Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Benefits of Lifting Weights Both Men and Women Can Experience

Benefits of Lifting Weights Both Men and Women Can Experience

Thinking of taking up the challenge of weight lifting? Do you want to tone up and lose that excess body fat?

Many fitness enthusiasts take up weight lifting for its wide range of benefits. Resistance training is a highly enjoyable workout that offers an efficient way to improve all components of your fitness – strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.

The benefits of lifting weights are relevant for both men and women alike. Understanding its benefits allows you to make the right choices when personalizing your workouts and maximizing your progress from each session.

Let us briefly go through the fundamentals of weight training.

What Happens to Your Body When You Start Weight Lifting?

Your body undergoes different physiological responses when you engage in weight lifting. This all depends on what component of your fitness you wish to target, and what methods and variations you plan to adopt in your routine.

If you are looking to achieve “muscle growth”, you may want to consider lifting heavier and performing fewer repetitions. If you are looking to increase your “muscle endurance”, you might want to consider lifting lighter and performing a lot more repetitions.

Adaptation Phase

Let us start with adaptation. This phase usually lasts roughly 4-6 weeks and can be the most mentally challenging part.

It is natural for everyone to experience soreness when they start weight training (people complain most about this in their arms and legs). This is the body’s natural response to identifying physical activity as new.

This may be because your muscles have not engaged in physical activity for a long time or it may be the first time  They simply need time to get used to the new routine.

The onset of this pain, stiffness, and achiness commonly occurs 48-72 hours after performing weight training on targeted muscle groups. This feeling usually disappears after a few days.

Many people can get demotivated or be tempted to quit during this phase. The reasons may vary, but most commonly, it is because people have high self-expectations or do not expect the initial response of their body.

The key is to know that your body will experience this during the adaptation phase. These feelings will decrease after every workout and eventually disappear after about a month.

It is also important to not over-exert your body when adapting to weight training. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury.

Start with simple exercises as opposed to complex movements. Choose lighter weights instead of heavy ones, and perform lots of reps to allow your body to get used to weight training.

As your body gets used to the physiological response of exercise, you can then focus on more fitness goals, such as muscle building from weight training.

Advertising

Standard Recommendation: 3-4 Sets, 15-20 Reps per exercise

Muscle Breakdown and Growth

Before your muscles can grow, they must repair and develop by enduring small microscopic tears directly after a vigorous weight training session.

The tears in your muscle fibers are caused by the repetitive contraction of the muscle(s) used in a single weight training exercise. This is the first step to building lean and active muscle mass.

The most effective method of breaking down muscle cells, so they can repair and grow, is a process called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is best achieved when we lift the maximum weight we can over 8-12 repetitions in a single exercise of a given set.

Building Muscle Through Hypertrophy

There are two important factors for building muscle through hypertrophy: mechanical damage and metabolic failure.

When we lift weights, there are two contractile proteins in our muscle cells, actin, and myosin, that help generate force to overturn the resistance we are lifting. Mechanical damage to these proteins stimulates a response in our body for our muscles to grow.

It can take between 2-5 days for your muscles to recover, especially if you are a beginner. It is important to allow at least 48 hours rest after training a particular muscle group before performing more weight training exercises.

Metabolic failure refers to exhausting all the energy in our muscle cells when we lift weights. These energy molecules in our cells are called ATP. You can certainly feel these stores depleted on your last rep.

These energy stores regenerate pretty quickly. That is why it is recommended to rest for 30-60 seconds before performing the next set of exercises.

For more excellent advice on the basics of hypertrophy, refer to the guidelines instructed by the National Association of Sports Medicine.[1]

Tip: While in Recovery From Weight Training

While actively resting your muscles before your next workout, it is important to incorporate the right nutrition to accompany your body’s recovery. This includes supplementing the right enzymes, amino acids, and protein. Consuming protein directly after weight training is essential for muscle recovery.

Standard Recommendation: 3-4 Sets, 8-12 Reps per exercise

Muscle Endurance

Perhaps you are more conscious about gaining that bulky look? Maybe your desired goals are to simply feel, look leaner, and be stronger. For that reason, you may want to focus more on your muscle endurance.

When we perform higher repetitions without achieving hypertrophy, we put our muscles through a vigorous weight-training session without breaking down as many muscle fibers. This helps us get more of that toned look as opposed to when we tear and repair more muscle fibers, building that aesthetic growth or bulky effect.

