Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Reaping the Benefits of Resistance Training

Do you want to have a stronger and more lean and toned body? One of the best things you can do to achieve this is to add resistance training to your workout routine.

What Is Resistance Training?

Resistance training involves activities that use weights, machines and even body weight to exercise the muscles. It is also known as strength training or weight training. This can be very helpful in achieving a healthier and leaner body.

This kind of training is usually associated with athletes who are seeking to build strength. Some people might think that resistance training will increase the size of the muscles, but in actuality this isn't necessarily true. Resistance training is simply about increasing the strength of the body, not its size.

This form of exercise can be practiced by anyone who wishes to build and tone their muscles to give the body a better look. Even the elderly can reap significant benefits through resistance training, which can help prevent atrophy and disfunction as we age, and may even reduce the incidence of osteoporosis. (See benefits below for more on this.)

How Does Resistance Training Work?     

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 22, 2010) Joshua ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A resistance training program will often include the use of various exercise equipment and machines like the bench press, dumbbell or barbell. Resistance bands or straps may also be used. When the equipment is used, the muscles of the body will be pitted against the weight. The cells of the body will then adapt to the extra weight. This will then result in the enlarging and increasing of the nerve cells to help in the muscle contraction.

Before doing any resistance training, it is best to consult first with your personal physician and also a qualified trainer. This goes especially for people who have medical conditions or are overweight.  If using equipment, you also will need training on which equipment is best for the needs of your body, and how to properly use the equipment to avoid injury or muscle strain.

Resistance training can also be done without using equipment. Doing push-ups is one good example. You can do it just about anywhere where there is enough space for you to move. This time it is your own body weight that your muscles will work against. Other types of calisthenics, as well as yoga, Pilates, and a number of other exercise forms also include resistance exercise without equipment or machines.

What Are the Benefits of Resistance Training?

1. Increase Bone Mineral Density
Bones are constantly remodeling, meaning the tissues break down at the same time they build up. The peak of remodeling takes place during puberty. However, as a person ages, they may experience problems with bone mineral density as the remodeling may not be as active anymore. This is especially a problem for post-menopausal women.

Bone mineral density is usually supported by hormones. To address the problem of not having the hormones to maintain the bone mineral density, physical activity is the next best option. Resistance training is one physical activity that can address this - and it can be done at any age.

2. Increase Strength
Strong bones and strong muscles are one of the major benefits of a resistance training program. As your muscles work against the weight, they pull against the bones, which creates additional bone strength and density.

English: an exercise of upperarms and forearms
Resistance exercise of upper arms and forearms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Increase Range of Activities
When your body is strong enough to carry a considerable weight, then you will also be capable of doing more strenuous activities. When you can do more, not only will you have a sense of accomplishment, but studies show you will gain higher self-esteem and more interest in life, and you can live a more active and enjoyable lifestyle.

4. Reduce Body Fat
Stronger and more active muscles increase metabolism, which helps burn fat even when you're not working out. Resistance training will also improve the tone of your body, so that it will look leaner and trimmer.

5. Improve Health & Function for the Elderly
For the elderly, undergoing a resistance training program will help improve their health and decrease many of the risks brought about by aging. They can be more independent, without needing to rely on other people for doing simple things. It also decreases the risk of injury, and promotes longevity.

6. Improve Heart Condition
Regularly doing resistance training can result in lowered heart rate and lowered blood pressure, especially after exercise. The risk of heart disease is also reduced to a considerable extent.

Resistance training however must be done properly. It requires commitment and consistency. It needs to be done in a regular basis, following a schedule that the doctor or the physical trainer recommends. If done incorrectly, the benefits you'll receive may be much reduced, and some exercises may even cause injury if overdone, or if your body is not ready for them.

The key here is to simply take your time. Do the exercises one step at a time, and do them correctly. As your body condition improves, you can move on to more challenging tasks. As your strength increases, so will your overall muscle tone and condition, and your general health.
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