You don’t have to be a professional body builder or a serious athlete to start strength training. The average person can see huge benefits from lifting weights. This is in no way an exhaustive list but here are some of those benefits.
Higher Metabolic Rate
Muscle burns energy. The more muscle that a person has, the more calories they will burn at rest. Too many times people are afraid of strength training thinking that it will make them gain weight or that extended time on the treadmill will help reduce body fat the quickest. The truth is that lifting weights will increase muscle mass, which will cause your body to burn more calories both at rest and during exercise, making your workout more effective. The scale may say a higher number but that is just because muscle is more dense than fat (you might hear that muscle weighs more than fat – false. A pound of muscle weighs a pound, and so does fat. However, that pound of muscle will take up much less space than that pound of fat). In most cases losing body fat is a much better goal than just “losing weight”. The scale won’t tell you if you have changed your body composition.
Higher Bone Density
Weight training does not just affect our muscles. Lifting weights will actually strengthen your bones. This might not sound too important but the fact is that we achieve what’s called “peak bone mass” around age 20 and then it’s all down hill from there. When women reach menopause they experience a rapid bone density loss – the body is making hefty withdrawals at his point. If said woman’s bone density was not high in the first place then she is at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Without nerding-out too much this is how bone formation works. Basically osteoclast and osteoblasts are cells that are working against each other. The former, dissolves bone tissue leaving tiny holes in the surface, then osteoblasts come along and fill in the cavities with protein containing collagen which later hardens into bone when minerals are deposited into it. It’s almost like osteoblasts make the money and osteoclasts write the cheques. The problem is when osteoblasts can’t make money fast enough and their partner osteoclasts make withdrawals more and more frequently without having some deep pockets to take from. Luckily, we can increase our bone density to a point where when aging starts doing its thing it won’t have the same effects as if we didn’t do anything preventative. Bones will react to strength training in a similar way as muscles do. The body doesn’t like to be stressed so whenever we place stress on it our body finds a way to deal with the stress next time and like muscles, bones will become stronger so they can deal with the next stress placed upon them. This is huge down the road. We are all going to fall at some point, but you do not have to be as nervous about it when you know your bones won’t shatter from missing that last step.
There are a few things that provide me great pleasure in life. A clean truck, a well made meal, waking up to birds singing and making only one trip with the groceries. I know that I am not alone with this last one. That last point simply highlights the fact that I like to be able to do things myself and quickly. I like being able to move a couch and not have to wait for someone to come help me, or break up a slab of concrete with nothing but a sledge hammer and 2 pails. The fact is, a stronger body is a more independent body.
Reduced Injury Risk
If you have ever bent over to pick something up and returned to standing in a much different state you should understand this point. The fact is that we can injure ourselves doing almost anything but when you have to tell people how you got hurt you would much rather tell them that your back is sore from pushing a beached orca back into the ocean than you got an ouchy picking up the laundry. It’s like having to tell your coworkers you broke your nose because you walked into a closed glass door versus fighting a cyborg-grizzly bear to save a group of underprivileged children. Of course you can always injure yourself weight training if you aren’t doing it properly, but that is where good coaching, education and proper progression comes into play. You probably are not going to walk in on day one and try to deadlift 400 pounds and walk out. But, if you learn to hip hinge properly, work on strengthening your back and hips and progress at an appropriate rate there is no reason you won’t be able to lift twice your body weight one day.
Lifting something heavy is a great way to blow off some steam. It’s a great way to exorcise your demons and clear your head. I have found this happens for one of two reasons. The first is simply because you have to focus on what you are actually doing. Loading up a bar and moving it requires alot of focus. Quite often after the end of a heavy lift, whatever was bothering me before doesn’t seem so bad. The other reason I find lifting therapeutic is overcoming the pain. Yes, training (running, lifting, biking etc.) can hurt, but that’s exactly what we need sometimes. If lifting something heavy didn’t help, if the focus alone didn’t brush off the trouble then my next step is to put some weight on the bar and lift it over and over and over. Coming to the point where you want to quit and overcoming can result in similar feeling of euphoria that are often associated with prolonged running. The rush of endorphins and feelings of accomplishment often outweigh whatever was weighing you down in the first place. Visualizing your problem as the literal weight on your shoulders and continuously pushing it back up can leave you feeling like you have beat your problems, like you are better than them.
Look Good Naked
When I oversaw the personal training at McMaster I always liked to remind them of something. The gym is an overly sexed-up environment. I always got some odd looks and some push-back – apparently that’s something you can’t say – well I did anyway. The truth is that the majority of people just want to look good naked. Plain and simple. It doesn’t mean that they are going to join a nudist colony when they are finished training but it’s nice to have the confidence if ever caught in an unclothed position. This is exactly why I never discount aesthetic goals. When it comes to goal setting I tend to push people towards a performance goal because it actually accelerates the overall goal of looking good in your birthday suit. Coming from an athletic background it took me a while to understand this thinking. It used to be all about running faster and hitting harder but nobody puts on a fitted outfit or goes to the beach and walks around proclaiming how much they can bench press or how fast they can sprint – and if they do, turn around and walk away because they’re probably a bit of a douche- people just see how they look and it’s nice to know that you look alright. Now, knowing that my wife thinks I look pretty good is often enough to get me off the couch when simply running fast in a firefit race just won’t bring me to turn off netflix and reschedule my date with Suits or House of Cards.
As I said, this isn’t an exhaustive list in any way but I hope that something above resonated with you and motivates you to go lift something up and put it down.