Years ago, only a select few in the fitness world believed in resistance training for weight management. In fact, most fitness regimens revolved around cardiovascular activities such as running or spinning, with little to no weight lifting involved; and even then, the focus was on high repetitions with low to moderate weight. Nowadays, fitness enthusiasts are becoming more aware of the benefits of lifting heavier weights in the lower rep ranges to lose weight and get lean, but that's just the beginning.
Here are 6 benefits of resistance training:
1. Resistance training boosts your mental toughness.
Training with heavy weights takes a lot of technique and discipline. Without proper technique, a simple gym session could easily turn into a trip to the emergency room. This is why it's important to practice proper form with light weights before adding more resistance.
Finding the courage to get under a loaded bar with weights that surpass your own bodyweight is no easy feat. It takes confidence to face something that could very well crush you. However, as you become more familiar with the weights, you'll find that constantly challenging yourself through resistance training will result in improved mental toughness.
2. Resistance training changes your body composition.
Training to be stronger and more athletic, and training for hypertrophy (muscle size) will have varying effects on body composition. Lifting heavy weights improves the muscles' ability to produce force, while training for musculature increases muscle fiber volume without having much impact on strength.
When the body has more skeletal muscle relative to body fat, the result is a leaner, more athletic-looking physique. Training with heavy weights improves muscle definition, which is a direct result of muscle contractions due to applied resistance. Also, heavy loads recruit a lot of the type II muscle fibers that are responsible for a muscle's appearance. To look "toned" or "ripped," resistance training is the way to go.
3. Resistance training improves coordination.
Lifting weights increases your intramuscular coordination, meaning you are engaging a greater number of muscles when performing a certain exercise. More muscles involved means that the load is more evenly distributed. This translates to a lower risk of injury whenever you move against resistance, whether it's a dumbbell or a bag of groceries.
Some people underestimate the carryover resistance training has on daily life activities. When you bend down to pick up a basket of laundry, or when you put your luggage in the overhead bin, you are using the same muscles as you would in a deadlift and an overhead press. Getting stronger in the gym means being able to do more outside of the gym as well.
4. Resistance training stimulates the production of the anabolic hormones-growth hormone and testosterone.
Both males and females will benefit from higher concentrations of the anabolic hormones because they help in muscle repair, recovery, fat loss and muscle growth. By building more skeletal muscle, you also increase your basal metabolic rate. This results in more calories burned at rest, which can help in weight management as well as overall health.
These hormones help you eat more, and stay looking the same even as you get older. Now who doesn't want that?
5. Resistance training may improve cognitive function.
Resistance training increases the production of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is stimulates the neural pathways responsible for communication between muscle groups. A more efficient pathway directly translates into better performance. Since it also stimulates the production of neurotransmitters, lifting weights could increase cognitive function by boosting the efficiency of all existing pathways.
6. Resistance training increases bone density.
Bone health is determined through diagnosing the hip and spine, and is measured using a DEXA scan. Those with mildly reduced bone density have osteopenia, while those with severely reduced bone density have osteoporosis.
Post-menopausal women are at risk of developing osteoporosis due to the decrease in estrogen that comes with menopause. Men with low testosterone are also at risk. Resistance training can significantly increase bone density and prevent potential fractures and injuries that may come with age. Taking vitamin D, calcium and other bone-support micronutrients, along with a sound training program, can help maintain healthy bones in the years to come.
With the right training program, you can reap the benefits of resistance training with little to no disadvantages. For best results, employ the help of a licensed fitness professional to teach you proper form and technique. Give your body 12 to 14 weeks to adapt to the new training stimulus because it may require a longer recovery time compared anything you've tried in the past.