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Benefits Of Weight Training

Benefits of weight training quick finder | Keywords and interchangeable terminology: weight training > resistance exercise > bodybuilding > strength training > pumping iron!

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Weight training is not all about building big muscles and bolstering the ego. ‘It’s also about creating a balanced musculature that can move with grace and fluidity, respond optimally to any physical demand, perform well in sport, minimise injury risk and – importantly – be aesthetically pleasing,’ (Guide To Strength Training).


But besides building a balanced musculature, you might be surprised to learn that there are many health and fitness benefits to weight training. Here’s a quick taste.


According to former British Bodybuilding Champion, Anita Bean, author of the above quote, training with weights increases mental as well as physical strength. Moreover, pumping iron can promote positive self-regard, provide a ‘sense of accomplishment,’ and improve self-confidence.


In his epic Encyclopaedia Of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger strongly recommends resistance exercise as a means of maintaining your physicality. Weight training, Schwarzenegger says, is ‘about maximum athletic development of the entire physique.'


Bruce Lee incorporated weightlifting into his regime because he recognised the relevance of combat conditioning. ‘Through his research,’ Lee’s official training biographer reports, ‘he learned the physiological fact that a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle.’ Coincidently, this ‘led him to explore the superior health-building benefits of bodybuilding,’ (The Art of Expressing the Human Body).


And that’s just the warm-up set!


What follows is a whole workout of weight training benefits. Don’t worry though. This is one workout that won’t make you ache the next day. But it probably will inspire you to get more resistance training into your routine.


Benefits of weight training quick finder

Benefits of weight training #1: Increased muscle mass

Benefits of weight training #2: Increased strength

Benefits of weight training #3: Reduced injury risk

Benefits of weight training #4: Increased metabolic rate

Benefits of weight training #5: Delayed onset of sarcopenia


 

Benefits of weight training #1: Builds muscle mass

Benefits of weight training #1: increased muscle mass.

One of the main motivational factors for why people take up weight training is to build bigger muscles. That’s not surprising. In today’s culture, size is prized and he or she (but mainly he) who is considered ‘hench’ commands respect.


Irrespective of why somebody desires bigger muscles, weight training is the best method for achieving that goal.


A common misconception is that it takes years of dedicated training to develop the size and density of your musculature.


Weight training programme

Researchers have shown that even a modest 8-week training programme consisting of three 25-minute workouts is enough to pack on a solid 1kg of muscle. Maintain this output across a year and you could see ‘lean mass gains’ of up to ‘20 per cent of your starting bodyweight,’ (Guide To Strength Training).


While these gains are impressive, especially when they were achieved after an 8-week programme, emphasis must be placed on the importance of regular participation. To build an impressive physique takes time and consistency. But the payoff is well worth the effort.


And as you’ll shortly find out, beyond winning kudos from your fellow lifters, building bigger muscles is beneficial for your long-term health.


Benefits of weight training #2: Increased strength

Benefits of weight training #1: increased muscular strength.

Muscular strength is a highly sought-after physical attribute for a host of appealing reasons. In addition to boosting self-confidence, being strong can improve performance in a wide array of sporting disciplines. This is because virtually every sport – from boxing to volleyball – involves an element of strength (Exercise Physiology). Think of a boxer controlling their opponent in a clinch or a volleyball player smashing in a serve.


The National Strength & Conditioning Association observe that weightlifting is ‘well known for its role in increasing muscular strength,’ (Guide To Strength Training). When we apply force against a resistance, during a deadlift or power clean, micro tears occur in the muscles.


Hypertrophy = increased muscle mass and strength

While this might not sound like a good thing, micro-tears are what trigger the ‘hypertrophic response.’ That’s the process by which the body adapts to the demands and stresses of training by repairing damaged muscles and building back more muscle fibres.


Schwarzenegger brings our attention to another factor in this process. Performing resistance exercises – especially powerlifting movements and compound lifts – triggers testosterone production. ‘Testosterone is anabolic,’ that is it stimulates protein synthesis and so ‘with more [circulating] in your system you get stronger and build larger muscles more easily,’ (Encyclopaedia Of Modern Bodybuilding).


Benefits of weight training #3: Reduced injury risk

Benefits of weight training #3: Reduced injury risk.

In the context of sports performance and fitness development, the greatest fear of athletes and exercise enthusiasts is injury. Suffering a pull, strain or (heaven forbid) a tear can instantly put a stop to training. If the injury is severe enough, it can permanently impair performance.


An old training partner of mine tore his anterior cruciate ligament when performing barbell squats. (He later confessed that he was lifting way above his customary weight – a vain attempt to impress others.) After an operation and a year of rehabilitation, he eventually worked up to his pre-injury programme. However, due to the extensive scar tissue (and psychological scars), he couldn’t go half as heavy.


Pumping iron protects against soft tissue damage

Of course, there is no way to prevent injury. We can, however, reduce the risk. Regular weight training has been shown to provide a protective measure against soft tissue damage. Subjecting our muscles (and connective tissues) to moderate levels of stress increases their tensile strength. This means that they can withstand greater forces before a trauma takes root.


Another way weightlifting can reduce injury risk is by building a robust body. Back squats, sumo deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and many other resistance exercises toughen the mettle of your musculature. ‘A stronger body is better able to avoid or resist impact injuries from falls and activities such as running or jumping,’ (Guide To Strength Training).

