Weight training has been become more and more popular over the last few years. Men’s magazines often have a buff model on the front cover and now the women’s magazines are catching on too.
There is media coverage on the benefits of weight training, hypertrophy programme ideas for men and women, and more and more inspirational training pictures are based around the “toned” and lean look.
A lot more people are being seen in the weights areas in the gym, looking to improve their appearance and sports performance by implementing weight training into their gym routine.
How do I reap the benefits of weight training?
Muscle growth — sometimes known as hypertrophy — is the development of mass, density, shape, and function of muscle cells. This adaptation allows the muscle to meet exercise/function-induced stress. By including weight training in your programme, you will notice muscle growth occurring. This growth is due to an increase in water, number of myofibrils, and connective tissue. Have a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in your head? This is not what muscle growth means!
If we just trained cardio (think of those cardio bunnies in the gym), we would begin to lose body fat but left with a skinny fat appearance. Why is this?
Muscles respond to the demand we put on them. Ask your muscles to lift load for repetitions and your muscles will become stronger and grow.
Ask your muscles to do little work (without any load) whilst you sweat on a cross-trainer and they won't be worked to their capacity, leaving you with the skinny fat appearance - weight lost on the scale but no shape to your body - we all want to fill our jeans with a booty!
Although growth can occur in all muscle fibre types, different types of muscle fibres vary in their potential for growth. Fast twitch fibres are more likely than slow-twitch fibres to grow with intense strength training. This may be one reason why athletes such as sprinters tend to be bigger and more muscular than endurance athletes, and why heavier loads tend to stimulate more muscle growth than light loads.
But what affect does this have on the way we look and perform?
There are many health benefits to including weight training in your weekly exercise programme:
This may sound like a given. But by becoming stronger, not only your muscles grow but also your bones and tendons. Reducing the risk of injuries and the likes of osteoporosis.
Speed, power and coordination are important in any sport and day to day activities. Weight training can benefit as it improves trunk strength, increases power output by generating high amounts of force over a period of time (for example, a high rep range workout) and can aid with speed strength, performing a full body lift quickly and explosively.
Larger muscles are often stronger muscles, leading to improved daily functioning in most individuals. Muscle is metabolically active, and affects the way the body handles nutrients. For instance, people who are more muscular (especially combined with lower body fat) typically have better insulin control (less risk of developing type 2 diabetes).
So, if I weight train, I become leaner and muscular?
Subjectively, muscle growth improves the appearance of the body. Women who gain muscle mass while remaining relatively lean appear tighter, firmer, and more “toned.” Men who gain muscle mass while remaining lean appear stronger, larger, and more athletic.
But what happens when you weight train 5 times a week but don't see results? You are still carrying extra body weight, you still feel heavy and fatigued or you don't feel like you are recovering well from the sessions?
Now it's time to dial down our nutrition. What we do in the gym is only 40% of our results. The rest has to be done at home and on a day-to-day basis. Key word here is consistency.
Muscle vs fat.
Weight training kicks up your metabolism and has you burning calories throughout the day whilst it mends and repairs the muscle damage you have done in the gym.
By activating type 2 muscle fibres (occurs through weight training) you are reducing body fat and creating a toned lean body. Even at rest. You are improving whole body metabolism.
This doesn't mean that you should order a dominos!
Try to recover and repair your muscles by eating 1.5g- 2g of protein per pound of body weight. I highly recommend using Myfitness Pal to get an idea of the contents of the food you are eating.
For instance, if you are a 10 stone woman (63.5kg/140lbs), you would have 210 - 280g (140 x 1.5 or 140 x 2) of protein a day. This would work out as 840- 1,120 (210 x 4 calories per 1g of protein or 280 x 4 calories per 1g of protein) calories of protein a day.
Not sure what your daily calorie intake should be? Apps such as Myfitness Pal calculate this for you! It is a great starting point and a eye opener to what you are eating.
Fear not ladies, the weights and protein wont make you bulky. Yes, I am going to touch on this again! I hear it too often.
By weight training your muscles will get stronger, that doesn’t always mean bigger. If you are working hard in the gym but eat a calorie surplus diet then you will get bigger and have a “bulky” appearance. However, this “bulk” will be the extra layer of body fat covering the muscle.
If you weightlift, eat a healthy diet of lean cut meats, vegetables, fruit and some good starchy carbs (think potatoes, rice, oats), your muscles will get stronger and denser. You will burn the fat on top of your muscles and you will accomplish the toned look that you have been working hard for.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the normal range of testosterone is 30 to 95 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) for women and 300 to 1,200 ng/dL for men.
It is the testosterone that helps with physiological changes in the body. Ladies, unless you are pumping steroids into your body, the Arnie look wont happen to you by lifting weights.
Keep your heart healthy.
Weight training has been found, by a study conducted by researchers at the College of Health Sciences’ Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, a 20% decrease in blood pressure after a 45 minute moderate-intensity strength training session.
Compliment this with a healthy and nutritious diet and you wont be clogging arteries and will be looking at a healthy, and reduced risk of illness, future.
Blood sugar levels.
Whether you have diabetes or risk factors, weightlifting can help regulate blood glucose, according to a study published on the Nature Medicine website in April 2013. Researchers of the study report that weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which aids in lowering blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy. Mammals, like poultry, have different colors of muscle ranging from red to white. Red muscle, which uses fat oxidation to generate energy, is more prevalent in endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, while white muscle is abundant in weightlifters and sprinters.
Think of your body like a car. If you were driving it every day, building up a few miles and wearing it out, you wouldn’t pull into a garage and fill it with the wrong fuel.
The same applies to your body. The hard work you put into the gym and the money spent on gym membership, the right programme and for some, personal training, why would you then “refuel” at a drive through or fast food restaurant?
When you are weight training you are actually tearing the muscles. In order for them to repair, become stronger and increase mass, they have to be repaired with a healthy and nutritious diet.
Eat a lot, train hard, and get lots of recovery, and you’ll put on muscle. Be malnourished, be sedentary, and be stressed out — and you won’t.
So, if you are looking to improve your sport performance, drop a few pounds and keep your training interesting then grab yourself some weights, as well as combine it with a nutritious diet and you will be hitting your goals in no time.
The famous saying of every personal trainer……”you cant out-train a bad diet”.
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