Strength training has many benefits to the individual when done in a safe way. This can be achieved by lifting weights, performing bodyweight exercises and by performing stretching and mobility exercises. When done as part of an athletic training programme, strength training can improve sports performance and reduce injury risk. In todays blog I will describe twelve specific benefits of strength training sourced from the fourth edition of The Complete Guide To Strength Training by Anita Bean.
1. Increased Muscle Mass and Strength. A properly designed weight training programme will increase the size and strength of a muscle. Endurance activities will improve the stamina of a muscle, however to develop the strength seen in Olympic Weight-lifters the athlete must train with weights. As little as three twenty-five-minute workouts a week will result in an increase of 1kg in muscle over an eight-week period. In an athlete first year of regular weight training they can increase their lean muscle mass by twenty percent.
2. Stronger Tendons and Ligaments. A properly designed weight training programme will increase the strength of connective tissue. In turn this will increase the stability of the joint. This is achieved through the stimulation of collagen proteins which increases their structural strength.
3. Increased Metabolic Rate. A properly designed weight training programme increases an individuals Resting Metabolic Rate, (RMR) This means that the individual burns more kilocalories then somebody who doesn’t lift weights. Muscle has a greater energy requirement then fat, meaning that the more muscle an individual has the higher their RMR. A seven percent increase in RMR is achieved by a 1.4kg increase in muscle mass. At rest 0.45kg of muscle tissue requires 35 kilocalories a day to maintain itself. When an individual exercises their energy expenditure increases five to ten times higher then at rest depending on the intensity of the workout. Simply put the more muscle mass an individual has the more kilocalories they burn during exercise.
4. Anti-ageing. A properly designed weight training programme will slow down the ageing process. A sedentary adult typically loses two to five percent in RMR as well as a 7kg increase in fat mass a decade. This is largely due to a decrease in muscle mass as without weight training an adult typically loses 2.3-3.2kg of muscle mass a decade. This decrease in muscle mass is mainly in the Type 1 Fast-twitch muscle fibres. These are the muscle fibres responsible for explosive activities and cannot be prevented by cardiovascular exercise alone. As an individual gets older it is only strength training that maintains muscle mass. Strength training is a fantastic way of maintaining muscle mass, keeping RMR higher and avoiding Middle Aged Spread.
5. Reduced Body Fat. A properly designed weight training programme helps reduce body fat by increasing RMR. Over a three- month period regular weight training can reduce body fat by 1.8kg. It is a complete myth that you can turn fat into muscle through weight training however as already mentioned an increase in muscle mass will elevate an individual’s RMR.
6. Increased Bone Density. A properly designed weight training programme improves the strength of an individual’s bones as well as their muscles. Bones under the most stress from strength training also have the highest bone mineral content. A study in USA found that women who followed a two day a week weight training programme for one year increased their bone strength by seventy-six percent. The findings of the study suggest that the risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones is reduced by strength training.
7. Reduced Blood Pressure. A properly designed weight training programme lowers both Systolic and Diastolic blood pressure. When combined with a properly designed cardiovascular programme the benefits to blood pressure are even greater.
8. Reduced Blood Cholesterol and Blood Fats. A properly designed weight training programme increases the bodies ability to utilise blood cholesterol and blood fats.
9. Improved Posture. A properly designed weight training programme will greatly improve overall posture. Posture is influenced by a range of factors. Some of these are genetic such as body type and skeletal structure which cannot be changed. Strength and flexibility also affect posture and can be changed. Walk into any gym and you will see at least six people who only train the t-shirt muscles, (Chest, Biceps and Abbs). This will either cause postural issues or make any existing issues worse. A properly designed weight training programme will exercise all the muscles equally and when combined with a properly designed flexibility programme will fix any postural issues.
10. Injury Prevention. A properly designed weight training programme will build a well-conditioned and well-balanced musculo-skeletal system, which is less likely to become injured. The stronger an individual is the better able they are to avoid or resist impact injuries from falls or high impact activities such as jumping. A poorly designed weight training programme will lead to muscle imbalances which increase injury risk. Let’s say an individual has well-developed Quadriceps, however they have weak Hamstrings. This will cause the knee to become unstable, leading to an increase risk of injury. A properly designed weight training programme will maintain the Quad development while at the same time increasing the Hamstring development, as a result the muscle imbalance will be eliminated, and the knee joint will regain its stability.
11. Improved Mental Health. A properly designed weight training programme will be designed around SMART goals. Once these goals have been achieved the sense of achievement will increase the individuals sense of well-being.
12. Improved Appearance. A properly designed weight training programme when combined with a properly designed Cardiovascular programme will build a stronger more athletic physique. This is caused by changes in body composition, as the body builds bigger stronger muscles it burns more body fat, both of which enhance overall appearance.