Most people workout simply for aesthetic reasons such as to lose fat and build muscle to increase their physical appeal. What they might not know is that there is significant scientific evidence that strength training offers many health benefits.
Strength training, commonly known as resistance training and weight training is a type of exercise that employs resistance to fight the force produced by the muscles through contractions. While strength training is mostly associated with lifting weights such as dumbbells and barbells, it can also be performed with the help of gym machines, suspension ropes, bands, and other equipment. In fact, you can do strength training with no equipment at all, you just use your body weight.
In the past, lifting weights as a form of exercise is usually done by bodybuilders and strength athletes. As most people perceived that strength training is not for everyone they pursued other types of exercise instead. But did you notice the rise of gym-goers of all ages, backgrounds, and genders lifting weights in the gym? The major factor in the recent increase in strength training enthusiasts is that they are now aware of the science-backed health benefits that this type of exercise can give to them. For you to clearly understand the advantages of strength training to your overall health, read on the brief explanation below.
What are the Health Benefits of Strength Training?
Strength training, when performed properly, provides many health benefits in addition to making the body stronger, more muscled, and more attractive in appearance. If you are not into strength training before, these proven benefits might change your mind.
1. Speeds Up the Body’s Metabolic Rate
Strength training boosts the metabolic rate of the body thereby protecting it from obesity and all health problems that come with it.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure Levels
Untreated high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Several studies have shown that two months or more of strength training can significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. Strength training is now a strategy for hypertension prevention and management.
3. Enhances Physical Function
Research revealed that strength training could delay or reverse the negative effects of ageing that resulted in physical inactivity. These include functional capabilities, movement control, walking speed, and physical performance.
4. Promotes Reversal of Aging Factors
Some studies discovered that strength training could increase the muscle tissue’s oxidative capacity and mitochondrial content. It can also reverse mitochondrial deterioration due to ageing.
5. Aids in the Prevention or Management of Type 2 Diabetes
Strength training can decrease abdominal fat, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce glycosylated haemoglobin levels, and increase the density of glucose transporter type 4 according to research. By doing so, it helps prevent or manage this type of diabetes.
6. Helps in the Management of Chronic Pain
It can treat many types of chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and low back pain.
7. Improves Blood Lipid Profiles
Unfavourable blood lipid profiles can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Strength training was proven to improve blood lipids as suggested by several pieces of research like this one which results are supported by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
8. Boosts Mental Health
Based on multiple studies, strength training can improve a person’s cognitive abilities, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
9. Raises Bone Mineral Density
The Bone Mineral Density (BMD) shows the strength of the bones based on the amount of bone mineral in every unit of bone tissue. Weak bones have low bone mineral density and more susceptible to fractures. Majority of studies in strength training revealed that increase BMD by three percent to seven percent.
If you would do extensive research about the benefits strength training, you will see more published studies online. But if you are already convinced of the value of this type of exercise then let’s move on to the basics of strength training at a beginner level – training without weights.
Yes, it is absolutely possible. Strength training is not confined in the gym with weights and various exercise machines. You can do it at the comfort of your home without installing a home gym complete with dumbbells, barbells, and other equipment. But before we proceed to the different strength training activities that you can do at home, it is important that you know first the key rules that will help you achieve your fitness goals quickly.
What are the Strength Training Rules and Why Should I Follow Them?
A smart soldier never goes to battle without arming himself. There’s a high probability of victory if you come prepared mentally and physically. This also applies to strength training. Don’t start the workout when you don’t have any idea what you are doing.
If you have the means to hire a personal trainer then do so. Having someone with ample experience and knowledge to walk you through the training routines would be a great help for a beginner. However, if a personal trainer is not on your budget, your best resort would be to learn the below rules yourself to make strength training successful for you.
Rule 1: Opt for full body workouts than isolation exercises.
As a beginner, it would be more beneficial for you to do full body workouts than isolation exercises. Isolation movements are more advanced because it requires you to focus on specific muscle groups. Full body workouts, on the other hand, are excellent in building a solid foundation and prepare your whole body for more complex workouts in the future. These can also strengthen your joints – the body part that takes a lot of pressure when you work out – and prevent health issues and serious injuries.
