Resistance training has never been more popular than it is today, and its popularity has never been more diverse. For a long time, resistance training was performed almost exclusively by young men, as there was a belief that women would get too “bulky” if they performed exercises that were designed to increase strength and muscle size.
Resistance training was also avoided by the very young, and the very old. As it was believed to be too dangerous for them to perform. These worries have been thoroughly debunked, and today it is not unusual to see men and women of all ages performing resistance exercises.
In this article, we will be taking a look at five benefits of resistance training. Hopefully, this will inspire and encourage those of you who are on the fence, to start adding resistance training into your gym sessions.
What is Resistance Training?
Resistance training refers to a particular type of exercise whereby an individual is working against resistive forces. This stimulus, under the right conditions will trigger an adaptive response that may ultimately lead to the benefits listed below. There are many different forms of resistance training:
- Bodyweight exercises
- Free weights (barbells and dumbbells)
- Resistance machines (leg press, lat pulldown, leg extension)
- Resistance bands
Resistance training is mostly used to increase strength or increase muscle size (hypertrophy). But it can also be used for fat loss or as a form of cardiovascular exercise. Resistance training can also be used by a physiotherapist as a form of injury rehab, or as a preventative (prehab).
Five Benefits of Resistance Training
There are many health benefits related to resistance training. There are mental health benefits, improvements in mood and cognition, improved sleep quality, and a reduced risk of certain diseases. But these are all examples of indirect health benefits. The following benefits are direct benefits from resistance training.
Benefit #1 Resistance Training Can Improve Your Physique
This is the most well known benefit. Following a resistance training program can lead to increases in muscle size and improvements in body composition. Studies have shown that resistance training is effective at improving body composition, particularly when combined with aerobic exercise .
Of course, for resistance training to be truly effective at improving your physique, it must be combined with a decent diet. But resistance training cannot be overlooked if you want to have toned arms and legs, and an aesthetically pleasing physique.
Benefit #2 Resistance Training Can Reduce Injury Risk
There are two ways in which resistance training can reduce injury risk. 1) Resistance training can make your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments more robust and less likely to be harmed if you have an accident. 2) Resistance training can help your body to become more efficient and athletic, making injury less likely.
For example, performing Romanian deadlifts can help to increase the strength and the flexibility of your hamstrings. This makes them less likely to tear while running.
But it also helps you to run more efficiently, requiring less effort to run a certain distance, and therefore reducing the strain placed on your hamstrings.
Benefit #3 Resistance Training Can Improve Sporting Performance
This was touched on briefly in the previous benefit, but resistance training can make you more efficient in your movements and it can improve the flexibility and mobility of your body. Resistance training can also increase power, endurance, strength, and speed. It can help you become more agile and may improve your coordination. All of this can translate into sporting success.
Benefit #4 Resistance Training Can Help Burn Fat
While aerobic exercise is often the go-to form of training for people looking to burn fat, resistance training is actually more effective overall. Not only does it burn calories at a high rate, but it also increases muscle mass which can in turn raise your metabolism slightly.
The best way to burn fat is to combine resistance training and aerobic training, which can lead to more calories burned per session. Pair this with a diet that creates a calorie deficit (burning more calories than consuming) and you have the ideal recipe for fat loss.
Benefit #5 Resistance Training Can Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
Few people consider resistance training to be a form of cardio. But this is due to a misunderstanding of what cardio is. Cardio stands for cardiovascular training, which is defined as any form of exercise that raises your heartrate and keeps it elevated for a prolonged period of time.
Next time you are performing a set of deadlifts, measure your heartrate, you may be surprised to see that it is beating just as hard during your three sets of deadlifts as it would during a run around your local park. However, this isn’t considered to be direct cardio training, since the heartrate is only elevated for a short amount of time.
There are certainly some advantages to incorporating traditional cardio exercises (running, swimming, cycling etc) into your program. But a resistance training program is a good form of cardio in its own right. Combining the two (as you would for fat loss) can produce superb results .
Resistance training is amazing for increasing strength and muscle size, and it can be highly effective for fat loss. But many people underestimate how effective it can be for sporting performance as well as for your health. In many ways, resistance training is the most efficient form of training, as you can get more done in a shorter period of time.
That is not to say that there aren’t many benefits to aerobic exercise, and to high intensity interval training (HIIT). A good program should incorporate all three, provided your goals are aligned with them.