“If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.”
– Bret Contreras, American Strength Coach
Once upon a time, whenever somebody mentioned muscles or weight lifting, the usual instinct was to visualize freakishly buff bodybuilders hauling weights in the gym. Bodybuilding was an isolated sport exclusive to men in their 20s and 30s and those who got into it lived a highly disciplined and a demanding lifestyle. The choice of such a conscious way of life left the average person more bewildered than impressed.
Lifting weights is for everybody.
Be that as it may, research in exercise science during the last two decades endorses weight training for everyone irrespective of gender or age. Whether you are a man or a woman, just getting out of your teens or pushing eighty, following a basic weight training program 3 to 4 times a week at your nearest gym could go a long way in improving the quality of your life.
The key reason why people of all age groups join a gym is to lose weight. If all you do is work up a sweat on the treadmill, dabble a bit on the cross-trainer followed by the stationary cycle without even considering the possibility of cranking up the resistance on either of the machines and then happily hit the showers, you just failed to exploit the biggest advantage that comes with an expensive gym membership; the option to get into a supervised weight training regime.
Here are a few compelling reasons to get started that also knock out the most popular myth associated with building muscles. Lifting weights makes one big.
Weight training turns your body into a fat burning powerhouse of energy!
If you want to fit into smaller sizes, get a toned and sleek body, want higher energy
levels to power through each day and a faster resting metabolism, all you have to do is get started with a basic weight training program.
The biggest benefit of lifting weights for fat loss is the ‘after-burn’ effect. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who did basic weight training burned an average of at least 100 more calories at rest during the entire day after their training session ended. The after-burn effect multiplies manifold for both men and women as they keep progressing to heavier weights.
Resistance training can help you turn into badass-fit grandparents and live long enough to be healthy great grandparents!
Lifting is of even greater benefit to people over 40. It prevents age related physical and mental decline by retaining and developing whatever strength is left and is commonly used in rehabilitation programs for the elderly in Western countries.
The recovery process after every session of lifting weights generates an enhanced breakdown of fatty acids and activates an additional, healthy surge of hormones and biochemical reactions that contribute to stronger bones keeping arthritis at bay. The new neural pathways created in the process of mastering new moves or progressively moving on to complex moves that require greater balance, keeps the brain sharp and safe from mentally degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Bid farewell to pot belly, saggy bum and thunder thighs!
Those who are worried about “getting big” need not worry. Muscles are highly dense and compact and the only tissue capable of toning and shaping the body, no matter what your age. In fact, they are responsible for giving your booty and bust a natural ‘lift’!
Though all types of exercise programs need to be accompanied by a sound nutritional approach, the added advantage of building muscles is that the occasional treat and weekend feasts will stop making their way straight to your gut or your hips! By compounding the muscle fibers all over your body, you gift your body with a more powerful, bigger engine that utilizes energy more efficiently. Your appetite eventually gets regulated. As you consistently work on building more muscles, your brain starts getting clearer messages of hunger and fullness, thus improving your relationship with food.
The process of using weights to get big is more complex than just lifting a couple of pounds.
Thin men who do take up weight training to get big have to lift a very HIGH volume of heavy weights and consume nutritionally clean SURPLUS calories DAILY before they start packing some serious mass. Despite the range of supplements available to speed recovery and heal muscle damage, getting BIG can take quite a few years even for men who intend to be so. Those who do not supplement their workouts with healthy EXCESS CALORIES, continue to REMAIN LEAN or THIN while simply showing greater definition in their body. Men who liberally eat junk food while lifting heavy, add as much fat to their body as muscle and in the absence of any cardio, soon start to appear awkward, stiff and beefy.
Women on the other hand, just don’t produce enough testosterone as men do to get ‘bulky.’ However, weight training will banish mood swings and promote clearer skin by inducing greater hormonal balance. It will also prevent the loss of muscle that comes from doing excessive cardio. Losing muscle makes weight loss much, much harder since a pound of fat burns only 2 calories a day while a pound of muscle burns 6 calories.
One could burn 600 calories in an hour running on the treadmill, but once you stop so does your calorie expenditure. If you end up consuming a 600 calorie dinner later in the day, you would have failed to create a calorie deficit for weight loss. Weight training, on the contrary, even if it does not immediately translate to weight loss on the scale is a healthy long term investment that shows a definite change in the mirror, builds stronger immunity and effective resistance to poor lifestyle diseases.
The following image clearly explains the difference between myth and reality for women.
An instance of weight training being of equal benefit to both men and women is demonstrated in a typical gym exercise called barbell rows as shown below. A popular move to strengthen the back, it also engages the core and improves posture counteracting the negative effect of long hours of sedentary lifestyle.
So, next time you visit your nearest gym, ask your trainer to put you through a fitness test. Based on its results, request for a customized weight training program to start getting stronger.