Resistance or strength training is an absolutely vital part of any fitness programme, bringing many health related benefits. It is also an essential part of safe and permanent weight loss.
Resistance training is a type of exercise where the muscles apply force to an external resistance. It doesn’t necessarily involve lifting heavy weights, as resistance can be provided by a variety of things: elastic bands, bottles of water and even bags of sugar can all be used to provide an effective workout. Your body weight is also an invaluable tool which can provide an almost infinite variety of strength training exercises. This training is particularly important for weight loss and also for female health.
The huge benefits of resistance training are totally within your reach and can take less than one hour a week to achieve.
Exploding the myths
Before we begin it is important to dispel a few long standing myths:
- Women who lift weights do NOT develop bulky muscles, or resemble Russian weight-lifters. Muscle growth is largely dependent on the male growth hormone testosterone, so men are much more likely to bulk up. In women, exercising in the correct range will enhance muscle tone, giving a firmer more shapely figure.
- Weight training will NOT make you slow and cumbersome. Increased muscle tone improves speed, co-ordination and agility, with training institutes around the world using resistance work to get the best speed, power and agility out of their athletes. Sprinters are some of the most muscular athletes around – and they are not slow.
- It does NOT take ages to get results Study after study has shown that high quality workouts lasting just 20 minutes and performed 2 times a week can bring substantial improvements in your strength, muscle tone and bone density. By using good technique and the right number of sets and reps you will get results in no time at all.
- You cannot target specific areas to burn off unwanted fat. Many magazines and articles lead you to believe that if you do 100 sit-ups a day you will have a flat tummy. The body works as a whole system, and only by addressing the whole system (nutrition, lean muscle mass, energy output, metabolism) will improvements come. The body burns fat from all over, so the right programme will make you lose fat everywhere!
More and more people are lifting weights, from the young to the elderly. Scientific research has shown that there are lots of benefits to resistance training. Here are just a few.
Burn more fat faster with weights
Muscles that are toned are on standby all day, and burn more energy. If you refer to the section on Energy Systems you will see that when we operate at 60% or below we are using the oxygen system. This uses blood sugar and fat, so by weight training you have more toned muscles, which use the oxygen energy system, which burns fat all day every day!
Weights strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis
As we age our bones become more brittle and porous, but weight training helps reverse this process and makes the bones adapt to stimulus. This ensures your bones retain their vital strength. The younger you start the better, but even at the age of 90 resistance training can give dramatic improvements in bone density. Resistance training even improves the strength of the jaw bone and teeth!
Stabilise the joints, improve balance and co-ordination
All the joints are held together and supported by the muscles. The stronger they are the stronger and more stable your joints are. Weights also improve the way your brain communicates with your muscles, making you more co-ordinated. They similarly improve the fast twitch fibres that you use when reacting quickly, which is the key to good reflexes.
Improve functional strength
Functional just means something you would do in everyday life. At Diets Don’t Work we believe this is the most important strength of all. All our training is aimed at making your life better or easier – whether lifting, shopping, playing football, or fixing the sink, functional strength translates into all aspects of your life. This has a tremendous impact on your overall well-being and also reduces the risk of an injury at work or at play by up to 30%.
Other proven benefits
- Prevents and controls osteoarthritis
- Lowers unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels
- Manages and reduces negative stress
- Prevention of back pain
- Reduced effects of diabetes
- Enhances confidence and self-esteem
Lose fat only, not lean muscle mass
To lose weight you must take in slightly less energy (food) than you expend (exercise + metabolic rate). If this deficit is too much your body will go into emergency mode to keep going by using alternative fuel sources, keeping fat for the very end. This alternative fuel is muscle.
This is why starvation diets are unsuccessful and dangerous. As the body gets short of fuel it begins to break down the muscles to use as energy. The more lean muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate. So the less you have the lower your metabolic rate. Thus when you return to eating normally you will almost certainly go into surplus, and get fat. This also has the dangerous side effect of weakening the heart (a muscle), which is why anorexia can lead to heart failure, as in the sad death of singer Karen Carpenter. When your diet ends and you return to eating normally, the problem now is that as your lean muscle mass is less you need less calories per day, going back to your normal diet means you will be running on a surplus. This can only be stored as FAT. By resistance training you ensure your muscles get stronger, pushing up the all important metabolic rate.
Diets Don’t Work Hot tips
- Always use good form and technique
- Train 1-3 times a week
- Always allow a day for recovery. During resistance training you are actually damaging some of your muscle fibres; these need a day or so to repair (stronger and better) so always train on alternate days for the best results
- Have realistic expectations when you start. Be willing to put in some effort and time and you will get the results you want!
- To get the muscles to adapt and improve you must go into overload; don’t worry, this doesn’t mean bursting at the seams, just that the last few reps have to be hard
- Breathe out with the effort, breathe in when returning to the start position