If you reckon strength training is only for athletes or bodybuilders, it’s time to challenge that assumption. Strength training can offer many of us a heap of unique benefits, whether you’re lifting heavy barbells, swinging kettle bells or cranking out body weight moves at home.
Here are seven benefits you can get from strength training:
1. Healthy, strong bones
As we age our bones gradually weaken, making them more susceptible to breaks or fractures. To keep your bones strong and sturdy, you need to keep challenging them. Strength training is one of the most effective bone-strengthening weapons according to a research review in clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism.
“[Strength training makes] the muscles pull on the bones, causing them to slightly bend and ‘squeeze,’” says Michele Olson, PhD, FACSM., a senior clinical professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. This “squeeze,” she says, increases the process of turning over and laying down new bone.
2. Improved balance
Of course so many people experience bone breaks from falling. Some of strength training’s benefit in protecting against osteoporosis may be improved strength and balance, resulting in fewer falls. Indeed research suggests that various resistance routines can reduce an older person’s rate of falling by around 30 percent.
3. You can do it under 30 minutes
Adding strength work to your regular exercise routine doesn’t have to eat up the tiny bit of free time you had left in the day. In fact, lifting is one area where more is not always better – between 30 to 60 minutes twice a week is plenty.
4. Curbs anxiety
New research from the University of Limerick, Ireland, reveals that lifting weights can ease anxiety, especially when done in group settings. After analyzing 16 studies on more than 900 subjects, researchers discovered that resistance training 2–3 times per week significantly improved anxiety symptoms. To keep anxiety away, grab a buddy for a group lifting session at least two times per week.
5. Boosts sports performance
Just as strength training can help you stay injury-free, it can also elevate your performance in your sport or activity. “Strong muscles will be better able to produce greater force, generate greater power and sustain for longer duration before fatigue or failure,” Hamilton explains.
How you structure your strength programme depends on your sport or activity. For example, if you’re an endurance athlete, you’ll benefit most from higher-repetition exercises (15 reps or more). If you prefer to play basketball or rugby, aim for lower-rep exercises in an explosion motion (6 reps or fewer) to build power.
6. Injury prevention
If you take part in recreational sports, bike or like run, strength training regularly can keep you healthy and injury-free. Many running and sport related injuries are caused by muscle weaknesses. For example, if runners experience knee injuries, this can be traced to weakness in the hip muscles. Strengthening this and other sport specific muscles can lessen the impact on your joints, tendons and ligaments, keeping your running, jumping and lunging safer.
If you’re currently injury-free, you can maintain adequate strength with a couple of workouts per week. On the other hand, if you currently need to address any weaknesses, plan on doing specific rehab exercises 3-5 times per week.
7. Strength adds to muscle quality
A stronger muscle has more potential to do everything better. It’s capable of generating more power, building up more stamina, and taking pressure off your joints and connective tissues. And nothing builds strength like the progressive overload offered by strength training. It’s simple—get stronger and your performance potential instantly goes up.