Alex Shaw

Strength Training: A Humble Health Booster

Despite its complexity, people find weight training one of the most appealing physical activities, and there's a good reason for that.


People have been concerned about maintaining their physical fitness since ancient times and for a long time before barbells, dumbbells, and all these fancy training machines were around. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Chinese used stone lifting, stone throwing, wrestling, and rope climbing to train their bodies. From battles to religious devotion, people had many reasons in ancient times to place a premium on health, strength, and athleticism. Emphasizing the duty of developing the body to its utmost, Socrates once said, “What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Although much time has passed, outstanding personalities continue to emphasize the benefits of strength training. Dwayne Johnson, for example, considers the moment he began working out to be a defining moment of his life.

What is a strength training

Strength training has come a long way to become what it is now. We don’t throw rocks to get stronger anymore, and strength training has evolved into a much broader concept in the modern world. People understand that it isn’t weights that help us to increase our strength, but the resistance that we apply to our muscles. In the present-day, resistance training can be done in many different ways, with the training machines in the gym, with some free-weight equipment like dumbells or resistance bands, or even with your own body weight at home. Strength training is now available for everyone inside and outside of gyms. No matter how fit you are, resistance training can help your health in many ways. You don’t have to be huge to start resistance training. People do this kind of training not because they are already strong, but to get stronger. How to do it depends only on your personal preferences. Because of this, in particular, strength training has so many names – strength training, resistance training, or weight training – these are just different names for the same activity.

Good News. Healthy benefits of resistance training

It is a shame that when it comes to health benefits, resistance training does not get the credit it deserves.

1It makes you stronger

Yes, that is the most obvious advantage of weight training. When we lift weights, our muscle tissues tear under the tension. The process of tearing and repairing muscle fibres helps us get bigger and stronger. And it’s easy to see how important it is to be strong when carrying heavy bags from the grocery store to your house.

Well-developed muscle mass makes us not only stronger but also protects us from medical conditions such as sarcopenia. Your muscles get bigger and stronger from the moment you’re born. Although, this process might reverse. After the age of 30, muscle mass declines by about 3–8% every decade. Gradual loss of muscle tissue can cause sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia’s side effects frequently lead to frailty, a loss of independence, and higher medical expenses. However, resistance training can both manage and prevent sarcopenia. A regimen of progressive resistance training is beneficial for muscle growth and strength. That is why scientists consider resistance training as a method of controlling and preventing sarcopenia. A large-scale study with more than 1,600 people between the ages of 21 and 80 showed that after 10 weeks of resistance training, the average lean weight went up by 1.4 kg.

2It improves bone health

Our bones get stronger as we get stronger. It is critical to have strong and healthy bones, especially as we age.

Our bones become more susceptible to diseases like osteoporosis as we get older. Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, making them more fragile and prone to breaking. People who have osteoporosis are much more prone to fractures, such as a hip fracture. This can lead to serious consequences, especially in old age!

According to a case-control study, up to 50% of people over the age of 65 who have hip fractures die within six months, and many of those who survive do not regain their baseline independence and function.

Strength training can help counteract this deterioration. One of many studies suggests that resistance training may be the most effective therapy for increasing muscle and bone mass in different population groups. A particular study showed that 12 months of brief resistance training can increase bone density in certain bones by up to 6%, while treatment with conventional medical drugs for 36 months showed similar improvements in 4%–5%. Furthermore, resistance training has the extra benefit of impacting many risk factors for osteoporosis, including enhanced strength and balance and increased muscle mass.

3Burns calories and helps to manage your weight

This one is not such an obvious advantage of resistance training. When people think about burning calories, they think about aerobic exercises first. And it’s true, but strength training should not be underestimated when it comes to burning calories.

Resistance training helps us lose weight in a different way. When we build muscles, our body requires more energy to support baseline activities. That occurs because muscles are more metabolically efficient than fat mass, meaning that when we have more muscles and less fat, we spend more calories at rest.

According to research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, resistance training can boost the resting metabolic rate by 5% on average. Some scientists connect this effect to increased energy needs for the renewal of injured muscle fibres.

4Helps fight diseases

Preventing chronic diseases is another area in which strength training can be effective. We frequently hear that for chronic disease risk reduction, 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic training is recommended weekly. Resistance training, on the other hand, is equally beneficial in lowering the risk of various chronic diseases.

