Sure, there are many well-known stereotypes of those who spend time in the gym. However, the reality is that the mentality that weightlifting is only for athletes, bodybuilders, or action heroes in the movies should be long gone. Lifting weights does not mean you must be focused on looking “swole,” “jacked,” or “hulked out.” Instead, strength training is an excellent way to improve your metabolism and keep the body shape and wellness you desire.
No matter your age, your fitness level, or your personal goals, lifting weights provides more benefits than you may realize. When you incorporate weight lifting into your regimen, you will find not only a balanced exercise routine but also a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Why Should I Lift Weights?
If you want to understand the benefits that come with strength training, it’s important to think of your body as a machine. Machines only do what they are built to do, and repeating the same actions in your fitness routine over and over again will only produce the same results once your machine reaches its maximum performance level. That means that continuing the same workout routine keeps your bodily machine at a functional level and nothing more.
If you want your bodily machine to work better, it’s important to introduce new routines, make adjustments, and provide it with increasingly challenging modifications that will help it achieve new successes. Strength training provides a consistent yet flexible challenge for your body and also serves to boost your performance in the other components of your fitness routine. In this way, adding weight lifting can reinvigorate your machine and challenge it to continuously raise its definition of excellence.There’s no lack of fitness apparel to choose from these days. Brands, such as Nike and Champion, are popular with people of all ages – just like lifting weights!
Some of the ways that your “machine” improves through weightlifting include the following:
Makes You Stronger
This is one of the most obvious benefits of lifting weights. After you’ve achieved muscle gains, everyday tasks become easier. From carrying heavy groceries to lifting your kids in the air, you will not only find that the physical tasks you do every day come easier to you, but you’ll also experience less discomfort while completing them. Added strength can also relieve tension in multiple areas of your body because the muscles that need to do the work are primed to operate efficiently.
Makes Calorie Burning More Efficient
Exercise, in general, increases the heart rate and burns calories during the activity itself. However, one of the added benefits of strength training is an increase in your metabolic rate. The muscle your body builds with strength training burns calories more efficiently, both while at work and while at rest. For up to 72 hours after strength training, your body continues to burn additional calories at an accelerated rate.
Decreases Fat and Helps Create a Leaner Appearance
Excess fat stored in the body has been associated with increased risks of chronic diseases like heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Social media celebrates the “dad bod” but being healthy goes beyond labels.
Exercise can help reduce fat with the metabolic boost mentioned above. Additionally, as your body burns through fat stores and improves muscle tone, you will see a leaner you. However, you may notice that your weight does not change. Muscle is a denser tissue than fat, so adding muscle and reducing fat can mean your body takes up less space. The density of fat which means it takes up less space on your body. Still, it takes less muscle to achieve the same weight. For this reason, the numbers you see on the scale may not fall, but your clothing size may.
Reduces the Risk of Falls
As muscle tone continues to improve, stability follows. Lifting weights provides better balance and stability, especially in the leg muscles. It is important to note once again that weight training doesn’t always mean lifting heavy and “bulking up,” especially if you are looking to achieve stability. Using resistance training or even bodyweight training to increase your strength, particularly in the largest muscles of the body located in the legs, can help improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls.
Reduces the Risk of Injury
Lifting weights can reduce your risk of injuring yourself during other fitness-related activities as well as in your everyday life. Because strength training involves targeting specific muscle groups through target exercises, you’ll experience a greater range of motion as individual muscles grow, allowing you to avoid muscle strain. Also, lifting stretches and strengthens the ligaments and tendons that support important joints in the body, reinforcing the joints and reducing the risk of injury.
The improved balance mentioned above may also help decrease injuries. It is natural for certain muscles in the body to be stronger than others, such as a right-handed person having a stronger right arm than left arm. However, this creates small imbalances that may not be noticeable but cause injuries and pains as you age. Working to create balance can reduce the risk of these injuries.
Improves Heart Health
Regular strength training may help to decrease your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and improve your circulation by strengthening the heart and blood vessels that carry vital oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body. Additionally, incorporating lifting into your exercise routine helps keep your body weight manageable, which in turn helps to prevent heart disease.
Managing Blood Sugar Levels
Maintaining a healthy weight with exercise also helps to control blood sugar. Healthy blood sugar levels also can help to control disorders like heart disease and diabetes. The skeletal structure helps to maintain the body’s insulin sensitivity. When the muscles surrounding the bones are healthy, they reinforce the skeletal structure, which protects the body’s ability to exert this vital function.
Increases Mobility and Flexibility
For most people, the primary goals of strength training will include increasing flexibility. As mentioned, the greater the muscle strength, the greater the range of motion you have, preventing injury and increasing mobility as you age. However, in order to achieve this benefit, it is important to complete the full range of each exercise. For instance, if you are performing bicep curls and stop the motion halfway before lifting again, the muscle is trained to limit its range of motion to the movements you’ve been practicing time and time again. Extending your arm all the way down before lifting it upwards means the muscle becomes used to the full range of motion, enabling you to move more easily within that range.
One of the best-kept secrets of strength training is its ability to improve your mental health as well as your physical health. Consider that strength training is a matter of accepting a starting point but setting a goal you can achieve in the future. Working through the challenges of lifting heavier weights, adding to your repetitions, or increasing your range of motion as you work toward your goal allows for little victories throughout the process. These accomplishments can strengthen your confidence and help you overcome additional challenges.
