Whether you are a male or a female or gender non-conforming, whether you are young or old, whether you are an athlete or a self-proclaimed couch potato, whether your goal is to become stronger, faster, or leaner, strength training is something you should do.
Benefits of strength training:
- Your bones. We live in a culture where osteoporosis is extremely prevalent, especially in women. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bone steadily degrades, leaving bones to be thin, weak, and prone to fractures. Strength training increases bone mineral density, meaning it strengthens the bones, and makes them less prone to fractures.
- You’ll burn more fat with strength training than you will doing cardio. Strength training burns less calories while performing the task than cardio, which is often why cardio is assumed to be the “end-all-be-all” for fat loss, but that’s not the case. An increased metabolic rate after exercise is crucial for fat loss because it allows for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) to occur. EPOC takes place because your body needs energy to repair your muscles after you’ve challenged them. Studies show that a well-designed strength training program can elevate your EPOC or metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout. Cardio does little to nothing to elevate your EPOC. Lifting heavy versus lifting moderate weight is much better for fat loss because it increases EPOC much more because it is a lot more stress on your body. A study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham showed that individuals who dieted and lifted heavy weights lost the same amount of WEIGHT as individuals who dieted and just did cardio. But the weight lost from the weight lifters was primarily fat, while the weight lost by cardio queens was fat AND muscle.
- You’ll get stronger. Everyone starts somewhere, and for me, that level of strength was equivalent to a 10-year-old child. I couldn’t do a single push up on my knees, I couldn’t chest fly 5 lb dumbbells, nor could I use anything but 5lb dumbbells for the first few months of strength training. But, with months of strength training, the body adapts, it gets stronger, and muscle fibers literally transform to adapt to your training. It’s a pretty cool thing.
- You’ll be happier and sleep better. Strength training (and most other forms of exercise) increases serotonin output in the brain. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, sleep regulation, and appetite regulation. By regulating serotonin levels in the brain, the body reduces mood imbalances, sleep imbalances, and appetite imbalances. If you’re having crazy cravings, trouble sleeping and you’ve been moody, give strength training a shot and see how your body changes.
- You’ll strengthen neural connections. The brain communicates with the body via neural connections, which is essentially information being passed on through millions of neurons located not only in your brain, but your whole body. By strength training, your brain is sending signals to that muscle to contract or lengthen. By repeating this process over and over, through many training sessions, the neural connections between your brain and your muscles will strengthen, making you stronger and more powerful.
- You’ll improve your posture. With a sedentary lifestyle many of us live (by driving instead of walking, sitting at work instead of standing, and not moving for the majority of the day), our posture is going to suffer, generally resulting in spinal abnormalities and pain. By strength training, specifically the back and rear deltoids, the muscles become stronger and tighter, bringing the posture to a more upright position, alleviating the spinal pain often resulting from poor posture.
- You won’t be bulky. This is predominantly aimed at women who are afraid to strength train out of the fear of getting too bulky, and it’s a fear I once had, too. Getting “bulky” is extremely difficult for women, because it requires years and years of consistent training and diet, and the desire to get bulky. Unfortunately, many women who want to get bulky, find it very challenging and turn to steroid use to help them achieve their physique. If your goal is not to be bulky, but rather have a “toned” and lean physique, strength training is something you should definitely do, because women do not have the testosterone levels to become “bulky” and put on the amount of muscle mass men can.
- You’ll be more confident. Anytime you invest a solid amount of time in improving yourself, you’re going to be more comfortable in your own skin. Strength training improves health, improves physique, and improves the mental state, which results in increased levels of confidence. The more you do something, the more comfortable you are doing it, the better you get at it.