Muscular endurance is the ability to continuously contract a muscle against a given resistance. It involves performing higher reps at a lower weight and building muscle stamina.

Advertising

Another way of improving muscle endurance is by performing exercises that require you to hold a position for an extensive period (e.g., plank, wall sit).

If your fitness goals are to improve repetitive functional activities in your daily life like shoveling your garden or home renovations, then improving your muscular endurance is key to cope with such activities

The same can be said from a sports-specific point of view. If you wish to climb a mountain or tackle long hills on your bike, you must practice your endurance to build fatigue-resistant muscles.

Standard Recommendation: 3-4 Sets, 15-30 Reps per exercise

Myth About Women and Weightlifting

The common myth that has surrounded women and weightlifting is that “if women lift weights similar to men, then they will start to become more masculine”.

This story has resulted in a “mental block” for many women who wish to gain lean muscle mass through resistance training – the irrational fear or thought of having bulky muscles like men. Although women have the tremendous ability to lift the same weight as men, they do not have the same capacity for increasing muscle mass.

Due to human anatomy, men produce a lot more testosterone than women. So, regardless of how many times women perform resistance training weekly, they will be able to increase muscle mass, but not add pounds of bulk like men.

According to the American Council of Exercise, strength training can cause women to produce more somatotropin. This hormone helps metabolize fat and is said to reduce the effects of biological aging. But it does not promote stimulate the response of bulking muscle.[2]

What Are the Benefits of Lifting Weights?

From the many physiological responses we get from lifting weights, there are many rewards for both men and women. Here are 5 key benefits of how you can live a healthier life from lifting weights:

1. Weight Loss

One thing we have learned from modern exercise science is that weight training is just as effective as a cardiovascular activity when it comes to weight loss.

Weight training allows our body to utilize its aerobic and anaerobic systems when done efficiently. This means we can burn calories from all energy stores when performing resistance training – carbs, sugars, and fats while still targeting muscle groups and putting on lean muscle mass.[3]

When we start to produce lean muscle mass on our body, it promotes weight loss further. Now, when you consume energy or food, your active muscle needs calories, before being stored in your body.

Having new muscle helps shed pounds and boost your metabolism to new levels. Having lean muscle mass can still burn calories when at rest.

2. Musculoskeletal Health

The musculoskeletal system is made up of your muscular and skeletal systems. The function of this system is to support the whole body through the support of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and organs.

Weight training can reduce the symptoms of musculoskeletal health conditions by aiding in joint lubrication and reducing joint pain and stiffness. It also prevents muscle stress and imbalances.

Advertising

By training our agonist and antagonist muscles (opposite muscle groups) the correct way, we can avoid any biomechanical issues that can lead to bone and organ issues down the road.

This is especially important for people who have a sedentary lifestyle and sits for long hours or demonstrate bad posture throughout the day. Weight training for your hip flexors and postural muscles is essential for musculoskeletal health as it can lead to spinal or pelvic complications if neglected.

3. Improved Mood, Confidence, and Self Esteem

Building muscles or feeling leaner can certainly improve the physical balance of our body and our functional strength. Just as importantly, it improves our mental health.

Looking and feeling aesthetically better restores feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem, and this has a positive impact on our social health. Lifting weights also releases feel-good endorphins in our body and increases the level of serotonin, making us feel more alert and productive!

The release of these feel-good chemicals in our body also reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.

4. Sports-Specific Performance

Athletes need to practice what they preach if they want to perform on game day. Depending on the specific sport you perform, you need to mimic your weight-training program to match what you do against your competitors.

For example, if you are a 100m sprinter, you are going to want to do a strength program your legs to achieve explosive power. If you are a basketball player, you are going to want to outjump your opponent, so adding a plyometric program to your training regiment would be necessary.

Regardless of your abilities, it might be a good idea to consult an experienced strength and conditioning coach to take your weight-training program further at a competitive level.

5. Healthier Heart

While it needs no introduction that cardio is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health, it is also proven that weight training can help strengthen your heart.

Although you can get an effective cardio workout from weight training, there are several reasons why resistance training can improve your heart health.

