What is Strength Training?
Updated: Sep 26
Strength training is becoming a lot more recognized for its benefits over the past several years opposed to aerobic based training. Cardio is the most common term for it, and is unfortunately the only type of training everyone seems to flock towards.
Is it because it truly works better than strength training, or maybe because it’s easier to learn and execute?
The truth is that strength training has been shown to provide more benefits over cardio, and this also applies to heart health as well. Don’t just knock off the concept just yet. Take a minute to inform yourself on the benefits that may come from training with resistance.
What is Strength Training?
This term is quite misunderstood. Most associate it with lifting heavy weights like they do in powerlifting and weightlifting, but this isn’t quite the type of exercise that is being discussed.
Strength training is basically the use of resistance to put your muscles under tension. This could be through resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc. Even regular daily tasks such as moving grocery bags around strengthen your body over time.
Simply put – you’re moving your body against some type of weight. So don’t worry if you’re new to moving weights around because I’m not saying to go squat 100 plus pounds. If all you can do is squat with a 5lb dumbbell then so be it.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Exercising with the use of resistance provides several different benefits for people of all ages. Kids as low as the age of three all the way up to those in their 90’s can benefit from exercising weekly.
There really is no specific age to start. It’ll not hinder the growth in kids or be too much for seniors. Each body and age group is different, so progressively training with resistance and equipment that’s right for you is very important.
Primary benefits of strength training are:
Improves Bone Health
Encourages Fat Loss
Helps Prevent Health Conditions
Strengthens the Body
You can see it’s not just about lifting heavy weight, and actually doesn’t have much to do with that at all unless you’re into that type of training.
Strengthen Your Bones with Strength Training
Everyone needs to have strong bones beneath their skin. Without this your body is much more susceptible to bone related injuries such as fractures. Even worse are those injuries that occur with the joints such as your hips and knees.
Our fast paced way of life has caused many health concerns including weak bones. The way many eat for sure is a cause since not as much calcium is being consumed. Basically the reason you see so many food based items reinforced with calcium these days.
But what they’re also trying to make up for with increased calcium based foods is the lack of movement. Keeping your body actively moving throughout the day burns energy (fat loss) and keeps your body somewhat stronger.
At least better than sitting around watching television all day.
However, this isn’t enough for a society that sits most of the day. Moving your bones against resistance is going to help counter this since quitting and finding a more active job isn’t always the best for life.
This is where strength training improves your bone health. Weight bearing movements cause your bones to be under stress through pushing and pulling. This encourages bone cells to become more abundant in production, which improves your bone health.
Very similar to muscle production where muscle fibers tear to form stronger and more dense fibers after recovery.
Think about it this way. If your bones are weak even bending over to tie your shoes may cause injuries, and the older you get the weaker they become without preventive action.
Strength Training Encourages Fat Loss
You can also see further results in fat loss when you strength train. Normal aerobic based activities such as running or cycling use calories on the spot for energy, but don’t produce muscle very much nor require calories to be used post exercise.
As you get stronger your muscle density grows as well. Muscle burns more calories throughout the day, and when used they need calories up to 48 hours or more for recovery. So the end result for you calorie tracking lovers is more fat loss.
Results were interesting from a study conducted to see the difference between strength training and aerobic activities. Those that strength trained saw the same amount of weight loss as those that did running and walking. However, with weight loss comes the reduction of muscle.
The ones that walked and ran saw little change in muscle development, or even a decrease in the amount the body originally had. Those that were moving weight saw a loss in fat and also improved muscle production.
Why does this difference happen since they’re both active movement? We have to take a look at your resting metabolic rate. Simply put, this is the use of calories while your body isn’t moving and relaxed.
Essentially calories get used more since your body is recovering from the use of muscle and bones during strength training. Cardio uses these two as well obviously, but without increased effort against resistance the after burn effect just doesn’t really occur.
Defend Your Body Against Health Conditions
There’s never a 100% guarantee that anything can prevent health conditions from occurring. Sometimes it’s just genetics or caused from the environment we live in. However, many studies do show that strength training helps reduce the effects from some diseases while also may prevent others from occurring.
The constant strengthening of your body will make it need to recover routinely, which boosts your immune system helping to fight things such as the flu off more effectively. For example, I have a client that has been diagnosed with lupus.