Rule 2: Stick to a particular work out.
Jumping from one workout to another is a recipe for disaster. Focus on a specific work out instead and stick to it for at least for a month so you will see some improvements. If you don’t follow a single workout routine, your body would have a hard time to adapt because it won’t know what you are working out for.
Rule 3: Don’t follow fitness fads.
Strength training has no shortcuts. Don’t be swayed into following the new fitness craze in town that promises to deliver the fastest results. As a beginner, just follow the proven training methods that survived the test of time and continuously real results like circuits and straight sets.
Rule 4: Monitor your progress.
Write down your workouts in a notebook every time you work out to track your progress in all the exercises that you perform. When you have a log to refer to, you can easily adjust your routines to improve your performance.
Rule 5: Always warm-up before a workout.
A proper warm-up prepares your body for the stress and burden of strength training. It also helps you avoid injuries and unleash your potential and strength to the fullest.
Rule 6: Follow a healthy diet.
Many athletes and coaches assert that in growing six pack abs, nutrition is more important than workouts. Maintain a healthy diet of meat, fish, eggs, milk, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables and leave out unhealthy fats and high-calorie beverages.
Rule 7: Get adequate amounts of sleep.
Sleep allows the body to recover and grow. This is the time when huge amounts of testosterone and growth hormone are released, building muscles as you sleep.
Sleeping for 7 to 8 hours every night can beat all the supplements in the world and even the most perfect diet.
Now that we are done with the rules, let’s move to the different strength training exercises you can do minus the weights. Instead of the weights and gym machines, you can use your body weight to strength train. Bodyweight training can be as effective as lifting weights because of the resistance training effect you can get from employing your body weight.
What are the Best Bodyweight Exercises for Strength Training?
There are several bodyweight exercises that you can do at home and we will discuss the best four below.
It is a popular move that is important to a workout routine. One of the oldest and most functional exercises, squats can promote circulation, activate your back and core, improve your balance, and burns more fat than other exercises. More fat burning happens when you have gained muscles over time. Squats are perfect for toning, tightening, firming up your legs and whole body.
To learn the right way to do squats, watch this short tutorial video.
A lunge is different from a traditional squat. With a lunge, you step forward, backward, or sideways which involves a major change in weight. Whatever variation you might use, lunges work the calves, glutes, and hamstrings. It incorporates your core and lower back to keep your balance as you shift movement. Lunges are a form of unilateral training because it individually works each leg. Doing lunges regularly can increase balance, coordination, and flexibility of your hip flexors. There are several types of lunges and one example is the reverse lunge that you can learn from this video.
Planks look simple but it’s difficult to manoeuvre. However, the benefits you can earn from this exercise overshadows the difficulty you will encounter in performing it. Planks work your entire core and your glutes. It helps to reduce back pain once your abs learn to support your body and take a big strain from your back. Your neck and shoulders will also benefit from the improved posture because it removes the pain caused by slouching. Here’s how you can safely perform planks at home.
Push-ups utilize several muscle groups at the same time which makes them a form of compound exercise. It is a classic move that keeps you stabilized by engaging the biceps, deltoids, core, triceps, and the lower body. In addition to strength training, push-ups are also a cardiovascular exercise because it promotes heart health. This is because the heart works harder to pump blood to your muscles to address the demand of several muscle groups needing oxygen at once.
When done properly, push-ups can also train muscles required to maintain proper posture. Like planking, it can prevent the onset of lower back pain and protect it from possible injury. This quick video lets you learn the right techniques for doing push-ups for strength training.
Strength training without weights is possible and achievable if you know how to do it properly. Patience and focus play significant roles in keeping you on track with your beginner routines, which is why learning the rules to follow is crucial for you. Utilise available resources such as online tutorial videos and DVDs to jumpstart your bodyweight exercises. Monitor your progress to see the improvements that you have achieved so far. This is an effective way to motivate yourself to workout regularly to attain your fitness goals.