In this series, I’ll set out 5 of the top benefits of weight training.
Before we dive in, I’ll start with a quick clarification of terms. Weight or resistance training is generally considered to be the use external resistance to add load to the body to achieve muscular benefits like strength. From now on, I’ll refer mainly to strength training which encompasses anything which puts a demand on the body causing it to generate higher levels of muscular force. This can cover assisted methods which serve to unload the bodyweight, bodyweight exercises or any type of external resistance like kettlebell, barbells and bands.
The benefits set out are aimed at those who are going from doing no or very little strength training to some focussed sessions a couple of times a week. That’s where you will reap the biggest rewards however some of them are still applicable to even the more experienced trainer. There are benefits to exercising shared among many different types such as the social aspects of community and making new friends as well as the physical benefits of it aiding with achieving and maintaining a healthy bodyweight. I’ll try to focus more on those that are unique or are particularly relevant to strength training.
#1 - Improved Body Confidence
Let’s face it, most people join the gym or start to exercise because they want to feel more comfortable with how they perceive themselves in the mirror. It’s not my place to say what does or doesn’t look good but for most people looking better naked will in their mind involve losing weight. While this may be true, in reality what is needed is a change in how the body is made up. That means losing some body-fat and increasing muscle mass slightly. This could represent a change in the scales or not, it just depends on the person but improving your body composition will improve health markers, potentially increase your productivity and improve psychological well-being. When you consider who has a good body shape and your favourite tennis star or track and field athlete pops into your head then it’s likely that strength training forms an important part of their training and thus appearance. The muscles give the body its shape and reducing your body-fat levels increases the definition, enhancing that shape!
#2 - Better Adherence Through Small Wins
As I’ve alluded to in previous blogs, the number one thing that determines success is adherence, can you actually stick to what you have planned for long enough to see a benefit? There is no other activity quite like lifting weights where progress is so measurable and apparent. There are so many opportunities for progression that will set you up for that small daily win. Lift the same weight for more reps, add in an extra set, lift more weight for the same reps or perform a harder variation of that movement like a slower tempo. The progression strategies are practically limitless and this allows you to set yourself up to succeed. By stacking small win after small win, we improve our own confidence and most importantly start to feel like we are better able to succeed making it easier to stick to the plan and stay committed over the long haul.
#3 - Protect Against Age-related Decline
It should be no surprise that as we age our body will slowly decline physically. It is thought that our muscular and bone strength and health will start to decline slowly after the age of 30 with more apparent changes being noticeable after 50. It is well documented that strength training improves muscular function and strength as well as bone density which can first of all give us a higher point to start this inevitable decline. It is also possible to overturn this decline and actually see some improvements if strength training hasn’t been part of your exercise routine up to this point. Stronger individuals tend to live longer and more physically active lives. Don’t worry though, when we talk about strength training we don’t mean getting to the point where you are ready to compete at the Olympics. The benefits come most when moving from doing nothing to doing a couple of sessions per week.
#4 - Improved Ability to Perform Your Hobby
As you start out with strength training and get stronger, your ability to be physically active and perform will increase. Stronger muscles make the activities you do out with the gym easier. If you like to go hill-walking at the weekends, improving your leg strength through something like squats can help you walk further. The level of demand this activity will have on your legs which are now stronger decreases, increasing your capacity to sustain the work. Put simply, as you get stronger, everything else which is a lower level activity becomes even less demanding. If you like to play 5-a-sides with your work-mates on a week night then getting stronger and more powerful through strength training will make you a better player. It is well documented that strength training can improve your ability to accelerate faster, jump higher and be more resilient to opponents during dribbling and incoming tackles.
#5 - Reduce Chronic Niggles
Often we have little niggles or injuries that become part of our daily lives and accepted as the norm. Do you have a sore knee on one side that you have had for as long as you remember? What about that dodgy shoulder? We often perceive the gym and strength training to be a dangerous and risky environment but under the guidance of an experienced coach it is actually quite the opposite. Have you ever tried an exercise in the gym only to experience some discomfort in that area and then write it off as something you can’t do? Sure, if we experience pain we shouldn’t make it worse but maybe that problem is due to the way you sit at your desk for most of the day? What about the posture you adopt when performing repetitive and arduous tasks? It’s much more likely that this is what is causing the issue and within the gym environment we can start to raise awareness to these areas of our lifestyle. Loosening off your quads and strengthen them could get rid of that sore knee you thought was there for good. Remember to seek help from a professional if you are currently in pain.
Hopefully this post has provided some insight into the lesser known benefits there are to get started now with weight lifting training. Remember these 5 key reasons to get started today, it is never too late!
Allan Young is a Glasgow based Personal Training who runs Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.