Prior to routine strength training the common cold would last up to several months, and now that healing time has been cut back drastically. Also those with this common disease experience frequent skin and joint inflammation, which may be pushed back in severity as well by simply weight training.
Another health condition they have been recently studying in coordination with strength training pertains to your heart. A study even published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that minimal strength training totaling under an hour a week helps strengthen your heart.
Two other studies conducted also show that the risks of getting diabetes and high cholesterol also become significantly lower through minimal strength training. Here are the percent’s as found in these studies:
Risk of heart attack or stroke reduced by 40-70 percent
Risk of developing metabolic syndrome is 29% lower
High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, is 32% lower
Basically the studies show that sticking to just cardio is not the way to go, and in fact the studies did not utilize cardio mixed in with strength training to get this findings. Purely only resistance based exercise.
Should you stop doing cardio then? Absolutely not. There are still plenty of reasons to do aerobic based activities, but including strength training on top of it just makes everything click much better.
Can everyone run, swim, or even walk upstairs? Nope. But most that can’t can most likely use a resistance band, which is one of the main points being made.
Strength Training for Seniors
People often assume they’re too old to be lifting weights, which is completely untrue. Unless a medical specialist has told you not to exercise with weights, which is usually unlikely to occur. The only thing discussed are limitations such as not to use anything over 10lbs etc.
As mentioned previously, as the body gets older bones get weaker. Weak bones become brittle and can easily lead to injuries especially within the hips, knees, and ankles. However, age is only a number.
Strengthening the body through resistance exercise keeps these areas of the body stronger along with all the bones when training correctly. Exercises using resistance bands are easy to utilize for yourself or a family member that has difficulty with mobility.
An example from another client previously trained. He was over the age of 65 diagnosed with sciatica and told to basically sit and not really walk much. Five years later he comes in seeking a difference because obviously sitting around isn’t going to help.
The gentleman started off coming in barely half stepping his way around with very limited shoulder mobility due to bad posture while sitting. A few months later he was walking with full steps, could raise his hands overhead, and posture had significant changes.
This is from basic strength training for seniors utilizing resistance bands, assisted machines, and some dumbbells. You or a family member that’s in the senior years can see significant changes as well, but action just needs to be taken to where resistance based exercise is utilized a few times per week.
Strength Training for Kids
Exercise will cause kids to not grow properly. Wrong. Strength training for kids is just as important especially with a serious issue that’s growing where people are not routinely exercising.
Kids don’t necessarily need weights when they’re in their younger years, but movement such as running and jumping is vital for them to stay active while also developing stronger bodies. Utilizing monkey bars for play, climbing obstacles, etc. are easy ways for kids to strength train.
As they get older it has shown that performing full body exercises with the use of resistance such as squats, deadlifts, and even Olympic lifts encourages them to develop stronger and healthier bodies.
The full body movements also help with stability and developing everything together.
Another reason to consider strength training for your kids is because they develop better habits for when they get older. If they know how to use basic exercise equipment then they can easily go into a gym and know what equipment to use.
Strength Training for Beginners
Strengthening your body doesn’t have to be difficult or a two hour daily task. You could even train with resistance three times a week for 20 mins and see better results than just sitting around.
Remember, the studies discussed earlier show what can be accomplished with strength training for under 60 minutes for the whole week!
Eventually your body will progress and you’ll want to train for about 30 minutes 3-4 days a week with resistance training for continuous progress. But that’s really not asking much for a minimum of time from your life to improve your own health.
A gym membership helps greatly because they have all the assisted machines available for you to safely strengthen your body. Shop around and visit multiple gyms to see that it’s where you’d like to train at, and that they have different equipment available for you.
Don’t want to gym? That’s completely fine. Bodyweight exercises and equipment such as resistance bands make it easy to strength train without being in the gym. However, beware it’s easy to be lazy at home and not want to be consistent with your workouts.
Start off performing x2 sets of 8-10 reps for exercises with resistance equipment. As your body develops better strength and mobility increase to x3 sets before increasing the weight being used.
For further training inquiries please feel free to contact me via my contact form.
In the end it’s up to you when it comes to your health. But I’d highly recommend looking further into strength training and seeing that it’ll most likely fit your needs one way or another.