Disclaimer: Before starting or modifying any exercise plan, including resistance training, first consult with a healthcare provider.
Every fitness routine should include resistance training, and not just because you want bigger muscles. Resistance-based exercises benefit the whole body by supporting your heart, bones, muscles, balance, weight and your overall health.
What is Resistance Training?
Resistance training – also known as weight or strength training – is a form of exercise that improves muscle strength and endurance. The American Heart Association has a great description that defines it as the following:
[Resistance training] is physical activity designed to improve muscular strength and fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free-weights, weight machines, or your own body weight.
The basic idea is that you apply weight (resistance) to your movement that forces your muscles to adapt and get stronger. For example, when you use your body weight to do a squat, it engages muscles in your legs, buttocks and abdomen. If you continue to engage these muscles over time, they will become stronger.
Benefits of Resistance-based Exercise
Cardio is not the end-all, be-all when it comes to exercise, nor is it the “gold standard.” Resistance-based exercises are just as important to your health and fitness, and they should be considered a crucial component of your fitness plan.
Here are some of the benefits of resistance training:
- Get Stronger. Resistance-based exercises strengthen and tone your muscles, making it easier to do everyday tasks and activities.
- Develop Better Body Mechanics. By devoting considerable time to these exercises, they can help improve your balance, posture and flexibility.
- Burn Calories More Efficiently. Resistance training boosts your metabolism and burns calories even after you’re done exercising. Your body requires more calories to build muscle than it does fat, so it demands more energy based on how much energy you are exerting.
- Protect Your Bone Health. Regular physical activity that includes resistance-based movement has been shown to improve functional performance as well as bone density, structure and strength, along with muscle mass and power.
- Boost Your Mood and Energy Levels. Resistance-based exercises can be invigorating and rewarding, making you happier after a workout. They can also leave you feeling more energized and improve your sleep quality.
- Reduce Your Risk for Chronic Diseases. Continuous resistance training can reduce your risk for chronic diseases or improve them if they are already present. Examples include hypertension, depression and anxiety, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
If you’re new to resistance training or it’s been a while since you’ve done regular resistance-based exercises, you can start making it part of your fitness routine today. With or without equipment or a designated workout space, there are options that can accommodate you at any stage in your fitness journey.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- First, talk to your healthcare provider about getting started with resistance training.
- Start by using your body weight to do sets of push-ups, squats, leg lifts, sit-ups, crunches, etc. within your fitness level.
- Don’t overdo it and try performing exercises outside of your ability. Be kind and patient with yourself as your body adapts.
- Consider purchasing affordable free weights such as dumbbells and barbells as a training tool. You can even use them while watching T.V. or cooking dinner.
- If you’re going to the gym, ask a gym associate or personal trainer about which machines and pieces of equipment might be appropriate for you.
Click here for more beginner tips that are generalized for getting started on your fitness journey.
Stay safe and enjoy the benefits of resistance training!