What is resistance training?

PHOTO: What is resistance training?

A guide to the fitness benefits of resistance training

'Pumping iron', 'hitting the weights',and 'bodyweight exercises' are all common expressions that refer to a specific type of exercise - namely resistance training. But what exactly is resistance training?

You may ask how much resistance training you should be doing each week and for how long? There are numerous myths surrounding working out with weights which we aim to answer with the following guide.

Our resistance training training guide includes information on:

  • Different types of exercise with weights
  • Health and fitness benefits of resistance training
  • Training precautions during resistance training¬†

Resistance training

The dictionary definition for resistance training is: 'training designed to increase the body's strength, power, and muscular endurance through resistance exercise - the most common form of which is weight training'.

In other words, when you do a resistance training session, you are trying to get stronger by conditioning your muscles to lift either heavier weights or a certain weight for a longer period of time.

Resistance training is an extremely important component of your fitness programme, because as you age your muscle mass will naturally be lost, unless you exercise to counteract the aging effects.

Also, modern lives are becoming more and more sedentary, what with our increased car and computer usage and use of many other labour saving devices. All these conveniences are very popular but result in reduced usage of our muscles and a detrimental effect on our overall health and fitness.

Different types of resistance training exercises

The phrase 'resistance training' makes most people immediately think of the gym. Gyms and leisure clubs are excellent places to work out with weights, as they will usually have many fixed weight machines and dumbbells - but there are other forms of resistance training that you can do as well.

Bodyweight exercises, circuit training classes and rehabilitation exercises (using thera-bands to provide resistance) are all forms of resistance training and can improve your muscular strength.

Resistance training benefits

A resistance workout will give you a broad range of health and fitness benefits, including:

- Increased strength. Providing that you follow a correctly structured training programme, you can improve your strength in every muscle. Everyday tasks such as lifting, shopping, DIY and gardening chores then become easier and will be within your capabilities.

- Increased calorie burn. The energy cost of toned, stronger muscles results in your metabolic rate (the speed at which your body burns calories) rising. These calorie-burning benefits occur not only when you are exercising, but 24 hours a day!

Every additional pound of muscle on your body will burn an extra 50 calories per day - which equates to five pounds of body fat per pound of muscle every year!

- Improved posture.   When you strengthen your body correctly, you can address muscle imbalance and realign common postural problems such as a tight lower back, rounded shoulders and weak abdominal muscles.

The end result is that you'll be able to walk tall, reduce discomfort, and feel better.

- Reduced risk of illness. Studies have shown that a regular programme of resistance training increases the body's production of the special white blood cells responsible for attacking tumours and viruses.

These effects are particularly pronounced in people who have previously not been involved in resistance training before - so regular resistance training can enhance your immune system.

- Reduced risk of injury. Stronger muscles mean a stronger body, which also means you'll have less chance of picking up a strain or muscle injury because your muscles will be better conditioned and used to work. 

- Improved looks! Everyone wants to look their best, and toned muscles will go a long way to achieving that goal. Plus the combined effects of the other benefits above will all contribute to you looking generally healthier!

- How much resistance training should I do?

To get optimum health and fitness benefits from your resistance training workout, you should aim to do two separate 45-minute sessions each week.

Less frequent workouts, for example one session per week, will still bring benefits, but exercise gains start to diminish after a 72 hour period has elapsed - so two sessions, separated by 48-72 hours, will bring the greatest results.

If time constraints make it difficult to fit two sessions into your week, try combining resistance with cardiovascular (CV) training in one session and repeat it twice weekly.

Circuit training classes achieve just that - and although they are challenging, they will pack more into an hour-long session than a single discipline alone.

Resistance training precautions

If you are at all unsure about starting a resistance training programme or have not exercised for some time, then get the all-clear from your doctor before you begin.

Also, you should get professional instruction on correct lifting technique so that you learn the right way to handle and lift weights.

Time spent at the outset of your strength training programme learning the correct training protocols will pay long-term dividends in faster and greater improvements, and will also help to ensure that you don't suffer an injury which will halt your progress.

Your resistance training workout

Whenever you do resistance training, it is very important to keep your body in balance.

Simply working the 'mirror muscles' (i.e. the ones that you see when you look in the mirror, such as the stomach and chest) will result in postural imbalances and potentially also injury.

For example, if you exercise the chest, you should balance that with upper back exercises, and if you carry out some sit-ups, do the same number of lower back exercises as well.

Providing you train sensibly and follow a set training plan, by doing some resistance training exercises you will enjoy a huge range of health and fitness benefits - and feel and look good too.

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