Every time you think of weight lifting, the image of chiseled chests and bulked up muscles come to mind. This notion makes weight lifting more of a sport for athletes and fitness buffs looking to gain muscle.
However, the call for increased strength training to improve overall health and quality of life has become resoundingly clear. One published journal went as far as calling resistance training “medicine.”
The benefits of weight lifting are not limited to gaining muscle and increasing strength. Such benefits have been found to overlap with other preferred fitness methods like cardio, especially among older adults.
Benefits of Weightlifting
For the longest time, weightlifting benefits have been downplayed and washed down to simply gaining muscle. Weightlifting not only impacts your muscles and increases overall physical strength. There are mental and other physical benefits, as well. Some of these include:
1. Improved Mental Performance
This sounds like a line from a fad diet advertisement. But one study showed that people who exercised regularly had better mental acuity.
The study focused on overweight and sedentary adults subjected to cardio and weight training for four months. Upon completion of the study, the participants had a smaller waist and their mental activity tests showed they could learn and hold new information faster and more efficiently.
Exercise has been found to increase the levels of growth factors in the brain. Even better, a study conducted by a team of researchers showed that weight training could potentially lead to more neurogenesis compared to other methods of training, like cardio.
2. It Relieves Stress
Any form of physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress. Engaging in weight lifting can help to release endorphins. Once again, weight training has an edge because the body produces more of the feel-good hormones. It achieves this in a shorter time when lifting weights than when you’re doing cardio.
Suppose weight training is your escape from stress, you should also know that some strength training exercises are more effective in producing endorphins than others. You should try compound exercises – routines that involve multiple muscle groups like deadlifts, bench presses, and barbell squats.
3. Stronger Bones
Strength training is an efficient way of increasing bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Strong bones mean you’re less prone to fractures and breaks as you grow older. In addition to improving bone strength, weight training also boosts balance. Together, these two benefits can help you age gracefully and allow you to remain independent longer while enjoying the most of what life has to offer.
4. Improved Confidence and Self-esteem
In the beginning, many people don’t believe they’re cut out for lifting weights, but with a carefully crafted program, your fears become a success story. Over time, you gradually increase the amount of weight you can lift, boosting your confidence, and eliminating doubt.
The improved physique and toned muscles also go a long way in boosting confidence in your public image. Every set goal that you achieve makes you bolder, stronger, and more confident.
5. Reverse the signs of aging
Yup! Loss of muscle tissue and strength is one of the aspects of aging. Improving strength is an effective way of slowing down the process of aging.
It’s not just your muscles that benefit from picking up weights but your genes as well. Increasing your strength also helps to slow down the effects of aging on your genes.
6. A happier, healthier life
A great deal of the happiness most people experience after picking up weights is a culmination of all the above benefits. Being more confident, having a better image and a healthier body, and overcoming what you initially thought was impossible will make you appreciate and see life differently.
Various studies have shown that strength training can improve mood, achieving the same effects as anti-depressant medications without the side effects.
How Many Calories Does Weight Lifting Burn?
Most people turn to cardio for losing weight. But lifting also helps to burn a substantial amount of calories.
The precise amount of calories you burn depends on various factors like the intensity of the lifting sessions and your metabolism. Here are some approximated figures on the number of calories you can burn when strength training:
- In a 30 minutes general strength training session, a 155-pound person can burn up to 112 calories.
- In a more vigorous lifting session, the same person can burn up to 223 calories within the same 30 minutes.
Even though cardio will burn more calories, it’s worse at supporting weight loss than strength training in the long run.
Lifting increases muscle mass. More muscle means a higher demand for calories even when the body is at rest, turning your body into a calorie-torching machine, as one study found out.
How to Start Lifting Weights
Don’t let the excitement of getting started, rush you into your fitness journey. The extent of benefits you can enjoy depends on building a strong foundation and a good approach. That’s why you need a tactical approach right out of the gate
That doesn’t mean you should start by hiring a world-class strength trainer. But you could use some of these tips to enhance your experience and results:
- Pay for a single lesson – Getting off to the right start is critical. Most times, you can only get the vital details of posture and proper routine from an expert. Though valuable, strength trainers can be expensive. If your budget allows, pay for a single lesson. Use this opportunity to design your workout routine and master the proper form.
- Start with bodyweight exercises – If your budget doesn’t allow it, you should start with bodyweight exercises to help prepare your muscles. Bodyweight exercises are also an excellent warm-up routine.
- Start slow – Don’t rush into picking the heaviest weights in the gym. In the beginning, your focus should be on maintaining the right posture through your sets. When you transition into weights, start with workouts that focus on multiple muscle groups and when you’re not sure how heavy you should be lifting, use the “two rep rule.”
- Workout in front of a mirror – A mirror will help you maintain proper form when executing the different workouts.
- Be consistent – Once you start, don’t stop. The goal should be to train at least three times a week. But you can customize your workout plan as you please.
- Don’t overwork yourself – Being intense all the time will do more harm than good. When you’re tired all the time, it’s difficult to make any progress. Allow your body enough recovery time and instead focus on being consistent with your routine.
Different Lifting Terminology
Once you start strength training, you will hear terms like “reps” and “sets” quite often. Reps (repetitions) are the number of times you repeat the lift. The reps are then grouped into sets for easier tracking. You should choose how you would like to group your sets:
- Straight sets – Straight sets are the standard method of organizing your workout. Straight sets mean you repeat the same number of repetitions using the same weight for the same exercise.
- Pyramid sets – For pyramid sets, you will adjust the weight and the reps. Set one can include 12 reps of 60-pound weights, set two can have ten reps of 70 pounds, and the third set of eight reps with 80-pound weights.
- Supersets – In a superset, you pair two exercises in one set. You can have an agonist superset that focuses on the same muscle group or an antagonist superset that works opposite muscle groups. The purpose of supersets is to increase the intensity of the workout by reducing resting time.
- Drop sets – These are popular among bodybuilders and are designed to increase muscular endurance. When you reach muscular failure in a drop set, instead of resting, you reduce the weight and continue.
- Tri sets and giant sets – In a tri-set, you combine the first three types of sets, while a giant set is grouping three or more exercises before taking a rest.
Challenges of Weightlifting and How to Overcome Them
The journey to a better looking and healthier body and mind is not easy. You’re going to face obstacles as soon as you decide to start strength training. Here are a few of the challenges to expect.
- Lack of initiative – It is one thing to decide you want to start lifting and another to start. The best solution, in this case, is not to procrastinate. Push yourself to get started as soon as possible, and it will get easier as you go along.
- Not having the funding – You don’t always have to start at a gym with a trainer. You can learn a few basic routines, buy some essential gym equipment, and get started with those. You can also utilize free resources such as free YouTube course to learn.
- Strength training plateaus – These are quite common and very frustrating. At first, the muscle gain is quick and visible, but you can start to feel as if you’re working out with no results after a few months. Increasing intensity, varying your exercises, changing the order of workouts, and even resting can help you get out of the slump and start seeing results once more.
- Proper planning – With a good plan, you can maintain a proper balance between your workouts and the rest of your life and still get enough time to rest. Lack of proper planning can cause you to give up on strength training because you’re always tired, so it’s crucial that you get it right.
- Lack of consistency – Sometimes, you don’t want to get out of bed. Hiring a trainer can help you with this. Alternatively, you can have a workout buddy to motivate each other on those days when you would rather take a rest.
Don’t forget, proper nutrition is a must for you to enjoy excellent results. You should also remember to drink a lot of water to keep you hydrated even when you’re not working out.