Fighting aging is no fun, but there’s no need for nips, tucks, and modifications. Strength training benefits us in a host of different ways.
It can make you look and feel younger, as it tightens loose skin and promotes a natural glow. It produces a growth hormone that rejuvenates our cells, enhances hair and nails, and aids weight loss. It helps regulate hormones, which can affect everything from moods to energy and metabolism. Not to mention strength training boosts stamina and flexibility. It can make you feel powerful, both inside and out.
All this is for free, you can’t go wrong! Read on to discover more benefits, tips and techniques, and busting the myths.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is also known as resistance or weight training. Basically, it’s overloading the muscles, forcing them to adjust to change and grow stronger. It can transform your body before your very eyes.
Two forms for strength training:
- Isometric: contracting your muscles against a solid object (e.g. floor push-ups).
- Isotonic: contracting your muscles through a range of motion (e.g. lifting weights).
Then there are exercises that are a mix of cardio and resistance training, like swimming (i.e. pulling against the resistance of water).
Strength Training Benefits at a Glance
Strength training can:
- tone your body; add definition and reshape your figure
- strengthen muscle
- increase stamina
- improve metabolism
- enhance sleep
- strengthen bones
- boost energy levels
- improve moods and self-confidence
- help avoid excess skin with weight loss
- improve balance and overall movement
- increase your self-defense
- improves endurance
- help you overcome obstacles more easily.
What are the Strength Training Benefits for Women?
Strength training impacts the hormone system. In response to lifting weights, the body induces a range of hormones. This includes estrogen and testosterone. As women experience fluctuations with menstrual cycles and menopause, strength training will help regulate hormonal production. Find out more here about the weight training and female hormones connections.
Busting the Myths of Strength Training
Here are some misconceptions about strength training for women:
“It’ll make me bulk up.”
This isn’t possible as women don’t have the same level of testosterone as men. We have more estrogen and it’s actually testosterone that builds muscle mass.
“It doesn’t burn as many calories.”
On the contrary, increasing muscle improves our metabolic rate, therefore burning more calories.
“My muscle will turn into fat if I stop.”
Only if you don’t adjust to the change. When training, you eat a lot of calories to burn for energy. If you stop training (burning) without reducing your calorie intake, then you’re at risk of weight gain.
“I can’t do it at home.”
You can buy all types of weight equipment for your home that will take up little space. You don’t even have to spend money: use water bottles, your body weight, or any safe objects around the house with a bit of weight. You’re probably already doing strength training with your kids!
Type of Strength Training Benefits
Excellent Calorie Crusher
Simply put, muscle burns fat. Strength training not only burns calories during your workout, but it also keeps burning long afterward (anywhere from 12 hours or more). Increasing muscle improves your resting metabolic rate. So, you can keep burning calories while sitting in the office.
Regular inactivity leads to loss of muscle and slow metabolism. Strength training benefits us by preventing this. It’s reported to reduce weight by nearly 2kg in 10 weeks. Resting metabolism can increase by 7%.
Decreasing abdominal fat also helps with insulin resistance.
Strength training benefits us by preventing or managing conditions, such as:
Type 2 Diabetes
Glycaemic control requires a balance of insulin with diet and exercise. A study in Austria compared the effects of strength training to endurance training with type 2 diabetes patients. This was done over a 4-month period with 11 men, 11 women. They discovered strength training significantly improved triglyceride levels and lowered cholesterol. Another study revealed strength training 3 times per week (for 30 minutes) increases insulin activity in skeletal muscle.
Research was conducted on 46 patients (aged 55+) with knee pain. Those who completed a 4-month home-based strength training program showed improvements in physical function, pain, and strength in their knees.
There are countless studies confirming the benefits of exercise for the heart. This report by Current Sports Medicine Reports explains how strength training helps. It improves blood pressure. And it lowers blood lipid profiles (lipids are fats in the blood that risk heart attacks). It also improves blood flow through the arteries.
Osteoporosis and Aging
Bone health is important as we age. Osteoporosis is a disease where bones can weaken or break in minor situations. Strength training can reduce risk of falls.
According to a report by Oxford Health Education Research, an estimated 200 million women are affected by this condition. It determined that a 12-week strength training program improved balance and lower body strength in older women.
Our muscle strength declines between the ages of 30-80. This loss is known as Sarcopenia. The benefits of strength training help manage and prevent this.
