Benefits of Strength Training


I’ve made it no secret that lifting weights is my favorite form of exercise. Cardio is great, and I enjoy it as well, but there is nothing like a  good weight lifting session to get me energized and feeling like I could take on the world – and come out on top. If I get irritated or frustrated with things that are out of my control, give me an hour and a half in the weight room to clear my mind and I am good to go.

Not everyone enjoys weight lifting like I do. For those of you who may need just a little bit of convincing to grab a pair of dumbbells and get lifting, today’s post is going to cover some of the chronic adaptations (long term benefits) to strength training. Hopefully, I’ll have pulled a few of you over to my side of the fence by the time we’re through.

A Few Benefits of Consistent Strength Training

Increased Muscle Size and Strength:

When there is an increase in the cross-sectional area of a muscle, it is referred to as hypertrophy. There are two types of hypertrophy that occur as a result of strength training. The first type  can be experienced with just one session of weight lifting. It is the feeling that you get right after finishing a weightlifting session when your muscles feel hard and “pumped”. The reason they feel that way is because  blood plasma “fills in” the intracellular and interstitial spaces and because lactic acid is built up faster than your body can clean it out  which results in the “pumped” feeling, referred to as transient hypertrophy.

The second type of hypertrophy takes more commitment to achieve. Chronic hypertrophy is the long term increase in the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers  that occurs with consistent strength training. Studies have shown that it requires in excess of 16 weight lifting sessions in order to achieve chronic hypertrophy. As the muscle fibers increase their cross sectional area, they also increase strength. Noticeable gains in strength are quite normal for those who have just begun lifting weights. This is a result of  more efficient communication between the nerves and the muscle at the neuromuscular junction.

Increased Bone Mineral Density:

Any exercise that is weight bearing or “loads” a bone, increases bone density. When a bone is “loaded”, whether by muscular contraction or mechanical forces, the bone begins a process of bone modeling that leads to the creation of a bone matrix which becomes mineralized as calcium phosphate crystals. This process takes place on the periosteum or surface of the bone making the bone more dense.   It is important that you progress your workouts safely so that the bones and the connective tissues associated with them are not asked to take on more than they can handle. This is especially true in the case of those individuals who have osteoporosis.

Change in Body Composition:

We have already covered the fact that strength training increases muscle size. An increase in muscle size leads to a larger percentage of lean muscle mass. The higher your percentage of lean muscle mass, the more calories that lean muscle will burn to sustain itself. The more calories you burn, the less fat you have… Ah-ha! The lightbulb just went on, didn’t it?

Improved Cholesterol:

Strength training has been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL-C (the “bad” forms of cholesterol) while at the same time, increasing HDL-C (the “good” form of cholesterol). These two benefits lead to a decreased risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack.

Heart Health:

A study completed on two groups of individuals, one group used strength training while the other group used cardiovascular training, found that the individuals who consistently used strength training as the majority of their regimen had thicker septums and greater left ventricular wall thickness. Each of these results in greater stroke volume, improved circulation  and heart efficiency. That’s a good thing. A few more  benefits of strength training you can take to heart are decreased risk of  coronary artery disease and CVD, blood pressure and a lower heart rate as well.

Increased Self Esteem and Confidence:

As human beings, we are creatures of habit. We do the things that we know and are comfortable with. So when we are faced with a situation that seems hard to get through, we often bail out as quickly as possible instead of seeing it through to the end. These situations are our opportunity for change. As you complete one “hard” situation it gives you confidence for the next one, as you complete the second hard  situation you have even more confidence for the next one. And so on and  so on.

Better Overall Health:

All of the benefits mentioned above in addition to the increased energy you’ll have and the increased glucose metabolism and insulin tolerance will lead you to better overall health. One thing I have learned through my own personal experience is this: When you feel good, you do good. When you are working hard in the gym you are more likely to eat right, stay hydrated, get enough quality sleep and feel better about yourself.

Last but not least, (because we’ve all heard it before, but I just couldn’t leave it out because it is one of my favorite things about working out), exercise releases endorphins that make you  happy! So if you find yourself feeling just a little bit blue, grab your weight gloves and hit the gym!

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