When I first started exercising I avoided strength training and just concentrated on cardio. I stayed away from strength training, like many others, because I thought strength training would make me bigger. Also, I shied away from it because I didn’t know where to begin and feared I would my hurt myself if I added it into my routine. For the first 13 months of my weight loss journey, I avoided weight training until I started researching what I needed for well-rounded workouts.
I hired a trainer for a once a week session for four weeks and learned a lot about strength training. I took the basic knowledge I learned from the trainer to learn even more. Strength training is beneficial in any exercise regime. Here are three benefits of strength training:
- Strength training can make you stronger while not adding size: Bulking up is a common misconception when lifting weights. Let me say this: You won’t get bigger by lifting weights. Although, you can get bigger by the particular way you lift weights and consuming more calories. Let me explain. If you want to get bulkier, you have to lift heavier and eat more. When I say heavier, I mean REALLY heavy. Most women (including Angela) are afraid to lift weights because of this misconception. In the beginning I started relatively low with my weights (under 100 pounds). I’ve even experimented with using really low weights (10 pounds) and lifting that weight over and over. For men and women, I would suggest lifting a weight that is comfortable enough for you to lift 12-15 times in a row. By the end of that 15th time lifting that same weight, that particular muscle that you’re using to lift should be fatigued (or tired). Let me also say that you don’t need to lift weights in particular to get stronger. Body weight exercises are also a good way to get your body stronger without adding size. Exercises like pushups, crunches, and squats can also help you achieve strength without size.
- Strength training can create muscle definition: When I hear people talk about how they want their arms or legs to look a certain way, I’m always surprised that these same people don’t lift weights. I just have to ask, “Why not?” After a month or so of continuously lifting weights on a regular basis, I noticed more muscle definition in my arms, shoulders, and legs. Some parts of the body take longer for muscle definition to show. Parts of the body, like abs, take a combination of vigorous strength training and a significantly “clean” diet to pull off those six-pack abs. So if that’s what you want, you’ll really have to do your research on what you’ll have to do to get the results you want.
- Muscle burns more calories than fat: If you’re on your weight loss journey, then this is definitely something you’ll want in your weight loss repertoire. Going back to my first bullet point, you can add more muscle by lifting weights but you won’t necessarily gain size. Muscle and fat weigh exactly the same in your body. Fat takes up more space in your body though. So, when you’re trying to lose weight, you want to burn off that fat and gain muscle. Muscle is like a furnace that takes hours to finally shut off. You’ll be constantly burning extra calories throughout the day and your body will use the extra fat that you have stored as fuel to keep your muscle ignited. Strength training helps with the muscle, which in turn, helps with the gained strength. More calories are needed to make and/or maintain muscles so while you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll be losing that extra fat while gaining muscle, which helps with strength and definition.
Strength training is definitely a beneficial activity to add to your workout routine. I would recommend lifting weights or doing body weight exercises at least 3-4 times a week. I split my full body strength sessions in half. I did upper body one day then lower body the next and then took a rest day the day after that. Then repeated the process again for the next three days. Whichever method you chooses, just remember to stick with it. Strength training is an activity that will give your weight loss a boost and improve your overall health.