Resistance training is an integral part to anyone’s exercise routine, alongside the often detested cardio. Although it sounds technical and complicated, resistance training is basically the name for exercising your muscles using an opposing force (resistance) such as a barbell or even your own body weight.
It is often called weight training, but this makes it sound a little like it is only suited for huge body builders. Weight training, resistance training and muscle toning are all the same, using the same principles and methods – only at different intensities.
Benefits of Resistance Training
1. Better physique – just a few workouts per week will help achieve the highly sought after lean and toned physique. Providing the resistance training if paired with regular aerobic training, both men and women can improve their visible muscle tone, which is a tell tale sign of good health and overall fitness. This is increasingly important as the modern day society almost expects people to be in good shape.
2. Increased muscle strength and Power– resistance exercises quickly improve the strength of the muscles you use. Especially in the early stages of starting a resistance program, you will notice that you can lift heavier weights (more resistance) quite quickly. Your body realises that it is being put through its paces and the muscles become used to lifting certain weights. To ensure improvements you must then increase the weight on a regular basis as your muscles become used to the weights you lift.
Typically using higher weights and lower reps, increasing muscle power with resistance training is crucial for most people, especially those in sport. Footballers, boxers, tennis players and even golfers require explosive power in their respective sports to improve their game. Resistance training helps them achieve this goal.
3. Stronger Bones – this is often unheard of or goes unnoticed, but resistance training helps improve overall bone strength, as well as reduce the chance of osteoporosis. From as young as 30, bone mass begins to decline and doesn't stop (it is a degenerative process). However, resistance training has been proven to be able to delay the process from starting, by maintaining bone density.
4. Faster metabolism – Whenever the muscles are being worked or even recovering from a work out, they are burning calories. Even while you sleep (a prime time for your body to recover), the benefits of a resistance training workout will still be working. This increase in metabolism along with some aerobic exercise will ensure it is as easy as possible to maintain a healthy body weight with a low body fat percentage (providing you also eat reasonably healthily).
5. Reduced body fat percentage – as mentioned above, your body fat percentage should drop with the use of resistance training as part of a regular exercise routine. This works on two ways: by increasing your metabolism (as above), and also by increasing muscle mass. If your body has 40% muscle and 20% fat, if you increase your muscle mass to 50%, your fat percentage will have to reduce to make way for it.
Check out our guide to your body shape for more information about the male and female body shapes click here
Risks of resistance training
Although in the long run, resistance training will reduce the risk of injury, in the early stages there is a chance of injury as a result of lack or practice or over exertion. Pushing your muscles too hard too soon can cause damage. The first few workouts should be performed ideally under supervision from an expert, and also with weights that are lighter than you might think you can lift. This allows your body to get used to the motions you will be putting it through, and ‘activate’ muscles that were maybe not being fully used previously.
Resistance training is an integral part of most exercise routines. Whether you want to tone up or add muscle mass, combining resistance training with aerobic exercise is a great way to improve your body shape providing it is done correctly, using progression to improve and prevent your body from becoming ‘used’ to the exercises you perform.