The newest statistics indicate that 75% of men, 67% of women, and one-third of the teens in the U.S. are either overweight or obese, it’s time to revisit one of the easiest entries to exercise with the best return on investment: strength training.
Strength training has many forms. From weight room workouts, to studio strength workouts, to ballet barre and yoga classes, if your muscles are burning within a minute (or less) they will get stronger.
Your ability to burn energy, i.e. calories, depends largely on the amount of muscle you have in relationship to your weight. If you have a higher percentage of muscle per pound of bodyweight your body will be a better furnace. Muscle consumes significantly more calories per day per pound than fat (6.5 calories per pound per hour compared to 1.2 for fat), which in turn facilitates fat loss.
Throughout life, we lose muscle mass largely from lack of physical challenges that force us to be strong. Since carrying our water from the well, growing our food, and chopping wood for the fireplace are not on the to-do list, if you want to have a strong, lean body, fight back by lifting weights. It is hands down the quickest way to reshape the body, restore lost muscle mass, and stoke your metabolic furnace.
BUST THE MYTHS
No, ladies, you are not going to bulk up. You just aren’t. Your hormonal balance lacks the amount of testosterone necessary to look like those beefy people you have seen in the gym. They are following a specific nutritional regime, using supplements, and are spending an inordinate amount of time lifting. That is not us. We need this.
We all need it. Research overwhelmingly proves that strength training benefits all age groups.
Another myth: you lose strength as you age. Wrong. Loss of strength is not a function of aging, it is a function of disuse. Especially for women: use it or lose it.
Men, on the other hand, peak in strength in their late 20s. As men age, there is a small decrease in testosterone levels, thus their potential for strength will decrease. Key word here is ‘potential.’ Since most men never trained to their actual potential, most men can be stronger through consistent strength training as they age too. Additionally, because of their hormonal advantage, men generally have an easier time re-capturing lost muscle mass.
GO FOR OVERLOAD
For strength training to be effective, the intensity of the exercise needs to be difficult enough that your muscles fatigue (or be at “failure,” the point when you lose form) in about 30 seconds to one minute. This caveat of strength training is also what makes it so time efficient.
Cardio benefits heart health, but it does not make you strong. And no, it doesn’t count as strength training if you are sore the next day from a cardio workout. When muscles are not used to something, they will get sore. But since cardio is sustainable (the intensity is low enough that it can be done for extended periods of time), it will not reap the benefits of reshaping the body like lifting weights will.
Research has proven repeatedly that with minimal time strength training, the body will show results. With just 3 half-hour strength training workouts per week, in 8 weeks participants showed a body composition change on average of an increase of 3 pounds of muscle mass and a loss of 5 pounds of fat. The investment of time for results is highest with strength training.
Good! Cardio does not have exclusive rights to elevating the heart rate. Strength training, when the exercise is challenging, will elevate your heart rate toward and even to breathlessness. You will get out of it what you put into it; greater challenge and effort equals better results.
WHAT ABOUT WEIGHTS?
Lifting weights will make you strong. But your body has plenty of weight to supply ample resistance when used against gravity. The problem with body weight is this: most of us are not strong enough to use our bodies against gravity, which makes weights a necessity. Take pull ups for example; for most of us, not going to happen. Planks are pretty awesome and most people can do a plank for a few seconds to a minute or more. But many of us cannot take that plank, lower our body weight to the floor and push it back up (the classic push up). We can modify a push up by dropping to our knees, effectively lowering the amount of load/weight that we push up. And we can make it even easier with light dumbbells: lie on your back, hold a couple of dumbbells at your chest, and push them up, i.e the chest press. The advantage of the push up (even the modified knee version) over the chest press is the superior activation of deep core muscles to stabilize your body during the push up, giving those important core muscles a work out too. So no, strength training does not mean having to lift dumbbells….YOU can be the weight. But you might need to work up to it.
Since strength training overloads the muscles to the point of fatigue in a short amount of time, it only needs to be performed every few days; every other day works great! If you add some cardio into your workout week, fat loss results will be further enhanced by the extra calories burned via the extra activity. One of the best investments you can make in the technology world is a pedometer. Pedometers range from simple mechanical models, which cost just a few dollars, to clip-ons, wristbands and watches. Phone apps will count your steps if you carry your phone all day. A good rule of thumb to work up to: aim for 10,000 steps per day.
To get results, strength training, lifting weights, and body weight training need to be performed with good technique and form. Injury can be avoided through proper biomechanics. A good trainer will not only keep you safe during the workout by coaching you on form, they will also be able to uncover details in your execution that will help you avoid repetitive stress injuries that could happen down the road. Good form and posture are the foundation to build on. If you need help, our staff of professionals is here to help.
GET STARTED TODAY!
Your future-self is not going to be any more motivated than your today-self. What you are not willing to do today, you are probably not going to be willing to do tomorrow. Start your program now. Many of our classes and group workouts at Just Fitness 4 U have a strength component. See our schedule on-line or on our App. Or drop and do those push-ups right now!
You deserve a lean, strong body. It is within reach with a consistent, sensible, well-organized program of lifting weights and strength training. Reap the benefits and get started today!