If you’re trying to achieve optimal health and fitness, resistance training really should be a part of your workout plan. Resistance exercise, also known as strength training, is based on the principle that the muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistant force when required to do so.
This type of training uses the resistance of muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles, and works to strengthen bones. Resistance exercise also serves to stimulate the development of small proteins in muscle cells, which enhances their ability to generate force.
A well-rounded exercise program should always include resistance training to improve joint function, bone density and muscle, tendon and ligament strength, in addition to cardio activities to improve heart and lung fitness.
Benefits of resistance training
If you hope to reduce fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently, resistance training is a key component of any health and fitness program. By default, muscle mass diminishes as you age, so if you don’t do anything, the percentage of fat in your body will increase. Starting at around the age of 35, the body gradually starts to lose muscle, which makes you become increasingly weaker as you grow older.
Resistance training helps you to preserve and enhance muscle mass no matter what your age. It also benefits the body in many other ways, including improving HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels, which contribute to better cardiovascular health.
It positively affects body composition, as an increase in muscle mass means a reduction in body fat and an enhanced metabolic rate, which means resistance training is highly effective for losing or maintaining weight.
Choosing a resistance level
When you’re ready to begin, you should choose a resistance level that’s challenging enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. When you get to the 12th repetition, you should just barely to be able to finish the motion, according to Edward R. Laskowski, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center.
In order to give the muscles enough time to recover, resting for a full day between exercising each specific muscle group is important. During resistance training, the cells break down, and in the process become stronger when given time to recover, which is why it’s essential to allow sufficient time for recovery.
By failing to do so, the benefits of this exercise are reduced as the muscles become fatigued and don’t have the opportunity to grow. If you hit a plateau and don’t see any progress, rather than training harder and harder, it’s best to reduce your workload slightly and/or allow for a longer period of rest in between training sessions.
Listening to your body is also important. Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints mean you’ve overdone it.
Types of resistance training
You’re probably familiar with using free weights, dumbbells or weight machines for resistance training, but there are other options too, such as medicine balls, resistance bands and even your own body weight, which can be used for exercises like squats, abdominal crunches, pull-ups and push-ups. Resistance tubes are another option – you can find a variety at Amazon.com. They are inexpensive and provide resistance when stretched.
No matter which form of resistance training you choose, just do it! You may be surprised at how quickly you reap the rewards.
-The Alternative Daily