Today for our training topic let’s talk about weight training! As I discussed in our fitness origin stories, weight training has been a passion of mine for quite a while now. I believe that in order to get stronger each and every day you must break yourself down to build yourself back up again. This concept holds true as a great life lesson and physical training lesson. The muscles must be put under progressive increases in resistance in order to get stronger, and that is why I prefer weight training over doing steady state cardio. By the end of this post I think I might persuade you that picking up and putting down a dumbbell or two every now and then will be in your best interest, and you might even enjoy it!
Now don’t get me wrong, I do in fact still enjoy going for a run for a few miles through some of the many beautiful outdoor trails here in Pittsburgh. Running or other steady state cardiovascular exercise, also known as “cardio” by the masses, has obvious beneficial effects on your heart health. I, of course, believe in the beneficial effects of cardio, especially since I worked in cardiac rehabilitation for a few years! However, there are many great benefits to weight training including increased heart health, which we will get to in a bit.
What’s the science behind weight training?
Why do I believe in weight training over steady state cardio all the time?! First, if weight loss is your main fitness goal weight training will be more effective in the long run because the muscle mass you build will burn more calories even while you sit at your desk. How is this possible? Let me explain. Muscle requires more energy to function than fat so even at rest people with more muscle mass burn through more calories. As a fun fact of the day, this explains why people with a higher muscle to fat ratio (the super skinny toned girl in your office) are able to eat pretty much whatever and however much they want without gaining a pound of weight. You might be envious of this person, but if you start weight training then you too can perhaps have that extra slice of pizza without feeling guilty about it.
To continue, increased overall muscle mass means that you burn more calories throughout the day, which in turn can lead to increased fat loss over time. Sure, you could run on the treadmill or elliptical day in and day out to burn as many calories as possible, but the effects of the steady state exercise only last for a short amount of time. If you incorporate a few days of weight training in addition to a cardio routine then that will already put you at an advantage to lose more weight every week because you will be increasing your muscle mass over time. The whole point is to increase your muscle to fat ratio to increase your calories burned throughout the day even at rest.
As I mentioned earlier, you can only become stronger after being put through a progressive amount of stress, just like how coal eventually becomes a diamond after being put under pressure. Weight training puts stress on your body’s bones and muscles. In this case stress is good for your body because when the bones and muscles recover from the stress of weight training they build back up stronger! Initially, weight training might cause you to experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but don’t fret because this soreness is only temporary and over time the body adapts to the weight bearing exercise. People who lift weights are less likely to experience muscular injuries or suffer bone fractures because their body is used to physical stress.
In regards to the physical stress of weight training, it also helps prevent the natural bone and muscle loss that occurs as people age. Sarcopenia, or muscle loss, naturally occurs as you age so of course increasing your muscle mass through weight training would prevent this, but weight training even prevents bone loss. When your bones are put under physical stress they react by recruiting more bone cells known as osteoblasts to create stronger bones. As you age this becomes critical in preventing osteoporosis. Weight training plays a big role in the prevention of other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as well by helping to regulate blood sugar levels and increasing peripheral circulation. Hopefully most of you young professionals don’t have to worry about these diseases now, but if you have a desk job and are mostly sedentary then the potential for these diseases could be something to watch out for down the road. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is why Happily Ever Healthy promotes getting up and moving (especially with added resistance).
Other beneficial effects of weight training include improved athletic performance. If you work your muscles more often then they become better at functioning, and if you increase your muscle mass then your muscles are able to fire at a faster velocity with increased strength. So once you start a weight training program you might notice that you have actually gotten better at sprinting around the bases during your after work recreational kickball game. Being the MVP of your team could earn you an extra post-game celebratory beer! Not only does lifting weights increase your athletic ability, it also helps make doing activities of daily living (ADLs) a whole lot easier. If you are able to shoulder press 40 pounds then putting your clean dishes away on the higher shelves becomes a lot simpler. With better body mechanics your joint health and posture also become better with the added effect of decreased back pain. If you sit a lot at work you are most likely to experience back pain because certain muscle groups become over stretched and weakened. That is why increasing your leg strength and core strength through weight training becomes of utmost importance. Posture and ergonomics play a big role in back health too, but that is something we will get into in a later post.
Ok great, now that I have explained some of the main beneficial effects of weight training, tell me what you think! What is your current training program like? Do you feel more confident with adding some weight lifting into your current routine? If you already weight train then props to you! If you have started with the basic body weight movements like the squat or push-up then that is a great start to a fitness program, and keep working at it.
If you are ready to add some weight to your program then adding movements like the barbell back squat, barbell bench press, and seated cable row to your program will exponentially increase your strength. Keep working hard and training safe!
Don’t resist adding some resistance to your life to become stronger than the previous day and as always, stay Happily Ever Healthy!
*No puppies were harmed during the weight training session for this post.*