Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.
Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger.
A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance exercises.
Vary your progressive resistance training program every six to eight weeks to maintain improvement. Variables that can impact on your results include:
- exercises undertaken
- intensity (weights used)
- frequency of sessions
- Rest between sets.
If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken and weights used, you will maintain any strength gains you make.
How Resistance Training works:
Resistance training works by causing microscopic damage or tears to the muscle cells, which in turn are quickly repaired by the body to help the muscles regenerate and grow stronger. The breakdown of the muscle fiber is called “catabolism,” and the repair and re-growth of the muscle tissue is called “anabolism.” You’re probably familiar with the term anabolic when used withsteroids. Anabolic means to grow, and that’s exactly what happens after you break down the muscle fibers with resistance exercise. In fact, many biological processes of growth in the body require some breakdown, or catabolism, prior to re-growth. For instance, bones must be broken down first before calcium and other growth factors repair the bone and make it stronger. With muscles, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, growth hormone, protein, and other nutrients rush to the muscle after a resistance-exercise session to help repair the muscles to make them stronger. Importantly, your muscles heal and grow when you aren’t working out, and so that’s why it’s necessary to leave time between workouts for recovery.
Examples of resistance training
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or the gym.
Different types of resistance training include:
- Free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells
- Medicine balls or sand bags – weighted balls or bags
- Weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached either to weights or hydraulics
- Resistance bands – like giant rubber bands – these provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement
- Suspension equipment – a training tool that uses gravity and the user’s body weight to complete various exercises
- Your own body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups and chin-ups. Using your own body weight is convenient, especially when travelling or at work.
Health benefits of resistance training
Physical and mental health benefits that can be achieved through resistance training include:
- Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury
- Maintaining flexibility and balance, which can help you remain independent as you age
- Weight management and increased muscle-to-fat ratio – as you gain muscle, your body burns more kilojoules when at rest
- It may help reduce or prevent cognitive decline in older people
- Greater stamina – as you grow stronger, you won’t get tired as easily
- Prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes,heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity
- Pain management
- Improved mobility and balance
- Improved posture
- Decreased risk of injury
- Increased bone density and strength and reduced risk ofosteoporosis
- Improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood
- Improved sleep and avoidance of insomnia
- Increased self-esteem
- Enhanced performance of everyday tasks.