Libido
Studies have reported that regular weight training can increase your libido.
This could well be related to the boost of testosterone that happens right after weight training. There are indeed increased levels evident in both men and women immediately following a workout, but certain exercises can decrease your stamina and libido.
You know just how undesirable you feel when you don’t feel great about yourself. After all, a miserable hair day or feeling a bit chunky around the mid-section doesn’t really leave you feeling attractive, does it?
Weight training boosts your mood and increases blood flow to the sexual organs, which enhances the production of endorphins. Those are the libido-enhancing hormones that make you feel randy!
Strength training is also a fantastic stress reliever. The more relaxed you feel, the better the boost for your sex drive.
In short: pump iron and keep active in bed!
18. It Also Helps You Age Gracefully
Do you consider weight training best left to bodybuilders? Think again!
Resistance exercises can significantly improve your quality of life as you age.
As you get older, your body tends to produce less of all the different hormones that are a natural part of your makeup. This reduced production has a direct impact on the loss of bone and muscle mass as you get older.
Weight training is one of the best ways to improve longevity and reduce the symptoms of age-related ailments like diabetes, arthritis, and back pain.
Sadly, the majority of adults age 45 and older just aren’t getting enough muscle-building exercises into their routines.
In a 2012 study published in BMJ, 317 participants aged 70 and older were shown how to incorporate strength training into their everyday routines. This group lowered their fall rate by as much as 31 percent over a one-year period.
One huge benefit of weight training is that it keeps older adults moving and active. It helps to reduce their loss of endurance and keep them literally on their feet and well-balanced.
This video offers awesome tips for weight training for seniors:
19. Strength Training Aids Recovery and Rehabilitation
Exercise is the closest thing you’ll get to a miracle cure for anything. Strength training comes out tops, especially for injury rehabilitation.
Too many recovery and rehabilitation patients dismiss weight training as the bodybuilder’s cup of tea.
But, strength training can be done completely safely, especially when aided by machines. That means you can pursue optimal strength and fitness without existing injuries flaring up or inhibiting you.
Weight training, especially when talking about stroke rehabilitation patients, plays a major role in well-being. Not only does it improve cognitive abilities, but tests have also revealed that the greater a patient’s improvement in muscle mass, the greater their cognitive development.
The muscles affected by a stroke are often those that involve walking – especially hip flexors which assist with lifting knees and toes.
Adding resistance training to a stroke patient’s routine is key to their overall improvement.
Therapists typically determine the heaviest weight a patient can lift and then half that. Patients are then required to perform 10 repetitions.
20. It Improves Your Balance Now So You Can Prevent Falls Later
The benefits of weight training go way beyond the appearance of a nicely toned physique. You will notice a major improvement in your coordination and balance. Even your posture will improve, and you’ll find yourself walking taller.
If your balance is poor and you feel as flexible as a piece of concrete, strength training will reduce your risk of falling and hurting yourself by as much as 40 percent. This is especially important as you get older.
Whether you are a steady runner, a professional athlete, a social gym-bunny, or getting on in years, balance plays a big role in your life. The correct balance training will help you stay upright and safe during your workouts and daily activities.
Here’s a total body balance workout to consider:
21. And Finally, Weight Training Helps You Prevent Injury
Besides the above 20 benefits of weight training, injury prevention is often overlooked, and it is beneficial for a variety of reasons.
Weight training improves the strength of your ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles. The stronger your tendons and muscles are, the better aligned your body is and the better protected your joints and bones are when moving or being put under impact.
Weight training places an overload on your bones, which in turn makes them stronger and more flexible. They then become better equipped to absorb shock applied during dynamic movements, like running and jumping.
When part of your body is used less during a particular activity, it grows weak compared to other regions. This is a problem when that area is suddenly called into play during an activity. It’s not going to handle the sudden stress, and that’s when an injury occurs.
A balanced weight training program eliminates weak areas and improves balance.
Muscle imbalances are a common cause of injury in all of us. They affect the joints and bones as they are pulled in an unnatural way. Your stronger muscles tend to pull in one direction, causing stretching of opposing ligaments and tightening of others. This results in abnormal wearing of your bones and leads to chronic pain.
Weight training helps to counter these effects and balance weaker muscles with their counterparts.
Besides all that, who doesn’t want to look fit, healthy, and strong? You’ll be able to pump more iron, carry the groceries in without breaking a sweat, and even lift the 100-pound dog out of the way before you trip over him!