A lot of people view strength training as being primarily about changing your physical appearance; building bigger muscles, 'toning up', all that aesthetic stuff.
Don't get me wrong the aesthetic benefits are great. BUT, overlooking some of the other huge benefits of strength training is insanity.
Because strength training doesn't just improve the way you look - it improves the way you feel.
So in this article I've outlined 6 big benefits of strength training that I view as being commonly overlooked & massively unappreciated!
1) Reduces Injury Risk
How your body operates & feels is highly dependent on the strength & stability of its structures. By structures I mean muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, & bones. Together these maintain the integrity of your body & make it possible for you to move with strength & co-ordination.
The problem we see today is that a lot of people aren't placing the demands on their body needed to keep these structures strong & healthy.
And if you don't challenge your body's structures through regular movement & resistance (e.g. weight bearing exercise) they weaken, lose mobility, and consequently their ability to perform their job effectively is affected.
When this happens, injury is almost inevitable at some point down the line.
Strength training reduces this injury risk.
Not only does it build muscular size & strength, but it improves balance & co-ordination, increases bone density, & strengthens your joints and ligaments. No other form of training has such powerful positive effects on these vitally important structures of your body!
2) Improves Metabolic Health
Muscle is an expensive tissue - it requires a lot more calories to be maintained than fat. For this reason, increasing your muscle mass actually increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the rate at which your body burns calories at rest.
An elevated BMR makes losing body fat much more achievable, in turn lowering your risk of metabolic disease (heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes).
Strength training enhances both the quality & quantity of your life!
3) Develops Mobility
Mobility is your body's ability to actively move through ranges of motion.
Understandably, a lot of people think that stretching is the key to increasing mobility. Stretching does play a role, but mostly in improving flexibility, not mobility.
Improved mobility comes about by moving your body through range of motion with resistance - in other words, strength training.
The question you're probably thinking, is why does mobility matter?
Greater mobility reduces your likelihood of injury, improves joint health, enhances athletic performance, AND it comes in especially handy during everyday activities (e.g. getting down to & up from the floor, & reaching overhead to grab a healthy snack from the top shelf..).
4) Improves Hormone Profile
Hormones are the body's chemical messengers; they're responsible for many important bodily functions & influence a LOT of things (e.g. fat loss, energy levels, muscle growth, libido, mood)
Strength training has been shown to have hugely positive impacts on several important hormones, here's a few examples:
Growth Hormone & Testosterone
Resistance training increases levels of both. These two guys play are super important for muscle development, sex drive, bone density, & more.
Estrogen & Progesterone
Levels of these hormones are balanced out within women, helping to lessen the common symptoms of the menopause.
The stress hormone. On the whole strength training reduces cortisol levels, however highly intense exercise will cause short-term spikes. You ideally want to keep cortisol levels low; to ensure that you feel good mentally & avoid excessive fat gain.
The role of insulin is to store glucose (obtained from the food you eat) in your body's cells. With good insulin sensitivity (which strength training promotes) your body is able to efficiently remove glucose from the bloodstream & store it in your liver & muscle cells. With poor insulin sensitivity (also known as insulin resistance), your body's liver & muscles cells develop an inhibited response to insulin, elevating blood glucose levels & leading to fat gain.
5) Optimises Brain Health
Something I often hear from clients that I've worked with for a while is the difference they notice in their cognitive performance. They feel as though they have greater memory recall, less brain fog, & just generally feel mentally sharp!
And it makes perfect sense; strength training (& movement in general) has been shown to increase production of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) a protein key for learning, memory, & reducing depressive symptoms.
One of the main ways that strength training develops the brain is through the varied planes of movement it challenges your body through. If you're following a well-designed training program then you'll undoubtedly be taking your body through a range of different movements, developing all-sorts of proprioceptive abilities in the process.
In a nutshell, strength training enhances the function of your brain, making you a mentally resilient, productive, & happy human being!
6) Boosts Confidence
Every human being wants to feel confident. In my experience, there's few better ways of doing so than by pushing against resistance.
I think the elevated confidence comes down to a couple of things.
Firstly, it changes your physical appearance. You build a bit of muscle, trim down, your clothes start to fit nicer, and you start to like what you see when you look in the mirror. We all want to feel sexy, so this undoubtedly plays its part.
But secondly (and in my opinion more significantly), going through the process of consistent strength training changes the way you view yourself.
A lot of us hold onto self-created limiting beliefs.
Thoughts about yourself such as “I’ve always been out of shape” or, “I’m useless at exercise” or, “I’ll never be able to do ‘x’”. Thoughts like these trap you in a cycle, pushing you towards behaviours that further reinforce them.
Strength training flips the script.
By showing up to the gym each week & overcoming resistance (both physically & mentally), you prove to yourself that you're a person who's capable of embracing challenge & taking steps towards becoming an improved version of yourself.
After a few months of consistent training you start to notice significant changes in your strength, your physique, & your mindset.
You learn that you actually hold incredible potential to change & improve.
No longer do you feel held back by self-limiting beliefs about your capabilities. You recognise that you're capable of achieving anything you want when you put your mind to it.
It's this change in self-narrative that leads to empowerment & confidence every aspect of your life.
Christian Lawal Personal Training.
Personal training in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge & Sevenoaks.