Livekick Team | Jan. 25, 2018

Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, is the use of resistance or muscle contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Strength training uses a variety of specialized equipment, free weights and various machines to reach certain types of movement targeting specific muscle groups. It is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When strength training is performed consistently, muscles inevitably become stronger.

The basic variables of strength training are sets, repetitions, tempo, exercise type and load (weight) moved to cause desired increases in strength, endurance and size. Depending on the individual’s goals and what phase of training he or she is currently in, a specific combination of these variables will be used.

A common misconception is that during strength training, muscles grow. What happens during the training, in fact, is that the muscles tear. It is only by fueling properly with the right food and getting enough sleep that the muscles are then able to repair and then build.

What is the best way to strength train?

This depends entirely on your personal goals. The exercises one does to strength train can be further broken down into two major types: isolation exercises and compound exercises. In an isolation exercise, the movement is restricted to one muscle group only with other muscle groups only minimally involved. Most isolation exercises involve machines rather than free weights and are useful for “rounding out” a routine, not making up the bulk of it, by directly targeting muscle groups that are more difficult to hit in compound moves. An example of an isolation exercise is a concentration bicep curl. The biceps are touched upon in any compound move that utilize the back muscles but an isolation exercise will further isolate the bicep muscle group.

Compound exercises work several muscle groups at once and build the basic strength needed to perform everyday pushing, pulling and lifting activities. Compound exercises are often favored because, since they recruit multiple muscle groups, they tend to also recruit the most energy and therefore burn the most calories.

Equipment used during strength training workouts is an important variable to consider. Different types of load, for example, give different types of resistance. The most common types of strength training sessions include dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, pulleys and stacks in the form of weight machines, as well as one’s own bodyweight in the case of pushups and pull ups. 

What are the benefits of strength training?

Strength training is extremely beneficial on many levels. It increases muscle, tendon and ligament strength, bone density, flexibility, tone, metabolic rate and postural support. It’s also monumental in weight loss. A common concern when someone begins strength training is that they see the number on the scale increase and they assume they are “gaining weight.” Technically, they are. But this weight is muscle, not fat. Despite a potentially higher number on the scale (which is why we at Livekick don’t rely on the scale alone to measure progress), studies show that adding merely two strength training sessions per week can reduce body fat by up to 7%. So as lean mass is increasing, with the right nutrition plan combined with your workout plan, fat mass will be decreasing. 

Furthermore, weight lifting raises your metabolism long after you’ve finished. Experts estimate that a metabolic rate stays elevated for up to 39 hours after a strength training session. This is because lifting strains the body and the body needs extra time and energy to allow recovery to occur. Additionally, the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) of the workout, also known as oxygen debt, explains how the body can continue to burn calories long after the workout is finished. It is the amount of oxygen required to restore the body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (homeostasis).

Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. Some experts estimate that each extra pound of muscle gained will burn an extra 30-50 calories per day, while others estimate a pound of muscle burns six calories at rest, compared to two calories burned by a pound of fat. There might not be a proven exact number but it’s undoubtedly beneficial to your metabolism to be muscular.

Strength training can also be considered a natural antidepressant because it boosts dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels, and makes you generally happier! Some folks are afraid of strength training due to a fear of injury but statistics show the rate of injury in weight training is less than in many sports, including football, basketball, and gymnastics. Plus, don’t fear-- preventing injury is one of your trainer’s main jobs!

Will lifting make me bulky?

This is a common concern about lifting weights, particularly among women. Starting to lift a bit of weight every day isn’t going to turn anyone into a muscle-bound hulk. It’s easier for men to add bulk than for women, certainly, but building muscle for anyone is intentional and takes a great amount of effort, everyday work, special nutrition consideration and possibly supplementation. People often make the argument here that women don’t have the same hormone profile as men and therefore cannot gain enough lean mass to look “bulky.” While the gist of this statement as applied to the general population is correct, there are two major things to consider. One, some women are capable of gaining appreciable amounts of muscle mass. And two, it’s not up to us to determine what “bulky” looks like for someone else. Any general advice about what will or will not happen when you begin strength training is just that: general.

Want to get specific? Sign up with a Livekick trainer today so you can chat about your specific goals and concerns at your strategy session!