Weight training is an effective tool for improving or maintaining strength, endurance, and overall fitness. It involves controlled movements of skeletal muscle in an effort to move an external load. This can be accomplished by using machines, free-weights, and exercises involving body weight. Individuals participating in a weight training program can expect improvement in body tone and strength. Incorporating a weight training program as part of a complete fitness plan will contribute to increased weight loss/control, balance and coordination, and a better overall sense of well-being.
Weight Training Benefits:
Burn Calories: Adding 3 pounds of muscle increases metabolic rate by 7%, which causes the daily caloric requirements to increase by 15% at rest. In addition, base metabolic rates can stay elevated up to 24 hours after a strength training workout; therefore the body burns calories at a faster rate after weight training.
Strengthen Bones: Weight training places stress on connective tissues, bones, and muscles. The body responds by re-enforcing areas that have been "worked-out", making them stronger and more able to handle increased workloads. This leads to increased protection against osteoporosis.
Maintain Muscle Mass: As people age, muscle mass, strength, endurance, and bone mineral density all decrease. There is a 40-50% decrease in muscle mass between 25 and 80 year olds - a 10% decrease per decade! Incorporating strength training into a life-long commitment to physical activity will help curb the decline in muscle mass, potentially leading to many healthy and active years ahead.
Improve Overall Health: Weight training improves insulin sensitivity, lowers LDL (bad) and raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Blood pressure is also lowered and heart contractility improves.
Enhance Mood: Alertness, energy, and overall attitude are likely to improve.
A number of physiological adaptations occur at the onset of a weight training program. Initial strength gains are primarily due to neural adaptations as the body learns to synchronize nervous impulses and activate various muscle fibers in an effort to maximize force production. Muscle recruitment patterns are improved as synergistic muscle groups contribute contractile efforts to movement. Thus, strength gains achieved during the beginning of a training program are largely a reflection of the body's ability to learn how to weight lift.
- Overload Principle: Increasing resistance through a series of training sessions effectively overloads muscle. The body responds to this progressive stress by creating more muscle to handle the additional workload. As one continues through a progression of overloading muscles, strength gains due to hypertrophy will start to occur.
- Weight Loss: Do not expect localized fat reductions from focused workouts, i.e. abdominal crunches will not necessarily metabolize fat from the abdominal area. Energy during a workout is obtained from available sources throughout the body. The key is creating an energy imbalance with caloric expenditure exceeding caloric intake. Fat will slowly disappear through dedication and commitment.
- Individual Differences: It is important to remember that each individual will respond in their own unique way to a training program. Physiological changes are limited by genetic disposition and applied effort. It should be noted that women do not typically achieve bulky muscle. Rather, they can expect a leaner body due to greater fat loss with respect to muscle gain.