What is strength training?
Strength training is also known as weight training, resistance training, and muscular training.
The general definition of strength training is any physical movement in which you use your body weight or equipment (e.g., dumbbells and resistance bands) to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance.
The main types of strength training include:
14 benefits of strength training backed by science
There are many benefits to strength training that can improve your health.
Strength training helps you become stronger.
Gaining strength allows you to perform daily tasks much easier, such as carrying heavy groceries or running around with your kids.
Furthermore, it helps improve athletic performance in sports that require speed, power, and strength, and it may even support endurance athletes by preserving lean muscle mass.
Strength training helps boost your metabolism in two ways.
First, building muscle increases your metabolic rate. Muscles are more metabolically efficient than fat mass, allowing you to burn more calories at rest.
Second, research shows that your metabolic rate is increased up to 72 hours after strength-training exercise. This means that you’re still burning additional calories hours and even days after your workout.
Fat stored around the abdomen, especially visceral fat, is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Multiple studies have shown the benefit of strength-training exercises for reducing abdominal and total body fat.
As you build more muscle and lose fat, you will appear leaner.
This is because muscle is more dense than fat, meaning it takes up less space on your body pound for pound. Therefore, you may lose inches off of your waist even if you don’t see a change in the number on the scale.
Also, losing body fat and building stronger and larger muscles showcases more muscle definition, creating a stronger and leaner appearance.
Strength training lowers your risk of falls, as you’re better able to support your body.
In fact, one review including 23,407 adults over the age of 60 showed a 34% reduction in falls among those who participated in a well-rounded exercise program that included balance exercises and resistance and functional training.
Fortunately, many forms of strength training have been shown to be effective, such as tai chi, weight training, and resistance band and bodyweight exercises.
Including strength training in your exercise routine may reduce your risk of injury.
Strength training helps improve the strength, range of motion, and mobility of your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This can reinforce strength around major joints like your knees, hips, and ankles to provide additional protection against injury.
What’s more, strength training can help correct muscular imbalances. For example, having a stronger core, hamstrings, and glutes takes the load off of your lower back during lifting, decreasing your risk of lower-back injuries.
Finally, adult and teenage athletes that engage in strength training have a lower likelihood of injury.
In fact, one review including 7,738 athletes found strength-training programs reduced the risk of injury by 33%. It was found to lower the risk of injury in a dose-dependent manner, meaning for every 10% increase in strength-training volume, there was a 4% reduced risk of injury.
Multiple studies have shown that regular strength-training exercise can decrease blood pressure, lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and improve blood circulation by strengthening the heart and blood vessels.
Strength training also can help you maintain a healthy body weight and manage your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are a major risk factor for heart disease.
Strength training may lower your risk of developing diabetes and can help those with the condition manage it better.
Skeletal muscle helps increase insulin sensitivity. It also reduces blood sugar levels by removing glucose from the blood and sending it to muscle cells. As a result, greater muscle mass can help improve blood sugar management.
Strength training may also reduce your risk of developing diabetes. One study following 35,754 women for an average of 10 years showed a 30% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes among those who engaged in strength training compared with those who did not.
Contrary to popular belief, strength training can make you more flexible.
Strength training increases joint range of motion (ROM), allowing for greater mobility and flexibility. Plus, those with weaker muscles tend to have lower ROM and flexibility.
In fact, a recent review comparing stretching with strength training found they were equally effective at increasing ROM.
For best results, ensure you’re completing the full ROM of an exercise — in other words, utilize your full movement potential around a joint. For example, lower yourself into a squat as far as you’re able to go without compromising your form.
Strength training can add a major boost to your self-confidence.
It helps you overcome challenges, work toward a goal, and appreciate your body’s strength. In particular, it can increase your self-efficacy — the belief that you’re able to succeed at or perform a task — which can greatly improve your confidence.
In fact, one review of 7 studies in youth ages 10–16 years observed a significant association between strength training and high self-esteem, physical strength, and physical self-worth.
Additionally, a systematic review that studied 754 adults showed a significant link between strength training and positive body image, including body satisfaction, appearance, and social physique anxiety (the perception of judgment from others).
Strength training is crucial for bone development.
Weight-bearing exercises put temporary stress on your bones, sending a message to bone-building cells to take action and rebuild bones stronger. Having strong bones reduces your risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and falls, especially as you age.
Fortunately, you can reap the bone-strengthening benefits of strength training at any age.
Regular weight training may boost your mood and improve your mental health.
Multiple studies have shown that strength training may reduce anxiety and boost your mood.
Strength training confers multiple benefits to mood regulation, such as increased self-esteem and self-efficacy. What’s more, exercise promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which can play a role in a positive mood.
Those who engage in strength training may have better brain health and protection against age-related cognitive decline.
Multiple studies in older adults have pointed to significant improvements in cognitive function (e.g., processing speed, memory, and executive function) after participating in strength training, compared with those who did not participate in it.
It’s thought that resistance training has many neuroprotective effects, such as improved blood flow, reduced inflammation, and an increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is linked to memory and learning.
Strength training may increase your quality of life, especially as you age.
Numerous studies have linked strength training to increased health-related quality of life, defined as a person’s perceived physical and mental well-being.
In fact, one review of 16 studies including adults ages 50 years and older showed a significant correlation between resistance training and better mental health, physical functioning, pain management, general health, and vitality.
What’s more, strength training may improve quality of life in those with arthritis. One review of 32 studies showed strength training significantly improved scores in pain and physical functioning.
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