What Strength Training Does to Your Body

What Strength Training Does to Your Body
You don’t see many people with great, muscular bodies who are shy or unsure of themselves. People who partake in strength training are usually more energetic and more confident about themselves. They feel less stress and anxiety, and have greater cognitive functioning. Strength training will make you look better, but more importantly, feel better. The truth is: we are healthier and happier when we are strong.

What is Strength Training?
Strength training works by applying a resistance against muscular contractions. It forces your muscles to increase the amount of force exerted as you add resistance. As a result, your muscles will grow stronger over time as you add resistance over time. The term “strength training” is not limited to just weightlifting and using weight machines at the gym. It also includes the use of resistance tubing and bands, Kettle bells, Barbells, dumbbells as well as body weight exercises such as pushups.

We can’t all lift a 100kg dumbbell over our heads, but we can all train and become faster, stronger, and healthier. Traditionally, strength training is something associated with men, but women should do it too. Women are afraid that it will make them far too big and muscular. This is not the case. Men and women are anatomically different and women will not be able to reach that kind of size without the use of steroids. In fact, the majority of women who do strength training are actually very lean, toned, and energetic. So ladies, don’t be afraid to build some muscle!

Effects of Strength Training
There are many effects of strength training that cannot be obtained from aerobic exercise (or cardio) alone. Most importantly, strength training increases our lean body mass, something that aerobic exercise cannot achieve easily. A 12-week resistance training program conducted on Hispanic adolescents showed an average decrease of 2% in body fat, and a 2kg increase in lean body mass (Velez, 2010); adolescents only exposed to aerobic exercise had virtually no increase in lean body mass.

Another key benefit is that the Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is larger with strength training than with aerobic training. EPOC refers to how much oxygen our bodies use to recover following physical exercise. The greater the EPOC, the more energy our bodies use. Following the first 30 minutes after exercise, strength training prolongs EPOC longer than aerobic exercise. Although the intensity of the effect is roughly the same, it produces longer-lasting EPOC effects (Kravitz).

Strengthens Bones
Osteoporosis is one of the leading factors that affect quality of life as people age. Postmenopausal women are especially prone to the effects of osteoporosis due to the lack of estrogen. However, strength training has been proven to increase bone density by up to 1% per year (Natural News, 2005). A study conducted at Tufts University in 1994 indicated that there will also be reduced risk of fractures and improved balance in people aged 50-70 (CDC, 2011).

Controls Body Weight
Building muscle can help you lose weight overall because muscle increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the amount of energy expended at rest. Muscle burns more energy at rest, which can help us keep off excess fat and balance the fall in metabolism as we age. Unlike cardio, strength training contributes more to long-term weight management, since strength training can actually increase metabolism by 15%.

A recent study led by Gordon Fisher at the University of Alabama in Birmingham showed that resistance training compared to traditional aerobic training helps optimize fitness, strength, and functional gains in older women aged 60-77 by yielding a lower BMI and higher lean body mass (Gordon, 2013). Research from Melissa Benton from Valdosta State University reveals that the short-term effects of strength training in middle-aged women helps compensate for the drop in metabolism and prevents loss of muscle due to menopause. These were merely short-term effects from an 8-week training program (Benton, 2013).

Boosts Stamina
As you get stronger, you will be able to focus for longer periods of time. You will increase your efficiency and productivity in everyday life, and reduce the effects of fatigue. A study conducted in the Guangzhou Institute of Physical Science by M. Hu suggested that strength training has a significant impact on the work capacity of physically inactive men. Hu attributes this to the fact that greater muscle strength and endurance helps people deal with the stress and rapid-paced nature of the modern workplace (Hu, 2009). Another similar study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology also has evidence that supports this claim (Heggelund, 2013).

Even 30 minutes a day will allow you to access hours more of energy for other areas of life. You won’t fall asleep on the job and upset your boss. You’ll have the energy to play with your children after a long day’s work. You’ll have the vitality to spend a Friday night with your friends. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Helps Boost Essential Hormones
Hormoones are chemical messengers that instruct your cells, organs and systems how to behave. Strength training increases the production of tissue building or anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. These hormones are not only essential for health, they also burn fat and help keep you young! Additionally, strength training increases your sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Increased insulin sensitivity is strongly linked to better health by keeping your blood glucose levels low, promoting fat burning and minimizing fat gain.

