Nine Reasons to Begin Strength Training Today
If you knew there was a secret to leaning out, improving your mood, sleeping better, and putting a hedge on decrepitude, wouldn’t you want to get in on it?
Enter strength training. We’ve all heard of it, and most of us know that we should probably be doing it, yet something still holds many of us back from giving it a go. Perhaps it’s the lack of familiarity with how to strength train, the intimidation factor that comes with entering new territory, or maybe we’re not buying into what it can truly do for us.
Regardless of your reasons for not incorporating strength training into your busy military lifestyle, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to make a change, and I have nine compelling reasons to get you started. But, first, let’s define what strength training is.
Strength training is a type of physical exercise that uses resistance to elicit muscular contraction, resulting in improvements in strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. This type of training is achieved by working dynamically against high loads or statically against fixed resistances. In both cases, the forces involved must be such that relatively few repetitions are possible without a substantial rest period.
Now that we have a common understanding of what strength training is, let’s get to the nine reasons why you need to begin strength training today.
- You’ll stimulate Human Growth Hormone – the natural way. HGH is a vital component of the human endocrine system that performs a number of functions, including increasing exercise capacity, promoting restful sleep, increasing muscle mass, and creating a lean body composition. In fact, because of HGH’s powerful influence on human performance, many athletes have turned to synthetic forms of the hormone to enhance their performance, otherwise known as “doping.” While that approach is unethical, the use of strength training to naturally increase your own HGH levels is not. It’s also free, which is a major bonus.
- You’ll improve your insulin sensitivity and decrease fat storage. While insulin sensitivity probably warrants a whole blog post of its own, I’ll give you a high-level explanation of why improved insulin sensitivity is a good thing.
- You’ll burn more calories. Okay, I confess that I’m not big on calorie counting, but I knew this one would catch your eye.
- You’ll put the brakes on the dreaded muscle loss and downregulation of metabolism that is said to come with age. Sedentary adults may lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. And because muscle, as compared with fat, is relatively “active” in terms of the energy required to maintain it, the loss of muscle mass doesn’t just result in a less-toned body, but it also results in a downregulation of metabolism that is typically associated with the aging process. But a good strength training program can help to preserve (and even increase!) muscle mass as we age, thereby also dampening the rate at which the metabolism declines.
- You’ll look better naked. Enough said.
- Daily living will become easier. Strength training will condition your muscles to more easily manage heavy loads, which will make everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, playing with your kids, maintaining the lawn, and cleaning the house easier. This will also leave you with more energy to do other things in life that you couldn’t do previously, simply because life’s routine tasks were zapping you of your energy.
- You’ll be less likely to get injured. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments that have been strengthened via resistance training are more resilient, less likely to give way under stress, and are less likely to be injured than their untrained counterparts. This, coupled with the fact that strength training also supports a healthy bone density, puts you at a lower risk of injury than if you did no strength training at all.
- You’ll be able to do cool party tricks. No, really. This is one of the often overlooked benefits of the fitness that comes from strength training. I mean, how else are you going to win the push-up contest or the handstand hold competition at the neighbor’s house party if you’re not doing a little strength training?
- You’ll be happier and more confident. Strength training releases endorphins, which are natural opiates produced by the brain. Following a strength training session, you’re likely to feel happy, relieved of stress, and proud of the work you’ve done. Also, a challenging strength training session can leave you feeling confident and prepared to handle any other challenges the day will throw at you.
In a healthy person with sound metabolic function, the consumption of carbohydrates results in a moderate release of insulin. Because this person is “insulin sensitive,” his body is highly responsive to changes in insulin levels. Thus, this moderate amount is sufficient to trigger the required transport of glucose from the blood to the cells. This also creates an environment that promotes the release of fatty acids from the cells, which cannot be released in the presence of high insulin levels (yay for less fat storage!).
Conversely, in the case of a person with low insulin sensitivity (or insulin resistance), the consumption of the same amount of carbohydrate results in a more significant release of insulin, simply because this person’s body has become largely unresponsive to the effects of moderate amounts of insulin and, therefore, requires more of it to elicit the same response from the cells. This heightened level of insulin inhibits the release of fatty acids from the cells and, consequently, leads to greater fat storage.
So, while resistance training-induced insulin sensitivity is a good thing for various reasons, one major benefit is that it will promote the release and use of fat, rather than the storage of it.
Along with the calorie burning that takes place while you’re strength training, there’s also a post-workout metabolic effect that is the real bonus. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC as it is called, results in heightened oxygen consumption post-workout. This, in effect, raises your metabolic rate and increases calorie burning after your workout has ended.
Additionally, as we build muscle through strength training, our bodies require more energy (calories) to maintain that muscle. This means that with increased muscle mass, we burn more calories – even at rest - than we previously did when we maintained a lower muscle mass. I like to call this improvement in metabolism “free calorie burning” because who doesn’t like something for free, especially if it involves a means to burn more calories when we’re not even exercising?
Strength training also creates body awareness and the ability to recruit the proper muscles in the right sequence in a way that is both efficient and safe. This prevents the occurrence of injuries sustained while performing everyday tasks, such as bending over to pick things up or lifting heavy loads overhead.
So, now that you’re sold on the benefits of strength training (I had you at number 5, didn’t I?), you’re probably thinking you’ll need to invest in some equipment to get started, right? Wrong. Some of the simplest and most effective forms of strength training can be done with your body weight alone. That said, if you have a budget for new equipment, or if buying such things will motivate you to get started, here’s a list of items you might consider getting your hands on as you begin a strength training program:
Again, none of these item are required to begin a strength training program, so if you’re mentally ready to get started, simply contact a fitness professional who can get you pointed in the right direction to start taking advantage of all of these benefits of strength training.