Many people enjoy weight training, whether it is to train for a sport, to try to improve ones appearance or just to release stress at the end of the day. Although many weight trainers enjoy the self-confidence and fit look that comes from weight training, the benefits of weight training actually go way beyond physical appearance and strength. But what are some of the real benefits of weight training, physically and mentally? Also, how different are the benefits for women, compared to the benefits of weight training for men? These questions along with much more will be considered in this article.
I'll first cover how weight training can fight against depression. It is well known that weight training will lift your mood, but just how much does it help? Let's take a look at some studies done on weight training and depression. A former sufferer of depression quoted some studies on her website entitled "Emilina":
According to an article in Psychology Today, after reviewing 14 studies in which exercise was used to treat people with clinical depression, researchers found that sufferers who performed weight training three times a week for 20 to 60 minutes were significantly less depressed after five weeks. And when workouts were kept up, the improvements lasted until the studies end a year later. Another study conducted at Harvard University involved a group of 60 women.
At the start of the study they were assessed as to how they felt about their bodies, and then were separated into two groups; one group walked and the other lifted weights. At the end of the study, about four weeks, the level of self-esteem of the weight lifters doubled that of the walkers. According to the doctors who conducted the study, the reason for the dramatic difference, is that with weight training, results come quickly. A woman who starts with 3 pounds could be lifting 5 or 8 pounds in three to four weeks. This type of achievement is very empowering to women. (1)
Endorphins are released during weight training and exercise. Endorphins have a pain-relieving and anti-depressant effect on humans. Weight training can also increase antidepressant chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. So if one were depressed, weight training would be an excellent choice.
Many people think of weight training as something just for men. However, this is not true, there also are many benefits for women. One reason some women don't weight train is the misconception they will bulk up and look too masculine. This is not true; women do not have the hormones necessary to bulk up. Women who achieve the bulky and manly appearance have most likely accomplished it through extreme dieting and steroids. Women can add muscle tone while losing body fat and gaining small amounts of muscle.
The website "IDEAfit" shows research that proves this. This research was done by weight training expert and researcher Wayne Westcott, PhD, from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts. It goes on to say "Westcott's research shows that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean weight or muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat" (1). This research brings up another benefit, and that is improved appearance and self-confidence. Women are concerned about their body weight. Weight training adds muscle, which will boost ones metabolism.
This will result in weight loss and a boost in self-confidence. A problem many women experience is osteoporosis, especially as they get older in age. Weight training will actually increase bone density, and is a great way for women to fight against the common problem of osteoporosis. Another big problem, which especially affects women, is heart disease. But studies show that weight training for only 30 minutes a week, will reduce ones risk for heart disease by over 20%. Also, if one trains with high intensity, the risk for heart disease will be even lower.
Weight training plays a very important role in sports; it can benefit all athletes. Weight training improves athletic performance in a variety of ways; it can enhance abilities, such as speed, strength, and endurance. In fact, Complete Weight Training Book brings out this study:
The first such study was published as long ago as 1950 by Edward K. Capen of Iowa State University. Capen used a control group that trained with ordinary athletic activities and an experimental group that worked for several weeks on a basic schedule of 14 weight training exercises. Tests at the end of the experimental period showed the following results:
- 1) The experimental group was vastly stronger than the control group.
- 2) Muscle tightness was absent in the experimental group.
- 3) In speed events, the experimental group was significantly superior to the control group.
Later studies have yielded similar results. Speed is important in many sports, especially boxing. Many boxers have the misconception that weight training will make them slow and tight. Scientific research has shown that with a proper weight training program one can increase speed and explosiveness. Another misconception is that boxers should train with light weights and high repititions. "Ross Boxing" explains, "this form of training will do little to increase your explosiveness and power. The boxer must perform medium to heavy lifts with fast, ballistic movements" (1).
