When you think of weight lifting or strength training, do you picture massive, sculpted body builders in a fancy gyms? It’s a false stereotype, but a common one that still persists.
Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders or athletes. In fact, many people perform strength training routines without realizing it simply by adding weights to their usual forms of exercise – like stretching or even Zumba.
Modern exercise science now says that working out with weights — whether that be a light dumbbell or your own bodyweight (yes, that counts!) — may be the best exercise for longevity and overall health.
It’s not just about grunting loudly or dead-lifting a heavy barbell. Common forms of strength training or weight training also include:
- Using free weights like barbells and dumbbells
- Using the bodyweight via push-ups and other exercises
- Using weight machines that can be altered and used to target specific muscles and motions
- Using resistance bands and equipment
The many health benefits of strength training are proof enough that you should start lifting and using weights as soon as possible. Just consider the following reasons.
Because If You’re Not Strong, You’re Weak
One of the most obvious strength training benefits is that the practice makes you stronger. Duh, right? Not everyone recognizes how important this is for our general functioning in the world. If you don’t use your muscles, you lose them. Muscle is a tissue like any other, and when it isn’t used, it loses its functional capacity until strengthened again.
People who don’t use their muscles find them shrinking with age. Consequently, they get weaker. When muscles are weak, they don’t work as well, making you more dependent on others for even the most basic of functions.
Allows You To Gain Muscle Mass
Even if you have been weak and out of shape, strength training targets your muscle tissue in such a way that it rebuilds bigger than it was before. As you get stronger, your muscles grow bigger. Now, we know what you’re thinking: “If I lift heavy weights, I will get too big.” This could not be further from the truth. The reality is, both men and women have to work their butts off to even grow their muscles a little bit. When it comes to adding “bulk,” this mostly comes down to diet, especially if you’re female (we just don’t add bulky muscles the way that men do).
Creates A Slimmer, Trimmer Figure
Interestingly enough, the bigger your muscles get, the better you look. Unlike bulges of fat that totally don’t want growing in size, when your muscles get bigger, your skin gets taut and firm. You look more toned. Your body takes on a trim shape that appears trim and fit.
Helps You Lose Weight
As you build muscle through strength training, you also burn calories. That’s because the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day (even at rest), and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Work hard, and your body will need to expend more energy during the recovery process. Burning calories while doing nothing? Yeah, count us in.
Boosts Your Mechanical Functions
To perform strength training exercises, you have to use those muscles of yours. Most strength training exercises require technique and precision, so you end up training your muscles to move in specific ways. This gives you better muscle control, which means that your mechanical functions – like bending, twisting, squatting, climbing, lifting etc. – are greatly improved. You’ll be surprised at how much easier every day functions become (carrying groceries, taking the stairs) when you begin strength training.
Helps Prevent Injury
Weak muscles get injured more easily than strong ones. You’re at a greater risk for ripping, pulling or tearing something when you use a muscle that’s weak, as opposed to one that’s used to doing hard work. Additionally, many people who suffer from aches and pains like bad knees or back pain actually have weak muscles in these areas. Their joints end up taking on a lot of the strain, resulting in pain and injury. If you want to be able to perform ordinary functions –and some extraordinary ones, like going for hikes – then your muscles and the joint surrounding them need to be healthy enough to not injured in the process. Strength training helps with that.
Muscles that are healthy are also flexible. Since they are used to stretching, being challenged, and growing, healthy muscles are simply able to do more, which means you can, too.
Protects Tissues And Bones
The human body is an intricate system. When you work one part of it, you also work others. Strength training not only improves the state of your muscles, but it also improves joint health and increases bone density, decreasing your risk of degenerative disease like osteoporosis.
Improves Your Mental State
Last but not least, if you want to feel better in general, try strength training. Feeling stronger and looking fit will give you a serious confidence boost – not to mention the natural endorphins you’ll get after challenging yourself during a particularly grueling weight lifting session.
So what are you waiting for? Get off the treadmill and start incorporating weights and strength-training exercises into your fitness routine. Your body and brain will thank you for it.
Not sure where to begin? Check out our guide to strength training for beginners to help you get started.