Public health initiatives tend to favour the promotion of steady-state continuous exercises such as walking, jogging and swimming. Although these activities can improve certain areas of health, there is another mode of training with many more performance and health benefits… Resistance Training.
Resistance training (sometimes called strength training or weights) usually involves adding resistance to muscular contractions to build the strength, size and anaerobic endurance of skeletal muscles. For many people starting out on their fitness journeys, lifting weights can be a daunting prospect. However, with expert guidance and support, resistance training is not only safe for most people, but it has also far-reaching health benefits.
The most obvious benefits of resistance training are gains in strength and muscle size. We all know our favourite athletes lift weights to get stronger and more powerful to improve their performance. There’s nothing stopping you from getting in on the action. After a resistance training session, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibres through a cellular process. These repaired fibre increase in thickness and number to create muscle hypertrophy (growth).
Less obvious is resistance training’s effects on reducing the risk of injury as well as increasing bone density and improving posture. Thus strength training allows us to perform our daily tasks with greater ease and comfort.
Resistance training, along with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and appropriate nutrition, has been shown to be the most effective ways to reduce body fat. Lifting weights increases short-term metabolism, and by gaining lean muscle mass, long term metabolism is increased. A reduction in body fat reduces your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.
Although the mental health benefits of exercise are often exaggerated especially in terms of treating medically diagnosed mental illness, resistance training can have a positive effect on mental health. This comes in the form of an improved sense of wellbeing, a boost in self-confidence, improvements in body image and mood. Just like muscles, the brain has the capacity to change itself in response to internal and external influences through neuroplasticity.
Many of these benefits can be obtained by lifting weights just once a week. However, we recommend adding strength training to your program at least 2-3 days a week to achieve your performance and health goals. Learning proper lifting techniques and having specialists periodise your programming will maximise the benefits of resistance training.