The focus on health has increased significantly in the past two years. Do you want to improve your general health? Then strength training should definitely be at the top of your list. Strength training makes everyday movements such as lifting groceries and squatting easier. In addition, strength training boosts heart health and keeps your blood sugar level under control. But that's not all. In this blog we discuss the five biggest benefits of strength training.
The general definition of strength training is “any physical movement that uses your body weight or equipment (e.g. dumbbells and resistance bands) to build muscle mass, strength and endurance”. Thanks to the growing amount of evidence supporting its many benefits, strength training has become a fundamental part of most exercise programs.
Types of strength training
There are different types of strength training. Below we list the four most common types.
This technique aims to improve the explosive power of the muscles; this workout increases your ability to perform a powerful movement in minimal time. This type of training is often used to help people improve their athletic performance. Explosive training appeals to the 'fast muscle fibers', but you get tired faster and need more time to recover.
This type of workout is designed to achieve maximum strength and size. That is, the ability to lift or push heavy weights. Powerlifters train on muscle strength and bodybuilders train on muscle mass. The larger the muscle fibers, the more force they can exert.
This technique is especially useful for losing weight, getting a toned appearance, and increasing the amount of muscle in the body. It can also help counteract the age-related muscle loss that can lead to frailty.
Fast-twitch fibers are the largest and most powerful muscle fibers in your body, and as you increase the intensity of your workout, you'll make more use of your fast-twitch fibers. With muscle endurance training, however, the 'slow-twitch muscle fibers' are addressed, so that you can continue to perform a movement, such as rowing, for a longer period of time.
With or without equipment
Depending on the type of strength training you choose to achieve your goals, you can use different (or none at all) equipment, such as:
- Body weight: Using your own body weight and gravity to perform various movements (for example, pushups, squats, planks, pull ups, and lunges).
- Free weights: Equipment that is not tied to the floor or a machine, such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls.
- Resistance bands: elastic bands that provide resistance when stretched.
- Machines: Machines with adjustable weights or hydraulics attached to provide resistance and stress to the muscles.
Regardless of the type of strength training you perform, the goal is to put tension on your muscles to encourage muscle growth. By exercising regularly, your muscles will logically become stronger. But as described above, that's not the only benefit of strength training. Below we have listed the five biggest benefits of strength training.
Strength training, the benefits
1. Burns calories efficiently
When one thinks of weight loss, one often thinks of cardio. However, cardio alone is not the most effective way to burn calories. Strength training is. Strength training helps boost your metabolism in two ways.
- First, building muscle increases your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically more efficient than fat mass, allowing you to burn more calories at rest.
- Second, research shows that your metabolism is increased for up to 72 hours after strength training. This means that you will still burn extra calories hours and even days after your training, so you get a lot more out of 'an hour of training'.
2. Reduces the risk of injury and promotes mobility
Doing strength training can reduce your risk of injury. Strength training helps improve the strength, range of motion and mobility of muscles, ligaments and tendons. This can amplify the strength around important joints such as knees, hips and ankles to provide additional protection against injury. In addition, strength training can help correct muscle imbalances. For example, having a strong core, hamstrings, and glutes will relieve your lower back while lifting, reducing your risk of lower back injuries.
In addition, strength training can make you more flexible, contrary to popular belief. Strength training increases joint range of motion (ROM), which provides more mobility and flexibility. However, this only happens when the full range of motion of an exercise is completed.
3. Improves Heart Health
Multiple studies have shown that regular strength training can lower blood pressure, and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and improve circulation by strengthening the heart and blood vessels.
According to research, performing strength training is just as beneficial as cardio for heart health. The study published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2019 found that people who did strength training for at least an hour a week had a 40 to 70 percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those who didn't. Before coming to this conclusion, the researchers examined the exercise habits of nearly 13,000 adults, with an average age of 47 years. All of these volunteers had no cardiovascular problems at the time of the study.
This isn't the only study that has linked heart health to weightlifting. In the past, there have been a number of studies that have outlined the link between weightlifting and heart health. According to a study, weightlifting actually reduces the type of fat from the body that is linked to cardiovascular problems. These fats are located deep in the tissue around the organs and strength training works better to get rid of that fat.
4. Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels
Strength training has been shown to improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes and, as part of an exercise plan that includes aerobics, can put the person with diabetes on the path to long-term good health. A study of 35,754 women over an average of 10 years showed a 30% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those who did strength training compared to those who didn't.
Strength training can help people with diabetes by improving the body's ability to use insulin and process glucose. This happens because:
- You will experience an increase in lean muscle mass, which increases your basic metabolism and causes you to burn calories faster. Burning those calories keeps your blood glucose levels in check.
- The muscles' ability to store glucose increases with strength, allowing the body to better regulate its blood sugar levels.
- The body fat-to-muscle ratio decreases, decreasing the amount of insulin the body needs to store energy in fat cells.
5. Improves mood
Even if you don't always feel like going, after a workout you'll be glad you did it! Regular strength training can improve your mood and mental health. Strength training offers multiple benefits for mood regulation, such as increased self-esteem and self-efficacy. In addition, exercise promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which may play a role in positive mood.
A study conducted by Brett Gordon, published in JAMA Psychiatry, analyzed 33 clinical studies examining the effects of strength training on depression. The results showed that strength training "significantly reduced depressive symptoms" in study participants. A striking finding was that participants showed an improvement in their mood, regardless of whether the exercises made them physically stronger. That means improving your mood doesn't depend on how much exercise you do or how hard you train. The sense of accomplishment and confidence that comes from exercising is why the subjects felt better.
As you have read, strength training has many more benefits than just looking good on the beach ;) Anyone can start with strength training, because there are exercises for every level. Do you want to expand your (home) gym with more strength training equipment? Take a look at the website, or contact us for advice.