We all know that cardio exercise is good for our health, but, did you know that weight training may provide some other unique benefits?
These benefits extend into all areas, some of which typical cardiovascular training may not actually help with. Therefore, if you want to optimize your health and physique, weight training is key.
Let’s explore the science-backed benefits of weight training for your metabolism, physique, performance, heart and weight!
Benefits of Weight Training #1: Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity is a basic term for the body’s ability to handle carbohydrates in the proper and efficient manner.
If you have poor insulin sensitivity, more of the carbs you eat are likely to be stored in fat tissue or remain in the bloodstream. Over the long term, this leads to diabetes, other metabolic diseases, obesity, heart disease and even certain cancers.
However, if you have good insulin sensitivity, your body will store the carbs in the muscle, the right place for fueling hard training and keeping you healthy, lean and disease free!
Numerous studies have shown that weight training can improve markers of insulin sensitivity, in a variety of populations (Ahmadizad et al., 2014; Holten et al., 2004; Ishii et al., 1988; Hansen et al., 1998)
For example, even just 12 weeks of resistance training, 3 times per week for about an hour per session, has been shown to drastically improve markers of insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose and insulin levels (Croymans et al., 2013).
Benefits of Weight Training #2: Your Physique or Body Composition
If your goals include gaining muscle or losing fat, then weight training should definitely be in your program.
Many studies have shown a positive effect on adding lean body mass, maintaining lean body mass while dieting, and losing body fat…. sometimes even at the same time when following a weight training protocol (Nichols et al., 1993; Bryner et al., 1999).
For example, one particular study saw increases in lean body mass and decreases in body fat when undertaking just 3 days a week of weight training. However, these findings were not necessarily replicated for aerobic training (Willis et al., 2012).
Benefits of Weight Training #3: Burn More Calories
Muscle mass is a highly metabolic active tissue. In other words, muscle requires a lot of calories for fuel.
Therefore, adding more muscle mass keeps your metabolism high, helping you to burn more calories, eat more food and also better metabolize the food due to improved insulin sensitivity.
Over the long term, weight training results in greater muscle mass that necessitates more calories to be burned to keep your body functioning. For example, just a 2 pound increase in muscle tissue may raise resting metabolic rate by about 20 calories or more per day (Strasser & Schobersberger, 2010).
Although this may not sound much, if you have 10 or 20LB more muscle than your friend who is the exact same weight, you could be burning an extra 100 to 200 more calories per day. As I’ve said many times, when it comes to calories, every little bit adds up (after all, obesity is caused by an average consumption of only 50-70 more calories per day!!).
In the short term, weight training can also cause a relatively large increase in energy expenditure that may persist for 72 hours after the training session, possibly boosting your metabolism by up to 10%. These finds are further accelerated if you use an advanced method such as my Metabolic Resistance Training (Hackney et al., 2008; Haden et al., 2011).
In this study, they found that performing 1-3 sets of 10 exercises was shown to increase energy expenditure by 5% for 72 hours after the workout (Haden et al., 2011).
With weight training, think about the multiple ways you are burning more calories…
- Performing the session itself (which can burn up to 1000 calories if you follow my advance workouts!),
- In the 2-3 days after (due to an increase in metabolism),
- In the long term by adding more muscle.
Remember, even 50-100 calories of additional calories burned per day can help to shred body fat and get you to your target weight faster.
Benefits of Weight Training #4: Sports Performance
It’s very difficult to directly relate the changes in wins, losses, points scored, or other performance variables in relation to weight training.
However, numerous studies have been published in journals such as the NSCA’s Strength and Conditioning Journal showing a positive association between weight training and improved strength, power and speed (Campos et al., 2002; Baker & Newton, 2006; Harris et al., 2000)
Some studies have been designed to assess the effect of strength training on certain performance variables, which, although they aren’t quite match conditions, are a pretty accurate method to assess its benefits.
For instance, one study compared a high-volume, periodized, multiple-set weight training program (multiple sets per exercise) to a low-volume, heavy-weight circuit program (only 1 set per exercise) over 9 months of training in competitive women tennis players.