Increased Circulation

When we lift weights, we increase our rate of circulation. Blood is sent more efficiently around our body to the muscles being worked. When we increase muscle mass, we send oxygen and other nutrients around our body a lot easier and more frequently. This improves our vascular system and promotes a healthy heart.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Weight Training helps fight against the risk of various heart-related diseases. Because weight training increases the rate of cardiac output and reduces BP, it also decreases symptoms that can cause heart attacks such as stress and arrhythmia.

Resistance training also stimulates weight loss. Weight loss is the key objective for avoiding medical conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, and stroke. An interesting case study from Harvard Health explains how weight lifting can reduce heart-related diseases. [4]

Better Sleep Quality

As mentioned before, weight training helps to release endorphins and serotonin in our system, helping us to feel more relaxed and less tense. This helps people who exercise wind down and sleep better at night time.

Good sleep decreases the work rate of your heart as it allows more oxygen to enter your system, therefore, reducing blood pressure.

Advertising

How Long Does It Take to See Benefits From Lifting Weights?

Everybody wants to see fast results from weight lifting, but resistance training is a patience game.

During the adaptation phase (4-6 weeks), you will observe more physical benefits than aesthetic ones. In other words, during this time, your body will learn to cope with recovery.

Your muscles will feel less and less sore between every workout (there will be some off days), and you start to feel stronger, thinking you can take on more.

You will begin to see aesthetic differences within the first month regarding changes in your body composition.

You may see small to significant differences in lean muscle mass versus body fat. The variations of how your body composition will change within this time will depend on the intensity of your workouts (sets, reps, speed, rest time).

Although you do not quite see that warrior in the mirror just yet, your jeans might be fitting better.

If you are a beginner to weight lifting, your body should adapt to putting on muscle size after 4-6 weeks. It is then time to decrease the reps, increase the weight, and reduce your rest times a little.

Your body should now be ready to endure those muscle tears for muscle growth. If this is your primary goal, you should start to see big differences within 8-12 weeks if you are consistent with your program.

Tips to Takeaway

It is important to be particular of your fitness goals when it comes to weight training.

My advice is to train all components of your fitness as they are all necessary for different stages and aspects of your life. There are many benefits of lifting weights, and you have the power to maximize them.

Your musculoskeletal health is especially important. Keep your weight training programs dynamic so they include a lot of movement. This adds extra value to your cardiovascular health.

If you are an office worker who sits for long periods of the day, it is vital that you improve your posture, hip strength, and your core through corrective exercises.

If your job requires heavy lifting, like working in a warehouse, it is essential to practice your strength and endurance.

No matter what your situation is, practicing what you read will help you to enjoy the later years of your life.

If you are looking to compete in any high-level competitions, I recommend consulting with an experienced personal trainer in your area.

More Benefits of Lifting Weights

Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ben Walker

Founder & Fitness Specialist, Anywhere Fitness

Benefits of Lifting Weights Both Men and Women Can Experience 25 Best Free Workout Apps That Make Your Home Workouts Easiler

Trending in Exercise & Training

1 How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body 2 6-Minute Morning Workout To Help You Stay Healthy Effortlessly 3 4 Ways To Boost The Intensity Of Your Workout Without Adding More Weight 4 10 Quick Easy Workouts To Lose Arm Fat At Home 5 10 Quick Easy Workouts To Get Rid Of Back Fat At Home

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 21, 2021

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

How To Workout Without a Gym And Get a Killer Gym Body

As a general rule, everyone wants to have a sexy and strong body, but no one wants to put in the work. We see a whole lot of excuses being thrown around every time fitness is mentioned, and it’s frightening that only about 3% of people in the US subscribe to the healthy living philosophy.[1]

That being said, have you ever stopped to think about why all these people fail to get in shape? Sure, there are some who are lazy, some with legitimate medical issues, and the readily available cheap junk food doesn’t help, but I think there is something more to it.

People are pressed for time, scared, and confused. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most people either can’t make it to the gym, don’t have a lot of money to drop on long-term membership fees, don’t feel comfortable exercising around others, or they simply don’t even know what to do when they do get to the gym.[2]

Well, with a few useful tricks, some good information, and a bit of determination, you can create all the right conditions for building an impressive physique without ever leaving the house. Here’s a few things to have in mind:

Advertising

Fixing your posture and getting limber

The biggest issue most beginners have when they start working out is the fact that their bodies are so used to sitting scrunched up in front of a screen that they have trouble moving around freely. The human body can be amazingly limber and assume all kinds of positions, but for most people, this is going to require extensive work.

