Strength training is 1 of the 3 pillars of fitness, alongside cardio and mobility. While each pillar offers unique health benefits, it’s crucial to incorporate all 3 for well-rounded fitness. In this article, we will focus on the importance of strength training and how it can transform your fitness journey by improving body composition, boosting metabolism, and helping you lose weight effectively.
7 strength training health benefits:
- Boosts metabolism and aids weight loss – Can you lose weight with strength training? Absolutely. Strength training has the remarkable ability to raise your body’s resting energy expenditure by approximately 5%. This increased metabolic rate not only improves body composition but also helps you lose weight.
- Regulates mood – Strength training relieves anxiety and reduces symptoms of depression.
- Burns fat – Does strength training burn fat? Yes. Strength training is a powerful tool for reducing levels of subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SAT), which contributes to unwanted belly fat. By incorporating strength training into your fitness routine, you can effectively burn fat and achieve a flatter stomach.
- Improves cognitive function – Strength training improves brain function, particularly in older people.
- Builds strong bones – Strength training encourages new bone tissue to form.
- Supports heart health – Strength training reduces high blood pressure.
- Reduces type 2 diabetes risk – Strength training improves your muscles’ capacity to store blood glucose in the form of glycogen.
Why stronger = healthier
Strength training’s health benefits stem from 2 factors: its impact on blood sugar regulation and its ability to increase muscle mass. As your muscle mass increases, your metabolism rises, leading to increased fat burning. Lowering your body fat percentage reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease, making strength training a crucial component of overall health.
As your muscle mass increases, your metabolism rises, leading to increased fat burning and lowering your body fat percentage.
The science of strength training
Here’s what happens to your body when you strength train:
- Your muscles move against the resistance created by your body or external weights.
- Fluid is driven from your blood plasma to your muscles. This gives you the “pumped” feeling you get right after a training session.
- You use creatine phosphate and glycogen energy stores in your muscles, eventually leading to muscle fatigue.
- Lactic acid builds up in your muscles, causing a burning sensation.
- Cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are produced, triggering a feel-good high.
- Muscle fibers tear as your muscles shorten and lengthen against resistance.
- Testosterone and insulin are produced to repair damaged muscle fibers.
- The damaged fibers are repaired, causing a small increase in the size of the muscle.
How to get stronger
To get stronger, you don’t need to hit the weights every day. But just how often should you strength train? We recommend training 2–3 times a week, with rest days between sessions. This gives your muscles time to repair and grow.
When it comes to how much you should lift, go too light and you’ll see no results; go too heavy and you’ll risk injury. The key is knowing your goal and pushing yourself to your limit. Namely, you need to do as many reps as possible, until you really can’t do any more—because you have to push your body to its limits for it to adapt.
Specific strategies are outlined here based on different goals: general fitness, strength improvement, and muscle building:
For general fitness, opt for weight or bodyweight exercises that challenge you to complete 3 sets of up to 12 reps. Incorporating compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups is beneficial.
To focus on strength improvement, choose exercises where you can perform 2-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a weight that challenges you. If the last rep feels too easy, increase the weight.
For muscle building, select a weight that allows you to do 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps, progressively increasing sets or reps over time. Maintaining proper form is crucial for optimal results.
To maximize your results, schedule strength training sessions later in the day. This timing has benefits such as improved muscle endurance due to carbohydrate intake, peak body temperature linked to better performance, and higher anaerobic capacity, resulting in increased muscle power output, which can be up to 7% higher in the evening.