As shown below, they found that maximal serve velocity (speed/power) was improved to a greater extent in the multiple set group versus the groups that only performed one set, or did not complete any weight training at all (Kraemer et al., 2000).
Benefits of Weight Training #5: Heart Health
Cardiovascular diseases are a major threat to the health and life expectancy of our society.
Research shows that approximately one-third of American adults have hypertension (blood pressure), and approximately 45% of Americans have unhealthy blood lipid profiles (cholesterol) that increase their risk of heart disease (Ong et al., 2007; Lloyd-Jones et al., 2009).
While people are often quick to recommend cardio, one 2011 literature review concluded that, “weight training is at least as effective as aerobic endurance training in reducing some major cardiovascular disease risk factors” (Singh et al., 2005).
Several other studies have demonstrated improvements in blood pressure, reduced resting systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure, following a period of resistance training (Cauza et al., 2005; Hurley et al., 2000).
For instance, a recent review of 12 studies calculated the average changes of weight training as a drop of −6.0 mm Hg systolic and −4.7 mm Hg diastolic. Even these small improvements can play a BIG role in improving heart health and general health! (Cornelissen & Fagard, 2005).
Benefits of Weight Training #6: Prevents Age-related Declines in Muscle Mass
One of the hallmarks of aging is a condition called sarcopenia. Basically, this is an age associated decline in muscle mass which can lead to loss of muscle function, reduced strength and impaired quality of life.
However, one of the best ways to prevent this decline in muscle function is, yes, you guessed it… weight training (Burton & Sumukadas, 2010; Aagaard et al., 2010).
For instance, in a healthy but sedentary elderly population, adding just 2 weeks of weight training (3x per week) increased muscle mass, decreased fat mass and increased strength compared to the control group (Devries et al., 2015).
In addition, a new paper, hot off the press, concluded that a life of strength training has a protective effect against age-related declines of neuromuscular function.
In contrast, no beneficial effect seemed to be obtained from habitual recreational activity (i.e. normal lower intensity activity), indicating that strength training may be particularly important as we age (Unhjem, et al., 2016).
Benefits of Weight Training #7: Stronger Bones
Remember the ads that showed an athlete or child with a glass of milk promoting milk being good for your bones?
Well, the same ads should be replaced with a child holding a barbell or dumbbell!
Research has found that adults who do not perform weight training may experience a 1% to 3% reduction in bone mineral density (BMD) every year of life. If you do the maths, that quickly adds up over 30, 40 or 50 years! (Wescott, 2012)
Without getting too complex, just like our muscles would adapt, the load that weight training places on your bones stimulates positive adaptations and reinforcements (remember, your body is a survival machine), helping your bones to grow bigger and stronger.
Studies have shown that weight training has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density, at all stages of life from childhood to old age. While I’m not recommending a child starts lifting heavy weights, it is pretty clear that a lifetime of strength / resistance training can help optimize bone health (Behringe ret al., 2014; Gomez-Cabello et al., 2012; Bolam et al., 2012).
In this study below, male students who weight trained 3x per week for 24 weeks were found to have an increase in BMD between 2.7 and 7.7%, depending on the area of the body (remember, that’s just in half a year) (Almstedt et al., 2011).
The more that you can increase your bone density and bone health in your younger years, the less likely you are to suffer any consequences of age-related declines in bone mass. So, if you want to keep your bones strong and healthy, lift some heavy weights on a consistent basis!
The Benefits of Weight Training Are Endless…
While the general public often consider weight training as an exclusive exercise for bodybuilders, you can now see its benefits are almost endless.
Health, disease risk, obesity, bone health, diabetes, metabolic function, sports performance, cardiovascular health and the list goes on…
If you want to keep your body looking and feeling strong, while keeping your bones, organs and metabolism healthy, make sure you include some sort of weight training on a weekly basis.
If you are looking to shred fat or add lean muscle tone while doing this, check out my unique Metabolic Resistance Training (Blog Post) which offers a fast-paced weight training workout!
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