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How Strength Training Can Completely Transform Your Body

How Strength Training Can Completely Transform Your Body

Exercise is one of the most powerful physical and mental health interventions anyone can undertake. Everyone should participate in some form of exercise every day. Unfortunately, most do not exercise regularly at all and even among those that do, participating in a strength training program is more of a rarity than the norm, especially with women and seniors.

But things are changing and strength training is having a real renaissance moment right now.

Until recently, strength training wasn’t always considered to be as important as cardio and many didn’t pay it the reverence it deserves, instead focusing on cardiovascular exercise and events like 5K’s, marathons and triathlons. However, now it’s hard to look through my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed without seeing updates about squat, deadlift, powerclean and bench press PR’s. Weight training has even made it to prime time TV with the CrossFit Games and National Pro Grid League. This is great because now many people are realizing the power of strength training and how it can completely transform your body.

Increase Strength

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    One of the most obvious effects of a strength training program is the increase in physical strength. And being physically strong has a number of awesome side effects.

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    Yeah, you’ll notice the obvious things — like you’re not intimidated by the weight room anymore. You’re totally comfortable with a barbell in your hands and you’ve graduated from the vinyl coated dumbbells stored in the group exercise room to the ones on the weight rack.

    But you’ll also realize that your life is easier. Never having to think twice about carrying your kids, groceries, or the inevitable snow shoveling this winter. Things that used to be a real chore aren’t such a hassle and don’t leave you out of breath, sore and hurting for days. All of your ADL’s (activities of daily living) become much easier and less of a strain when you’ve changed your body through strength training.

    “Lifting weights is excellent for improving bone density, joint mobility, and body composition.” Not to mention that daily tasks such as lugging groceries, moving furniture, and climbing stairs become easier.” —Alexander Koch, Ph.D

    Increase Muscle Mass

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      Let’s face it, most of us start working out to look better naked and strength training is one of the best ways to achieve that goal.

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      Unfortunately, many “fit” looking people focus only on “cardio”, yoga and other forms of exercise that, while possessing their own benefits, don’t include building muscle. This results in someone who is very thin yet has a high body fat percentage and suffers from the dreaded “skinny fat” phenomenon. They appear to be fit and healthy with clothes on but actually have a comparatively high body fat percentage due to their low muscle mass. Skinny fat is probably most prevalent with women who are (incorrectly) afraid that weights will “bulk them up”, so they focus solely on cardiovascular exercise. Fact is, most women don’t have the hormone profile to add appreciable muscle mass. And even if they do, it usually takes years of dedicated, intensive, weight training and diet to build extreme muscle mass. If you’re still scared you’ll bulk up, keep in mind that research has consistently shown most women feel better about their body after they start strength training.

      Adding some muscle mass, changing the size of a muscle, is really the only way to change the shape or “build” of your body. If you finally want the arms, shoulders, legs or butt you’ve been after, you need to lift some weights. This goes for the guys, too. Strength training through progressive overload is the only way to stress the muscles, force them to grow, and add the muscle size and shape you’re after.

      Decrease Body Fat

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        Like cardio, strength training burns fat, too! Although not able to match the fat-burning rates of cardio, strength training results in an “afterburn” effect where calories are burned at an elevated rate after exercise has stopped. The afterburn can last up to 72 hours after exercise. While most people focus on cardio for losing the last 5 lbs of fat, most trainers will agree that the most effective formula for weight loss is usually a combination of nutrition and strength training.

        When combined with the increase in metabolism that results from adding more muscle to your frame over time, it’s obvious that strength training can be a powerful tool in the battle against body fat.

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        Improve Posture

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          Many of us look and feel depressed, sickly, even fat, simply because we have poor posture. Our, “Desk Jockey” lifestyle has lead us to exist in this hunched over, hang off the skeleton, stance. And it is wreaking havoc on our health. Proper strength training can help strengthen weak postural muscles, even out imbalances and help to reverse this posture. Not only will you appear taller, stronger and more attractive, you’ll feel that way too.

          “We found that the effect of the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self-related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture.” —Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty and Benjamin Wagner

          Build a Better Skeleton

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            Building and maintaining bone density is important for everyone as we age. Strong bones mean a lesser risk of the debilitating injuries that can result from bone breaks and fractures that can occur to anyone but become especially dangerous and prevalent as we age. Women are especially susceptible to bone loss as a result of age related hormonal and lifestyle changes. Strength training produces strong bones that cardiovascular exercise just can’t match.

