When thinking about strength training, usually the positive effects "more muscle" and "more strength" come to mind. However, training with weights offers many more benefits than just looking better and increasing strength. For example, strength training is tremendously important for a healthy body and mind. It can also help you live longer.
Frequent strength training promotes a healthy and long life. It is good for the cardiovascular system, metabolism, bone density, joints and even prevents diseases. Those who keep fit have more energy, a better quality of life and simply feel better.
When it comes to diseases, you can make an endless list. However, many diseases can be prevented by strength training.
The stress of training on your body sets in motion various reactions. These reactions stimulate both your immune and hormonal systems. Your body releases anti-inflammatory substances and thus stimulates the immune cells. In addition, older people are often affected by diseases such as cancer, diabetes and dementia. Training has positive effects here as well.
A study by Mazzilli et al. (2019) showed that strength training can reduce cancer risk. The subjects in the study were divided into the groups "No", "Little" and "A lot of" strength training. The results clearly showed that the more physical training was done, the lower the risk of cancer. Thus, there seems to be a dependence between the disease pattern and training.
Diabetes type 2
Diabetes type 2 is preventable and even curable. The reason for this disease is insulin resistance. It prevents the body from properly breaking down the sugar it is supplied with. The sugar then remains in the blood and leads to an increase in blood sugar level. In the long run, blood vessels, nerves and some organs can be damaged. The risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke increases.
To prevent the disease or even to support the healing process, you should exercise more and pay attention to a healthy diet. The best thing to do is strength training. The increase in muscle mass improves your insulin sensitivity. This lowers your blood sugar level. In addition, training leads to fat loss. Since obesity is often linked to the disease, it is possible to prevent or even cure it.
The neurological disease dementia causes the affected individuals to lose cognitive abilities over time. In the long term, even simple, everyday tasks become difficult and can no longer be performed without help. The disease usually occurs at an older age.
A study from the University of Sydney by Broadhouse et al. (2020) attributed massive benefits to strength training in terms of cognitive abilities and brain degeneration. Even after a 12-month break from training, strength training was still shown to protect certain areas of the brain from degeneration. So, strength training should be done to prevent dementia.
The metabolism is stimulated enormously by physical training. You burn calories not only during the workout, but also afterwards. The reason for this is the afterburn effect. However, the biggest advantage is the muscles that are built up. Muscles permanently consume a lot of energy. If you build muscles, more energy is needed to supply and maintain them. This increases your basal metabolic rate of calories that you need. Your metabolism is thus boosted.
In old age, the positive effect of strength training in relation to metabolism is particularly important. There is a myth that aging slows down the metabolism or that the metabolism "falls asleep". But this is not true. The reason for a slower metabolism in old age is a decrease in muscle mass. Older people rarely do any strength training. And if more muscles result in a faster metabolism, then less muscles result in a slower metabolism. Therefore, the metabolic rate often gets worse with age. So, do strength training even in old age to keep your metabolism going.
Muscle atrophy or sarcopenia (Greek sarx = flesh + penia = loss) describes the loss of muscle mass and decrease in muscle strength with age. According to a study by Volpi et al. (2004), people over 30 years lose 3-8% muscle mass per decade. Past the age of 60, muscle loss is even higher. The decrease in muscle mass leads to a slower metabolism. In addition, older people are at risk of falling.
If you train with weights frequently, you can prevent or slow down muscle loss. Most of the time, the problem lies in the fact that strength training is not practiced in old age. The body is exposed to less and less stress. This leads to a negative spiral. Less stress leads to a loss of strength. In turn, a loss of strength leads to a loss of muscle mass. The consequences are even more loss of strength and so on. Therefore, especially in old age, you should not give up training, nor a protein-rich diet.
Many people have insufficient bone density. In old age, even osteoporosis can occur, i.e. a pathological decrease in bone density. Strength training can treat or prevent osteoporosis.
Adults who do not engage in strength training lose up to 3% of bone density each year. Numerous long-term studies show that training promotes bone formation. Thus, the decrease is reduced, or the density is even increased. A study by Wolff et al. (1999) showed that training prevented or even reversed about 1% of bone density loss per year. Thus, strength training provides better bone density at any age. In addition, training with weights has a much higher effect on density than other sports, such as endurance sports.
Joints are not connected to the bloodstream. This means that they are not supplied with nutrients by the blood circulation. Therefore, joints are bradytrophic tissue.
Bradytroph (Greek brados = slow + trophi = nutrition) means slow metabolism. Bradytrophic tissue has few or no blood cells. The tissue is supplied with nutrients by diffusion and not by the bloodstream.
In order to supply the joints with nutrients, you have to put them under load. Push, pull and alternating loads are effective in this case. This means that in order to promote the joint structure, you should choose exercises that load the joints in different pulling directions and types. However, it is important that you do not overload the joints. Overloading the bradytrophic tissue is fatal, as it damages it.
Therefore, it is important that you:
- Warm up well before training.
- Pay attention on perfect technique.
- Don't perform movements too quickly.
- Don't use too much weight.
