Resistance or strength training is a form of exercise that uses an external stimuli, i.e. a weight, to apply a force against the body.
This results in an increased number of muscular contractions, triggering an increase in muscular strength (the increased ability to exert force) or hypertrophy (greater muscle mass) over time.
Resistance training causes microscopic tears in the muscle, which, once repaired by our body, cause muscular growth and sculpting, allowing for us to become stronger and look more toned.
Weight training primarily uses the Anaerobic A-Lactic (ATP-Pc) Energy System or the Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System, because typically exercises are short. The ATP-Pc system is used when the activity lasts between 10 and 15 seconds. It is only meant for short, strong bursts of energy. The Glycolysis system is used for durations of about 15 seconds to 3 minutes, about the time it takes to compete sets in weight-based exercises.
If exercising to improve cardiovascular (CV) condition, cellular respiration (aerobic) is the main energy pathway used. Cellular respiration is able to provide energy for longer periods of time, for example. a spinning class or long distance running.
For a number of reasons, resistance training is advantageous over a purely aerobic session such as spinning. We’re going to explore those reasons in this blog.
If you always do the same purely aerobic class, you’re repeating a limited pattern of movements. Your body will adapt to this pretty fast, meaning that you will hit a plateau – after a certain point, you will see very little improvement in fitness.
Resistance training, on the other hand, can constantly be adapted and modified, so that we include “progressive overload”, a term that refers to pushing your body slightly more in each session to ensure that you make improvements.
Another issue with repetition is that you are more prone to injury. Your weak joints are weakened further through general wear and tear, as they are repeating the same motion over and over again.
Additionally, a lack of specific, isolated strengthening exercises like those done in resistance training means you are not strengthening them, either.
A further benefit of resistance training is that it improves our VO2 max (maximum oxygen we can utilise in one breath) and therefore enhances our general cardiovascular fitness.
Many women exercise because they want to either drop fat, or look more toned. A common mistake they make is to assume that endless cardio is needed. But in reality, to accomplish these goals effectively and achieve that washboard stomach, weight training must be incorporated into a training schedule. Not to mention, we burn more calories resistance training then we do training aerobically, but we will speak more about that below.
Before we discuss the benefits in more detail, let’s get one thing clear - strength training does not mean bodybuilding. Women produce around 5 to 10 percent the amount of testosterone men do, limiting our muscle-building potential in general. Individuals who do bodybuilding have to be hugely dedicated, spending huge amounts of energy and time to achieve such results and you will not do so by lifting weights once or twice a week!
So, why is it important for women to incorporate resistance training in to their workout routine?
1. Firstly, strength training increases our metabolic rate (the energy we use at rest), therefore it’s a great way to achieve sustainable fat loss. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that in the 24 hours after a 60 minute resistance session, women burned an average of 100+ calories more than those who did an hour’s worth of cardio. This number was also proven to more than double for those who did heavier weights for fewer reps, working closer to their maximal effort.
2. It helps with postural issues and weaknesses, which is particularly relevant in today’s society, with so many of us working at a desk for 7+ hours a day and not being as mobile as we should be. Resistance training is not just about being able to “lift heavier” at the gym, but also about improving our ability to carry out everyday movements, such as carrying/pulling/pushing, with ease and without pain.
3. It strengthens our pelvic floor muscles, something especially important for women, as strengthening this group of muscles we can reduce complications both pre and postnatally.
4. Crucially, this form of training improves bone density, which decreases our risk of osteoporosis, which is a significant risk for post-menopausal women.
5. Taking part in this form of training is linked to better, higher quality sleep. A study in the International SportMed Journal (1) shows that resistance training greatly improves both the quality of sleep and lengthens the time of sleep you have.
6. It leads to both improved heart health and decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (2) found that people who lift weights show fewer heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, increased blood glucose levels and large waist circumference.
7. It has a hugely positive psychological impact. Lifting weights leaves you feeling empowered! Not only will a leaner, stronger body boost your self esteem in no time, but as you challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone, you will see an increase in confidence across every aspect of your life… Not to mention all those post-workout endorphins that will set you up for the day!
When embarking on any training programme, especially one that incorporates resistance exercise, it is fundamental that your diet is also tailored to your body's’ needs. It’s essential that you are getting enough food to allow for energy during exercise, but also to allow for muscle repair and growth afterwards.
All our trainers at SFL have vast amounts of knowledge and experience in resistance training, as well as nutrition. They can design and support you through bespoke strength and nutrition programmes tailored to your goals, so you can experience the advantages for yourself first hand. If you’d like more information on this or have any questions on the above then get in touch.
1. Roveda, Eliana, et. Al. Effects of endurance and strength acute exercise on night sleep quality. International SportMed Journal. 2011; 12(3): 113-124.
2. Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.
Personal Trainer at Soho Fitness Lab