10 surprising benefits of strength training
We all know about the muscle and strength gains that can come from working out with weights. Now I want to shine a spotlight on some of the lesser known gains – from your metabolism to your mind.
Can lifting weights burn fat? Is lifting weights good for your heart? The answer is a big yes to both!
But the underrated benefits of strength training don’t end there.
Let’s get lifting.
Grab your dumbbells, folks, it’s time to learn.
1. Fire up your metabolism
There are a lot of myths around metabolism, but the one thing we actually know will speed it up is strength training. According to a study called ‘Resistance training is medicine’ (I love that title!) just 10 weeks of resistance training can increase lean muscle mass, increase your resting metabolism and reduce fat.
On the flip side, “inactive adults” will experience 3-8 percent loss of muscle mass, “accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation”. Simply put, the more lean muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn even when you’re doing nothing.
Instead of asking “How many calories does weightlifting burn?” you might want to ask how many calories you’re still burning long after your weights session is over!
2. Strength training builds bone density
Strength training builds way more than muscles! Any activity that “loads” or “stresses” your bones – like lifting weights – wakes up bone-forming cells and puts them to work. According to Harvard, “the result is stronger, denser bones”.
This is great news for preventing age-related bone loss and osteoporosis. The areas where older people are more likely to fracture bones, like the wrists, ankles and hips, are also specifically strengthened with resistance training.
You can’t see it, but the bones underneath those muscles are just as strong.
This is why one of the best things you can do for your future self is to build a strength training habit that will keep you strong and active and lessen bone loss associated with aging.
3. Make a mind-body connection
Our thoughts are inextricably linked to our physical health. But when we talk about the mind-body connection in strength training, we’re zooming in to focus intently on the muscle we’re working.
For instance, when you’re doing a bicep curl you’re visualizing that muscle and feeling how it moves – every concentric and eccentric movement is conscious and deliberate.
Research has shown that this mindful approach can boost the growth of specific muscles. So lock in good form then focus on the muscle, not lifting the weight.
Promising studies have shown that lifting weights over extended periods can halt brain degeneration, as well as increase cognitive function such as memory and reasoning.
4. Strengthen joints
If you’re worried about heavy weights impacting your joints, think again. Strength training is a low-impact exercise that helps strengthen not only joints and ligaments, but the muscles surrounding them – making you an all-round stronger machine.
Stronger muscles and ligaments help to hold the body upright and protect your bones and joints when moving. If you’ve ever talked to a physical therapist about how to strengthen joints, this is why they’ll tell you to build up the muscles nearby.
Lifting weights will also help you reduce weight, which in turn takes the pressure off major joints like the knees, reducing the risk and pain of osteoarthritis.
5. Boost brain power
We already know that aerobic exercise can positively affect your mind. It pumps the brain with oxygen, supports neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to learn and adapt), improves cognition and releases feel-good endorphins, reducing depression and stress.
Learn faster, feel better, get stronger – what’s not to love about lifting?
But there’s a reason I dedicated a whole page of my book The Science of HIIT to the benefits of resistance training for the brain! While research in this area is still limited, promising studies have shown that lifting weights over extended periods can halt brain degeneration, as well as increase cognitive function such as memory and reasoning.
6. Lifting weights is good for your heart
A key indicator of fitness is how efficiently your body transports oxygen to your muscles, via the cardiovascular system, to release the energy needed for physical activity. A great way to improve this cardiovascular function is through strength training.
Resistance workouts improve cardiovascular efficiency in several ways:
training the heart to work at a faster rate and pump more with each beat
increasing the overall volume of blood and the quantity of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin which helps to convert energy stores into energy for bodily functions
increasing the density and improving the function of capillaries around muscles.
7. Testosterone level up for men
I know what you’re thinking, guys. “Does lifting weights increase testosterone?” Yes, it does! Studies have shown increased levels of testosterone in men immediately after exercise and, in men who did regular strength training for a month, a long-term increase in levels.
Why is testosterone so important? Low levels can lead to depression, fatigue and erectile dysfunction. Higher levels can improve muscle strength and mass, promote red blood cell production, increase your sex drive and increase sperm production.
Two words: GET LIFTING!
8. Get a great night’s sleep
If you want to sleep better, lift weights. No, really! Regular strength training can help to improve the quality of your sleep, resulting in better overall health and longevity.
One study showed that, over 12 months, people who did muscle-building "slept an average of 17 minutes longer". I know I’d take an extra 17 minutes, how about you?
Someone just got 17 minutes extra sleep!
9. Confidence gains
This may not be a benefit you can measure on the scale, but I’ve seen a real shift in my clients from one session to the next. When you feel good about yourself, you walk a little differently.
You start lifting, the endorphins kick in and you’re feeling good, then you see the changes all your hard work has made… What a boost in self-esteem!
10. Move better through life
Functional strength training focuses on everyday movements like bending, reaching, getting up and squatting down.
Training in this way with added resistance makes everyday movements smoother and easier – especially as we age.
HIIT HIRT • STRENGTH
Ingrid Clay will get you lifting strong and burning it up with bodyweight in HIIT HIRT Strength workouts. Ingrid is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and plant-based chef who draws on her physics and engineering background to sculpt bodies through exercise and nutrition. She’s also an NPC National qualifier bodybuilder and author of The Science of HIIT.
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