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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 March 13, 2019

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

              Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

              You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

              Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

              1. Work on the small tasks.

              When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

              Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

              2. Take a break from your work desk.

              Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

              Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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              3. Upgrade yourself

              Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

              The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

              4. Talk to a friend.

              Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

              Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

              5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

              If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

              Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

              Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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              6. Paint a vision to work towards.

              If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

              Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

              Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

              7. Read a book (or blog).

              The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

              Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

              Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

              8. Have a quick nap.

              If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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              9. Remember why you are doing this.

              Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

              What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

              10. Find some competition.

              Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

              Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

              11. Go exercise.

              Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

              Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

              As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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              Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

              12. Take a good break.

              Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

              Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

              Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

              Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

              More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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