Resistance training is a form of physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance. This kind of training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance.
The external resistance can be dumbbells, exercise tubing, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water, or any other object that causes the muscles to contract.
According to the latest National Health Survey, only 15% of Australian adults get enough exercise. This is especially true when it comes to resistance training! Out of 168 countries, we are ranked 97th for the percentage of the population being sufficiently active.
It’s scary, considering physical inactivity is so highly associated with chronic health problems.
Examples of resistance training
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or in the gym. (1)
Below is a list of different types of resistance training.
Free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells.
Medicine balls or sandbags – weighted balls or bags
Weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached either to weights or hydraulics.
Resistance bands – (like giant rubber bands) provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement.
Suspension equipment – a training tool that uses gravity and the user’s body weight to complete various exercises.
Your own body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups and chin-ups. Using your own bodyweight is convenient, especially when travelling or at work.
Benefits of Resistance Training
If you knew that a specific type of exercise could benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your bones, and help you lose weight, all while making you look and feel better, wouldn’t you want to get started? Well, studies show that strength training can provide all those benefits and more.
Here are some more benefits of resistance training. (2)
Increased Strength and Muscular Endurance:
The most obvious benefit of weight training is that it will make you stronger and increase your physical work capacity. Not only will this help you train harder and for longer, but it will also increase your ability to perform day-to-day activities and be beneficial in other areas of your life. Lifting weights regularly will help everyday activities become that bit easier – think carrying groceries, housework, gardening, carrying the kids,etc.
Effective Weight Management:
Strength training can help manage and lose weight as it increases your metabolism to help you burn more calories. A good resistance workout increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, meaning your metabolism remains active and your body continues to burn calories long after the exercise has taken place.
Maintain Flexibility and Balance:
Lifting weights helps to work the joints through a full range of motion, keeping them strong and flexible and contributing to better balance as you age. If you are training an older client or are of an older demographic yourself, this is a significant benefit to note, as strength training has been shown to reduce the risk of falling by 40 per cent.
Boosts Energy Levels and Mood:
Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins, helping to lift energy levels and improve your mood. Studies have also shown that both men and women feel better about themselves when they lift weights. By getting stronger, lifting more weight and noticing changes to their body over time, both men and women build confidence, improve body image and enhance their self-esteem.
Adds Variety and Provides a Challenge:
Doing the same cardio workouts for a while can get a little boring. The great thing about strength training is that there are so many ways to set up your workouts with hundreds of new exercises to try, different types of resistance and a variety of ways to work other parts of the body. Strength training also provides your body with a completely different challenge to cardio training, which you will probably feel in the days following your session – hello DOMS!
Reduces Risk of Injury:
Resistance training not only makes your muscles stronger but also strengthens your connective tissues. Increasing the strength of your ligaments and tendons leads to improved motor performance and less strain on joints, reducing the risk of injury.
Increases Bone Density:
Declining muscle mass is a natural part of aging, with as much as 3-5% per decade being lost after 30 years old. Less muscle mass means greater weakness and less mobility, increasing your risk of both falls and fractures. Regular strength training increases bone mineral density in both younger and older adults and reduces the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis down the track.