So, you think you’re hot stuff in the gym five days a week running like there’s no tomorrow on the treadmill? Well, that’s great for your heart and lungs, but you’re not building lean muscle mass. In fact, you could actually be burning muscle mass with all that cardio training.
If you’ve been avoiding barbells and weight machines, here are eight reasons why you should stop. Just keep these three things in mind: “The key to a strength training exercise program is to keep moving from exercise to exercise,” says Jennifer Fitzgerald, an ACE-certified personal trainer. “Keep it fresh and change it up every month.” And hit the weights at least three times a week.
- You’ll burn more calories in a day, even if you’re just sitting at a desk. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn in a day because lean muscle mass revs up your metabolism. Studies show for every pound of muscle, you’ll burn an extra 35 to 50 more calories per day without even doing anything.
- You’ll be leaner, meaner, and one heck of a fighting machine. Ok, maybe not. But, you’ll certainly be leaner! And who doesn’t want to be leaner? Men: get rid of that tire around your belly and turn that flabby posterior into something women can’t help but grab. Ladies: lose those turkey wings so you can wear your sexy dresses with pride. “When you wave and your arms keep on waving, yep, you’ve definitely got to tone that up,” says Fitzgerald, with a chuckle. Note to women: strength training will not bulk you up, so you can’t use that excuse anymore. Keep the repetitions high and the weights low and you’ll be just FINE.
- Strength training helps you get rid of lumpy, bumpy unwanted fat. So, you’re not only getting lean muscle mass, but you’re actually blasting fat. Do we need to explain further?
- Your bones will thank you. After 35, women start losing bone density. Brittle bones in elderly people are like pieces of chalk that can snap into powder with one little fall. Strength training keeps your bones dense and sturdy. “You can do all kinds of things from yoga to swimming, but … the only thing proven to maintain bone density and improve it in some cases is weight training,” says John Vrahnos, a personal trainer in Orange County and Palm Springs. And men should pay attention, too. More and more studies show men can develop osteoporosis, too.
- Your confidence will soar. It’s not rocket science. When you look better and feel stronger, you can’t help but love yourself more. And others will see the difference and will gravitate to you. They want what you’ve got!
- Your stress levels will at last drop down to more manageable levels. “A lot of people deal with stress differently. Many will eat themselves into a coma, which is the same feeling you get from alcohol and smoking,” Vrahnos says. “We tend to resort to (bad behaviors) to get rid of stress because it’s easier.” But definitely not healthier. Strength training release endorphins in your body that combat the stress hormones. An added bonus of reducing your stress with proper exercise (not alcohol) is you’ll be able to catch more zzz’s at night. “It’s a proven fact that resistance training improves sleeping patterns,” Vrahnos adds. He’s had numerous clients stop taking sleeping pills after training with weights on a regular basis.
- You’ll lessen your chances of injuring yourself in sports or daily activities. Training with weights not only strengthens your muscles, but it also strengthens your tendons, ligaments and joints, says Christian Velge, an ACE-certified personal trainer. Being stronger all over often protects from possible injuries from everyday activities and athletic events. “You walk down the stairs, you could twist your ankle,” says Velge. Or hurt your back picking up a huge jug of water. If you’re a weekend warrior playing a little flag football on the weekends, you better be heading to the gym. You’ll not only impress your friends with a better game, but you’ll be less likely to pull something.
- You’ll stand taller, prouder. Yep, we’ve all seen poor posture. We’ve probably even dealt with it ourselves. Strength training makes it difficult to slouch, especially if you’re building your back and abs. Weak muscles in the tummy make you slouch because gravity is pulling your shoulders down. You don’t have to have a six-pack to stand straight, but certainly strengthening your abs helps! “Your posture improves because you’re strengthening your core,” says Fitzgerald.
If you think all this means you can hang up those running shoes, think again. “The best way to get into great physical shape is to do a combination of resistance and cardiovascular,” says Vrahnos. “You can’t do one without the other.”
By LaRue V. Gillespie