Research published in the Frontiers in Physiology shows that performing resistance training on a regular basis can have direct effects on the primary prevention of a number of chronic diseases, including mobility disabilities, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, or even diseases like cancer. A study that used data from the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey found that performing gym-based and own-body-weight strength activities at least twice a week was associated with a 34% lower risk of cancer mortality. Furthermore, cancer survivors who participated in resistance training at least once per week had a 33% decrease in all-cause mortality.

5Resistance training can normalize glucose tolerance

Glucose tolerance decreases with age. This decline begins in the third or fourth decade of life and continues throughout the adult life span. Regular training can prevent this decline in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

In a 15-month trial of prediabetic sedentary, overweight, or obese adults aged 50-69, 34% of participants achieved normal glucose tolerance after only 3 months of resistance training. In turn, impaired glucose tolerance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, with 20–50% of individuals developing the disease over a 10-year period.

6Can fight depression

A large study that included almost 1900 individuals showed that resistance exercise training has a positive impact on depressive symptoms. Moreover, improvement in depression symptoms was observed regardless of the volume of resistance training. This means that you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the gym to reap mental benefits.

7Can boost heart health

It seems that when it comes to improving health, all the glory goes to aerobic exercises and resistance training is always in the shadows. Aerobic exercise is suggested as a first-line antihypertensive lifestyle treatment due to solid evidence that it decreases blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, present research shows that resistance training can show similar or even greater results in terms of lowering blood pressure.

According to a meta-analysis of 64 controlled studies, resistance training can be effective as a stand-alone antihypertensive therapy and should be researched further as a viable stand-alone therapeutic exercise alternative for adult populations with high blood pressure.

Resistance training has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 8 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 4 mm Hg in prehypertensive and hypertensive patients. In turn, SBP and DBP reductions of 2 mm Hg reduce the risk of stroke by 14% and 17%, respectively, and the risk of coronary artery disease by 9% and 6%.

8Promotes greater mobility and flexibility

Many may have the opposite association with strength training. However, according to a study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, resistance training has no negative impact on flexibility and, in fact, can increase flexibility in some joints.

Even more incredible results were discovered. A recent study found that strength training improved range of motion in the same way that stretching did, and that both strength training and stretching were effective in improving mobility.

9Can improve brain health

There is some evidence to suggest that strength training may have positive effects on brain health. Research has shown that strength training can increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive functions such as memory and decision-making. It may also increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that is essential for sharp cognitive function and has a major impact on learning and memory. A study among young adults showed that resistance training can raise serum BDNF levels by 13%.

Studies among older adults with cognitive frailty show that high-speed resistance exercise training methods improve cognitive function. Resistance training has also been shown to be effective in immediately enhancing cognitive function in healthy adults.

Downsides of resistance training

Resistance training, like most physical activities, is harmless if you have a rational approach to your workouts. However, if you push yourself too hard, you risk having negative effects from your training.

Has a high risk of injury if doing unprepared

The possibility of injury exists with practically every sort of exercise. This is especially true for resistance training, which involves the use of weights or other resistance to challenge the muscles. While this type of exercise can provide numerous health benefits, it can also put stress on the muscles, tendons, and joints. In addition, it’s very easy to overestimate your capabilities during resistance training, which can quickly lead to injury.

To prevent injuries, you must determine your ideal weight. And it goes without saying that the only way to find your ideal weight is to experiment with different weights. But as an example, you can do a set of exercises for ten reps. If you pick the right weight, you can complete every rep with the proper form, but the final few reps must be difficult for you.

Can be complicated as you start

The complexity is one of the biggest disadvantages of resistance training. Resistance training consists of hundreds of exercises, each of which has several variations. There are dozens of exercises for every group of muscles in our body and even more equipment and training machines to train those muscles. There are a lot of training machines intended to train the same muscles but from different angles.

You must also understand the proper form of exercise to maximize its effectiveness. As a result, in order to train properly you need to navigate through the various exercises and trainees, which can be challenging at times.

To embrace strength training, you must be patient. It will take some time for you to grasp all of the nuances of strength training, including the purpose of each specific exercise and the proper form of execution. Strength training is largely a process of trial and error. To make the process of strength training less complicated, you can watch some YouTube channels dedicated to strength training. Or, for an even better option, use the services of a professional fitness trainer.

Can be costly

This drawback follows from the previous one. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out all the intricacies of resistance training, you probably need to hire a personal trainer, who can help you design a resistance training program and provide guidance and supervision during workouts. Furthermore, because of the variety of exercises, you’re going to need a lot of equipment for your training, which can be costly to purchase or rent. Also, finding the appropriate tools and weights might become more challenging as you advance in your resistance training.

