We all know how important strength training is for health and fitness, but what makes it so special that it carries the potential to completely transform your body composition? If you aren’t including strength training into your fitness regimen, it will be the single greatest change you can make that will take your fitness, both internal and external, to the next level.
Get Muscle Working For You
Most of us are focused on weight loss, and because of this, building muscle takes a back seat to your list of priorities. Exercise is usually done with the major goal of burning excess fat from your body. While those calories you burn during your cardio session will add up, the real magic happens when you’re not even paying attention.
Muscle loves to graze on fat. It does it at all hours of the day and even the night. In fact, in a day, one pound of muscle burns approximately 5.67 calories, whereas a pound of fat only burns approximately 1.98 . This might not seem like much, but like the laws of compounding interest, it adds up over time. Someone with 90 pounds of muscle will burn an extra 500 calories a day. That’s 3500 calories in a week, or 1 pound of fat. Over the course of a year that would be over 50 pounds.
Think about that for a second. Your muscle is consuming 50 pounds worth of calories a year, and it’s doing this all behind the scenes without you having to even lift a finger. Does that sound like a good deal to you? It does to me too, and that’s why strength training should be the anchor in your exercise program.
What’s Considered Strength Training?
Most people think strength training and weight training are one-in-the-same. This is a common misconception. Weight training is a form of strength training, but it is only one of many ways you can get the benefits strength training provides. Any exercise that provides load-bearing resistance to your muscles, and is anaerobic in nature can be adapted to your workout program and be considered strength training.
Weight training is my favorite form of strength training, as it very efficiently gets the job done. However, if you don’t have a gym, bodyweight exercises can build you an impressive physique too. Exercises such as pushups, pullups, situps, burpees, bodyweight squats, plyometrics, and sprints will bring most people’s physiques in line with their goals.
That’s not all there is though. Even activities like pilates, when done with enough resistance and intensity, can build an impressive physique when combined with proper nutrition. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various activities. Find something you love to do and then find creative ways to make it difficult. Make sure the activity is a full-body movement, and you will forever have a strength training exercise that you can live with and enjoy doing for the rest of your life.
How Much Strength Training Should You Do?
As with most things in fitness, it’s going to depend on your goals and the type of exercise you do. At minimum, I’d recommend a strength training session no less than once a week. Hitting each body part once a week is enough time to keep your muscles from getting weaker and atrophying between training sessions.
At maximum, I recommend not training the same muscles at high intensities more than once every 48 hours. You need time to repair and build muscle, and continually hitting the same muscles before they’ve had a chance to recover is a recipe for stalled progress, mental fatigue, and over-training.
Structure your exercise program around strength training. Whatever sport or activity you’re involved in, strength training stands to benefit you in many ways. Some sports and physiques will need a higher ratio of strength training to other exercise, and other more moderate physique goals or aerobic activities will need less to achieve optimal performance and appearance. Just make sure you’re making it part of your program.
I haven’t even begun to talk about the numerous health benefits, so consider that an extra bonus. Don’t be afraid of bulking up, and don’t be intimidated by the people in the gym. Take a step out of your comfort zone and see how great the reward can be.