Resistance training is a term used to describe any exercise involving the contraction of muscles against a load or resistance. It has grown popular lately, going mainstream after the American College of Sports Medicine recommended it for all Americans in the late 1990’s.
Resistance training increases muscle tone, strength and mass. By forcing muscles to work against an external resistance, you are making them stronger and tougher. The resistance can be provided by weights like dumbbells, bricks, water bottles or even your own body weight.
Types of Resistance Training
There are several different variations of resistance training (also called ‘strength training’).
* Olympic lifting is when large (often massive) weights are lifted overhead by participants.
* Power lifting involves competitive performances of squats, dead lifts and bench presses
* Weight lifting is when regular bodybuilders lift weights, often repetitively, to build muscle mass and endurance.
How Resistance Training Affects Your Muscles
Whenever you lift heavy weights, there is cellular damage to your muscles. The damage is not visible externally, but muscle fibers get injured. Your body, in turn, works quickly to repair the damage. The newer muscle fibers used to replace the old, weak, worn-out ones are generally larger and stronger, so that they are able to cope with the heavier loads they are now required to lift.
This process of rebuilding muscle cells is aided by anabolic steroids, which explains the use of these drugs in bodybuilding. Following a resistance training workout, various hormones like testosterone, insulin-like growth factor and essential amino acids are concentrated inside muscle tissue, helping it repair and regrow.
The logic behind giving adequate intervals of rest between workouts is to permit this repair to take place and for muscle to heal and grow so that it grows bigger and stronger.
Why Is Resistance Training Important?
There are several benefits to resistance training and research is ongoing into evaluating the impact of strength training exercises on the body over the longer term. Logically, dating back from cavemen roamed the earth in search of prey, physical activity and strength gave humans a survival advantage. Muscle building workouts happened naturally in the course of the daily work of creating shelters, hunting for food and later, tilling the land.
Modern living involves relatively much less physical activity. Automation in various spheres has brought down domestic opportunities for natural strength training. This has an adverse impact on overall health, with physical inactivity being listed as the second most important preventable cause of death in the U.S.
* Resistance training improves muscle strength and tone. In every ten years after the age of 30, we lose 2 kilograms of muscle mass. To recover it, we need strength training.
* As age advances, the number of Type 2 muscle fibers (which are responsible for muscle strength) decreases. This can be slowed down through regular strength training.
* Bone weakening due to mineral loss (or osteoporosis) can also be reversed or arrested through regular resistance training. This is particularly important for post-menopausal women.
* There is a modest impact of resistance training on lowering high blood pressure which might be of value to some people in preventing or reducing risk of heart disease.
* In elderly individuals, strength training brings down the risk of accidental falls and consequent serious injuries. Strength training can be started at any age, even into the eighties.
* By boosting metabolic rate and burning off fat, resistance training can help maintain weight and prevent obesity.
How Much Resistance Training Is Good?
Start slow and grow steadily. Progressive resistance training is the most effective way to develop muscle strength and tone without risking injury. While the general principles of strength training are similar, every person needs a personalized workout routine for highest benefit.
All major muscle groups must be exercised. Workouts should provide resistance training to your back, chest, shoulders, arms, abs and legs. To start out, choose 8 to 10 exercises and perform 8 to 12 reps of each, twice every week. Gradually increase both the frequency and number of reps as your muscles grow stronger. Older people should begin with lesser weights and more reps (10 to 15 is ideal).
The concept behind progressively increasing loads in resistance training is to let your muscles grow accustomed to exercise at a particular weight before increasing it to stimulate further growth. If you can perform 12 to 15 reps of an exercise comfortably at a particular weight, then you can increase it to the next level while starting at lower repetitions.
Free Weights Or Exercise Machines?
If you have access to both, a combination is best.
Free weights like dumbbells and barbells allow a wide range of exercises for different muscle groups, and a range of variation to fit your unique range of movements. They also help improve co-ordination and recruit muscles from multiple groups for training. The drawbacks of free weights are injuries from dropping weights, the need for enough space to store weights and workout, and the higher cost of buying exercise equipment.
Strength training machines are quick and easy to set up and use, safe, and do not need much co-ordination. They however take up plenty of floor space and are more expensive than free weights. Your workout will also be longer as each exercise is specific to a muscle group.
Resistance training provides many different benefits to people of all ages and can help improve tone, strength and muscle bulk. That’s why it is now widely recommended as a powerful health promoting routine, as well as being used by serious bodybuilders looking to add more bulk. A comprehensive muscle gaining program that is based on resistance training principles is “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0” – take a look here.