What is Strength Training?
Strength training involves using your own body weight or tools, like dumbbells or resistance bands, to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance. Don’t let that building muscle part scare you, you won’t get “bulky” from strength training! Examples of strength training exercises include push ups, lunges, and squats.
You also don’t need to spend hours a day in the gym with strength training. You will see significant improvement in your strength with just two or three 20-30 minute strength training sessions a week. (Hello PVT virtual classes and e-Books!)
Strength Training Helps Build and Maintain Muscle Mass
While cardio IS excellent for heart health, it does not do much for actually building muscle. That’s because strength training (a.k.a. resistance training) relies on you lifting increasingly larger amounts of weight, which signals your muscles to adapt and therefore grow bigger and/or stronger.
Building muscle IS functional and necessary. Think about the things you do daily – squat to pick something up, move large boxes around the office, move furniture at home, lift your kids from the ground, etc. Strength training helps you become strong enough to do all these things, while also helping you learn to move your body to prevent injury.
Strength Training Creates Stronger Joints and Provides Low Impact Cardio
“Since most strength training exercises are lower-impact, you can build muscle strength and endurance with less stress on the joints,” explains trainer Brittany Watts, CPT. This means that while any weight-bearing workout will actually hep strengthen your joints (yes, even running) you can reap those results while reducing your risk of injury if you opt for resistance training.
Strength training is also one of the best low-impact cardio workouts. The key is to focus on compound movements which involve more than one joint and muscle group and not rest for very long (if at all) between exercises. (Think deadlifts, squats, bench press, etc) Stay tuned for more info on this in future Trainer Tip Tuesdays!
Strength Training Increases Your Metabolism
Lifting weights helps you to burn calories and stored energy (i.e., fat) more efficiently! Strength training is a surefire way to increase lean muscle mass, which in turn, helps your body burn off more of the fuel you consume from food every day rather than store it as excess energy in the form of fat cells. In short, lifting weights can actually help increase your metabolism!
This type of energy optimization is important if learning to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time is one of your fitness goals. “With strength training, there’s a higher excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), this means you burn more calories AFTER your workout.” Watts says. It’s known as the afterburn effect, and this bonus burn can last for several minutes to several HOURS after a sweat sesh. OUR FAVORITE BENEFIT!
Strength Training Improves Cardiovascular and Bone Health
“Recent studies show that weight training can be just as effective as cardio in promoting heart health,” Watts says. After looking at data from over 4,000 people as part of a year-long survey, researchers from the American College of Cardiology in 2018 determined that strenth training was better at reducing a person’s risk of heart disease than cardio exercise like walking or cycling – though both types of physical activity are necessary for overall health.
Strength training also helps maintain strong, healthy bones, which becomes more important as you get older. Strength training supports bone density, so it can help lower your risk of osteoporosis.
Strength Training Improves Your Mood and Mental Health
In addition to the physical benefits, there are legit mental health perks to consider, too. “It’s also about the feeling you get when you strength train and pick up weights,” Anjorin says. “You feel powerful, which transcends your workout and sets the tone for your day.” It’s a one-ticket to tapping in to your inner badass!
Science also suggests that strength training can improve your mood and mental health, according to a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials (over 1,800 subjects) published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2018. It found that participants who performed resistance training showed a significant reduction in symptoms of depression.
Elle Woods was right, exercise produces endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Turns out Strong really does look good on you!
Strength Training Can Help You Live Longer!
Do it correctly (think adequate rest and appropriate intensity), and you can strength train for your entire life – all while building and maintaining the strength you need to enjoy your days and favorite activities. Just look at Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg (may she rest in peace) who was killing her workouts even in her 80s!
It’s a good thing strength training makes it easier to stay mobile and independent too, because it’s increasingly linked with longevity, says Freeman. In a 2019 review published in Frontiers in Physiology studies suggested that strength training may be even more effective at reducing risk of all sorts of common, age-related chronic disease than cardio.
Types of Strength Training
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Common choices include:
- Body weight – you can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try Push ups, Pull ups, planks, lunges, and squats.
- Resistance Tubes – these are inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched
- Free weights – barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. If you don’t have weights at home you can use soup cans, jugs of water, heavy bags, etc. Other options include medicine balls or kettle bells.
- Cable suspension training – in this type of training, you suspend part of your body – such as your legs – while doing body weight training such as push ups or planks.
Stay tuned for future Trainer Tuesday Tips!