Benefits of strength training
Outside body building circles and high school weight rooms, strength training tends to take a back seat to cardiovascular training. In a national survey, only 25% of all adults in the United States engaged in any kind of regular strength training, with women participating even less than men.1 2
What is strength training?
Strength or resistance training is the repeated pressure of muscles against a resistance greater than those typically encountered in daily life. As opposed to aerobic activity, which relies on oxygen to help fuel the muscles, strength training, or resistance training, is a form of anaerobic exercise involving short bursts of muscles at high intensity and utilizing glycogen for fuel, which doesn’t require oxygen. Strength training may involve machines or elastic resistance bands that you pull or press, free weights—such as dumbbells or barbells—that you lift, or even your own body weight in exercises such as push-ups, planks, or squats.
Busting the myths
“I’ll get bulky.” I can’t count the number of women who voiced this concern to me on our first consult for personal training. They were afraid that after doing a few bench presses and squats, they would look like the Incredible Hulk. The truth is, body builders spend years training very hard and eating a very strict diet to lay down the muscle that they do. It doesn’t happen “by accident.” Even women who do train incredibly hard will rarely develop anything close to the degree of muscle that men do simply because women’s bodies don’t make sufficient testosterone to do so.
“I’ll become muscle bound.” When done properly, an exercise program incorporating strength training not only increases strength, but range of motion and flexibility as well.
“I just want to lose weight. All I need is cardio.” Think again. Strength training impacts fat loss and body shaping in several different ways.
Immediate: First, there is the workout itself. Standard strength training for 45 minutes doesn’t typically burn as many calories as cardio, but it does burn calories. The amount of calories burned varies with the intensity of the workout. High intensity interval training or circuit training not only burns significantly more calories than curling a few dumbbells and resting five minutes between sets, but it can burn more than a cardio workout.
Post-workout: Strength training causes tiny tears in the muscles which must be repaired. These repair/remodeling processes require a great deal of energy. Calorie consumption can be increased rather dramatically for an hour after a workout and remain slightly elevated for up to three days post-workout.
Long-term: Muscle, unlike fat, is a metabolically active tissue. So muscle burns more energy just resting than fat does. As you gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate increases and you burn more calories even when you are not working out. Finally, strength training can shape your body in ways cardio can’t, giving you a leaner, more toned appearance.
About the Author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.
1. National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.). Health behaviors of adults, United States. http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps93697/sr10_230.pdf
2. Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Jul-Aug;11(4):209-16. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8.
3. O’Connor PJ, Herring MP, Caravalho A. Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2010; 4:377-396.