Probably the most popular effect of strength training is the improved appearance. The reason for this is muscle growth, also called hypertrophy. Specifically, you increase the muscle cross-sectional area. For this, you need to stimulate your muscles, which you can achieve most effectively with strength training. In addition, you increase your fat burning. This leads to an aesthetic appearance.
When muscles are stressed, microscopic tears appear in the muscle tissue. To repair and strengthen the tissue, proteins are needed. So, make sure to eat a diet rich in proteins.
Good posture is important for an aesthetic appearance. However, most people nowadays possess poor posture. A lot of time is spent in front of screens or on the couch. This often results in an unhealthy posture. There is a risk that, e.g., your shoulders rotate inwards and you get a hunchback. This is often associated with pain. In addition, over the long term, your musculature degenerates.
Muscles are enormously important for a healthy posture. They ensure good body tension. In addition, your muscles support and stabilize the spine. If you have bad posture, you often have to deal with a curvature of the spine. Therefore, strength training is a very good way to achieve good posture.
However, it is important that you do not neglect any muscle groups. For example, it does not make sense to train chest more than back. Furthermore, small muscle groups such as rear delts are very important for good posture. Your shoulders tend to be pulled back by the strength of the rear delts. This also makes your standing more upright, which further improves your appearance.
For better posture, don't neglect any muscle groups. Also, make sure you workout with full range of motion to correct imbalances.
Another positive effect of training is the increase in strength. This is beneficial in many areas of life. However, just lifting weights is not enough. To achieve maximum results, you should train according to a smart plan that sets strong muscle-building stimuli. This is how you signal your body that it needs to get stronger. Also, progression plays the biggest role in increasing strength.
Progression in strength training means a continuous increase in weight and/or number of reps.
If you want to optimize your strength training, download Alpha Progression. The app gives you recommendations for every set, guaranteeing long-term progression!
In terms of flexibility, there is a myth that a lot of muscle makes you inflexible. However, this is not or only partially the case. Studies by Ribeiro et al. (2017) and Thrash et al. (1987) have shown that strength training can be beneficial for flexibility. You become more flexible when you train your muscles through a full range of motion. Also, different directions of motion are important. If you take these factors into account, strength training is actually very beneficial for your flexibility.
If you, e.g., only do bench presses for your chest, your flexibility will definitely suffer. If you also perform cable flys, which stretches the chest muscles in the lower position, things look quite different. This way you have loads from different directions combined with a full range of motion. This results in better flexibility.
Another myth is that strength training makes you slow. This is completely false - strength training actually increases speed. For this, you can look at the training of top Olympic athletes or soccer players. Not only do they all sprint, but they also implement strength training into their speed training. Speed strength and explosive power are enormously important for higher speed. This is because the fast-twitch muscle fibers are more likely to be stressed. Those are the fibers that are important for fast and explosive movements.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers form the basis for higher speed. The best way to build those up is through strength training.
For many, sport is the balance to a stressful everyday life. After sports, you usually feel good. But what is the reason for that?
This is due to hormones that your body releases during and after exercise. The hormones dopamine, serotonine, and endorphins are even known as happiness hormones.
Dopamine is released shortly after you start exercising. This makes you more alert and more concentrated. In addition, your focus increases. The dopamine level slowly drops again after the workout.
Serotonin is released shortly after its counterpart dopamine drops. Serotonin is generally considered a feel-good hormone.
Furthermore, endorphins are released. These are considered to be happiness hormones. Endorphins have a pain-relieving, calming effect and reduce stress. In addition, they ensure better sleep and put you in a good mood.
Anxiety disorders and depression
Strength training has been scientifically proven to alleviate anxiety disorders and depression. In a study by Cunha et al (2021), 48 women (60-74 years old) did strength training for 12 weeks. The goal of the study was to find out how anxiety disorders and depression related to exercise. The results clearly showed that strength training can alleviate symptoms.
Strength training has a massive impact on your self-image. Your self-worth is increased. You get a more positive self-perception and above all a better self-esteem. So, you feel better all around. Keeping your psyche and mind fit is just as important as keeping your body healthy.
As you can see in the following figure, strength training has an enormous impact on your self-esteem. Sports, your increased performance and a more attractive appearance are the basic building blocks for your self-worth.
Furthermore, training provides more discipline, focus and stamina. These positive effects can also be transferred to everyday life. Thus, strength athletes usually automatically live a more successful and happier life, which in turn has a positive effect on the self-image.
Strength training offers benefits in many different areas. It is an important foundation for your health. Your immune system is strengthened and you can prevent diseases. This includes cancer, type 2 diabetes and dementia. In addition, training boosts your metabolism.
Of course, strength training builds muscle mass, but it also has a positive effect on bones and joints. Flexibility and speed are also improved by strength training with a full range of motion. Furthermore, training can positively influence your posture.
In addition, strength training is good for the psyche. Training ensures a better sense of well-being. The release of happiness hormones plays an important role here. Your self-esteem is increased and anxiety disorders and depression are reduced.
So, strength training offers much more benefits than just gaining muscle and improving performance. You can significantly increase your overall quality of life!