An additional benefit is that lifting weights can become a healthy way to work through aggression or frustration. Because lifting is challenging for your body, you must employ focus and grit during your workout. Your negative energy can be transformed into useful energy to achieve positive results.
Looking in the mirror and seeing the positive results of your hard work is another way lifting weights can boost your self-esteem.
Positively Impacts Brain Health
Strength training doesn’t just help improve your mental health, but it may also help prevent cognitive decline. Studies have shown that weightlifting can improve processing speed, memory, and executive function. Additionally, because of the increased blood flow strength training can provide, the brain receives more oxygen, which allows the brain-derived neurotrophic factor to increase your ability to think and learn.
Tips For Successful Strength Training
Of course, optimal strength training is more than just grabbing some dumbbells and going to work. It’s important to develop a healthy routine you can complete properly so you can access the health benefits you need most. Here are some strategies that can help you to get the most out of your workout routine.
Get Back to Basics
If you are new to lifting routines, it’s important to start small. Don’t let yourself fall victim to the idea that you have to lift heavy to see results. In fact, even if you are looking to add size to your muscles, strength training is about consistency and improving your ability over time. This may mean you should consider starting with bodyweight-only exercises until you get accustomed to the movements you’ll need to perform with weights or resistance bands. Bodyweight-only exercises allow you to focus on crucial core strength and movement patterns, such as bending and lifting, pushing, pulling, and rotating.
Performing strength exercises such as bodyweight squats, pushups, pull-ups, and planks can get your body used to working the muscle groups that will eventually be pushed the hardest. As you become accustomed to these movements, you can start to incorporate modifications like added weight or movements that increase the difficulty and bring in additional muscle groups.
Do What You Can
One of the most dangerous errors people make when lifting weights is trying to impress those around them. For successful strength training, knowing your limits is important. If you try to go too heavy or complete too many reps, the exercise will not be completed correctly and could impact your range of motion. Worse, it could lead to injury instead of helping to reduce your risk of future injury.
The general rule of thumb is that if you cannot correctly perform eight consistent repetitions with good form, the exercise is not helping you achieve your goals, and you should reduce the weight. If you are completing body weight exercises and cannot complete eight reps, then set a goal to work towards that in order to bring your muscles to a strong foundation.
Don’t Go Too Easy On Yourself
Conversely, while completing a sufficient number of reps is important, and you should work within your limitations to do so, you also need to challenge your muscles. Muscles that only do what they can already do are not building but sustaining. If you feel you are reaching your goal with ease, then it may be time to add more weight to your routine to challenge your muscles to grow.
Don’t Work Out Too Often
When you are first beginning strength training, you may assume that working your muscles every day will only speed up the process. However, most people find success in strength training 2-3 days per week. The reality is that strength training creates microscopic tears within your muscles that rebuild during your rest time, creating stronger tissue. Without proper rest, you do not allow this repairing and rebuilding to take place. You will notice some soreness as you introduce strength training into your routine, but overworking your muscles can defeat the purpose of strength training in the first place and can even impede your ability to perform daily functions.
It is also important to understand that the absence of soreness does not mean your routine was ineffective. The key to successful weightlifting is to work up until right before the moment of failure. Failure means you are no longer able to perform the exercise consistently or with proper form. As a result, this doesn’t mean over-exerting your body, but instead that you should work hard enough to say, “If I do one more set, I won’t be able to complete it correctly.”
If you prefer to work out on a daily basis, it is important not to overwork a specific muscle group. Set a routine where each session focuses on a different set of muscles. For example, you may do the biceps and back one day and focus the next on the triceps and chest. The more you repeat exercises in a row, the more your “machine” becomes used to those movements and fails to promote growth.
Should All People Lift Weights?
The short answer is that, yes, all people should participate in strength training, whether that means performing bodyweight-only training, resistance training, or lifting weights. The benefits of strength training can help anyone who wishes to improve their overall health, no matter their age or physical condition. There are a number of modified exercises you can complete, even if you are not yet ready to hit the weight bench.
However, it is also important to understand your physical limitations. If you want to begin a strength training regimen but have physical limitations, seek the advice of your doctor before getting started. A physician can help suggest ways to add weight or resistance training to your fitness journey without risking injury.
Why Do Most People Lift Weights?
As the misconceptions involving weight lifting begin to dissolve, more people are engaging in weight lifting because a healthy body and mind result in an overall happier lifestyle. When you incorporate weight lifting into your personal fitness routine, you are able to bring physical and mental balance and increased confidence to your life. Taking care of your body helps to ensure that you are protecting your joints, your skeletal system, and your brain function.
However, it can’t be ignored that many people lift weights because they want to look and feel better. For some people, this involves lifting heavy to achieve that muscular look—and that’s okay, too. Whether you want to look good in a bathing suit, improve your flexibility, reduce your potential for injury, or just want to feel better, strength training can help you achieve your health and wellness goals.
Including Supplements in Your Weightlifting Plan
Many strength training programs incorporate vitamins and supplements that can provide a much-needed boost to your workout. Using multivitamins, fat burners, body cleansers, or other health supplements can help you target specific performance deficits you may be experiencing, making them a great addition to any weightlifting routine.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.