Strength training is exercise that uses resistance to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal system, improving endurance and muscle tone. Physiologically, the benefits of consistent strength training include an increase in muscle size and tone, increased muscular strength, and increases in bone, tendon and ligament strength. Lifting weights has also been shown to improve psychological health as well, by increasing confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
Improved Performance & Physical Appearance
One important result of strength training is increased physical performance. Muscles utilize energy to produce movement, functioning as the engine or powerhouse of the body and strength training increases the muscles’ strength, size and endurance, which contribute to improvements in our work, sports and our general day-to-day activities.
Another benefit of a good strength-training program is its effect on our overall appearance and body composition, which can directly influence self-esteem and your confidence. Take, for example, a 160-pound man who has 20 percent body fat; 32 pounds of fat weight and 128 pounds of lean body weight (muscle, organs, bones, water, etc). By beginning an effective strength training program, he replaces five pounds of fat with five pounds of muscle. He still weighs 160 pounds, but he is now 17 percent fat with 27 pounds of fat weight and 133 pounds of lean body weight. Although his body weight remains the same, his strength, muscle tone, and metabolism have improved, giving him a fit and more attractive appearance.
Both our physical performance and appearance can be improved by muscle gain or hampered by muscle loss. Research indicates that unless we strength train regularly, we lose about one-half pound of muscle every year of our lives after age 30. Unless we implement a safe and effective weight lifting program, our muscles gradually decrease in size and strength in the process known as atrophy. Lifting weights is therefore important for preventing the muscle loss that normally accompanies the aging process. A common misconception is that as we get old, it is normal to stop being active and to start using ambulatory aides like canes and wheelchairs. Many people think we have no choice and think it is normal, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is absolutely no reason why all of us can’t be physically, mentally, socially, and sexually active, living a healthy vibrant life until our last day on the planet. The reason many elderly people rely on aides and become fatter and slower is simply that over the years their muscles have been wasting away, so their physical performance and metabolism also decrease, becoming less efficient.
Increased Metabolic Efficiency
That one-half pound of muscle loss every year after age 30 produces a one-half percent reduction in basal metabolic rate (BMR) every year. A reduction in BMR means that our bodies are less able to use the food we consume as energy, thus more gets stored as body fat. Basal metabolic rate refers to the energy used by our body at rest to maintain normal body functions. Our muscles have high-energy requirements and even when we are sleeping, they use more than 25% of our energy (calories). When you implement the principles of effective strength training and you are consistent in your program, you will achieve an increase in lean muscle mass throughout your body and increase your BMR.
In other words, you can actually condition your metabolism to work better and more efficiently even when you are at rest. An increase in muscle tissue causes an increase in metabolic rate, and a decrease in muscle tissue causes a decrease in metabolic rate. You can see that anyone interested in decreasing body fat percentage and their risk of disease as well as in increasing physical performance and appearance, should be strength training to help condition their metabolism (BMR). One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a weight-loss program is not including a strength training routine with their cardiovascular exercise and low-fat eating diet. This is not good because when we cut calories without exercise, we can lose muscle as well as fat.
Decreased Risk of Sustaining an Injury
The muscles also function as shock absorbers and serve as important balancing agents throughout our body. Well-conditioned muscles help to lessen the repetitive landing forces in weight-bearing activities such as running or playing basketball. Well-balanced muscles reduce the risk of injuries that result when a muscle is weaker than its opposing muscle group. To reduce the risk of unbalanced muscle development, you should make sure that when you are training a specific muscle group, the opposing muscle groups are being trained as well. For example, if you are doing bench-pressing exercises for your chest, you should include some exercises for your back muscles as well.