Weight lifting has provided great benefits for many people. But, unfortunately, because it is accompanied by certain stereotypes or preconceived notions, many people don’t appreciate the opportunity that strength training offers for overall health and well-being. Although both the bodybuilder and offensive lineman, for example, certainly need to lift weights for their vocation, the weight room isn’t limited to people like them. Whether you prefer CrossFit or just walking as your exercise choice, lifting weights will help you.
Indeed, no matter who you are or what you do, lifting weights will likely enhance your life.
(Of course, if you have any health conditions, you should consult a medical professional before embarking on any fitness program).
Weight lifting—or resistance training, which can be done without weights—doesn't necessarily require fancy gyms or expensive equipment. Some basic dumbbells or kettlebells, or a barbell with weights, or even a pull-up bar, will offer sufficient benefits for you to start right away.
If you are interested in Crossfit, click here to read Six Reasons to Join a Crossfit Box.
If you want to improve your weightlifting performance, read our article on yoga for weightlifters.
Click on the pictures below to purchase from Amazon.
Six Benefits to Lifting Weights
(1) Lifting weights will help you become and stay lean.
If you go into a large commercial gym after the first of the year, you will inevitably find that the treadmills, elliptical machines, step machines, and stationary bicycles are full of new athletes that are determined—finally—to lose their holiday weight or become more lean. Or you will see the same person week after week and day after day, spending an hour on a treadmill, but seemingly making no progress (in more ways than one).
The truth is that if you want to become leaner and lose weight, you are much more likely to succeed if you add weight lifting or resistance training to your regiment. There are several reasons for this.
First, as you add muscle to your frame, you will burn more calories throughout the day to maintain that muscle. It is sort of like collecting interest on passive income—you make the investment and don’t have to do anything else for the accruing benefits (other than keep up the muscle). Cardio and aerobic exercise will burn calories during the exercise, but using weights and resistance will do a better job helping you burn calories during the rest of the day.
Indeed, Rania Mekary, a Harvard School of Public Health researcher, conducted a large long-term study that found that men who did 20 minutes of weight training each day gained less abdominal fat than men that did the same amount of aerobic activity each day.
Second, a weight lifting session—particularly one of high intensity—can burn a substantial amount of calories during the exercise and the immediate recovery.
Third, weight lifting will boost your basal metabolic rate for up to 24 hours post-workout, so you will burn even more calories during that time, even apart from the additional calories you are burning because you have extra muscle.
(2) Lifting weights will improve your health.
Lifting weights, like any exercise, will generally make you healthier. It is important, of course, to combine the exercise with a healthy diet, which—contrary to conventional wisdom—does not mean avoiding fat. For additional nutrition information, I highly recommend that you read Perfect Health Diet, by Jaminet and Jaminet.
With regard to lifting weights specifically, at least one study has found heart and other cardiovascular benefits, including lower blood pressure, from resistance training.
(3) Lifting weights will improve your athletic and life performance.
The athletic benefits aren’t hard to imagine. No matter what your sport, it is likely that added strength and the stability that often comes with strength, will help you compete. Whether you are playing tennis, golfing, or participating in an adult baseball league, some extra muscle can’t hurt.
From a lifestyle perspective, the benefits of strength are obvious. Your friends need you to help them move? No problem; you can help carry that big-screen television. Another snowy Minnesota day? No problem; get the shovel, it won’t take long. But the benefits also accrue to everyday activities like getting out of the car, or lifting up your child. The added strength will help.
(4) Lifting weights will help you age better.
As you age—into and beyond your 30’s—you will start to lose some muscle mass each year. Thus, adding muscle is particularly important for those that are on the other side of 30. In addition, weight lifting, besides strengthening your muscles, will strengthen your bones by increasing their density. This is especially important for those that are at risk for osteoporosis later in life. Finally, strength training will also help to limit the loss of joint flexibility that comes with aging. You can get really strong, even in your 40s and beyond.
(5) Lifting weights will reduce pain and minimize injury.
Lifting weights can strengthen your core muscles, which in turn will improve your posture, preserve your spine, and reduce back pain and the likelihood of injury. Strength training can particularly limit the likelihood of lower back pain. It also reduces your chance of injury by strengthening tendons, joints, and ligaments.
Finally, strength training can also improve your balance and coordination, which may, of course, keep you from falling or running into things.
(6) Lifting weights will improve your confidence and self-esteem.
Finally, strength training will boost your confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. Part of that is because it will likely help you develop the body you’d like. But separate and apart from that obvious benefit, there is a confidence and satisfaction that comes from being stronger, which you will notice throughout the day while performing life’s basic activities.
In addition, strength training like other exercise offers endorphins and can, for example, reduce depression symptoms. At the very least, it will reduce your stress, improve your mood and energy, and probably enhance your mental performance.
When lifting weights, please remember that form is everything. It is much better to do slower sets with perfect form at a lighter weight than faster sets with poor form with a heavier weight. If you are a beginner, start out slowly and work your way to greater weights. Concentrate on form first before worrying how much weight you can move. And find a coach or trainer that can offer you feedback on your form.
With regard to the more complicated lifts like power cleans, squats, and deadlifts, for example, you should make sure that you know and understand the proper form before starting them. But once you get rolling, you will love these exercises as you can become strong very quickly. These compound movements are incredibly efficient (and a lot of fun).
But no matter what you do, it is important that you do something. If all you have are some beat up dumbbells in your garage, get started. You can work more muscle groups than you probably think. Start slow, but start right away! You will be glad you did.
If you want to start strength training at home, you can purchase the equipment below on Amazon by clicking on the picture.
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