There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about doing strength training, what benefits can you expect?
Strength training, also known as resistance training, is exercises done to challenge the muscles throughout your body. This includes both bodyweight exercises and exercises with external weights. By challenging these muscles you can make them stronger or at least preserve them better.
Some examples of strength exercises are pushups, lunges, bench presses, shoulder presses, squats, wall sits, planks,…
Keep in mind that using heavier weights generally increases your injury risk during the exercise. Make sure you can do the strength exercise you have in mind with good technique. If needed search for expert guidance.
Also give the muscle group you worked out enough rest to repair before your next strength training session.
Some people question how useful a workout like this can be but adding strength training to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
Strength training is mostly for improving muscle strength and endurance. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
What muscles you will work with strength training depends a lot on the specific exercises you do. Generally speaking, you will work out muscles over your entire body with strength training.
As a strength training beginner simple bodyweight exercises can be a good way to build some extra muscles mass.
That being said, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass. When this is the case bodyweight exercises with external weights or strength training exercises where you use external weights are the next step if you want to keep building extra muscle.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. However, most people don’t come close to this point, especially with a shorter duration exercise like strength training.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Doing strength training can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
The actual number of calories you burn doing a strength training workout will again depend a lot on the specific exercises in the workout. How much external weight you use will also influence the numbers a lot.
Someone doing bodyweight squats will burn a lot fewer calories than someone doing squats with 220 pounds (100 kg) on their shoulders. Here are some general estimations for bodyweight strength training exercises to give you a better idea:
30 minutes doing a low-intensity bodyweight exercise, for example planks, can help you burn around 133-229+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more.
30 minutes doing a higher-intensity bodyweight exercise, for example lunges, can help you burn around 177-305+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more.
Another way workouts, mainly strength training exercises, help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do.
Strength training generally doesn’t burn that many calories during the workout. It is however a good workout for building extra muscle mass. This can make strength training a time-efficient type of exercise for long-term calorie burning. If you want to see fast results other exercises than strength training can be better for calorie burning.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Doing strength training doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why workouts like strength training benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Besides the actual physiological changes doing strength training will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
One big review of studies concluded that strength training significantly reduced depressive symptoms among adults (12).
5. Builds fast muscle and muscle endurance
Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (13).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.
As a strength training beginner even bodyweight exercises will initially help you build type 2 muscle fibers. Once you get to a point where bodyweight workouts start being a less intensive exercise they will help you build more type 1 muscle fibers.
If you want to keep building fast-twitch muscle fibers you want to make your strength training more challenging. Sometimes by doing something as simple as switching to decline pushups, in most cases you will need some external weights.
6. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. While strength training mainly focuses on other muscles, this workout also makes your heart beat faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (14, 15, 16, 17, 18).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
7. You can do strength training at home
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with strength training you don’t necessarily have to worry about these things. There is a wide variety of strength exercises you can do as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a strength training workout.
This benefit of strength training is mostly for strength training beginners and intermediates. At some point you will likely need a lot of external weights. This requires going to the gym or getting your own weights at home.
8. Low-impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily most strength training is generally a low-impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are often relatively soft. If you are injury-sensitive you do want to be careful about doing strength training with very heavy weights. If you are in this situation it may be smart to start with low weights and to slowly build up from there.
9. Reduces injury risk
Even if you don’t plan on doing a lot of workouts, injuries can happen in your daily life and restrict your movements. If you do exercise regularly an injury can reduce the amount of time you can exercise to 0 in the worst case.
Consistency is an important factor when improving your health. Doing one big workout is often not as effective as three medium ones. That means that avoiding periods of injury in which you do no exercise at all can be very beneficial for your health.
One study divided 30 soccer players in two groups. One of the two groups performed extra hamstring resistance training 1-2 times a week for 10 weeks. They observed that the group that did resistance training had a lower occurrence of hamstring injuries (22).
10. Can improve athletic performance
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (25). This means that adding a strength training exercise like squats to your routine can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.
11. Can improve posture
When doing the right strength training exercises with the right technique you train muscles that are important for a good posture.
Improving your posture will help you avoid related injuries. One small study even suggests that open non-verbal displays, which a good posture helps with, are attractive (26).
12. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of workouts like strength training is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (27).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (28, 29, 30). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
One study observed improvements in cognitive performance in older individuals after 2 to 3 days of strength training a week for 6 months (31).
That means that adding a strength training workout to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
13. Can improve flexibility
Flexibility is the range of motion specific joints or joint groups can do.
By doing strength training exercises like squats where you push these boundaries you are able to increase this range (32, 33, 34, 35, 36). This in turn can help reduce the likelihood of accidents, especially falls, and improve exercise performance.
14. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long term.
How much and which bones strength training workouts strengthen will vary from exercise to exercise. Generally the more weight you put on your bones, without overdoing it, the more the exercise will strengthen your bones.
15. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
16. Time-efficient workout
Another benefit of strength training is that a good workout session generally doesn’t require a lot of time. To build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.
You can easily see this comparison with other types of workouts for yourself. Measure how many minutes it takes to do a strength training exercise like pushups until you can’t continue and compare that with how many minutes you can jog at a low tempo. Longer duration workouts can still offer benefits but this means that there is one reason less why you can’t work out.
This benefit of strength training is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.
17. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
By using your lungs more, thanks to workouts like strength training, you can improve how well they work (47, 48, 49, 50, 51). Strength training will not be the best workout for engaging your lungs but the usage of your muscles will increase the amount of oxygen your body uses.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
18. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (52).
Workouts like strength training obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
19. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
20. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like strength training (64, 65, 66).
One review of studies concluded that strength training can improve both sleep quality and duration (67).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
21. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus doing strength training, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (68, 69, 70). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from doing strength training including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
22. Improves balance and coordination
This benefit varies between exercises but generally you will likely challenge your balance and coordination skills while doing strength training. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
One small study even suggests that bodyweight exercises may be more useful than pilates for improving coordination (71).
The benefits of improved coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than strength training, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
One thing you need to remember is that doing strength training with a suboptimal technique can be hard on body parts like your knees, shoulders, and back, especially if you have a lot of pounds to lose. If you are in a situation like that, walking, the elliptical trainer, or swimming may be better workout choices to start with.
Another thing to remember is that you generally want to give the muscle group you just worked out at least 48 hours rest to repair itself before doing strength training exercises for that muscle group again.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If strength training is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.