15 Benefits of Weight Training & Exercise for Men & Women

Benefits of Weight Training

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Not everybody who trains his or her heart out in the gym ends up hitting the stage to compete. In fact, the majority of readers of bodybuilding publications and patrons of hardcore gyms don't compete at all and never will. The mainstay of my client base is non-competitive individuals, although I work with many pros and amateur competitors. I spend a lot of time reassuring them that they're ready, come contest day. But loss of perspective is a hazard in this environment.

One can easily forget how small the sport of competitive bodybuilding really is in the scheme of things, despite what IFBB president Ben Weider reports to audiences at both the Olympia and Arnold Classic each year, telling us all how bodybuilding is coming just that much closer to being accepted as an Olympic sport. There aren't many people out there in the world who would punish their bodies as harshly as competitive bodybuilders do.

Most gym members work out for the sake of it. That may sound funny to competitors who have their eyes perpetually on the prize, but it really doesn't sound funny to me when I consider the many different reasons people have for working out. They're all very worthy ones - even for competitors.

Think back to the excitement (for some, utter terror) of that first step into a gym. Most of us who have competed didn't start with a tunnel-vision desire to make a career of bodybuilding. We may have begun on a dare, to maintain our weight, or to compensate for the void left by the loss of competitive sports after high school was over. No matter the reason, some form of motivation caused all of us to take that first step. Remembering why, is the reason I write this month.

If you're not a competitive bodybuilder but go to the gym to throw weight around, you have your own unique reasons for being there. Maybe you want to stay one step ahead of Father Time, fool Mother Nature, or find an outlet for the stress you accumulate in your day as an emerging professional in the business world. Whether you just started working out, are a seasoned veteran of iron, or have fallen prey to boredom and begun to question why you're still there, let's review all the good reasons why you, or anyone, should work out. You may already know all the benefits of training, but if nothing else, this list might remind you of why you keep on doing what you do.

Weight training tones muscles.

This may be the most obvious of reasons why working out with weights is beneficial, but it merits mentioning time and again. Toned muscles are the heart and soul of workouts and of a sound structure. Keeping your muscles trained helps keep you up and running for the rest of your life. A sedentary lifestyle - a life without resistance or aerobic exercise - is the fastest way to disease and death. Both you and your mate will be much happier with you in shape than out of shape.

Regular resistance training can reverse the natural decline in your metabolism.

A slow decline in metabolic rate begins to happen to the average person around age 30. As they say, life is pretty much all downhill from there - that is, of course, unless you work out. Working out stimulates the metabolism and causes your body to burn more calories at rest than ever before. Maintaining this kind of habit consistently over the long haul can prolong the metabolic aging process by at least 10 years. Whereas you may have started putting on weight at 30 or 40 without any form of exercise, you might not have to worry too much until you're well past the half-century mark! Even then, after decades of workouts, your body may be lean enough that you'll never have to worry.

Weight training aids all the muscles of the body - including your heart.

Nearly every muscle in the body can benefit from resistance and aerobic workouts. Even while you're training specific muscle groups like hamstrings or biceps, other parts of your body are pitching in to help you lift the weight. You should understand how to isolate each muscle group to achieve desired strength gains and growth, but the little extra effort that inevitably falls on neighboring muscles will help them remain fit too. And don't forget the most important muscle in the entire body - the heart. It benefits from both anaerobic (weight training) and aerobic (jogging, cycling) workouts. Keeping it fit should be your main goal.

Resistance training improves your muscular endurance.

Most people think of the word endurance and picture being able to withstand running a distance race, but muscle endurance is probably one of the most important reasons to work out. Being able to lift and carry objects, along with holding on to heavy objects for extended periods of time (a child, perhaps?) is crucial to daily living. Weight training not only develops strength within the musculoskeletal system, but it also delivers endurance - provided workouts are consistent and training is diverse.

Training raises your basal metabolic rate.

