I’m an advocate of any form of exercise that gets people up, out and moving, but for myself, I’ve always been a big fan of weight lifting and resistance training and it seems the tide is finally changing when it comes to how weight training is perceived.
For a long time there has been a prevalent allegiance to cardio machines for things like weight loss and overall health. But strength training not only builds muscle it can also prevent disease, improve mood and help with weight loss.
From an anecdotal point of view, I firmly believe that consistently lifting weights – from bodybuilding in my late teens, to CrossFit in my 20’s – allowed me to have a military career free from the common injuries many guys pick up. Even when training for Special Forces selection, which is endurance focused, I continued to use strength training to keep my body as resilient to damage as possible.
A big lesson I took from the military is that challenging your own body is the greatest method for discovering the strength of your mind. With weightlifting, there’s no lying to yourself about what you can and can’t do. The weight forces you to be honest and self–aware.
Anyone who has ever done a strength training programme knows there will be days when you don’t feel like coming into the gym, sets that you don’t feel like finishing, and times when you fail.
And if you keep showing up anyway, then you’ll develop the mental fortitude to get past failure, work when you don’t feel like it, and discover what you’re really made of mentally and physically.
Much of life seems to be lived in grey areas now but weightlifting is more black and white. It helps you get past that fuzziness and closer to understanding yourself, it brings tangible results and is hugely satisfying.
It’s also becoming increasingly popular amongst women. For a long time there has been the fear that by using weights they’ll soon resemble body-builders, rather than create a lean physique. Gradually, general consensus is shifting though, with more and more women trying resistance training – be that with weights or just their own bodies.
Nb. In terms of biology, on average, testosterone levels in men are about seven to eight times as great as in women. And testosterone is the main hormone that builds muscles. Also, to get big and muscular you have to train in a very specific way (high volume, heavy weights), make nutrition a top priority, and put in a good amount of intense, concentrated work.
If you’re on the fence here are 3 reasons to try weightlifting:
1. It Keeps You Young
As we get older we lose muscle, this starts in our 20’s and increases gradually, especially once we hit the half century mark. That is, unless we do something about it.
And there’s good reason for intervention: the natural erosion of muscle and strength that comes with ageing leads directly to weak bones, stiff joints, and a slumped posture, and increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other maladies.
But there’s no reason you can’t maintain a healthy, strong musculature well into your 90s if you use an effective anti-aging weapon such as resistance training. Firstly it strengthens bones which decreases the likelihood that you’ll one day suffer a debilitating fracture in your hips or vertebrae. Resistance training has been shown (in numerous) studies to increase bone density and raise blood levels of osteocalcin which is a key marker of bone growth.
2. It Makes You More Athletic
Everyone wants to look toned and sculpted, and weight training is one of the easiest ways to achieve this.
Plus it will also improve your abilities not only in other sports but life in general. Having a solid strength base helps improve many other elements of athleticism, including power, speed, agility, endurance and muscle mass gains.
More than this, strength training and weight training will help the body adapt to the forces it will face through everyday life. It will keep you safe when you pick your kids up off the floor or haul suitcases out of the car.
3. It Is Great for Overall Health
Strength training provides many health benefits and helps regulate important functions in the body, such as resting glucose metabolism, metabolic rate and blood pressure, which contribute to stress reduction.
It can also help you sleep better, which is a vital component in creating and maintaining good health. Strength training creates constructive physical changes in your body that help you cope better with daily stress so that, overall, your coping mechanisms are stronger; therefore, you sleep more peacefully.
Besides helping you sleep better, weight training also helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Deep sleep and muscle growth are interdependent. A good night’s sleep promotes your body’s hormone balance, which in turn aids in muscle repair and growth.
When you sleep deeply, growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) release more growth hormones into your bloodstream. At the same time, GHRH induces better sleep.
Sleep itself encourages tissue repair and growth and helps preserve energy, which is depleted along with growth hormones during daily activity because of stress hormones. Sleep is a necessary and continual healing process.
Where To Go From Here
If you have never tried any form of resistance training then I would highly recommend incorporating it into your life in some form or another.
Apart from the benefits listed above something I have personally found, especially when I started weightlifting as a teenager, is that strength training improves your physical and emotional condition.
When you feel more confident and in control of your body, it carries over into your daily life. Weightlifting improves strength, muscle tone and posture, which leads to feeling more confident and in control of your environment, as well as your life.
When training, you also develop confidence by challenging yourself to lift heavy weights, or by pushing yourself through grueling training sessions, which can carry over to your confidence levels.
I know many people can be nervous due to the fear of injuring themselves, and that is why it is important to get some proper coaching when it comes to using the correct technique.
Having said that, when you do regularly use resistance training in a safe and consistent manner it can actually be brilliant for injury prevention.
In fact weight training is regularly used to supplement athlete’s sport-specific regimes to help reduce their risk of sports-related injuries. frequently incorporates strength training into his running clients’ programs, noting:
“The goal behind strength training for running is to improve the strength and resiliency of your muscles, ligaments, and bone so that your body can handle the running training. A weak body will be prone to injury. A stronger body can handle the pounding, probably run with better biomechanics and likely run a personal best that season.”
Jon-Erik Kawamoto (running and strength coach)
So, find a good coach, start with the basics, give it a fair trial and see the benefits for yourself in both body and mind.