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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

Benefits of Lifting Weights Both Men and Women Can Experience

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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

More by this author

Ben Walker

Founder & Fitness Specialist, Anywhere Fitness

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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

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9 Simple Cardio/Core Exercises You Can Do At Home

You want to work out but you don’t always have the time to implement a workout routine into your busy day. Finding time for daily exercise takes discipline and commitment, and often you feel like you need to go for a long run or intense workout at the gym in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.

There are many simple exercises you can do at home in order to improve your strength, agility, and cardio vascular endurance. The problem with some at-home workout routines or quick exercise routines is that you might be doing the wrong kind of exercise.

If you are trying to build upper body strength you don’t need to do squats or calf raises. On the other hand, if you are trying to build lower body strength knocking out a ton of pushups and bench dips isn’t going to help either. Make sure you determine what you want to improve on before you undertake an exercise regimen.
Often people focus too much on upper body and lower body strength when the core of your body needs more attention than any other part. Your core keeps you stable and balanced. I like to think of it as the fulcrum of your body. Without a strong core you probably aren’t going to experience as much strength and stability in your upper and lower body. Mixing in intense cardio is always a good idea as well, and you don’t need to run 10 miles to do it.

Instead of trying to 1,000 pushups per day focus on building your core along with some cardio. I guarantee you will feel stronger and more energetic than you ever have before, and your body will thank you.

Here are 9 great exercises that will improve your cardio and core strength. I have also included a sample workout plan at the end of the article which incorporates all of these exercises, so please read carefully so you know how to perform each exercise properly.

Please consult a medical professional first if you have any injuries or medical conditions to ensure you are able to perform physical activity.

1. Sitting Holds

This is a very simple but effective exercise to burn the core, legs, and arms all at once. Additionally you get to sit down while doing it, so it can’t be that bad!

Sit down in a position with your feet off the ground, straight out in front of you. Hands should be extended out in front as well. You are simply going to hold this position for a given amount of time.

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Try not to strain and tighten up your body too much while doing this. This is especially important with the back and neck. If you find yourself straining too much than stop. You can always build on the amount of time you hold this posture.

It is important that you also stay as still as possible throughout the duration of the hold. It is going to get difficult but challenge yourself to remain in the steady position throughout.

2. Burpees

Some people love them. Some people hate them. Even though I do these quite a bit during my summer training, I fall in the latter group. They are very challenging, but in my opinion, there is no better exercise that incorporates complete body training (core, cardio, upper body and lower body strength). You even get a little upper body strength training when you do these, so it is a win-win.

To do a burpee start standing straight up with your feet little more than shoulder width apart. Bring your hands to the ground in between the distance of your legs but slightly in front of your body. When you come down to the ground bend at the hips not at the back. You should bends your knees with your back straight as you bring your hands to the ground.

As soon as your hands are on the ground, you will jump back with your legs, so that you are in a plank position (hands are shoulder width apart aligned with your chest and your back is straight, not hunching towards the ground; legs are straight back and shouldn’t be touching the ground). For an extra challenge add a pushup at this point of the burpee.

After you get into the plank position you immediately bring your legs back up to your hands (like they were before you kicked them back into the push up position). With your knees bent, come up and jump straight up in the air. That is 1 repetition.

3. Mountain Climbers

If climbing mountains isn’t your forte than this will be probably be the closest you get to climbing an actual mountain. This is a great workout for your core, cardio, and lower body.

You are going to start in a plank position. It is important that you keep your core tight and strong the entire time you do this exercise. The tendency during this exercise is for your body to droop towards the ground or be arched towards the sky as you get tired. You want to make an effort to keep your back straight and don’t allow it to come out of the perfect push up position. This can lead to back problems.

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From the push up position you alternate your feet up and back towards your stomach. You are trying to knee yourself in the stomach (not literally but for the exercise purpose). When the right knee comes up, the left knee stays back. When the right knee goes back, the left knees comes up towards the stomach. You do this as rapidly as you can. You want a full range of motion so ensure you are bringing your knees up as far as possible and stretching them back as much as possible.

Your hands shouldn’t be too far out in front of you. They should be right around your shoulders. By this, you are also receiving an upper body workout because you are holding the plank position as well as moving your feet as fast as possible.

4. Running High Knees

This is a great cardio exercise that incorporates an intense range of motion from your legs. You can do this exercise running in place or with movement. The goal of this exercise is to get your knees up as high as possible and as quickly as possible. It is beneficial when you stay on your toes and utilize quick movements. As soon as your toe hits the ground you explode back up with your knee.

Use your arms properly when doing this exercise. Similar to running you want to alternate your hand and knee movements. When the right knee goes up, the left arm comes up simultaneously. When the right knee goes down, the left arm goes down. Maintaining an effective arm and leg movement balance will help you get into a rhythm as you speed up and increase the intensity of the exercise.

5. Step Ups

Find something in your house that is solid and won’t move if you step on it. I suggest using a sturdy couch or chair, maybe even a bench if you have one available. If you don’t have anything solid then place a chair against the wall so it won’t move. Make sure the height of the chair or bench is not too high to where you can’t step onto it comfortably.

