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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 January 21, 2020

              The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

              The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

              Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

              your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

                Why You Need a Vision

                Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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                How to Create Your Life Vision

                Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

                What Do You Want?

                The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

                It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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                Some tips to guide you:

                • Remember to ask why you want certain things
                • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
                • Give yourself permission to dream.
                • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
                • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

                Some questions to start your exploration:

                • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
                • What would you like to have more of in your life?
                • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
                • What are your secret passions and dreams?
                • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
                • What do you want your relationships to be like?
                • What qualities would you like to develop?
                • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
                • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
                • What would you most like to accomplish?
                • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

                It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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                What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

                Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

                A few prompts to get you started:

                • What will you have accomplished already?
                • How will you feel about yourself?
                • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
                • What does your ideal day look like?
                • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
                • What would you be doing?
                • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
                • How are you dressed?
                • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
                • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
                • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

                It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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                Plan Backwards

                It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

                • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
                • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
                • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
                • What important actions would you have had to take?
                • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
                • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
                • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
                • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
                • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

                Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

                It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

                Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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