Prevents Poor Posture
Posture is the term used to describe the alignment of your joints – usually your spine and shoulders. Poor posture is closely linked to head, neck and back pain, shoulder pain, lack of mobility and, obviously, an unattractive slouch. A properly designed strength training program can help strengthen your anti-gravity muscles which hold you up and prevent slouching. As many of us spend an inordinate amount of time sat down, it really pays to be posturally aware and perform exercises that will strengthen your major postural muscles including your middle trapezius and rhomboids – the muscles between your shoulder blades.

Prevents and Controls Many Chronic Conditions
With the rise of so many chronic conditions in this day and age, strength training is needed to prevent them. The American Heart Association has concluded that strength training helps lower blood pressure, and prevents heart disease and diabetes (AHA, 2000). Itamar Levinger from Victoria University in Melbourne agrees, too. His research in the journal, Diabetes (Levinger, 2011) shows that strength training also decreases symptoms of depression in addition to all the medical benefits.

Tufts University researchers also showed that resistance training results in a 43% reduction in pain from arthritis (CDC, 2011). Strength training also helps with rehab and recovery following surgery, and optimizes recovery time. (Ada L, 2006).

Erik Hanson, from the University of Maryland, conducted a strength training experiment in 2009, which concluded that it helps prevent sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass with age. He claims that the reason we lose muscle mass with age is due to decline in muscle power, physical function, and increase in body fat. However, with strength training, we can combat this otherwise natural aging process (Hanson, 2009). Essentially, strength training has an anti-aging effect; your biological age will be younger than your actual age when you start pumping iron.

Conclusion
Strength training is a vital ingredient in the quest for long term health and leanness and is even more important as we age. There is no denying that cardio is important but if you want to preserve your muscle mass and strength as you age then regular strength training is a must.

References

Ada L, Dorsch S, Canning C G. Strengthening interventions increase strength and improve activity after stroke: a systematic review. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 2006; 52(4): 241-248.

American Heart Association Website (AHA). Resistance Exercise in Individuals with and without Cardiovascular Disease. Last edition 2000.

Benton, M. J., Kasper, M. J., Raab, S. A., Waggener, G. T., and Swan, P. D. Short-term effects of resistance training frequency on body composition and strength in middle-aged women. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 2011; 25(11): 3142-3149.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Why Strength Training? 2011.
http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/

Fisher, G., McCarthy, J.P., Zuckerman, P.A., Bryan, D. R., Bickel, C. Scott 2; Hunter, Gary R. Frequency of combined resistance and aerobic training in older women. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. July 2013; 27(7): 1868-1876.

Hanson, E.D., Srivatsan, S.R., Agrawal, S., Menon, K.S., Delmonico, M.J., Wang, M.Q., Hurley, B.F. Effects of strength training on physical function: influence of power, strength, and body composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Dec 2009; 23(9): 2627-2637.

Hu, M.M., Finni, T.T., Zou, L.L., Perhonnen, M.M., Sediak, M.M., Alen, M.M., and Cheng, S.S. Effects of strength training on work capacity and parasympathetic heart rate modulation during exercise in physically inactive men. International Journal Of Sports Medicine, 2009; 30(10): 719-724.

Heggelund, J., Fimland, M., Helgerud, J., and Hoff, J. Maximal strength training improves work economy, rate of force development and maximal strength more than conventional strength training. European Journal Of Applied Physiology, 2013; 113(6): 1565-1573.

Kravitz, Len. Exercise After-Burn: Research Update. http://www.drlenkravitz.com/Articles/epocarticle.html

Levinger, I., Selig, S., Goodman, C., Jerums, G., Stewart, A., and Hare, D. Resistance training improves depressive symptoms in individuals at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Aug 2011; 25(8): 2328-2333.

Mayo Clinic. Strength Training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier. Last updated April 24, 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710

Natural News Website. Bone density sharply enhanced by weight training, even in the elderly, (2005). http://www.naturalnews.com/010528_bone_density_mineral.html

Velez, A., Golem, D.L., and Arent, S.M. The impact of a 12-week resistance training program on strength, body composition, and self-concept of Hispanic adolescents. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 2010; 24(4): 1065-1073

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AUTHOR

Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.

* Testimonials found on Dinny Morris Fitness have been sent to me by past and present customers and may not reflect the typical customer’s experience and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results. The testimonials are meant to be a showcase of the best results personal training with me can produce, and should not be taken as the results a typical user will get.