Start by gradually improving your posture over a few weeks, using small exercises, more ergonomic furniture, and just being mindful of how you stand, walk, and sit.[3] You can combine this with a short and sweet stretching routine, done about twice a day, to get your body ready to perform the basic exercises correctly.

Learning the basic movements

While there’s a lot of science behind both getting stronger and getting leaner, it can all be boiled down to a few core concepts and a number of the most effective exercises. Here are the best movements for overall development that you’ll need to master (you can find examples of how to perform all the exercises mentioned here on Bodybuilding.com):

  • Squats: the king of all exercises, the squat builds most of your leg muscles with an emphasis on quads and glutes, if you go nice and deep like you should. It can be a good core and thoracic extension exercise if you hold some weight in front of you, as in the Goblet and Zercher squat variations.
  • Lunges: a great exercise for the quads and glutes that also targets the hip extensors. It also teaches you to keep your balance.
  • Pushup variations:[4] the pushup is so versatile that some call it “the poor man’s gym”. The standard close grip pushup works the triceps, front shoulders, and chest, while wider variations put more emphasis on the chest. Raising your legs pushes the focus towards the shoulders and the upper chest, while the handstand pushup is predominantly a shoulder and triceps exercise.
  • Dips: another great exercise for the lower chest and triceps, this is an incredibly fun movement that can slap mass on you quickly when done correctly.
  • Pull-ups and chin-ups: grab a bar, hang from it with arms almost fully stretched out, and then pull yourself up until your chin raises above the bar. This is a fairly straightforward, yet difficult movement that builds a big back, biceps, and forearms. Position your hands facing the head for more bicep activation, and go a bit wider with palms facing away from you to target the lats better.
  • Rows/inverted row: a horizontal pulling motion that will add slabs of meat to your back and while improving that often lagging back head of the shoulder muscle. It even improves posture by strengthening the spinal erectors to an extent. You can bend over with the back straight and row a weight from the ground, with one or both hands, or you can grab the underside of a horizontal bar, feet on the ground, and pull yourself into it.
  • Glute bridges: a great way to really isolate and work the butt. It also gets the hamstrings, which are often neglected by people working out at home.
  • Floor hip extensions: a good addition that also focuses on the glutes and hamstrings, resulting in well-toned and balanced legs.
  • Calf raises: the calf is a small muscle but an important one, especially for the ladies who want to look great in heels. It’s also easy to just throw in at the end of the workout.
  • Planks, leg raises, and ab wheel rollout: of course, the abs need some attention too, but go for planks, hold for time, side planks, hanging or lying leg raises, and ab wheel rollout for the best results.
  • The Superman: the spinal erectors need to be strong if they are to keep your back healthy, balance out those abs, and keep you nice and tight during most of the other exercises on the list, so definitely give this one a go.

Take a few weeks to just get the form down pat on all these movements and make sure that you are doing a full range of motion and slower, deliberate movements. Don’t just bounce all over the place. Establish and build momentum. You can use a good bodyweight strength training program to make sure you hit all the muscles, keep progressing, and get enough time to recover.[5]

Advertising

How to progress on bodyweight exercises

Now, if you want to have a great and lean physique — and this goes for ladies as well — you need to build some muscle to give your limbs that lovely shape you are after, before you can lose the excess flab, and expose that Greek statue of a body. Don’t try to combine endurance work with your strength exercises. Focus on building strength with the exercises above and dedicate some time every other day for things like swimming, jumping rope, or cycling to burn some calories and improve your cardio.

Okay, so the main question is, how does one progress on bodyweight exercises, short of gaining more weight to make them more challenging? Well, there’s a few things you can do. The first thing to do to challenge yourself is to add more reps.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that when you can easily perform 15-20 reps of an exercise and still have a few reps left in the tank, it’s time to make it more challenging by doing one of the following:

