By: David Amici ’16, Certified Personal Trainer, Campus Recreation Services
“If you are medically able to lift, you should be.” – Dr. Jonathon Sullivan, MD PhD
Weight training provides an unmatched variety of benefits to the body. From optimizing health and performance to just looking and feeling good, weights are arguably the best bang for your buck at the gym.
People avoid the weight room for all sorts of reasons. Admittedly, It’s harder to learn to resistance train than it is to use an elliptical or treadmill.
However, it is possibly to learn rather quickly. Go with a friend or get help from someone who knows their stuff. Working with a personal trainer might be a good option if you’re just getting started.
Whatever it takes, you should be weight training if you are physically able. Why? Here are a few things to think about.
- You’ll be stronger. This is the most obvious, but strength makes daily activities much easier.
- Less pain in joints. Strengthening the muscles around problem joints can alleviate chronic pain in those areas. A common observation is how people with bad backs almost always feel better after proper lifting.
- Look more toned. Muscles do not tone or firm up – they just seem to as they get bigger and body fat goes down. Weight training is the best way to achieve the muscular aspect of the lean and toned look. Cardio training alone won’t get you there.
- Increase your metabolism. Added muscle requires energy, even at rest. That means weight training will increase metabolic rate, or how many calories you burn every day.
- Prevent injury. Connective tissues adapt and get stronger and tougher with weight training, including where tendons attach to bones. These changes make it harder to get injured in these areas.
- Stronger heart. When lifting a heavy weight, blood pressure goes way up and blood flow is slightly impeded. This demand on the heart to supply blood under these conditions provides serious work to make that heart stronger.
- Stronger bones. Bones respond to being loaded. Weight training produces stronger, thicker bones. These bones are harder to injure, and builds some extra tissue to help fight off things like osteoporosis later in life.
- Build up cartilage. Pressure distributed across a joint capsule (like when resistance training) stimulates passing of nutrients through cartilage, allowing repair. Under normal conditions, cartilage can’t repair. Properly performed weight training is beneficial to cartilage health, whereas most other activities only break it down.
- Increased athleticism. The trainable parts of athleticism, like power, benefit directly from increased strength. Improving maximum force that you can produce (strength) increases maximum force you can move quickly (power). Power is observed in things like jumping and sprinting, and is crucial for an athlete.
- Disease prevention. Resistance training reduces your risk for a huge array of diseases, especially those related to inactivity. Stronger people tend to live longer, and with a better quality of life.
- Quicker recovery. Resistance training invokes a beneficial hormonal response, eliciting hormones that signal for growth and repair. As you progress, you get better at releasing these recovery hormones, so you can tax yourself harder and recover more quickly.
- Mental toughness. There is a mental toughness that develops as you push yourself with weight training. Over time, as you increase the weight you use and continuously push yourself to be better, you gain some real mental discipline. This mental discipline can carry over to activities outside of the gym.
- Continual progression. As opposed to other training modalities, weights allow small increments of progression forever. The load can always be increased by a small amount, allowing for continuous improvement. While activities like cardio or yoga offer some level of gradual progression, they don’t compare in the ability to improve so much for so long.
Weight training can be difficult, but it is rewarding and the benefits are far-reaching.
Share with us! Why do you weight train? Or if you don’t, what’s holding you back?