Resistance Training

It’s common knowledge that resistance training is good for you, but do you know why? Resistance training has been shown to improve every aspect of physical fitness and health. While it may seem daunting at first, resistance training is really a relatively straightforward process once you understand the basics.

Given the many benefits that come from resistance training alone, incorporating this workout into your routine can only be beneficial. In this post, we will explore the basics of how to get started with resistance training and what you should expect when starting a program.

Deciding that it’s high time you started doing some resistance work doesn’t mean that you’re destined to become a hulking, bodybuilding bulldozer made of muscle. In fact, many experts have verified that muscle strength and muscle size are not nearly as related as you might think. You can do a lot of great work to make yourself stronger and leaner without bulking up. Of course, if you really would like to get huge, strength training is perfect for you!

Getting Started with Resistance Training

Resistance training is a method of improving muscle strength and endurance. It is sometimes referred to as strength training or weight lifting.

Resistance training uses gravity or your own body weight to provide resistance against moving your limbs. You can also use exercise machines for resistance training exercises.

Exercises for Resistance Training

Young man lifting weights. Studio shot over white.

The good news is that you can strengthen your muscles in many ways, regardless of whether you do it at home or a gym. The following types of resistance training are available:

Free Weights

Historically, free weights have been used to train individuals’ strength, with dumbbells or barbells being the most popular examples.

Weight Machines

Machines designed specifically for workouts. Weight machines come with adjustable seats under which weights or hydraulics are operated.

Medicine Ball

The medicine ball is an exercise ball that contains a weight that causes resistance when it is swung. Traditionally used by athletes for rehabilitation or warm-up exercises, it’s become increasingly popular for use at the gym and even in homes.

Resistance Bands

Resistance Band isolated on a white background

As resistance bands are just rubber bands, they provide resistance when they’re stretched out. Portable and adaptable to most workouts, they are available at most sports stores. Despite the fact that the bands are used to provide continuous resistance throughout a movement, the bands still manage to remain comfortable.

Squats, push-ups, and chin-ups you can do with your own body weight. These exercises are suitable when you’re on the road or when you must work from home.

In order to minimize the risk of injury, you must pay attention to safety and form. If you have never worked out before, a health professional can develop safe and effective programs.

A regular strength training program for beginners includes the following:

  • Exercises that target the body’s major muscle groups are performed two to three times per week for eight to ten weeks.
  • Starting with one set of each exercise with as few as eight repetitions (reps) and not more than twice a week, we are increasing the program’s intensity accordingly. 

Optimal progression entails performing two to three sets for each exercise per week – at an intensity of eight to 12 reps every other or third day. When you sit comfortably after completing 12 reps, look at stepping it up further.

How to Use Resistance Training to Your Advantage

Before any workout, you need to warm up your muscles so they’re ready for action. But with resistance training, warming up is even more crucial, since this type of workout stresses your muscles much more than aerobic exercise like walking or running does.

A good warmup will activate the blood flow in your muscles, making it possible for them to perform at the level necessary for strength and muscle-building.

To warm up your muscles, you should do a mild version of the activity you plan to do during your resistance training routine.

If, for example, you plan to lift weights and do some squats and lunges, a good warmup might include some walking lunges.

It’s also important that you don’t stretch before a resistance training workout—especially if you’re doing weight exercises that put stress on your joints. 

Stretching can actually soften the ligaments in your joints (which provide stability), making it easier for them to get injured. That’s why it’s best to stretch after an exercise as opposed to before.

While it’s OK to stretch right before a workout, it’s ideal that you don’t do so. Doing so can make your muscles weaker and less effective during the workout

Resistance training for weight loss

Research from the American College of Sports Medicine describes how to use weight training to lose weight faster than using moderate cardio like running.

Researchers claim that adding muscle to your body increases metabolism and as a consequence, you will burn more fat. This claim is based on previous research conducted by the study’s author.

A shorter strength session may have a less stressful effect on your level of commitment than committing to, for instance, an hour on the treadmill, thus encouraging you more to stick with your program in the long run, which is a particularly strong motivator for people who want to lose weight.

In general, resistance training for muscle development can result in a monthly gain of one pound of lean muscle mass and a pound of fat loss, so simply watching your progress on the scale will not be helpful. Instead, you should take measurements or use your clothes as a guide.

The Role Of Cardio

benefits of resistance training

An unfounded stereotype about strength training is that its devotees spend all of their workout time in the weight room. While it’s true that some individuals might get a little too intimate with the weightlifting bench, a proper fitness routine includes resistance work as just one part of a well-rounded exercise plan. Resistance training and cardio need to work together if you’re going to get the best results.

Cardiovascular exercise improves your stamina and endurance, which can be extremely important when you’re doing challenging resistance work. It also increases blood flow throughout your body, particularly to your muscles. Obviously, you’ll be needing that extra burst of oxygen and nutrients when you’re straining to lift heavy weights!

If your goals are slanted heavily towards muscle-building, you might be leery about cardio exercise. We’ve read the same worrisome articles you have about how extended cardiovascular exertion alters your body’s growth hormones and slows down or reverses the process of muscle growth. That doesn’t mean that all cardio is your enemy; it’s the endless workouts you have to avoid. Try short, intense cardio workouts like wind sprints, hill climbing, or interval training.

Longer Workouts Aren’t Better Workouts

resistance training

Besides leaving room in your workout schedule for a regular dose of cardio, you may get better results if you make a conscious effort to minimize your time lifting weights. Hormones play an important role here, too. Basically, as soon as you start working out, your endocrine system goes into “panic mode” and floods your body with performance-enhancing hormones like testosterone. While that initial burst lasts, your resistance-fighting capabilities will be superb, and you’ll lift weights like a man or woman possessed.

If you push yourself to stay in the weight room for hours on end, you’ll naturally run into a case of diminishing returns. As you exhaust different muscle groups, you’ll be capable of doing less and less if you try to soldier on. Thanks to the hormonal surge described above, the point of diminishing returns is probably a lot closer to the start of your workout than you think!

We know that few people have the free time to schedule their whole day around their fitness plans. Still, breaking up your strength training into many smaller sessions with plenty of time in between them is the best way to maximize the results you get out of your efforts.

Many professionals recommend doing no more than five different lifts in a single workout. Your schedule may not accommodate multiple resistance workouts in a day, but it’s still helpful to keep individual workouts brief.

Concentrate On Form First

I may have put the cart a little before the horse by diving into scheduling and other advanced concerns. When you’re first starting out with resistance training, your number one priority has to be mastering proper form. This is especially true for traditional free weights, but it applies to alternative resistance methods like using Nautilus machines or doing plyometrics, too.

Until you have your form down pat, you run the risk of injuring yourself every time you work out. This is especially true once you start using weights that are close to (or right at) your physical limits. You shouldn’t challenge yourself in this way (or waste your time thinking about pace and speed) until you know you’re doing each exercise properly.

Break Out The Notebook

Taking notes is an integral part of effective strength training, believe it or not. Unlike cardio workouts where the main goal is to maintain a steady level of exertion over a given amount of time, your goals in strength training are going to be constantly evolving. You need to track your progress carefully in order to keep moving forward.

The basic information you need to keep track of is how much resistance you’re using for each exercise you’re regularly performing. This means logging what weights you use and how many reps you complete in every workout. If you take this information down consistently, you’ll be able to push yourself and maintain continuous improvement.

There are literally hundreds of different resistance workouts out there waiting for you. Building a routine that works for you will take a fair amount of experimentation and trial-and-error. Hopefully, the information we’ve shared here will remain applicable no matter what form of strength training you choose to focus on.

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