Today, weight training is all the rage – and not just for the young, buff crowd anymore. You’re just as likely now to see women, people ages 60+ and even kids pumping iron.
The good news about the numerous benefits of strength training continues to spread, so more people understand why they should hit the weights. Whether you work out with dumbbells, barbells, elastic tubing, selectorized machines, plate-loaded equipment, or just your own body weight, consistent strength training has been shown to deliver a multitude of physical and mental benefits.
10 Weight Training Benefits
- Increased muscular strength and endurance
- Toned physique
- Higher metabolism
- Better balance, coordination and posture
- Stronger bones, tendons and ligaments
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of some diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis
- Enhanced mental health and management of anxiety and depression
- Greater cognitive abilities, such as memory
- More self-confidence and self-esteem
This is just a start, as research continues to uncover new ways that strength training can enhance quality of life. It’s no wonder, then, that more people are hoisting dumbbells.
While there is indeed more general knowledge overall, specific misconceptions about weight work still exist. Here we bust some common myths with facts about weight training.
Weight Training: Busting Myths with Facts
- WOMEN WILL GET BULKY IF THEY LIFT WEIGHTS. This is one of the diehard myths that has caused women in the past to stick with cardio only. But it’s wrong! The fact is that women don’t have enough testosterone naturally in their bodies to build huge muscle mass, and estrogen keeps them looking female. By lifting weights, they will create toned curves and a more sculpted, but still feminine, physique.
- YOU DON’T NEED TO STRENGTH TRAIN IF YOU DO CARDIO. The truth is that cardio and weight work are different, and both are important for optimal health and fitness. Cardio elevates the heart rate over a longer duration via steady-state work or intervals, conditioning the heart and lungs.In contrast, weight training is working the muscles against resistance to build muscular strength and endurance. Muscular strength is the maximum force your can exert in one repetition, while endurance refers to the ability of a muscle to exert sub-maximal force repeatedly.
- CARDIO BURNS MORE CALORIES AND FAT THAN STRENGTH WORK . This depends on the intensity and duration of workouts, and isn’t a hard and fast fact. Assuming both workouts are 30 minutes, if you’re running with all out-intervals, you may burn more calories than a leisurely trip through some weight machines for a few sets of light reps. Then again, if you take on HIIT exercises with weights in a circuit format, you may blast a lot more calories than you do watching Netflix on autopilot the elliptical. It’s all relative to how hard you are working.What’s important to note, however, is that strength training builds muscle mass, so that your metabolism increases after workouts and as you consistently lift. Muscle, or lean tissue, burns calories, and the more of it you have, the more calories you torch – whether you’re walking the dog or playing games on your phone.
- LIGHT WEIGHTS ARE BEST FOR WOMEN; HEAVY WEIGHTS ARE FOR MEN. Men typically have more muscle mass and therefore are naturally stronger than most women, but that doesn’t mean that females should stick to the 5-pound dumbbells. While beginners may start with lighter weights, both women and men need to add heavier resistance over time to make progress as they get stronger. To get the best results from strength training, you must subject your body to progressive overload, whereby you continue to challenge the muscles with resistance levels that cause fatigue in the last few reps of each set.
- FREE WEIGHTS ARE THE BEST WAY TO STRENGTH TRAIN. While free weights are a great tool because they activate lots of muscles and require self-stabilization, they aren’t definitively better than all the other options. Selectorized or plate-loaded machines are helpful for beginners because they have a set range of motion and offer safety and support. And for heavy lifters who don’t have a spotter, plate-loaded equipment is safer. Cable and pulley machines offer greater range of motion and facilitate a variety of exercises for different muscle groups.Resistance bands and tubing offer a different way to tax muscles, and are lightweight and portable for workouts at home or when traveling. Body weight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups and crunches are ultra-convenient, although eventually you need to add additional resistance to continue achieving results. And today, there are multiple accessories, like kettlebells, medicine balls, sand bags, sleds and more that add valuable variety.
- STRENGTH TRAINING LETS YOU SPOT REDUCE. Just because you do 1,000 crunches per day doesn’t mean you’ll sport a six-pack. Or that endless leg lifts will give you thinner thighs. Yes, these exercises will work those target muscles and can add definition, but body fat must be reduced in this area to show a more sculpted physique. Without reducing your body fat through cardio, strength work and a smart diet, no one exercise can make you look rock hard in a specific area.
- YOU HAVE TO WEIGHT TRAIN EVERY DAY TO GET RESULTS. It’s not recommended to perform heavy lifting daily, as you cause small microtears in the muscles. Without a day or two of rest, your muscles can’t recover and grow. A healthy regimen is to hit the major muscle groups every other day, or three times weekly, depending on your goals. If you love being in the weight room every day, do a split routine, such as working upper-body one day and lower body the next to allow for recovery and guard against overtraining.
- STRENGTH WORK IS ONLY EFFECTIVE YOU’RE SORE AFTERWARDS. If you’re a beginner, or you’re continually trying new exercises or adding intensity with heavier weights, you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), caused by microtears in the muscles and new challenges. Rest and light stretching can reduce discomfort. But once you’ve been strength training for a while, if you’re still sore after every workout, you may need to reduce the weights or adjust your routine.
- WEIGHT TRAINING IS BAD FOR YOUR JOINTS. In reality, weight training strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints, which improves stability and mobility. Studies have shown that people with knee pain experienced less discomfort and greater ease of movement after consistent strength work.
- IF YOU STOP STRENGTH TRAINING, YOUR MUSCLES TURN TO FAT. Good news! It is physiologically impossible for one type of tissue, such as muscle, to turn into another type, such as fat, and vice versa. Your muscles will atrophy if you stop lifting weights, so they may appear smaller, and you may look flabbier. But muscles only will shrink and become weaker; they don’t convert to blobs of fat.
Strength training can be performed at the gym or at home with a variety of simple accessories, and you can hire a trainer to create a personal regimen, take classes, use apps, try streaming workouts or online routines or check magazines for programs. What’s important is to commit to this over time, and then enjoy its incredible, body- and mind-changing benefits!