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Weight Training Isn’t Just For Bodybuilders

September 21, 2017

Weight training can be intimidating to someone who has never done it before. Think of what comes to mind: rippling comic book-style bodies, preening and posing, grunting and sweating.

It is easy to see why anyone who is not a competitive bodybuilder or chasing some idealised figure would avoid it. But the truth is somewhat different. Everybody needs to weight train.

How do muscles work?

Muscles contract to produce force which allows movement. Normal daily activities – walking, going up stairs, picking an object off the floor – all require muscles. Strengthening muscles allows them to get bigger, stronger, and perform tasks for longer before fatiguing.

Weight training is the application of an external force or load to increase the force produced by the muscles. This can be through various implements such as weight machines, barbells, dumbbells, or medicine balls.

What’s so good about weight training?

Beyond an improved physical appearance, you can reap these benefits too:

1. Physical capacity

Our ability to perform work and exercise diminishes with age. Weight training helps counter the effects of ageing while maintaining our capacity and performance abilities.

2. Body composition

Our total body weight comprises fat weight and lean weight, with muscles making up nearly half the latter. Ageing and not training causes a yearly loss of about 0.5 pounds of muscle mass.

This means that it’s not even enough to maintain your body weight over a 10-year period without training. Body fat will take the place of this lost muscle mass, and skew the proportion of fat and lean weight.

To prevent this from accelerating, do more weight training.

3. Metabolic function

Muscles are constantly active, even during sleep, to repair and maintain the body. This consumes calories and is referred to as the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).

Higher muscle mass from weight training leads to a higher RMR. The result? Increased daily calorie burn, greater fat loss, and the slowing down of degenerative processes that come with ageing.

4. Reduced injury risk

Repetitive actions like running cause muscle imbalances and stresses. Muscles serve as shock absorbers and balancing agents. Weight training enables muscles to better absorb repetitive stress and correct imbalances, thus reducing injury risk.

5. Disease prevention

Regular weight training reduces the likelihood of diseases. These include increased bone density (osteoporosis); improved insulin response and glucose utilisation (diabetes); and decreased resting blood pressure and lipid levels (cardiovascular disease).

It has even been shown to reduce pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as decrease depressive symptoms in adults.

What are the myths of weight training?

Despite a range of benefits, misconceptions on weight training still persist. Let’s clear up some of those:

1. I am a woman. Will I get bulky muscles?

The short answer is no. Testosterone is responsible for the development of large muscles, and women have lower levels of it than men. So the rate of muscle growth between both sexes will be different.

Furthermore, it takes many hours of dedicated and intense weight training to develop large muscles. A regular weight training programme will not cause that.

2. Women are weaker so should not lift weights.

Men may have a larger quantity of muscles compared to women. But in terms of strength production per unit, muscles in women and men are the same.

3. I am a runner. Weight training will slow me down.

Running, or any other athletic endeavour, requires muscles to work optimally. Between ironing out imbalances and strengthening muscles, weight training enhances athletic performance.

Even seasoned athletes weight train so they can perform for longer and more intensively during their sports.

4. I am too young / too old.

Muscles and bones in youth develop through normal growth and maturation. But youth who perform weight training develop greater strength and skeletal development compared to their non-training peers. They also demonstrate better psychosocial health, motor skills and sports performance.

And just because you age, doesn’t mean that you should give up on weight training completely. Weight training is all the more essential! Loads just have to be manageable and your recovery time adequate. Otherwise, older adults respond to weight training just as younger adults do.

5. I can selectively train to reduce fat from only one part of my body

While sculpting and toning a muscle can give a leaner appearance, targeted fat loss cannot be done. Still, weight training is excellent for overall fat reduction.

Start your own weight training regimen!

Now that you’ve been armed with all this knowledge, why not embark on a sensible weight training regimen?

Just remember: dietary adjustments need to be made with adequate carbohydrates to replenish lost energy stores, and increased protein to aid in the repair of muscles. You may also find excellent online resources for all fitness levels. For newcomers, it might be wise to engage a fitness professional to provide proper coaching and guidance.

Let’s look forward to a stronger, healthier you!