I don't care if you're a 40 year-old mom of three, or a 20 year-old kid just trying to impress the girl in your biology class, resistance training needs to be a priority in your training regimen. Whether you're trying to compete on stage or just look a little bit better naked, lifting weights is extremely important for many reasons.
Not only does lifting help to significantly improve your overall body composition, it also can help the functionality of your body, improve your bone strength, as well as improve the your metabolic rate and help you burn more calories at rest. But before I get into all of the benefits, let's go over the basics of lifting weights.
Lifting Weights: The Basics
Understanding the many benefits on resistance training is good and well, but you first need to understand the different aspects of weight training and what they entail. Let's briefly discuss the some basic terminology just to make sure we're all on the same page.
Resistance Training: A form of exercise in which you move your limbs against resistance in order to improve muscular strength and endurance. The resistance comes in many forms like bodyweight, bands, weighted bars (dumbbells and barbells) as well as machines & pulleys.
Reps (or repetitions): The number of times you perform a specific exercise/movement.
Sets: The number of cycles of the repetitions that you finish.
Hypertrophy Training: Hypertrophy in the fitness world means "muscle building". The actual definition is the growth of an organ or tissue due to an increase in cell size. Hypertrophy training is a type of training that is used to build lean muscle tissue. The most basic and common form of this type of training is typically 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps (note that this is NOT the only way you can build muscle. Building muscle takes the joined effort of a lot of different practices/habits in and out of the gym).
Strength Training: A form of training designed to increase muscular strength. Typically 1-5 repetitions, usually 3-5 sets. This repetitions are not done to failure and each set has much more rest in between the next.
1RM: This stands for your 1 rep max which is the most amount of weight you can move during an exercise for 1 repetition.
These are the basic terms that I may use throughout this article, so feel free to scroll back up if you ever get lost!
Benefit #1: Significantly Improve Your Body Composition
Let's be honest, we're all just trying to look better naked, am I right?
Now that we're all on the same page, let's get into the details with this one. Being lean and tight is going to be your best option when it comes to looking better naked whether you're a guy or girl. Doesn't matter your gender, no one is working hard in the gym to achieve an ultimate level of flab. The optimal way to create a lean, tight body is to make sure that you have a relatively low amount of body fat, and a high amount of lean muscle mass under your skin. The best way to achieve that is by lifting weights in a way that will force your muscle cells to grow. This is called hypertrophy training. Lifting weights for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps has been shown to to increase lean muscle tissue (1). I need to clear something else up before I move on. 8-12 reps does NOT mean that you are only sticking to this range. 8-12 reps is simply a general range of repetitions that has been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy. There are many ways to enable our muscle cells to grow.
Your body is extremely smart, and it will adapt to the environment and situations that you place it in. Take a minute and imagine a long distance runner. What do they look like to you? My guess would be very skinny. If not, you haven't watched the olympics enough. When's the last time you've seen a muscular distance runner? You haven't. This is true because that individual's body has been trained to be very efficient at running long distances.
Now, think of a sprinter. Much more muscular, right? That's because that person's body has been told that it needs to be good at powerful movements.
It's all about what you're telling your body to do. If you train and tell your body that it needs to be good at moving weight, what's it going to do? It's going to increase the size of the muscle cells to move that weight easily.
Anyway, increasing your lean muscle mass and decreasing your body fat by performing resistance training will lead to a better body composition a.k.a a better looking body. And yes, I know what you're thinking ladies.
"Won't resistance training make me look like a guy?" No, testosterone will make you look like a guy, and you don't have enough of that so quit worrying. I'll tell you this, though: resistance training can most definitely get you that "toned" and "shaped" body that you've endlessly climbed towards on the stairmaster.
Benefit #2: Improve the Functionality of Your Body
Not only are we trying to look better naked, but we're also trying to improve the longevity of our lives. There is no better way to work on this than by progressing in many different aspects of our health. When we think of resistance training the first thing that comes to mind is muscle growth and improvements in strength. I've got a surprise for you. Benefits to resistance training go much farther than your muscles. Weight training has been shown to have several health benefits that can improve not only the longevity of your life but the quality of your life as well (2). Some of these benefits are:
- Increased proprioception
- Increased movement control
- Improved cognitive abilities and self-esteem
- Improved bone density
- Decreased pain
Ensuring that your body is performing at its best from gut health, to proprioception, to every-day strength is a great way to improve your quality of life.
Remember, a lot of what we experience is a result of something within.
Benefit #3: Improved Metabolic Rate
This is one of my favorite benefits, so I'm going to write another article speaking specifically on this topic. Stay tuned!
We have a big problem in the United States. It's an obsession with an "all or nothing" attitude. We place suffering on a pedestal. Why do you think that severe diets are still used even though they make people's lives miserable? Because people get praise for suffering and that makes them feel good. The same thing happens with training.
We place such a big emphasis on our workouts, what we're doing in the gym, how hard we're going, but don't think much about what's happening outside of the gym in order to lose fat and build muscle.
An improved metabolic rate is one of the greatest reasons to lift weights. Resistance training has been shown to increase the amount of calories burned at rest. Why? Because the body needs to work harder when it has increased muscle mass. Here's something I want you to understand though (especially if you're a female). An increased metabolic rate does NOT come from an unbelievable increase in muscle mass. I'll give you an example. One of my clients came to me maintaining her weight at an average of 1700 calories each day. She weighed about 101 lbs at that point. She now weighs around 102-104 lbs and she maintains her weight at about 2300 calories. She has a little more muscle mass now, and her metabolism has transformed into this crazy calorie furnace. If she needed or wanted to lose body fat, she would be in such a great position to do so. Why? Think about it. She wouldn't need to do much additional work. Just dropping her calories a touch each week would do wonders.
When it comes to fat loss, it's about priming the body to burn as many calories as possible with as little effort as possible. Why? Because that's sustainable. Imagine if you plateaued your fat loss while lifting, doing 1 hour of cardio, while eating 1000 calories. You seriously think you can happily maintain that for years to come?
Nope, didn't think so.
If you wan't to be burning more calories throughout your day, using resistance training to increase your metabolic rate is essential.
The takeaway from this article is simple. Lift weights.
Programming plays a crucial role in weight training for progress. If you're interested in coaching, I'm taking on clients and have some openings available. Fill out an application here.
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1. Thomas, Michael H., and Steve P. Burns. “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training.”International Journal of Exercise Science, Berkeley Electronic Press, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836564/.
2. Westcott, W L. “Resistance Training Is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health.”Current Sports Medicine Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777332.
About the Author
Adam is a fitness professional, Chipotle fanatic, and cookie enthusiast based in Fort Collins, CO. After hanging up the baseball cleats, he found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere.
Adam is an ACE CPT and has years of experience in fat loss, muscle hypertrophy, and sports performance training.