  • Add an additional set. If you started at 3 sets of 5-6 reps and you’re now comfortable with 3 sets of 15-17 reps, then you can simply throw in a fourth set into the mix.
  • Do it slower. Busting out 20 quick reps isn’t quite the same as doing 10 slow and controlled reps, where you can even add a short pause when your muscles are fully relaxed before contracting them for the next rep.
  • Shorten the rest period between sets. 60-90 seconds is the sweet spot for resting between longer sets of 10-20 reps, but when things get easy, you can shorten this rest period progressively by 10 seconds, until you are only resting about 30-40 seconds between sets, to make it more difficult before moving on to a more challenging variation or adding weight.
  • Move on to a more difficult variation. When you get comfortable, focus on a variation of the movement that provides a bit of a challenge, e.g. one arm on ball pushups and then single arm pushups, pistol squats, and so on.
  • Add some weight. While you might not have access to barbells, you can always get a fairly inexpensive dumbbell set, a few different sized bags filled with sand, a backpack with some rocks, and even big water bottles and milk jugs will do the trick, just as long as you keep adding weight.

Work hard on your form, then try to go as hard as you can each session without overdoing it. I’d say stop a rep short of failure and rest until you feel you can go for another full set.

Advertising

Determining the type of cardio you need to do

Cardio is not that difficult to figure out and it basically boils down to a few simple rules, depending on your shape and goals:

  • If you’re skinny and want to get sexy and muscular: Do light and steady cardio, like a brisk walk for an hour, 5-6 minutes of jump rope here and there, or even just 10 minutes of shadow-boxing or dancing every day. Don’t let it cut into your calories too much.
  • If you’re a little overweight and want to lose 10 pounds or less and build muscle: It’s the same as the previous example, just add 2-4 more intense sessions of running, swimming, circuit training a week into the mix to cut the weight first. Revert to the previous example once you have lost the weight and recenter your focus on building muscle.
  • If you’re seriously overweight and your main concern is cutting 20+ pounds: Again, it’s the same as the previous example, only you can go with even more intense workouts, or daily moderate cardio sessions of about 20-30 minutes for a while. Once you’ve lost most of the weight, revert to the previous example, and then to the first example when you’ve shed all the extra pounds you’d like to get rid of.

You can choose any activity that you like, from jump rope, cycling, and swimming to hiking and and other high-cardio sports.

A look at diets and keeping them reasonable

As far as the diet goes we’ll keep it extremely simple:

  • Try to eat diverse vegetables with every meal
  • Eat fruit, seeds, and nuts instead of sweets
  • Go for lean meats instead of processed meat and cooked food instead of fast and fried food
  • Start counting your macro nutrient intake[6]
  • Cheat if you must, but keep these meals small, few, and far between

As long as you can stick with the program for about 80% of the time, you’ll be on your way to better health and an amazing body!

Advertising

DIY home gym basics

Some essentials that can help you get better results at home include:

  • A dumbbell set
  • Pull-Up bar
  • Ab wheel
  • Big ol’ sturdy bags filled with sand

You can do tons of great exercises with these simple tools, but if you can’t shell out for them right now, good alternatives include five gallon milk jugs filled with water, a bunch of books stacked in a backpack, using a friend/partner to lay on you, push, or pull to provide extra resistance, or just lifting heavy furniture and moving it around the room.

It pays to be creative. Look at how certain exercises are performed and on what type of equipment, and try to replicate it using household items. For example:

  • Two chairs = dip station
  • Anything that you can hang off = pull up bar
  • A stack of large blankets on the floor = bench
  • Stick and some rope = forearm exercise machine
  • A towel wrapped on a bar or dumbbell grip = thick grip for hand and forearm strength
  • Car = prowler device for pushing to build endurance and power in the legs

It’s all fairly cheap and you can get as creative as you like, just remember to be consistent with your training in order to see the results you wish to see.

All it takes is a little ingenuity and elbow grease, and you’ll set up a decent home “gym” and adopt some great habits along the way. It’s all about being consistent and trying to progress on each session, or at least each week, as you keep adding reps, using more complex movements, and adding weight, all while eating right for your current goals. Give it a shot and always remember, 90% of all this is your commitment and the intensity with which you attack these positive life changes.

Featured photo credit: Minna Hamalainen via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Atlantic: Study: Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle’
[2] Men’s Fitness: 6 Not-So-Obvious Newbie Training Mistakes
[3] Perfect Postur: Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
[4] Men’s Fitness: The Top 15 Pushup Variations
[5] Men’s Fitness: 6 Bodyweight Workouts That Actually Build Momentum
[6] On the Regimen: How To Count Your Macros – A Comprehensive Guide

Read Next