Boxers can get good benefits from weight training once or twice a week. If one wanted to improve on muscular endurance, like a cyclist for example, high repetitions and light weights should be used. Football players use weight training to improve on many abilities, especially strength. Proper weight training will also help football player in preventing injuries, which is very important. To gain all around strength, one would do heavy weight with low repetitions; focusing on the basic movements such as squats, benches, dead lifts and rows.
Further, in-season training should be performed once or twice a week to maintain the strength from the off-season. This results in better play toward the end of the season. Complete Weight Training Book mentions a study done on weight training and football players, it says:
- In recent years, experiments on the value of strength training have been conducted in the
- . Two groups of players were compared. The first did no weight training during the course of the season, while the second trained twice a week on a moderate schedule. When the groups were compared, the lifters maintained their beginning of training camp strength for the entire season, while the non-weight-trained group lost up to 50 percent of their functional strength over the long season. (Reynolds 138)
So one can understand just how important weight training is for football players, especially toward the end of the season. The elderly can also enjoy many benefits from weight training. Many studies have shown that weight training can ease pain from old age and arthritis. Some think that strength gains cannot be achieved in the elderly. This is not true; studies have shown that strength gains are possible at any age. An example of this is Karl Norberg. In the book, Inside weight lifting and weight training, it explains just how strong Norberg was at a very old age. It says, "In his early seventies, Norberg could bench press more than 400 pounds.
In his early eighties, he could still bench press more than 300 pounds! These are feats beyond the reach of most men at any age" (Murray 13). Another benefit for the elderly is better balance. At the "Life Extension" website, it mentions, "Peg Nordensten, 73, was having trouble with her balance when she started the program, a year and a half ago. Now, as she waits in line at the bank, "I stand on one foot and count, and stand on the other foot and count... It really passes the time" (1). These are just a few of the benefits that can be achieved through a weight training program for the elderly ones.
Weight Training In Children
Weight training in children was once a very controversial subject. Many thought weight training would stunt a child's growth. However, there is only a small amount of truth to this. "Nutricise" states that:
The idea that lifting stunts growth comes from several studies suggesting certain types of weight training may damage the epiphysis, or growth plate, of your bones during adolescence. "There is evidence to suggest lifting heavy weight could hasten growth-plate closure, which would stunt your growth," says Joseph Quatrochi, Ph.D., associate professor of human performance, sport and leisure studies at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. (1)
Taking this issue a little further, "OnlineFit" states that "The American Academy of Pediatrics has cautioned that children and adolescents should avoid intensive weight lifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding until they are about 15 years of age. Intensive usually means working with intensities that make one fatigue around 8-10 reps or lower" (1). Does this mean children should not train with weights? No, in fact, "mylifepath" quotes Dr. Laskowski as saying "Weightlifting alone is usually not the culprit, bad technique is...they'll try to lift the weight any way they can, no matter how improperly. Growth plate injuries should not be a problem when you use proper technique and the right weight" (1).
Therefore, it is not the weight lifting that stunts growth, it is the use of improper form. So if one wanted to get the children involved in weight training, proper technique must be emphasized. However, young children still might want to refrain from lifting very heavy weights. Under supervision, children can receive good benefits from a weight training program. One of the most important benefits a child will likely receive from weight training, is self confidence. Many children in our time have low self-esteem or are picked on in school. A weight training program will not only be the beginning of a good habit, but will help a child to feel more secure in oneself by building up better strength and muscularity. So, just how should children train then? A moderate amount of weight for 12 to 20 repetitions is great way for a child to gain strength safely, but one must remember to use supervision and teach the children good technique.