However, the cost of resistance training will vary greatly depending on how far you want to go with it. If your primary goal in resistance training is to build a good physique and improve your health, you don’t necessarily need dozens of training machines and equipment. A few resistance bands, a dumbbell set, or even your own body weight will suffice to get in shape and reap the benefits of strength training.

Beginners advise for resistance training

Isn’t there a plethora of advantages to engaging in resistance training? But you need to have proper respect for resistance training and consider a lot of factors to reap those benefits.

1Start light and work your way up

To be big, you need to lift big. This is a widely held misconception. You don’t need to lift abnormally heavy weights to build a solid physique. In fact, you can build muscle even at home with sets of dumbbells and resistance bands. Yes, you will need to increase loads over time to see results. But in the beginning, it’s better to start with light weights. Consider starting with some bodyweight exercises, light dumbbells, or some light resistance bands. This method will help you understand how to perform the exercise correctly. When you master the right form of exercise, you can start gradually increasing resistance.

2Pick the right load

This one is essential if you want to start your relationship with resistance training without getting hurt. The number of sets and reps that you should do can vary greatly depending on your current fitness level and your goals. For instance, the number of recommended sets and reps will vary depending on whether your goal is to increase strength or build muscle mass. But for general improvements in muscle fitness, it is recommended that you do 3–5 sets of 6–12 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but enables you to complete the reps properly. Depending on your progress and how you feel during your workouts, you might need to modify the number of sets and reps. It’s also recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or certified fitness instructor before beginning a resistance training program.

3Follow the progressive overload

Our bodies can quickly adapt to all new circumstances. This also applies to resistance training. The body will adjust to a given workload over time, so to continue progressing and increasing strength, endurance, or muscle mass, the workload must be gradually increased. The principle of progressive overload can be used in a resistance training program in a number of different ways, including increasing the weight, increasing the number of reps, increasing the number of sets, or reducing rest intervals. It’s important to remember that gradual and careful application of progressive overload is necessary to prevent overtraining or injury. Additionally, it’s critical to pay attention to your body and modify your workload as necessary to keep your workouts challenging but doable.

Fan & Curious facts

  • The First World Weightlifting Championships were held in 1891! Seven athletes from six countries competed at the event held in London. Edward Lawrence Levy from England won this competition.

  • Before filming the ‘300’ movie, a ‘300’ strength workout was created. This workout aimed to get the actors in shape before filming. The ‘300’ workout included 25 pullups, 50 deadlifts at 60 kg (135 lbs), 50 pushups, 50 box jumps onto a 60 cm (24 inch) box, 50 floor wipers at 60 kg (135 lbs), 50 kettlebell clean and presses at 16 kg (36 lbs), and 25 pullups.

Let’s sum the resistance training up

Resistance training is a vastly underrated physical activity. People are used to assuming that resistance training is only good for building muscles, but in fact, it gives us much more than this. Aside from improving our body composition by increasing muscle mass and decreasing fat, resistance training can also make our daily tasks easier and even improve our state of mind. With all the advantages that resistance training can give, it’s obvious why people who engage in this physical activity will make time for it regardless of the circumstances.

Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!

Here are more examples of resistance training’s benefits for you from the Jeffrey Peng MD YouTube channel. Dr. Peng is board certified in sports medicine and family medicine. He completed his residency with the Stanford Family Medicine Residency Program and completed his sports medicine training with the Stanford-O’Connor Sports Medicine Fellowship in San Jose.

And if you’ve already decided to dive into the world of resistance training, here’s an example of a 17-minute strength training workout for a beginner from the HASfit YouTube channel. The HASfit channel’s goal is to help people get in shape, and it has nearly 2 million subscribers, delivering thousands of workouts for all goals and fitness levels.

Healthypedia FAQ

While resistance training does not burn as many calories as aerobic exercises, you can still burn 100–400 kcal per hour depending on the intensity of the training.

No, you do not need to join a gym to do weight training. You can use weights or other forms of resistance such as bands or your own body weight to do weight training exercises at home. However, if you want to have a structured workout environment or access to a wider variety of equipment, a gym may be a good option.

The number of sets and reps you should do during resistance training depends on your goals and fitness level. To increase general muscle fitness, it's recommended to do 6–12 repetitions for 3–5 sets while maintaining perfect technique.

Weight training can be safe when done correctly and with proper supervision. It is important to use proper form and technique when lifting weights to avoid injury. It is also a good idea to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the amount of weight as your muscles become stronger.

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