That may sound like Greek to people who aren't into physiological sciences, but the concept is really quite simple. Your metabolism regulates how many calories you burn at rest. If it's operating at a high level (high basal metabolism), you're not likely to be overweight because you burn more calories during a 24-hour day than you taken in. Both weight training and aerobic training help raise your body's basal metabolic rate. The best news of all is that you'll burn even more calories while you sleep.

Weight training won't cause women to become huge.

Seeing a large female bodybuilder for the first time often causes untrained women who are new to the gym to run intimidated for the door. Their first reaction is typically to want to stop working out for fear they'll become musclebound. A common misconception is that lifting heavy weights could cause extreme muscle hypertrophy (growth) in women. In actuality, that type of development is very difficult for any woman because estrogen counteracts extreme muscle growth. Toning is about all the average woman will get in trade for hard time in the gym. Even then her diet has to be better than average to see much improvement.

Strength is the unavoidable end result.

At the risk of stating the obvious, some form of strength gain is almost guaranteed when you when regularly lift weights. Strengthening the body gives you confidence in your daily tasks, along with making most daily activities a lot easier. You don't have to aspire to be "He-Man, Master of the Universe." Strength comes in both large and small orders.

Lifting weights strengthens bones.

A regular schedule of resistance training will reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis in your 40s and beyond. For women this focus is crucial because calcium and bone loss occur as estrogen levels ebb later in life. Lifting weights increases bone density while strengthening supporting muscles.

Weight training can prevent low-back injuries.

The low back can really take a beating over the course of a lifetime. Putting in gym time helps strengthen the whole muscular system, but can directly benefit the low back. Just a few minutes each week on a hyperextension bench will ensure that the back doesn't buckle on down the road. Keep in mind that regularly holding the body steady in the squat or lunge position indirectly strengthens the muscles of the low back too.

Weight training decreases your blood pressure.

After you've trained at a gym for even as little as three months, your body begins to change in chemistry and function. When you increase your fitness level, your heart becomes healthier. Both systolic and diastolic blood-pressure readings are lowered in response to a healthier heart and improved circulation.

Weight training lowers your resting heart rate, a sign of a more efficient heart.

When your heart is well trained through both anaerobic and aerobic means, it becomes a fit muscle just like any other. Just as becoming fit means you can lift more weight effortlessly, getting fit also aids your heart in being able to withstand more stress. Because it's been trained right along with the rest of your body, the heart operates at rest more economically in those who work out, beating fewer times per minute. The fewer the beats per minute, the healthier your heart is.

Resistance training increases your blood level of healthy HDL cholesterol.

There are two types of cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and LDL (low-density lipoproteins). For a healthy heart you should aim at having s high level of HDL and a low level of LDL. Essentially these lipoproteins indicate the content of "blood fat," the plaque that can clog arteries. Exercise in any form reduces the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Keep your eating regimen free of dietary cholesterol and harmful saturated fats.

Weight training improves your overall posture, balance and muscle coordination.

Once you begin a routine of regular weight training, you'll start to notice other positive effects. Balance improves almost immediately. The nerves and muscles in the spine responsible for balance become better toned as a result of standing with weight. Initially this weight-bearing causes slight instability you may not even notice, but in the process you will achieve greater stability. Better balance also improves your overall posture. You'll be more coordinated because your motor skills and the nerves that fire messages between brain and muscle will be in better condition.

Resistance training strengthens your entire immune system.

Pushing heavy - or even moderate - weights causes the body to produce more red blood cells and hence more iron and increased overall body strength. When you combine training with sound nutrition, it can also combat the circulation of free radicals in the body. According to experts, a weight-trained body is much less susceptible to illness.

A regular routine of weight training energizes body, mind and spirit.

Nothing takes the place of a good, hard workout for elevating your mood, making your body feel energized and invigorated, and lifting your mind from the drudges of stress and strain. Studies have shown that those who work out even moderately on a semi regular basis have less chance for developing stress-related heart trouble, obesity, or mental disorders such as depression. Hard workouts even cause the brain to release feel-good chemicals (called "endorphins") that can simulate a drug-like high. That's an impressive program of benefits for competitor and non competitor alike. Working out for the sake of it is the real heart and soul of bodybuilding. Hang in there.

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