 

Benefits of weight training #4: Boosts metabolic rate

Benefits of weight training #4: Boosts your metabloic rate.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the quantity of calories that your body consumes to maintain homeostasis – that is, all those biological functions that keep us alive. According to some estimates, our BMR accounts for between 60-70% of total calories burned over 24 hours. This makes the BMR an important metric for those trying to manage their weight. Knowing your BMR can provide an accurate estimation of how many calories you should be consuming each day.


Studies have established a strong relationship between a high resting metabolic rate and low body fat. ‘People with greater amounts of lean body mass generally have higher [metabolic rates] than those with less lean body mass,’ (NSCA’s Guide to Tests and Assessments). This explains the surge in search queries asking ‘How do I increase my metabolic rate?’.


Your metabolism is flexible

While your BMR is fixed at birth, Herman Pontzer, an expert on the science of metabolism, points out that the body is flexible and there is room for movement. Because muscle has a high energy requirement, increasing muscle mass through weight training can ramp up your metabolic rate.


The analogy of a powerful car can help us understand the mechanics of metabolism (but only so far). We all know that a car with a bigger engine consumes more fuel per mile. In a simplified sense, the same is true of a muscled body: more muscle requires more energy. And it doesn’t take a huge increase in lean mass to crank up the furnace. Studies have ‘shown that adding 1.4kg of muscle increases RMR by 7 per cent and daily calorie requirement by 15 per cent,’ (Guide To Strength Training).


Packing on 1.4kg of lean mass is a realistic target for most people. As we saw in Benefit #2, an additional 1kg of muscle can be achieved after just 8 weeks of resistance training. Get started with this Strength Training Programme >


Benefits of weight training #5: Slows sarcopenia

Benefits of weight training #5: Slows age-related muscle loss.

One of the many frustrating things about getting older (so I’ve been told) is the onset of sarcopenia. You may not have heard of the condition before, but a National Library of Medicine journal states that it ‘is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.’ What is it then?


Having reviewed the definitions of several leading health organisations, sarcopenia could be broadly described as a syndrome characterised by the gradual decline of muscle mass and strength. Signs of sarcopenia can show in people as young as 30. However, it is mainly diagnosed in those 75 years and older.


Ageing in Motion, a web-based organisation committed to advancing research and treatment for sarcopenia, emphasises the severity of the condition. As well as impairing the quality of life, age-related muscle loss can:


  • Reduce the ability to perform simple tasks

  • Increase disability risk which may lead to impaired independence

  • Raise the risk of falls and fractures

  • Increase post-injury complications

  • Raise the risk of premature mortality


So bleak! But breathe a sigh of relief: there are things we can do to slow the onset of sarcopenia. No doubt you’ve already guessed one of those things. Weight training!


Delay ageing with weightlifting

All the leading health organisations that I reviewed recommended resistance training as an effective intervention to stave off sarcopenia. Here are some examples.


  • In answer to the question How can I prevent sarcopenia, the Cleveland Clinic observe that, while you may not be able to prevent the condition, the risk can be significantly reduced by maintaining a ‘physically active lifestyle that includes exercises such as resistance training.’

  • A WebMD blog tells us that the ‘primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise, specifically resistance training or strength training.’

  • The author of a Healthline blog informs us that ‘the strongest way to fight sarcopenia is to keep your muscles active.’ Though the author recognises that ‘all types of exercise are beneficial,’ they quickly point out that some are more beneficial than others. At the top of the list, they have placed weight training.


Lifting weights = improved muscle density

But why weight training? If you recall Benefit #1, we considered the effectiveness of resistance exercise for promoting muscle mass. This is important for delaying the onset of sarcopenia because greater muscular density declines at a slower rate.


You can view weight training as a kind of insurance policy. Paying into it with two to three weekly resistance-based workouts can provide cover in your later years. And, if you’re already knocking on a bit, you’ll be glad to know that it’s never too late to start making payments. According to the Healthline blog, a ‘study of 57 adults aged 65-94 showed that performing resistance exercises three times per week increased muscle strength over 12 weeks.’ 


Weight training benefits key takeaways

Weight training is one of – if not the – most effective ways of building muscular strength.

Lifting weights is also the best way to build bigger muscles and develop the size of your frame.


Weightlifting can decrease injury risk by increasing the tensile strength of your connective tissues (ligaments and tendons).


Studies have established convincing links between regular weightlifting and the reduced risk of sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss).


But as we saw in the introduction, in addition to the above list of desirable benefits, pumping iron boosts your confidence, self-body image, and general physical athleticism.


And last but by no means least, recent research has shown that weight training benefits the brain. According to emerging studies, performing exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and kettlebell swings (to name just three compound lifts), encourages the brain to grow new neurons (technically called ‘neurogenesis’). It’s been suggested that this may reduce cognitive decline and strengthen your memory.


Time to start pumping iron with this Stonglifts 5x5 Programme >


 

Never be without a workout!

Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3 >

Benefits of weight training concludes with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Workouts.

 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.


 

References

Bean. A. (2008) Strength Training: The Complete Guide ToA&C Black. London. 

Clevland Clinic: how to reduce the risk of developing sarcopenia

Little, J. () The Art of Expressing The Human Body. 

NSCA (2012) NSCA’s Guide to Tests and Assessments. Human Kinetics. USA.

WebMD blog: definition of sarcopenia

Healthline blog: How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging)

Schwarzenegger. A. (1998) The Encyclopaedia Of Modern BodybuildingSimon & Schuster. New York.

Pontzer, M. (2021) The Misunderstood Science of Metabolism. Penguin. USA.

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