training is exercise that uses resistance(for example, weights)
to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal system,
improving muscle tone and endurance. "Strength-training"
is used as a general term synonymous with other common terms,
like "weightlifting" and "resistance training."
Physiologically, the benefits of consistent strength training
include an increase in muscle size and tone, increased muscle
strength, and increases in tendon, bone, and ligament strength.
Strength-training has also been shown to improve psychological
health as well, by increasing self-esteem, confidence and
improvements have a great influence on our physical performance,
metabolic efficiency, physical appearance and risk of injury.
I'll go into each of these in detail, outlining some very
exciting benefits of a good strength-training program that
most people overlook or don't realize.
Physical Performance and Appearance
important result of strength training is increased physical
performance. Muscles quite literally utilize energy to produce
movement, functioning as the engine or powerhouse of the
body. Strength training increases the muscles\' size, strength,
and endurance, which contribute to improvements in our work,
our favorite sports and hobbies, and our general day-to-day
benefit of a good strength-training program is its effect
on our overall appearance and body composition, which can
directly influence self-esteem, self-worth, and level of
confidence. Take, for example, a 170-pound man who has 20
percent body fat--34 pounds of fat weight and 136 pounds
of lean body weight (muscle, bones, organs, water, etc.)
By beginning an effective strength-training program, he
replaces five pounds of fat with five pounds of muscle.
He still weighs 170 pounds, but he is now 17 percent fat--with
29 pounds of fat weight and 141 pounds of lean body weight.
Although his body weight remains the same, his strength,
muscle tone, and metabolism have improved, giving him a
firmer, more fit appearance.
our physical appearance and our physical performance can
be improved by muscle gain or hampered by muscle loss. Research
indicates that unless we strength train regularly, we lose
more than one-half pound of muscle every year of our lives
after age 25. Unless we implement a safe and effective strength-training
program, our muscles gradually decrease in size and strength
in the process called "atrophy."
training is therefore important for preventing the muscle
loss that normally accompanies the aging process. A common
misconception is that as we get older, it is normal to stop
being active and to start using ambulatory aides like canes
and wheelchairs. Many people think we have no choice; they
think this is normal.
this couldn't be further from the truth. There is absolutely
no reason why all of us can\'t be physically, mentally,
socially, and sexually active, living a healthy vibrant
life until the very day we die! The reason many elderly
people rely on ambulatory aides and become slower and fatter
is simply that over the years their muscles are decreasing,
so their physical performance and metabolism also decrease,
becoming less efficient.
one-half pound of muscle loss every year after age 25 produces
a one-half percent reduction in basal metabolic rate (BMR)
every year. A reduction in BMR means that our bodies are
less able to use the food we consume as energy--thus more
gets stored as body fat. Everyone has an individual basal
metabolic rate. \"Basal metabolic rate\" refers
to the energy used by our body at rest to maintain normal
muscles have high-energy requirements. Even when we are
sleeping, our muscles use more than 25 percent of our energy
(calories). When you implement the principles of effective
strength training, and if you are consistent in your program,
you will achieve an increase in lean muscle mass throughout
your body and increase your BMR. In other words, you can
actually condition your metabolism to work better and more
efficiently even when you are at rest. An increase in muscle
tissue causes an increase in metabolic rate, and a decrease
in muscle tissue causes a decrease in metabolic rate.
again: adults who are not on a safe, effective strength-training
program will experience an annual half-pound loss of muscle
and half-percent reduction in metabolic rate unless they
begin some form of strength training. The gradual decrease
in muscle and BMR is related to the increase in body fat
that most people gain as they get older if they do not strength
train. With a decrease in muscle, less energy is used for
daily metabolic function, so calories previously necessary
to perform the activities of daily living now end up stored
can see that anyone interested in decreasing body fat percentage--and
their risk of disease--as well as in increasing physical
performance and appearance, should be strength training
to help condition their metabolism (BMR).
of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a weight-management
program is not including a strength-training program with
their cardiovascular exercise and low-fat eating regimen.
This is unfortunate because when we cut calories without
exercise, we can lose muscle as well as fat. Many do not
choose to do strength training because 1) they mistakenly
think they are going to make their body big and bulky, and
2) they do not realize how beneficial and important strength
training is in a weight-management program. Whether it is
strength, endurance, muscle size or muscle tone (or a combination)
you desire, all are very realistic and obtainable.
Risk of Injury
muscles also function as shock absorbers and serve as important
balancing agents throughout our body. Well-conditioned muscles
help to lessen the repetitive landing forces in weight-bearing
activities such as jogging or playing basketball. Well-balanced
muscles reduce the risk of injuries that result when a muscle
is weaker than its opposing muscle group. For example, jogging
places more stress on the hamstrings and calves than it
does on the quadriceps, creating a muscle imbalance that
often leads to knee injuries; so it is very important that
runners be on a good strength-training program that includes
training the quadriceps as well as the hamstrings and calves.
reduce the risk of unbalanced muscle development, you should
make sure that when you are training a specific muscle group,
the opposing muscle groups are being trained as well (though
not necessarily on the same day). For example, if you are
doing strength training exercises for your chest, you should
include back exercises in your program as well.
now you have probably realized that weightlifting should
be an important part of your exercise routine. Weightlifting
provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved
by any other exercise or activity. When you begin achieving
great results, the excitement and fun you experience will
make the change well worth the effort. Action creates motivation!
Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of
an effective strength-training program.
NFPT Research Staff