Strength Training Equipment
There’s plenty of variety to keep you engaged.
- Arm/leg weights
- Medicine balls
- Body bars
- Stability ball
- Resistance bands
- TRX suspension trainer
- Cable machine, pulley system, or multi-gym.
Otherwise, you can use your own bodyweight with these top 10 core exercises.
Free Weights Vs Machines
Which weight lifting is more effective? Well, they each have their pros and cons:
Free weights are using hand-held equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells. The advantage is they don’t cost too much or take up a lot of room. You can use a range of techniques and target various muscles at once. They’re functional for most activities and easy to swap weights between exercises.
The challenge with free weights is keeping tabs on your form. The level of resistance can vary. You need controlled movements rather than swinging your weights in order to be effective.
With weight machines, it’s easier to control your form. They come with clear instructions and support your body, reducing the risk of injury. You can vary the weight throughout your routine and have a range of attachments to use (short bar, long bar, ropes). The weight is controlled throughout your movements. You can increase to heavyweights without needing a spotter.
However, weight machines are more restrictive with movements compared to free weights. The resistance level is more intense which can be intimidating.
Common Strength Training Techniques
Bicep Curl – Works the biceps.
Hold onto weights and curl the arms, contracting your muscles as you raise to the shoulders and back down.
Squats – Works the glutes, lower back, hamstring, calves.
Hold a weight across the chest or upper back. Squat down then stand up again.
Chest Press – Works the chest, shoulders, and biceps.
Lie on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Hold the weight with elbows bent. Extend arms, pushing the weight away from your chest then return.
Chest Flys – Works the forearms, triceps, deltoids, and pectorals.
Hold weights in your hands with arms outspread on either side. Bring the arms together above the chest. This can be done standing or lying down. A reverse fly is the opposite.
Deadlift – Works the glutes, lower back, laterals, trapezius, and hamstrings.
Squat down and lift the weight off the floor, hands facing down. Stand up straight holding the weight and bend back down.
Snatch – Works the quadriceps, glutes, deltoids, and traps.
Squat and raise a weight (barbell) with both hands from the ground to a standing position. With dumbbells, hold the weight in one hand by your side. Raise it from the ground to shoulder height or overhead.
Shoulder Press – Works the shoulders, trapezius, and triceps.
Hold the weight just above your shoulders. Raise them overhead then lower back down. head. Can be done from a standing or seated position.
Shoulder Fly – Works the deltoids, forearms, and trapezius.
Hold weights in either hand by your sides. Extend both arms out, raising them to shoulder level then lower again. This can be done standing straight, bent over, or sitting.
Lateral Pulldown – Works the forearms and biceps.
While sitting, pull a weight down towards your chest or behind your neck.
Tricep Extensions – Works the triceps.
Hold the weight above the head. Curl behind your head and return.
Tricep Kickbacks – Works the chest, rear deltoids, and triceps.
Stand with knees bent. Bend forward, holding weights by your sides, palms facing in. Raise both arms out behind you then return to your sides.
Leg Extensions – Works the quadriceps.
While sitting, raise a weight in front of your body using your feet.
Leg Press – Works the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
In a sitting position, push the weight away from the body using the feet.
Kettlebell/Dumbbell Swing – Works the shoulders, pectorals, abs, hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
Hold the weight with both hands. Squat down and swing the weight between your legs. Thrust your hips forward, raise the weight to your chest level and back down in a swinging motion.
- Do an appropriate warm-up and cool-down stretch.
- Focus on form, it’s important to get the technique right before increasing weight. Keep your back straight, and remain careful while lifting (i.e. bend at the knees).
- Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower. Don’t hold your breath.
- When it feels easy, increase reps, sets, or weight.
- You don’t have to stick with one weight throughout your workout. Different maneuvers may require different weights.
- Don’t lift really heavy weights on your own, make sure you have a spotter.
- Work on different muscle groups on different days (e.g. lower body, upper body, full body). Give your muscles time to recover.
Strength training benefits us so much, you will find it empowering. Nothing beats the feeling of becoming strong and independent. It’s a versatile activity you can incorporate into your HIIT workouts. Or grab a pair of dumbbells for your next cardio or kickboxing routine.
Strength training builds more than muscle. It builds your health, your resilience, and character. What rewards have you personally experienced?