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            “Both aerobic and resistance training exercise can provide weight-bearing stimulus to bone, yet research indicates that resistance training may have a more profound site specific effect than aerobic exercise. Over the past 10 years, nearly two dozen cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown a direct and positive relationship between the effects of resistance training and bone density.” —Layne, Nelson

            Bones are thought to increase density primarily in response to compressive forces. This is what makes strength training exercises like squats, shoulder presses, pushups, lunges and deadliftts so effective at creating bone mass. They place a compressive stress on the larger bones and lead to an increase in bone density and a stronger, more resilient skeleton.

            Improve Brain Function

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              We’ve known for a while now that cardiovascular exercise can physically change the brain by actually growing brain cells. Now we know that strength training can have brain benefits too. According to Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, weight training can beneficially change the structure of the brain, but “a minimum threshold of exercise needs to be achieved.”

              While most of this research is new, it’s promising and is the first to show that strength training, as little as twice a week, may also result in a physical change to the brain.

              Strength training and adding muscle mass can literally transform your body. You can start out weak, slumped, soft and frail only to transform into someone strong, resilient and solid. While we’re all bound by our genetics and frame, strength training and adding muscle mass is the only way guys are going to build biceps that bust t-shirt sleeves and girls are going to build glutes they buy jeans show off instead of hide. In fact, many celebrities and models focus primarily on strength training when they need to get in shape fast and look their best.

              But, keep in mind, strength training is about so much more than just lifting weights, building your muscles and looking great. It’s about vitality, energy, confidence and independence. Once you’ve experienced the benefits of strength training you’ll understand how strength training can completely transform your body, inside and out.

              photo credit: Pinterest

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              Last Updated on August 13, 2020

              12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

              12 Benefits of Meditation That Improve Your Body And Mind

              As a mediation teacher, I am constantly confronted with these two questions regarding the benefits of meditation:

              1. Why can’t I enjoy the benefits of meditation continuously?

              I ask back: Is it maybe because you see mediation as a technique, performance, or some exclusive activity? The answer is: yes!

              Or, because your mind is constantly evolving on the past negative attachments and traditional habits? After careful thinking they answer: yes, probably!

              Although meditation is very simple and challenging at the same time, in the above mentioned case, it’s not easy to benefit from meditation, especially when approached with the idea that it has to be learned, studied, or applied. Meditation is to be seen as a natural, mental cleansing process that happens on a basis of awareness on a moment-to-moment experience. When that takes place, the benefits of meditation are continuous.

              2. What is the purpose of meditation?

              The purpose of meditation is to accomplish a level of consciousness for mastering the mind and uniting with the finest, deepest, and subtlest part of yourself as a being.

              It is a conscious process of observation of the mind—helping the meditator to understand the structure of its mind and the quality of its content. During this process, countless benefits of a physical, mental, and spiritual/philosophical nature arise for the meditator.

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              Meditation as a Fixer and Benefactor

              In this article we’ll have a look at the primary and the ultimate benefits of mediation, which improve your body and mind at the same time. For the sake of clarity, readability, and tangible experience, I have separated the benefits into three groups.

              You can change just about anything you don’t like about yourself (psychologically, as well as physically) through meditation. However, this is only possible with a specific approach, when your brain allows the benefits of meditation to do their work.

              This means not to interrupt the benefit with other thoughts, but to let their effect implement itself in your body and mind. This approach is crucial.

              The following exercises will make you feel the benefits of meditation instantly, but the continuity of the benefits of meditation on your body and mind depend on the discipline of your brain, how you manage external stimuli and your thoughts.

              Less Physical, More Psychological

              Even though the practice of meditation is more psychological and less physical, the first benefit we’re going to experience is both physical as well as mental.

              This benefit happens literally immediately, right at the moment of meditation. It is the essence of mediation basically.

              The First Benefit of Meditation

              The first benefit of meditation is twofold:

              1. Improving inward attention (sharpening the mind)
              2. Relaxation of the body

              Let’s do it right now. This benefit consists of only one step, and it is very simple to perform. It goes like this:

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              Sit still and pay attention to your exhalation.

              That’s it! Technically, the whole journey into the world of mediation begins here and nowhere else. And right here, you benefit from this step in the following way:

              When you pay attention to the flow of your exhalation (gentle, deep, effortless exhalation), your body begins with the process of relaxation instantly (your heart rate slows down, your nervous system calms, and tension in your muscles is relieved).

              When the nervous system calms, your mind calms down, and, more specifically, less thoughts are produced by your mind. How, exactly? By applying one of the most valuable mental skills—attention—the mind follows the breathing and has no space and time to generate any other thoughts. Only when the attention goes off the breath, other thoughts are constructed, and the mind is accelerating with thought production again.

