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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More Benefits of Lifting Weights

Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ben Walker

Founder & Fitness Specialist, Anywhere Fitness

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

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                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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