Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weight Training: Yay Or Nay? And Why.

Hey fitness fanatics! It's me again! 3rd post of October! Can you believe it's mid-October already?!? I don't know about you, but for me, this year has just flown by! We've only got 2 more weeks until November and it will be Thanksgiving before you know it! Then Christmas, and then the new year... crazy, huh?
I hope all my posts this year have helped to motivate and encourage everyone to stay on the right track. I understand there are often bumps in the road (I'm not immune, check out my recent set back earlier this year), but the important thing is to realize that you're falling off course and get right back on the path of healthy living (i.e - exercising and eating healthy).

So, let's get straight to the topic of this post: Weight Training: Yay or Nay? Well, unless this is your very first Confessions of a Fit Girl post, you should already know my answer to that one: YAY OF COURSE! I'm definitely a fan of weight training and used it throughout my weight loss journey to help tone & lose inches as well as pounds. While in my heavy weight loss phase, I did more cardio than weight/strength training (which is what I recommend) but I always added in at least 2 days of weight/strength training. Now that I am maintaining I do around 3 days of heavy weight training a week, but often do workouts on my cardio days that incorporate weights as well.

See the muscle definition? ;) Lookin' fit & strong! Still got a long way to go!

So why weight training?
Well, to be honest, I never fully understood the true benefits of weight training until recently - and when I say recently I mean this year. Like I said before, I always added weight/strength training into my exercise routine, I knew the power it had to tone and help lose inches, but this year I've been doing more weight training than ever, using heavier weights than ever before, and I have had some amazing results! I can see true muscle definition! And at 126 lbs and a size 4, I've literally shrunk into a smaller version of myself than I ever thought possible! But what I am loving is that even at this small size, I still look lean and strong! And I owe it all to weight training! Now don't get me wrong, I've also been eating cleaner than ever before as well, and that has a lot to do with it. As I've often said before, losing weight - and inches - is 80% diet, 20% exercise. When you get both of them working together, you can achieve great things!

The Benefits
Yes, strength training will add definition to your muscles and give men and women alike more fit and toned bodies, but working out with weights does so much more.  

Take a look at 6 reasons to add weight training to your workout plan:

  1. Weight training protects bone health and muscle mass. After puberty, whether you are a man or a woman, you begin to lose about 1 percent of your bone and muscle strength every year. One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add weight training to your workouts.

  2. Weight training makes you stronger and fitter. Weight training is also called resistance training because it involves strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. There are two types of resistance training: 
  • Isometric resistance involves contracting your muscles against a non-moving object, such as against the floor in a push-up. 
  • Isotonic strength training involves contracting your muscles through a range of motion as in weight lifting.

    Both make you stronger and can get you into better shape. Remember that with weight training your muscles need time to recover, so it should only be done on alternate days. Always take some time to warm up and cool down after strength training. 
  1. Weight training helps you develop better body mechanics. Weight training has benefits that go well beyond the appearance of nicely toned muscles. Your balance and coordination will improve, as will your posture. More importantly, if you have poor flexibility and balance, weight training can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, a crucial benefit, especially as you get older.

  2. Weight training plays a role in disease prevention. Studies have documented the many wellness benefits of weight/strength training. If you have arthritis, weight training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain.Weight training can help post-menopausal women increase their bone density and reduce the risk of bone fractures. And for the 14 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, weight training along with other healthy lifestyle changes can help improve glucose control.

  3. Weight training boosts energy levels and improves your mood. Weight training will elevate your level of endorphins, which will make you feel great. As if that isn’t enough to convince you, weight training has also been shown to be a great antidepressant, to help you sleep better, and to improve your overall quality of life.

  4. Weight training translates to more calories burned. You burn calories during weight training, and your body continues to burn calories after weight training, a process called "physiologic homework." More calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat, and in fact weight training can boost your metabolism by 15% — that can really jumpstart a weight loss plan.

Weight Training: How Much Is Enough?
You don't have to be in the weight room for 90 minutes a day to see results. For most people, short weight training sessions several times a week are more practical than are extended daily workouts. You can see significant improvement in your strength with just two or three 20- or 30-minute weight training sessions a week. That frequency also meets activity recommendations for healthy adults, which call for strength training at least twice a week — in addition to at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity.

Popular Weight Lifting Myths
If you've spent some time in a gym or if you told people you were into weight lifting, you've most likely received a lot advice on what you should and shouldn't do. But how much truth is there behind all those things they tell you?  