              Keeping the First Benefit Effective and Ongoing

              Here you apply the approach of not letting the relaxation and attention process get interrupted; rather let the effects of these benefits implant in your body and mind as deeply as possible.

              This is to say, the instant relaxation and inward attention happen at the same time when you follow the flow of your breath. Repeating this process—creating a constant rhythm out of the breathing and the attention—you create a process of meditation.

              Keep your attention on the flow of your breath and see how the calmness of body and mind begin to rule your present moment. The longer you stay connected to your breathing, the stronger you’ll feel the benefit. Start with 3-5 minutes at a time without doing anything else, and increase to 10-20 minutes and onwards.

              Can you think of a better, simpler and quicker exercise that can relax the body and improve attention in this way, at this speed?

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              This benefit takes you to the second one.

              The Second Benefit of Meditation

              While still working with the first benefit of mediation, you slowly start to see the second benefit of mediation, which is fourfold. I call it the major value of mediation:

              1. Energy (physical and mental strength)
              2. Observance
              3. Peacefulness (stillness, and space of mind for deeper observation)
              4. Patience

              Peacefulness is the source of a blissful life. The energy is the fuel to express that blissfulness. Whatever we want to accomplish in life we need: 1) Physical and mental strength, 2) Observance of that energy, 3) Peacefulness—the calmness and stillness that creates space for freedom of being and creative thinking, and 4) Patience for the process of accomplishment.

              You can only get creative in thinking and boosted with physical and mental energy when you get in touch with the deepest levels of yourself—when you harmonize your mental and physiological activities. How do you do that? Let’s try it right now:

              This step involves the observation of the two separate movements of your breath. After paying attention on your exhalation, you have prepared your body and mind to really see and feel what true peacefulness and true energy means.

              1. Energy

              Keep your attention on your inhalation (inhaling gently, deeply and lightly) and feel the new energy (new oxygen) flowing in your body. The inhalation is the symbol for aliveness and vitality. It is the the primary act that connects the baby’s body with the outside world after coming out of the womb[1]. Each inhalation is a new opportunity for your body to revive, regenerate, and renew itself.

              2. Observance

              The observance comes during the process of meditation, enabling you to see the physiological benefits of introducing new energy to your body. Use that benefit by utilizing its effects, and create deeper observation into yourself. With every single inhalation, this observation will enable you to generate even more energy, mentally and physically.

              3. Peacefulness

              Keep your attention on your exhalation, and feel how, out of the relaxation, peacefulness is spreading throughout your whole body. The exhalation is the symbol for relaxation and peacefulness. Only through meditation can you realize what absolute peacefulness means.

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              4. Patience

              The meditation delivers the previous benefits to you immediately and opens up the possibility for many other benefits and great virtues. A specific one to mention, which is essential for reaching the ultimate benefits of meditation, is patience. If you have experienced the aforementioned benefits, it means that you have invested a certain amount of patience into mastering yourself and your mind.

              The Ultimate Benefits of Meditation

              Patience is a key quality when it comes to the ultimate benefits of meditation.

              Since the mind is the tool that reveals everything, mediation is the method for the proper utility of the tool.

              The above mentioned benefits of mediation lead to the ultimate benefits of mediation—qualities that depict what makes a human being human. As you dwell in a meditative state of being, the following benefits begin to emanate:

              • Diligence: the persistence for righteous effort to reach an intrinsic value; inner strength.
              • Temperance: to express self-control and show excellence in managing the physio-biological and mental necessities
              • Courage: using righteous effort and braveness to look into the weaknesses of yourself and at the hardship of your life, endure it and patiently overcome the obstacles
              • Loving kindness and Compassion – a capacity to care, understand, and tolerate other people’s state of being, wishing them freedom from suffering.
              • Wisdom: the moment when you feel that mediation gives you the feeling and the knowledge that what you do relating to life and practical affairs is just.
              • Equanimity: that puts you in a state of composure, and you experience an ongoing blissful state of being.

              These are the 6 ultimate benefits of meditation that put your body and mind in a state of health and balance.

              Final Thoughts

              Mediation exists to put order in your mind and awaken the best of you, to reconnect you to your goodness and your inborn intelligent capabilities.

              Meditation is the window to your true Self. It gives you a panoramic view of your heart’s greatness. It shows you the true meaning of love, freeing you from the dungeons of ignorance and despair. The power of meditation dismantles the evil that’s trying to cloud the beauty of your heart.

              Your heart, body, and soul are the bridge over which the challenges of life frequently carry their heavy load. Meditation is the support of that bridge. Make use of that support.

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              Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Medline Plus: Changes in the newborn at birth

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