There is often a misconception that lifting weights is just for those that want to build lot's of muscle or that they will end up looking like a bodybuilder - NOT TRUE!
Trust me when I say that if it was this easy to build muscle, there would be some very happy gym goers out there...
The truth is, that the benefits of strength training (also called resistance training) go far beyond the aesthetic and it's important we all integrate some aspect of it into our lives.
Firstly, what is strength training exactly?
Strength training is any type of exercise where your muscles are working against an opposing force - so in a gym atmosphere you might be using using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, weights machines, resistance bands or even your bodyweight. You can absolutely get the benefits of strength training at home using your bodyweight too! Think squats, push ups and plank holds.
During these types of exercises, your muscles are working under load with the aim of increasing muscle mass, endurance and strength.
So, why is strength training so important? Here are just a few reasons to think about...
Overall Body Functionality
Strength training will improve your ability to do everyday activities. Most of us lift and carry every day (shopping bags, children, work equipment) and require a certain amount of strength to perform tasks on a daily basis.
Also as our body gets stronger, our stability also improves. This makes us better able to support ourselves, therefore strength training can also lower your risk of falls. Strength training can also improve your flexibility and mobility as it increases your muscles range of motion - think of the benefits to your other sporting endeavours!
Makes Your Bones Stronger and Increases the Health of Your Heart
Weight baring exercises temporarily put stress on your bones, which forces your bones to grow back stronger. This is increasingly important as we get older to prevent the risk of osteoporosis and increase bone density.
Regular strength training can strengthen the heart and blood vessels which improves blood circulation. Studies have also shown reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure - how good is that?!
Strength training builds muscle. Put simply, the more muscle we have on our bodies, the more energy required to keep us going. This can make maintaining our weight easier or, if this puts you in a calorie deficit (burning more than you consume), you will begin to lose fat.
Also, our bodies require fuel to function - the harder the work, the more fuel is burnt. If you're challenging your body with weight, your body will be burning extra energy not just during your workout but afterwards as well!
I wasn't going to put this one in there, but it is a truth, so I guess it belongs!
The 'toned' look that is often spoken about is muscle definition. As your strength and muscle size increase, the more visible your muscles become which in turn gives shape to our bodies. Add to this, if we're also burning more fat because we are pushing our bodies in new ways, our bodies will begin to look more defined.
Think of this as a bit of an 'added bonus' to all of the other amazing benefits mentioned here, rather than the driving force. Performance or health based goals are much better for your mindset and long term success and enjoyment!
You'll Feel Capable, Empowered and Strong!
The benefits of strength training aren't only physical - it can also give you a big self esteem boost!
Working towards a goal, achieving something you never thought you could, getting stronger and feeling progress are all great for our mindset. These kinds of benefits cross over into all facets of our lives increasing our confidence and overall outlook!
Obviously the more we move our bodies, the more energy we burn through - our bodies were made to move! Along with a nutritious diet, any type of movement is beneficial to keeping our bodies and minds healthy.
That being said, I hope the above points have encouraged you to add some weight baring exercise into your routine. As I said above, this does NOT necessarily need to be in a gym atmosphere or even include added weight. Bodyweight exercises executed in the correct way provide many strength and health benefits and are a great way to introduce yourself to this style of training.
If you are interested in getting into strength training, or have any questions, please get in touch with one of the Four Peak Fitness team today - we'd love to help you out!