Did you know that exercise can influence more than just the muscle groups you’re working? Of course you did. But did you know it can go even further than that? A lot of people are incorporating strength training into their exercise routine, not only to help build muscle, but for the myriad health benefits it can hold in other areas of your life.
If you are looking for something new to add to your routine that can have a positive impact on your health overall, then look no further - strength training may well be for you.
The overall goal of strength training is to put your muscles under strain to stimulate muscle growth, making them stronger. There are also a lot of other benefits, as we’ll see! (Krzysztofik et al., 2019)
There are different types of strength training, including:
- Muscle building - also known as muscle hypertrophy: This is what you might immediately think of when you think of strength training, using medium to heavy weights to stimulate muscle growth.
- Endurance building: Rather than building muscle mass, this type of strength training is designed to increase your ability to exercise for longer periods of time. Instead of heavy weights, this type of training often involves light weight (or your own body weight) with high reps over a longer period.
- Strength building: For the more experienced strength trainers out there - continuing to build on your existing strength can take the form of various strength building exercises using heavier weight and minimal reps.
(Suchomel et al., 2018)
What equipment should I use?
Strength training doesn’t have to be expensive - you can use your own bodyweight (with some help from gravity) to get started. From planks to squats and pull ups, anything using resistance can do the trick!
If you’re looking to increase your ability, or maybe even to change things up a little, then you can use free weights, resistance bands and even specialised gym equipment to add an extra dimension to your training. With any new equipment, it’s always best to make sure it’s suitable for you before getting stuck in.
What are the benefits of strength training?
Strength training makes you… stronger: This one might seem obvious, which is why it is first on the list! Maintaining, and increasing our strength, holds a great many benefits which can help to support us throughout our lives. Building a solid foundation of strength and muscle means that our athletic performance can be improved, but also that we can perform other tasks with ease. Not only does strength training help create new muscle and strengthen existing muscle, it can also help to strengthen our bones. When we perform this type of exercise, it puts a strain on our bones, which signals for them to become stronger. Anyone who engages in strength training can strengthen their skeletal system, which can prevent fractures, and even the onset of certain bone conditions like osteoporosis (Beck et al., 2017).
Strength training boosts your metabolism: Building muscle has a positive impact on your metabolic rate. Fat is less efficient in terms of metabolism than muscle, so with more muscle comes a more efficient metabolism. The act of strength training itself is also a good boost to your metabolism and can keep your metabolic rate higher for up to 72 hours after exercise! (MacKenzie-Shalders et al., 2020)
Strength training reduces fat: Fat, especially fat carried on the stomach or around the internal organs, can have a serious impact on your health. This includes a higher likelihood of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Strength training can help to reduce fat around the body efficiently due in part to the effect it has on our metabolism (Yarizadeh et al., 2020).
Strength training improves balance: As we get older, we might notice our balance begins to decline and we become more at risk of falling in later life, which can be dangerous. Strength training helps to improve the muscles which support our body and keeps it upright, reducing our risk of falling. And it’s not just heavy weights training that can help to improve our balance, especially if you’re older. Using your body weight and performing exercises like tai chi have also been shown to be effective in reducing your chance of falls (Lomas-Vega et al., 2017).
Strength training can help to prevent injury: Strength training helps not only to build muscle, but to improve the range of motion and flexibility of our muscles and other connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. This is particularly important for our joint health, as strength training can help to reinforce our joints, which can help to reduce the chance of suffering an injury (Leite et al., 2017)
Strength training may improve heart health: Your heart is a muscle, and it can be made stronger through strength training. Even your blood vessels can be made stronger with regular strength training. This can then have a number of positive benefits for your heart, including lowering your blood pressure and improve your circulation (de Sousa et al., 2017).
Strength training may prevent diabetes: Having more muscle can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which can not only prevent the onset of diabetes and may even help those who have the condition to manage it. Your muscles need energy, and glucose from your blood can be redirected to your muscles - lowering your blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of developing diabetes (Colberg et al., 2016).
Strength training may help with confidence: Let’s talk about appearances, briefly. Strength training, and the positive impact it can have on your body, can help with self confidence and positive body image. It can help you to appreciate the strength of your form too, and the way in which being stronger helps achieve daily tasks has been linked to higher feelings of satisfaction and self-worth (Sani et al., 2016).
There you have it, just some of the benefits of strength training for your whole body. If you’re looking to begin strength training, then make sure you’re not overloading yourself, or you might find you injure yourself. You must also allow your body to rest and recover between sessions. To promote faster recovery and and increased rate of muscle growth, then a protein shake can also enhance the results of your training. Vivo Life’s PERFORM offers everything you need for a better training experience: 25g of plant-based protein, 6g of BCAAs, with turmeric and digestive enzymes to promote gut health too!
Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G. and Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, [online] 16(24), p.E4897. doi:10.3390/ijerph16244897.
MacKenzie-Shalders, K., Kelly, J.T., So, D., Coffey, V.G. and Byrne, N.M. (2020). The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 38(14), pp.1635–1649. doi:10.1080/02640414.2020.1754716.
Yarizadeh, H., Eftekhar, R., Anjom-Shoae, J., Speakman, J.R. and Djafarian, K. (2020). The Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Subcutaneous Abdominal Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Advances in Nutrition. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa090.
Lomas-Vega, R., Obrero-Gaitán, E., Molina-Ortega, F.J. and Del-Pino-Casado, R. (2017). Tai Chi for Risk of Falls. A Meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, [online] 65(9), pp.2037–2043. doi:10.1111/jgs.15008.
de Sousa, E.C., Abrahin, O., Ferreira, A.L.L., Rodrigues, R.P., Alves, E.A.C. and Vieira, R.P. (2017). Resistance training alone reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in prehypertensive and hypertensive individuals: meta-analysis. Hypertension Research, 40(11), pp.927–931. doi:10.1038/hr.2017.69.
Colberg, S.R., Sigal, R.J., Yardley, J.E., Riddell, M.C., Dunstan, D.W., Dempsey, P.C., Horton, E.S., Castorino, K. and Tate, D.F. (2016). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: a Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 39(11), pp.2065–2079. doi:10.2337/dc16-1728.
LEITE, T.B., COSTA, P.B., LEITE, R.D., NOVAES, J.S., FLECK, S.J. and SIMÃO, R. (2017). Effects of Different Number of Sets of Resistance Training on Flexibility. International Journal of Exercise Science, [online] 10(3), pp.354–364. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609666/.
Sani, S.H.Z., Fathirezaie, Z., Brand, S., Pühse, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., Gerber, M. and Talepasand, S. (2016). Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, [online] Volume 12, pp.2617–2625. doi:10.2147/ndt.s116811.
Beck, B.R., Daly, R.M., Singh, M.A.F. and Taaffe, D.R. (2017). Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) position statement on exercise prescription for the prevention and management of osteoporosis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, [online] 20(5), pp.438–445. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2016.10.001.