5 Benefits of Strength Training (that have nothing to do with appearance)
There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training and weightlifting. Of course, lifting weights will strengthen muscles. But many people avoid lifting weights because they don’t want to “bulk up.” The narrative that strength training and “toning” are two separate types of exercise is a widely held myth that prevents people from reaping the benefits. Many people work very hard on their diet and their lifting program and still do not have the appearance of “bulk” that they desire. Lifting weights will not leave you looking like the Hulk after a few sessions (or years of hard work tbh.)
If you want a chiseled physique (aka “toned”), you’ll want to incorporate weights into your regimen. However, even if you have no desire to improve your muscle definition, lifting weights provides myriad benefits that have nothing to do with your appearance.
For general health, adding functional strength and resistance training to your program can do more for you than cardio alone. Strength training – because it feels good to open the pickle jar!
What are some benefits to weight training?
- Reduced Risk of Injury
Muscles are responsible for all our movements, from walking to balance. Strengthening muscles protects joints and improves functionality. If there’s an imbalance, muscles and joints will pick up the slack for those that are undertrained. In addition, weak muscles put stress on connective tissues and tendons which will result in pain and tendinitis over time.
Weight bearing exercise strengthen more than the muscle fibers. The collagen in tendons that keeps them buoyant is also strengthened by these exercises. By regularly training your body with a variety of functional weighted exercises, you create muscle memory for proper form and ability.
Falls are a huge risk for older populations. Mobility and strength can prevent these events from being completely devastating. According to the CDC, approximately 36 million adults over the age of 65 fall each year. These falls may be debilitating for some, and deadly in more than 32,000 of these instances.
The CDC and other studies are quick to point out that older adults are not doomed to fall. People who added balance and resistance to their exercise program saw a 34% reduction in falls. Whether you are adding calisthenics, weight machines, free weights, or other forms of resistance training – you will inevitably see these benefits!
- Improved Flexibility and Mobility
We’re busting myths today. If you ask most people, they will believe the misconception that strength training reduces flexibility. This is simply not the case. Strength exercises that take the body through a full range of motion – (think Romanian dead lift, sumo squat, and lunges) – increase flexibility. A regular strength training routine works to strengthen and stretch muscles simultaneously.
As a yoga practitioner, I can attest to the flexibility benefits I have noticed since regularly strength training for the past 2 years. Initially, I had fears that lifting weights 5 days a week would be detrimental to my flexibility. However, I began an intensive strength regimen and decreased the amount of stretching in my routine (mostly due to time constraints as a single mom.) When I got back to my practice, I was shocked to find my comfort in paschimottanasana and yoga nidrasana had increased significantly!
- Stronger Bones and Decreased Risk of Osteoporosis
Again, strength training doesn’t just strengthen your muscles. Your bones get stronger when you perform resistance training! We often forget that bones are made of living tissue and they, too, can be stimulated and exercised. Your skeleton gets stronger when you perform weight-bearing exercises – and this reduces risk of fractures and brittle bones.
Weight training is recommended for people of all ages, particularly women, because of the bone-strengthening benefits. Women who are at risk for osteopenia and weak bones should strongly consider adding strength training to their daily regimen. Adding resistance exercises to your weekly workouts will not only slow bone loss but could potentially help build more bone mass.
- May Improve Your Mental Health
At Uplift, we’re all about feeling good. Your mind is your lens through which you experience your life. Exercise and diet shouldn’t make you miserable, they should uplift and inspire you. Strength training feels good for so many reasons! So, let’s dissect all the ways how and why.
First, body neutrality is awesome. We are so much more than a number on the scale or a reflection in the mirror. We are creativity, words, poetry, ideas, and wit! Our bodies are a temporary vessel so we can travel around on this rock. With that said, feeling good about your appearance is valid and worthy of celebration – especially if you’re putting in work! A regular resistance training regimen will show up in your physique, and that alone may boost your mentality.
On top of that, studies show that strength training triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein can improve and strengthen the hippocampus. These studies conclude that there is a significant link between strength training and strengthening the area of the brain that controls and elevates mood. Now that’s a muscle worth flexing!
- Better Sleep!
A large-scale study was conducted in Germany that found a link between resistance training and better quality of sleep. As it turns out, even a small amount of weight training can reduce disruption to your sleep cycle. Now, all exercise has the potential to improve your sleep. But strength training hasn’t always been widely recognized for this benefit. Only after testing large swaths of the population did this knowledge become common.
Cruelty-Free GAINZ? Tell me more!
Alright, we’ve covered the non-muscle reasons why a strength training regimen should be added to your repertoire. But it would be nice to get shredded too, right? Fear not, friend. We’ve been busting myths and we’re not stopping. Protein from plants is enough to feed your growing gainz! So, tell whey to get out of the way! Pea, hemp, and pumpkin seed proteins have the same amino acids and provide the same necessary components for your diet. Plus, these ingredients are hypo-allergenic, cruelty-free, and more planet-friendly.
Tired of people asking where you get your protein? Yeah, no one was concerned when your diet consisted solely of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Big Texas honey buns back in 9th grade. Your mom just gave you some cash and sent you on your way. She probably didn’t even ask what you ate that day!
Then you went vegan… and suddenly everyone who never cared about you is worried about your potential deficiencies (*insert eye roll here*). Well, there’s plenty of plant-based protein sources. As a matter of fact, the strongest animals on this planet just munch on veg. But here’s another one to add to your list: PEAS! Yes, please!