Have you ever heard the saying "muscle burns fat"? This is true. In fact, the more muscle you gain, the more fat you will burn. Muscle will burn off calories for the body to use as energy. Further, "fitresource" says "For every pound of muscle you gain, you will burn and extra 30-50 calories per day. In addition, a muscular body burns more calories during the same activity as a non-muscular body" (1). Weight training can easily be considered one of the best ways to lose body fat. "Kergaard's Korner" goes on to further explain this, it states:
High intensity weight training burns fat after exercise well beyond what researchers originally believed. Studies have shown the metabolism to remain elevated for sixteen hours following resistance exercise. In a new study by Dr. M.D. Schuenke, he and his colleagues at Ohio University put seven healthy men through an intense half-hour workout consisting of four circuits of bench press, power cleans, and squats. Each set was performed using the athlete's own predetermined ten repetition maximum and continued to failure. The researchers found post exercise oxygen consumption (a good measure of the metabolic rate and calorie expenditure) was significantly elevated for at least thirty-eight hours post exercise. These results suggest that post exercise oxygen consumption duration following resistance exercise extends well beyond the previously reported duration of sixteen hours. (1)
So research shows that a great way to burn fat is through gaining muscle.
There are many more benefits from weight training. I'd like to go over a few other benefits that I found interesting. For example, did you know weight training might help one to overcome addictions? With a beneficial habit like weight training, bad habits such as tobacco use and drinking can successfully be overcome. In fact, "Best Personal Training" points out some information that was included in the January 2000 edition of Muscle Media magazine. It states "Research has shown that weight training in particular is the most effective exercise when it comes to restoring psychological well-being in people who are trying to break bad habits" (1). A big misconception is that weight training will make one stiff and inflexible. This is not true; weight training will actually increase flexibility and range of motion in people.
Get A Healthier Heart
Another interesting benefit of weight training is that it benefits the health of ones heart. Further, it will slightly lower ones resting blood pressure. Of course, this will result in a lower risk for heart disease and stroke. "HealthLink" quotes Ph.D. Barry Franklin as saying "We now have increasing evidence that weight training can favorably modify several risk factors for heart disease including lipids and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body fat levels and glucose metabolism," (1).
Furthermore, "HealthLink" also quotes D.A., George A. Kelley as saying "Individuals who regularly did progressive resistance exercise experienced about a 2 percent reduction in their resting systolic blood pressure and a 4 percent reduction in their resting diastolic blood pressure" (1). Another interesting benefit is that weight training improves blood sugar absorption. This could be especially important for those with diabetes. "Medformation" states a recent study on this:
A study from the USDA Human Nutritional Research Center on Aging looked at 31 people with an average age of 65 who had diabetes and were fairly inactive. All had type 2 diabetes, and many were taking medication, but none injected insulin. Results showed that even older, overweight people with diabetes could improve blood sugar control if they took part in a simple weight-training program. Half of the participants worked out on weight machines and rowing machines three times a week. The other half did no exercise. After 16 weeks, the people who exercised had better blood sugar control than the ones who did not. (1)
This, and the rest of the benefits I covered, provides great reason to begin weight training. In conclusion, people of all ages can receive many benefits from a good weight training program. Just a few of these benefits include losing weight, improving self-confidence, elevating ones mood, and improving upon ones physique. Anyone looking to begin a great habit, and improve oneself, should start a weight training program.
"BestPersonalTraining". 13 December 2002; http://www.bestpersonaltraining.com/2rte.htm.
"Emelina". 13 December 2002; http://www.emelina.com/depression.html.
"fitresource". 13 December 2002; http://www.fitresource.com/Nutritio/Secrets.htm.
"Healthlink". 13 December 2002; http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/954953323.html.
"IDEAFit". 13 December 2002; http://www.ideafit.com/ftwomen.htm.
"Kergaard's Korner". 13 December 2002; http://www.delawaresports.com/news/kergaard02.htm.
Mayfield, Alex. "Onlinefit". 13 December 2002; http://www.onlinefit.com/articles/index.cfm/article/98.
"Medformation". 13 December 2002; http://www.medformation.com/mf/diabetesemag.nsf/page/0210015802104.
Murray. Jim. Inside Weight Lifting and Weight Training. Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books INC, 1977. "mylifepath". 13 December 2002; http://mylifepath.com.
"Nutricise". 13 December 2002; http://www.efit.com/servlet/article/3392.html.
Reynolds, Bill. Complete Weight Training Book. Mountain View, CA: World Publications, 1976.
"RossBoxing". 13 December 2002; http://www.rossboxing.com/thegym/thegym3.htm.