Many people have come to associate resistance training and muscle mass with body builders and meat heads in the gym pushing around ultra heavy weights.
In reality, we all require muscle mass to functional optimally and it's a critical component to healthy aging.
Muscle mass is actually the number one factor that determines how well you are going to age!
Lean muscle mass diminishes with age. At around age 30 people typically lose about 3%-5% of their lean muscle mass per year. (1)
Since muscle is very metabolically active tissue, that cumulative loss of muscle mass plays a large role in weight gain since it slows down your metabolic rate.
Thats right. Just having muscle mass helps you burn more calories and lose weight easier, even at rest!
Resistance training, also referred to as strength training, helps to build and maintain muscle as you age and supplies your body and mind with many benefits!
What Is Resistance Training
Resistance training is any exercise that uses resistance to induce muscle contractions that help to build, strengthen, or maintain muscle mass.
This can be a variety of exercises including:
Body Weight - Push-ups, Squats, Pull-ups, lunges, crunches. etc. Any movement that utilizes your body weight as the form of resistance
Free Weights - Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Barbells, etc. These are commonly used for resistance training and can help add more load to the muscle fibers.
Resistance Bands - An excellent, light weight option that is perfect on the go or for at home workouts.
TRX Straps - Suspension training straps are an awesome way to take your body weight training to the next level.
Cable Machines - These are very common in gyms and have an array of different options.
Health Benefits of Resistance Training
Strength training goes above and beyond having muscle mass for vanity or athletic pursuits.
Don't get me wrong, this style of training combined with good nutrition is your ticket to an amazing beach body, but few people understand the far reaching benefits it provides to your overall health.
The amount of lean muscle mass you have is actually the number one factor that will determine how well you will age!
1. Develop Strong Bones
Resistance training has been shown to help increase bone health and reduce your chances of osteoporosis as you age. (2)
This is a critical component to staying active and healthy as you get older and avoiding debilitating injuries.
2. Weight Loss and Fat Burning
Your metabolic rate determines how many calories you will burn and is a critical component to losing weight.
Resistance training can boost your metabolic rate making weight loss and dropping body fat easier. (3)
Whats even better is that resistance training helps to keep weight off for good!
3. Improve Balance
Weight training has been shown to improve long-term balance in older adults which is a very important factor when aging. (4)
Balance is the top parameter associated with elderly falls, so it's certainly something to be mindful of and maintain/improve as you get older.
4. Boost your Mood and Mental Health
Research clearly demonstrates the power of exercise to enhance your mental health. (5)
It can reduce depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue! (6)
The power of resistance training for mental clarity and overall happiness is profound! It has even been shown to be more effective than pharmaceutical drug interventions in many instances!
5. May Help to Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Since resistance training has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, it can certainly be helpful for anyone wanting to prevent/reverse type 2 diabetes. (7)
6. Heart Health
If you are looking to lower your chances of a heart attack and improve your cardiovascular health, then incorporate some resistance training into your lifestyle! (8)
Resistance training causes a different effect to the heart compared to traditional cardio and researchers believe it may be even better for heart health than going for a run.
7. Reduce your Risk for Cancer
A study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Preventions found that higher levels of muscle was associated with a decreased risk of dying from cancer. (9)
8. Increase Strength and Muscle Mass
I realize this one may seem a bit obvious, but considering how important it is, I couldn't leave it off the list.
Using your muscles against resistance, whether it be free weights or body weight exercises, creates an adaptation response that triggers muscle building signals within your body.
This leads to an increase in your strength and lean muscle mass, both of which are very essential for looking, feeling, and performing your best.
9. Improve Brain Health
Strength training can substantially improve your cognitive function. That is why this style of training can actual be used as a therapeutic intervention for elderly folks suffering from cognitive decline. (10)
This effect is likely due to the increased flow of oxygen, blood, and various nutrients to the brain during resistance training.
Resistance training helps to lower your risk to all causes of mortality! Yup.. it will better your chances of living a longer life and as your read above, it will also make you feel better and happier during those years. (11)(12)
Getting Started With Resistance Training
If you made it this far I'm sure your ready to get your gym clothes on and start pumping some iron.
Before you get started, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Always Start With a Warm-Up.
Take the time to move your body and loosen up before you being your strength training. Have you heard the expression, " The older the engine, the longer the warm up." Well, that applies to your body to. Ease into your workout and start with light weights.
Do avoid static stretching before hand as that can decrease power output.
Focus on Full-Body Routines
Working multiple major muscle groups increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your workout. Aim to address upper and lower body, starting with major muscle groups (legs, chest, back) and then move into minor muscle groups (arms, shoulders, calves, etc.).
This is will provide a better hormonal response and burn more calories.
Variation is the Key
There is no such thing as the "best exercise" or the "best number of reps". The best strategy for optimal results is to constantly mix it up. This causes your body to adapt in different ways enhancing your progress.
Reps and Sets
In general, lifting heavier weights and having your rep range around 3-6 reps per set is ideal for strength gains. Rep range of 8-12 reps is better for muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). Higher than 12 reps can be helpful for toning and conditioning.
As mentioned above, variation is the key so some days go heavier and keep your range 4-6 reps and other days go lighter and get into the 10-16 rep range. (depending on your goals)
3 sets of each exercise is great when starting out, but 4 is even better and will provide more muscle and strength gains.
Don't Underestimate your Breath!
Many people have the tendency to hold in their breath when exerting force trying to lift a heavy weight.
Never hold your breath! You need as much oxygen as possible when lifting weights and holding your breath can lead to potential problems.
It's best to time your exhales during the exertion and inhales on the release.
Keep Your Movements Slow and Controlled
Resistance training is not a race. While explosive training can be useful in certain instances, I recommend keeping your tempo slow.
This elongates your time under tension and can lead to more muscle growth.
It's also safer on your joints and connective issues which will decrease your chances of injury.
Don't Skip on Your Nutrition
While resistance training is very critical for your health and body composition, nutrition is even more important.
You can't outwork a bad diet. Dial in your nutrition for optimal results with your health and fitness.