Resistance training is a great way of keeping fit and healthy, but what is it exactly, and how do we use it in line with our goals?
What is resistance training?
Resistance training is a form of exercise that places stress on different parts of your body. In simple terms, it is better known as weight lifting. There are many reasons why resistance training should make up a large part of your exercise program.
Resistance training will:
* Increase your strength.
* Increase your bone density.
* Increase fat free mass.
* Decrease fat mass.
* Increase metabolic rate.
* Increase size and strength of ligaments, tendons and muscles.
* Increase capillary density.
* Improve posture.
* Improve proprioception.
* Improve physical appearance.
A lot of people think that doing weight training will make you look like a body builder, but this isn’t the case at all. Resistance training falls into three general categories. These are:
So, what is each category all about?
Strength training is designed to place a high amount of stress on your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones in order to increase the amount of power they can produce. During a period of strength training, the body will repair and adapt in order to be able to meet the new tasks you’re asking it to perform. Strength training will involve a very heavy weight, but a low number of repetitions and will give you the biggest increase in power.
This is a term used to describe the optimum range for muscular growth, or body building. Again, as with all forms of resistance training, the scientific and anatomical factors remain the same – the body will adapt to what is asked of it. With hypertrophy, the weight used for training is lower than strength, but the number of repetitions will increase. This allows the recruitment of more muscle fibres, which leads to greater gains in lean muscle.
Endurance training will enable you to perform a task for a longer period of time, such as running, boxing, or even things relative to your job like manual handling. Endurance training uses a lower weight than hypertrophy and strength training, but a very high number of repetitions. The increases in lean tissue will not be as much, but the muscles will become more efficient and leaner. Endurance training would be more commonly referred to as ‘toning up’.
So, you have a basic idea of what resistance training is, but why is it so good for us?
Resistance training and weight loss.
What does weight loss mean to you? It probably conjures up images of strict diets, weeks on weeks of eating vegetables and running every morning at 5am so you can get into that bikini for your next holiday, or walk down the beach without the beer belly.
Weight Loss is a simple term that means a reduction of mass. Every single cell in your body adds up to this mass – if I said to you that you can lose ten pounds in two days, would you say yes, or would you ask the question “Ten pounds of what?”.
It’s that question that puts the words ‘weight loss’ on the naughty list. What we need to focus on to become healthier is to keep our ‘mass’ balanced. We don’t want to be losing our lean muscle tissue, we need it to pick things up, walk the dog, or play with our children. We definitely don’t want to lose our bones either, so that only leaves fat. If too much of our mass is made up of this, we run into all sorts of problems, like reduced mobility, heart disease and even cancer. We don’t want any of those nasties, so we may need to look at ‘fat loss’.
One of my main issues with clients undergoing body recomposition is that they hop on the scales, see they have gained one pound after a week of training and eating nutritious healthy food, and become disheartened. What they don’t realise immediately is that they have gained new muscle cells (which are much heavier and more compact than fat cells) and lost a percentage of their body fat. Because lean tissue is denser than fat and occupies less space, you can remain the same weight, but improve your health and physical appearance at the same time.
The more lean tissue you have, the more calories you will burn every day too because muscle tissue is metabolically active. Now you can see why resistance training is so valuable in helping ‘fat loss’ – it can provide us with a bigger calorie deficit each day to help burn fat, and it makes us shrink because muscle takes up less space than fat! Along with benefits like having a higher metabolism, things like carrying the shopping, competing in sports and daily living activities all become easier. Resistance training is a great way to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Nutrition requirements whilst training.
With all this change going on in our bodies, we need to make sure we feed it properly. You wouldn’t expect to grow the worlds biggest tomato by chucking a seed in the back garden, you need to nurture it and make sure it has everything it needs. The same applies to our body when we want it to change. When our bodies move, or perform tasks, it’s our muscle cells that make it happen. Unfortunately they can’t last forever, so we need to repair and fix them when they become damaged, or worn. This is called cellular repair. You might have heard about protein shakes, maybe you use them yourself after a workout, but do you know why, and what protein actually is?
