When we think of weight-training, we automatically think of the local gym with lots of heavy equipment and burly men grunting their way through a workout.
However, if we look back into the annals of weight training history we find that interestingly, training with weights dates back to the 6th century BC and the Ancient Greeks.
Legend has it that wrestler Milos of Croton used a new-born calf as a weight to increase his strength, by carrying it on his back everyday until the calf was fully grown. He then walked, to everyone’s amazement, effortlessly through the gates of Croton with the fully grown bull on his back.
As bulls became harder to get hold of, ‘Halters’, an early form of dumbbell, were invented and were used to improve the strength and performance of the early Olympians. The Greeks discovered that by adding resistance to a movement, by holding onto a ‘halter’, made the movement easier when it was performed naturally.
So we can safely say that training with weights, whether its dumbbells or bull-carrying, has been used to strengthen athletes and people alike throughout the ages to enhance performance and improve quality of life.
So why is weight training still considered taboo and largely a past-time reserved only for people wanting to build muscle bulk?
Including weight training into your regular weekly routine has so many positive health benefits that we would like to see everyone doing a bit of 'halter' throwing. So in an attempt to remove the stigma associated with training with weights from now on we will now refer to it as 'resistance training.'
Regular resistance training will:
- Increase your metabolism so you can burn more body fat
- Reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol to keep your heart safe
- Increase bone density to reduce the effects of ageing
- Improve your posture to reduce neck and back pain
- Improve your appearance by pulling in that tummy
- Increase your strength so everyday tasks become easier
- Strengthen tendons and ligaments to reduce wear and tear on the joints
And as a result of all of the above...
Improve the way we feel about ourselves
Increasing your metabolism
During a resistance program your energy expenditure rises 5 to 10 times above the body’s resting level. This has the short-term effect of raising your metabolism and burning fat for up to 2 to 6 hours after your workout.
Your metabolism is also increased long-term as the tone (firmness) in your muscles improves. This firmness or ‘tone’ means that your muscles are contracting a little bit all of the time creating a state of readiness. This state of readiness not only increases your metabolism as it takes more energy now to keep them activated (a bit like keeping your TV on standby) it also means that your muscles are more reactive and can control disruptions to your balance more effectively should you trip or fall unexpectedly .
Adults typically experience a 2 to 5% decrease in their metabolic rate, which results in a 7kg (1 stone) increase in bodyfat every decade. This phenomenon starts to become apparent in our forties and is often affectionately described as the Middle-age spread!
However, there is evidence to suggest that resistance training could be the elixir of life and the solution to this dreaded bodyfat accumulation. Research indicates that an 80 year old who has regularly trained with resistance, throughout their lives, will maintain the majority of their muscle tissue offsetting the negative aspects experienced by a drop in metabolism.
I don't want to get big muscles!
One of the biggest myths in training is that it’s easy to get muscles and you only have to look at a weight to make your biceps grow!
The reason for this is that most people, especially women, lack the hormones necessary for exaggerated muscle growth. Even a majority of men who focus all of their attentions towards building muscle fail.
Sticking to light weights and using repetitions of 15 to 20 will ensure that you receive increased endurance and muscle toning benefits from your workout. However, if you do want to put on a little extra bit of muscle for the beach using a weight that only allows 8 to 12 repetitions is the one for you!
Reduce blood pressure
As the stresses and strains of modern life increase, we have become more concerned about our health. Hypertension is ever growing due to more pressure in the work place. Resistance training has proven to lower blood pressure readings. The affect is even greater if aerobic exercise and weight training are combined. Studies have also demonstrated improvements in blood cholesterol after several weeks of resistance training.
Increase bone density
Keeping our bones strong as we age is another important factor of our health. Regular weight training improves bone density, by stimulating bone building cells (osteoblasts) helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. This is especially important for women going through the menopause. See our article on osteoporosis and bone health for more on this.
When we think of good posture we often think of dancers and gymnasts performing effortlessly, perhaps forgetting we are all human and designed to move freely in this way.
Our sense of wellbeing can be linked with our posture. Keeping the body balanced and strong will help to maintain healthy pelvic and spinal alignment, which improves the blood flow and function of all major organs and muscles in the body.
Unfortunately, many people’s jobs involve sitting at PC’s for long periods of time. The majority of postural issues such as back and neck pain are a result of weakness and imbalance due to the unnatural sitting positions we constantly repeat.
With a well designed resistance and flexibility training program, we can offset the health problems associated with poor posture promoting freer movement, improved organ function and reduced injury risk.
Who could deny, that the health benefits of weight training are endless. With professionally tailored programs designed throughout the year, outstanding results can be achieved. Investing only a small, consistent amount of time every week will improve health, reduce stress, uplift mood and promote more restful sleep enabling you to enjoy life to the full!