Why everyone should be in to weight training
Not sure about weight training? You might be surprised just how beneficial and enjoyable it is. Do you want to lose weight but you’re not sure what exercise is best? Do you want to improve the way you look? Do you want to be fit and healthy? Do you want to age gracefully and have a long and active life? If you said ‘yes’ to any of these questions then weight training is for you! Read on….
Weight training is so beneficial yet the uptake of weight training is relatively small and, of those who do weight train, not everyone does it in a way that will allow them to reap the benefits. Here I’ll outline what constitutes effective weight training and explain why I truly believe that everyone should do it. I’m not just talking about young men. I’m talking about men and women of all ages. Yes, all ages. In fact, weight training becomes even more important as you age to improve or maintain quality of life.
First, let’s quickly outline what weight training is. Just to be clear, it’s not sitting on a bench doing biceps curls, yet that’s often the mime that someone will perform when they speak about weight training. That’s a common misconception and perhaps a reason why some who start weight training without any guidance give it up after a while.
The ‘weight’ doesn’t have to be made of iron, it can be body weight, a sled, or resistance bands for example. In general, you are using the force generated by your muscles to overcome or resist the force generated by something else. There is huge variety in what you can do. You can vary the exercise, the equipment, the weight, the angle, the tempo, the number of repetitions, the ‘feel’ and so on. Despite the variety, there is one thing that all weight training should have in common: it should elicit the improvements being sought.
That means it should be challenging, often high intensity. Sometimes weight training will be challenging but not metabolically stimulating, such as when you are undergoing rehab or postural correction for example. Most of the time, however, weight training should take your heart rate right up and make you breathe heavily. Full body exercises that stimulate the nervous system and the maximum number of muscles are great for this. These sorts of exercises should be the mainstay of most weight training programmes.
In future blogs we will look at many aspects of weight training and also take a look at how to generate intensity. For now, though, let’s look at why weight training is so beneficial.
Weight training will improve the strength of your muscles to improve your function:
- It will improve joint stability and help prevent joint pain
- It can improve your posture with targeted training
- It is a crucial tool in rehabilitation
- It can improve balance through targeted strengthening of weak muscles
- It will improve your core strength for better overall stability and movement
- Everyday benefits
Of course these improvements in strength and function translate to everyday life. You will develop functional strength for everyday tasks: moving the sofa, pulling out weeds, carrying suitcases, carrying children, putting boxes in the loft, carrying shopping from the car and so on. You will be able to do these things better, with less effort and with less chance of injury. And because moving will seem like less effort, you will be more inclined to move more often, helping to negate ‘the curse of modern man’: sitting.
- Sports specific strength
How many elite athletes are there in any sports who do not train with weights? Very few I imagine. You often hear about the training routines of sporting stars, they are featured in magazines and on the TV.
Weight training for sport can be very specific but, because of the variety that is possible, there is no sport that cannot benefit from it. You may have seen the top tennis players performing all manner of exercises using resistance bands. I recall an Olympic bobsleigh team doing squats with 140kg on their back. Olympic track and field athletes will often do Olympic Weightlifting as part of their training because of the improvements in power that it conveys. And so it goes on. Pick any sport and you will find weight training routines designed for that sport.
I mentioned earlier that it is important to keep up weight training as you age. Here’s why:
- It will improve bone density and help prevent osteoporosis, helping you to be more resilient to fractures from falls and accidents.
- It will reduce sarcopenia – the loss of muscle mass as you age. We’re all up against it as we age, with a decline in our hormonal environment leading to loss of muscle. Weight training can keep this at bay or even reverse it. This will prevent feebleness and frailty as you age.
- It will strengthen connective tissue for stronger, more resilient joints.
- It will improve functional strength, core stability and overall balance, making falls less likely
- It will improve the body’s hormonal environment, helping you look and feel youthful as you age.
Not convinced yet? We will go on to look at the health and fat loss benefits of weight training and talk about how it can improve appearance and body confidence. Stay tuned for part 2.