Here are the top 10 weight lifting myths debunked:

MYTH #1: Weight Lifting is Dangerous.
FACT: Machines have the reputation to be safer than free weights. But studies tell a different story.
  • Weight lifting does not produce more injuries compared to machines.
  • Weight lifting injury rates are lower than in any other sport.
Weight lifting is used for (p)rehabilitation because it can prevent and fix injuries. The only way you can injure yourself, is if you use bad technique or don't control your ego. Learn the proper technique from a trained professional, use your head and you'll be safe.

MYTH #2:Weight Lifting is Bad For Your Joints.

FACT: Weight lifting is less stressful on your joints than running: it involves controlled, non-impact movements. Weight lifting will increase the health of your joints by strengthening the muscles & ligaments that hold them together.
  • Squatters have healthier knees than non Squatters. Studies performed on top powerlifters confirm that their knees are in better health than those of the general population.
  • Several StrongLifts.com readers recovering from ACL injuries or who had persistent knee problems for years, reported that their knee pain went away forever after 2-3 months of doing squats.

MYTH #3: Weight Lifting Causes High Blood Pressure.

FACT: Your blood pressure increases when you lift heavy weights, but it returns to normal after finishing your set. That's how lifting improves your cardiovascular fitness. People who lift weights with the focus on strength training have lower blood pressures than people who don't exercise. Studies show that regular weight lifting lowers your systolic & diastolic blood pressure.

MYTH #4: Weight Lifting Makes You Bulky. 

FACT: Muscle is denser than fat. You'll look slimmer at the same body-weight if you increase your muscle mass. The huge guys in muscle magazines are usually supplementing. Many skinny guys train 6x/week but struggle to gain weight. Why? Because they aren't eating enough. Getting bulky means gaining weight. And to gain weight, you must eat more. Training hard only won't do the job.

MYTH #5: Weight Lifting Makes Women Bulky.

Example of a woman who has built
FACT:  Those extremely muscular women you can find in muscle magazines had to use steroids to get to that point. As a woman you can build muscle, get stronger and improve your physique, but you'll never build as much muscle mass as men can because you have lower testosterone levels. You'll always stay feminine unless you use steroids.

MYTH #6: Weight Lifting Stunts Growth. 

FACT: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Dave Draper, FACT: Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Michael Vick, etc. They all started lifting weights in their early teens and are +6′ /1m82 tall.
The only way weight lifting can stunt your growth is if you damage your growth plate by letting the bar fall on you. But if you use proper technique, you'll be safer than with Rugby or Soccer where collisions are common.

Myth #7: Weight Lifting Decreases Flexibility.

FACT: One of the realizations people who get into weight lifting have is how inflexible they are. Years of sedentary lifestyle may have tighten your hips, preventing you to squat correctly. Weight lifting will make you regain your flexibility and maintain it. Especially the squat will give your hip muscles a full stretch. But increasing your muscle mass or strength won't reduce your flexibility at all.

Myth #8: Muscle Turns to Fat If You Stop Weight Lifting. 

FACT: Muscle NEVER turns to fat. They're different tissues.

Myth #9: Weight Lifting Increases Waist Size.

FACT: This myth comes from looking at some power lifters in the heaviest classes. Their waist is big because they're fat. And they're fat is because they only care about getting stronger - not about nutrition.
Check power lifters in the lighter classes: they all have a small waist. Squats & deadlifts work your abs hard. Everyone who does these exercises for a couple of weeks reports losing several inches waist size.

Myth #10: Weight Lifting is Boring. 

FACT: It is if you go the gym without a plan, don't pay attention to what you do when lifting and don't get results. But it won't be boring if you have a plan, get results and focus on how your body moves during a lift.
Weight lifting is a technical & intellectual sport. You shouldn't have time to get bored since you have so many things to pay attention to during the lift. And the constant challenge to add weight is anything but boring!
The real fun though is when you start getting results! :) Hard work paying off is what will get you addicted.

So have I convinced you to start weight training, yet? Start out small and work your way up. For me, I started out only being able to squat with 10lb weights, now I'm up to 25 lbs! (That's 50 lbs in total, people!) I never thought I'd be able to lift that much, but with time and patience I advanced to a whole new level! And I ain't done, yet! So watch out! ;)

Sources: www.everydayhealth.com, www.mayoclinic.com, www.stronglifts.com

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