Is Strength Training For Everyone?

The short answer…Yes!  Strength training, by far, is the only form of exercise that can give you the most physical, mental and overall health benefits.  You’ll get the most bang for your buck with strength training.  Strength training does not mean you’re in the gym for hours getting huge either.  In fact, you can reap all of the benefits associated with strength training by incorporating just 2, 20-30 minute full body workouts per week.  There are so many different types of “moves” a person can perform just using his/her own body weight to improve strength.  If you’re already an athlete, adding in some basic strength training will help you become stronger, faster, go further and help you to stay injury free for your sport.  For all athletes and non-athletes alike, here are just some of the benefits you’ll begin experiencing:

The Benefits of Strength Training

Improved Body Composition

While the food you eat accounts for nearly 90% of your body composition, adding in strength training is the best combination for developing a lean and healthy physique.  Regardless of your goal – “tone”, “ripped”, “big” or “cut” – healthy eating plus strength training is the best way to achieve the results.

Reduce Body Fat

Aerobic exercise has always been the claimed answer to obesity.  However, building lean muscle increases your body’s fat burning capability far more.  Your metabolism and it’s “speed” is directly related to the amount of lean muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn overall and, more importantly, while your body is at rest.  Research has shown the differences between improved diet plus strength training versus improved diet plus aerobic exercise.  Contrary to what you’d think, both groups did not improve metabolism while decreasing body fat and weight.  The strength training group increased their metabolism, increased lean muscle mass and decreased body fat and weight while the aerobic exercise group lost body fat, not as much as strength training, lost muscle mass which actually decreased their resting metabolic rate significantly.

Ultimately, building muscle keeps you lean through 3 aspects: 1. Afterburn effect of exercise – your body continues to burn calories/fat at a higher rate post exercise for as much as 38 hours after your workout!  Talk about a nice return on investment.  2. The more muscle you have, the more you can eat due to faster metabolism cost for maintaining that muscle.  3. Strength training induces the release of fat-burning, muscle building hormones which help you get (and stay) lean and toned.

Improved Nervous System Response

Strength training trains the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in a way that you react quicker, have a quicker first step and are able to apply greater force into the ground.  Ultimately, training the connection between the nervous system and muscular system improves how your body moves making your more efficient.  Did you know this aspect is a primary predictor of longevity and well-being too?  More recent research is suggesting strength training supports genetic pathways that prevent aging, promote healing, burn energy and use oxygen.  The result, better brain function and coordination of movement for all ages.

Increased Endurance/Stamina

Strength training reduces body fat in endurance athletes.  We all know, when it comes to fat, a lighter athlete is generally a better athlete.  This improves the body’s ability to move oxygen throughout the body while increasing “muscle signaling” which increases a muscle’s ability to do work and improves speed.

Improved Blood Pressure and Heart Function

When you strength train, your heart function dramatically improves as well.  Strength training specifically has been shown repeatedly to decrease blood pressure – a review found that across 8 clinical trials, systolic (the top number) blood pressure decreased by an average of 6.2 mmHG.  This is clinically significant since it is more than double the benefit of the typical blood-pressure lowering medications.  Strength training also improves arterial function while also decreasing inflammation.  When combining decreased systolic blood pressure, improved blood flow and decreased inflammation, results in a reduction of cardiovascular disease risk by more than 14%.

Improved Sleep

Research has shown during intervention studies that in healthy, older men who incorporated regular strength training, their quality of sleep improved by 5% and they woke up fewer times during the night.  The effects of long-term quality of better sleep are profound as it influences sugar control, diabetes risk, body fat gain and inflammation levels in the body.

Increased Bone Density – Strength training is by far the best activity to build bone mass and density.  A common finding when reviewing health status of elite athletes who incorporated strength training as part of their workouts is stronger bones as they age.  This translates into a 50% lower chance of fracture in men and a 20% lower fracture risk in women.

And these are not covering all of the health benefits related to incorporating strength training into you regular lifestyle.  The question is, will you decide strength training is for you?

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