For years, people have been hearing in order to lose weight, perform endurance training; to build muscle, weight train. However, no matter what your goals are, strength training is an integral part of a complete and balanced exercise routine.
The American College of Sports Medicine states that inactive adults can expect to experience a 3% to 8% loss in muscle mass per decade, accompanied by an increase in body fat, and decrease in metabolic rate. In just 10 weeks of structured resistance training, people can experience up to a 1.4kg increase in lean body mass, paired with a 1.8kg decrease in fat mass (Westcott, 2012). Some of the other benefits listed include “improved physical performance, movement control, walking speed, functional independence, cognitive abilities and self-esteem.” Strength training can also help bone growth; about 1% to 3% increase according to the ACSM (Westcott, 2012).
According to a study performed by the American Physiological Society, a strength training routine can increase resting metabolic rate up to 7.7% (Pratley, et al. 1994). This study was performed on healthy men, age 50-65 for 16 weeks. After 16 weeks of structured heavy resistance training, body weight did not change, but lean body mass (muscle) increased, fat mass decreased, muscle strength increased 40%, and metabolic rate increased. What does this mean for you? Well since in order to lose a pound of body fat, you need to be in a 3500 calorie deficit. Essentially you need to burn 3500 more calories than you consume. Burning more calories at rest throughout the day, even without changing your diet, will help create this deficit. For each extra pound of muscle mass, you can expect to burn around 50 more calories per day, at rest.
A recent study performed by the Gerontological Society of America found that a generic resistance training routine can be applied to both men and women with similar results (Leenders, 2012). This study used a 6 month resistance training program, 3 days per week, to show that in both men and women, resistance training can prevent and reverse the age related decline in muscle mass. So what does this mean? No matter who you are, strength training can be good for you.
I know a lot of women especially are scared of starting a resistance training routine, because they do not want to get big and bulky. But I can assure you that unless you are strength training consistently 6 days a week for 3-4 hours a day, you will not get big and bulky. What you will see however, are inches change, weight get redistributed, and muscle tone start to develop. To start adding this into your workout routine, start with 2 days a week. Pick one exercise for each body part, and perform for 2 sets of 15 repetitions. For example, in one workout you would perform squats, chest press, seated row, overhead press, bicep curl and tricep extensions two times, 15 repetitions each time. Try to choose a weight that is challenging but not impossible. If you are trying to perform 15 seated rows, and it feels like you could do 30, the weight is a little light. Conversely, if it only feels like you can go for 10, lighten it up a little.
Many people have asked me should you weight train before or after doing endurance training? Personally, I like to do it before. However, there is little to no scientific difference whether you do strength training first, or endurance training first. So my recommendations, switch it up and see what works best for you! Just take that first step towards a more complete exercise routine and get started!
As always, please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have on the information contained here. Please if you have any ailments, consult your physician before starting any heavy resistance training routine.
Leenders, M. et al. (2013). Elderly men and women benefit equally from prolonged resistance-type exercise training. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 68(7), 769-779
Pratley, R. et al. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50-to 65pyr old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133-137
Westcott, W.L. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Current sports medicine reports, 11(4), 209-216