Protein is made up of amino acids. These molecules are the building blocks of body tissue. There are 20 different amino acids and we need to make sure we get the right amount for our body. Of these 20, there are 8 ‘essential’ amino acids that cannot be made by the body. In order to get these, we need to eat them. Complete proteins are what we’re looking for, so things such as meat, eggs, milk and soya beans are great.
Most plant based proteins are incomplete, but many lack different amino acids, so combinations are required to ensure you get the full compliment if you’re not using a complete source. An easy way to get the protein you need is via supplements, such as protein bars, shakes and powders. These are great if you don’t want to worry about missing out on any of the essential amino acids.
So, we’ve touched on repair, but moving needs fuel. If you crash your car and have it repaired (just like the muscle cells) you still need to add some petrol for it to get going again. This is where our carbohydrates come into play. Carbs are like our petrol, and they give our muscles the fuel they need to move. As with petrol, there are good carbs (super unleaded) and bad carbs (four star leaded). We want to eat the good carbs!
Sticking to complex carbs (starches and fibres) will help us to keep the body fat at bay, and help our muscles reach their full potential. Low GI and Low GL foods will help to keep our blood sugar low by trickling through our digestive system. High blood sugar is bad for a few reasons, one being an insulin spike. When this happens, all the sugar in the blood is moved, firstly to our muscle cells, but after that, they end up being stored as – yep, you guess it – fat. We don’t want to gain fat after we’ve worked so hard to lose it, so keeping tabs on those carbs is essential in order to support your resistance training, and health benefits.
Last, but not least, we have fat. It is very important to have the right amount of fat in your diet. Around 30% of your diet should be made up of fat. From protecting your internal organs, maintaining hormone production and preventing vitamin deficiencies, to nerve protection and thermoregulation, fat does many essential jobs in the body. There are three main categories of fat:
* Saturated. These mainly come from animal sources, and tend to be solid at room temperature.
* Polyunsaturated. These mainly come from non-animal sources and tend to be liquid at room temperature.
* Monounsaturated. These tend to come from a non-animal sauce and a liquid at room temperature. On cooling these oils will become more viscous.
To aid health and training, along with cellular repair, we should be aiming for around 11% of saturated fat, 13% of monounsaturated fat, and 6-7% of polyunsaturated fat in our daily calorie intake.
Once all of these nutritional factors combine with resistance training, your body will grow, repair and improve its physical performance and all round health.
The importance of flexibility and resistance training.
So we know how to lift the weights, we know how to feed our bodies in order to repair and growth, but what about stretching and flexibility? Why is it important to stretch and why should we train to improve flexibility?
Firstly stretching is a great way to warm up the muscles before starting any resistance training. If the muscles are warmed up before exercise, we stand a good chance of reducing the risk of injury.
Not only do injuries prevent us from sticking to a training program, they hurt too, which will then impact on our goals and potential long-term health. Without regular stretching there is a tendency for muscles to lose their flexibility so that when called upon to perform extreme movements such as in sports or in an emergency, they are less able to extend to the full range of movement resulting in potential damage to the muscle tissue. This is something we really want to avoid, as not only is it really painful, it can put you back for months and months.
Benefits of flexibility training are:
* reduced muscle tension and increased physical and mental relaxation.
* Improves elasticity of muscles and connective-tissue around joints, enhancing freedom of movement.
* Makes activities of daily living easier to perform.
* Helps prevent lower back and other spinal column problems.
* Improves and maintains good postural alignment.
* Improved coordination by allowing for greater ease of movement.
* Increased range of motion.
* Decreased muscle soreness (DOMS) associated with resistance training.
If you can, stretch both before and after any form of resistance training. The benefits are great, and you will recover quicker too.
There we have a brief introduction to resistance training. Thank you for reading. if you found this article helpful, feel free to leave a comment or share it and be sure to check back for more.