The goal of this exercise is explosive movements. Again you are focused on a complete range of motion. Step up onto the platform of your choosing with one leg. With the opposite leg you are going to explode it in the air and then step back down onto the ground. If this motion is too difficult than simply step onto the platform with the other leg. Alternate legs and repeat.

Use your arms effectively during this exercise to ensure that you give your arms a solid workout, and to assist you as you explode your legs onto the platform. For example when you put your right leg onto the platform, the left arm is already up in the air. As you explode onto the platform with the left leg, the right arm raises up to boost this movement. The left arm falls to the side.

As you create a dynamic pace, challenge yourself to see how quickly you can alternate feet. This will increase the intensity of the cardio. Stay on your toes and focus on swift movements up and down from the platform.

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6. Jumping Jacks

You probably did these when you were a kid. These are a staple for many youth physical education classes. Even though this is a basic exercise it can be quite effective when completed with vigor and you guessed it, full range of motion.

Start standing straight up with your hands at your sides and your legs together. Jump your legs out so that they land wider than shoulder width apart. Simultaneously, your arms should move straight out over your head until your hands meet. It is not imperative that your hands touch over your but it is an effective reference point to ensure you use full range of motion with your arms. Then jump back to the starting point. This is one repetition.

The focus of the exercise is to work both the lower body and the upper body. By jumping the legs to a point that is slightly uncomfortable you are stretching out the hips and gluteus maximus muscles, which are all essential for core strength as well.

The more rapidly you perform this exercise the better cardio results you are going to experience. As is the case with most of these exercises, stay on your toes as much as possible. Try not to land on your heels when jumping out because this will restrict the pace at which you exercise.

7. Towel Knee Bends

This exercise is great for the entire body but it really targets the middle core. You will need a large towel or two small towels for this exercise as well as a slippery surface in which to perform it.

Start out in a plank position with the towel(s) at your feet. Hands should be shoulder width apart underneath your shoulders. Bring both feet up at the same time as far as possible. Then bring your legs back down into the plank position. This is one repetition.

Similar to the mountain climbers, you are attempting to knee yourself in the stomach. You don’t want your knees to come together because this takes away from the isolation of the exercise. Each leg must work on its own to thrust towards the stomach. This range of motion is important because you want to experience the full benefits of the exercise.

Keep your core aligned the entire time you do this exercise. Don’t allow the back to hunch upward or slouch downward. Part of the challenge is holding the plank position coupled with the leg movement.

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8. Towel In and Outs

For this exercise you are going to need two small towels, one for each foot. Start out again in the plank position just as the previous exercise. This is a core exercise as well, but it focuses more on external oblique muscles, or the side of your abdominals.

Instead of bringing both feet towards your stomach you are going to extend both feet outward, away from one another. You want to push your legs out as far as possible depending on how flexible you are in the hip region. Try to extend your legs at least shoulder width apart. If you are unable to stretch them that far, than go as far as you can. Then bring your legs back together to the starting plank position. That is one repetition.

As the intensity of this exercise increases and you become tired, there is a tendency to use more legs than core. You want to try to avoid this. Concentrate on using your core to extend your legs back and forth. Do less reps if necessary but make sure this is a core exercise, not merely a lower body exercise.

9. Wall Sit

This title doesn’t leave much for the imagination. You are literally going to sit against the wall. This is a great way to finish your workout. It is primarily a lower body workout but it also integrates some core training.

Sit against the wall with your back straight against the wall. Your feet should be right under your knees. Make sure your knees are not extended over your toes. This can be detrimental and cause knee pain. On the other hand your feet should not be extended too far out underneath your knees because this takes away from experiencing the stretch in your quadriceps and the rest of your legs. You should be sitting in a position with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Arms should be above your head or laterally at your side the entire time. Do not place your hands on your knees.

Your Training Plan

Exercise                               Repetitions/Time                                      Rest
Sitting Hold                           15 seconds-1 minute                                   15 seconds
Burpees                                5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Mountain Climbers                 5-25 each leg                                              30 seconds-1 minute
Running High Knees               5-15 each leg                                             30 seconds-1 minute
Step Ups                              10-25 each leg                                            30 seconds-1 minute
Towel Knee Bends                 5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Towel In and Outs                  5-20                                                           30 seconds-1 minute
Wall Sit                                 15 seconds-30 seconds                              30 seconds

These are simply repetition and time estimates for a basic workout plan. I have no idea what your conditioning level is. If you can’t do the allotted repetitions, that is perfectly ok. Figure out how many repetitions you can do but challenge yourself by doing them correctly every time. When you can’t do anymore reps properly, then you are finished with that exercise.

The rest periods are seemingly low and not enough time but in order to improve your cardio on your own it is imperative that you perform highly intensive exercises with shorter recovery times. This will challenge your cardio, help you lose fat, and stress your body in an appropriate manner. If it becomes too intense and you need more time to rest, than take the time you need. You know your body better than anyone else. These are mere guidelines. Eventually as you continue exercising you may notice you need less and less time to recover before the next exercise.

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The amount of sets you execute is ultimately your decision. Start out with one set and see how it feels. If you are unable to complete one set of all these exercises, then finish what you are capable of. I think you will observe profound changes in your fitness levels by consistently taking the time to perform these exercises. Good luck and have fun!

Featured photo credit: Girls With Muscle via girlswithmuscle.com

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