I would surmise that if you’ve been perusing the Muscle & Strength website there is a good chance you are an avid weight-training aficionado. If this is not the case (either you’re just starting out or you’re addicted to doing purely aerobic exercise), then consider this article a good enlightenment on why weight training should certainly be considered as part of your overall fitness plan.
For those of you who do lift weights routinely, you may already know several or all the reasons/benefits listed below, but a good refreshing of the memory can never hurt, and hey, you’ll likely be pumped up to go hit the weights afterwards. Now without further ado let’s get to business!
NOTE: Many studies cited in this article examined individuals who were training with moderate to high intensity, often in the 8-10 rep range with about 75% of their 1-rep maximum for the given exercise. This doesn’t mean lower intensities don’t provide benefits, but your weightlifting routine shouldn’t be a walk in the park either…You reap what you sow in the gym.
Top 10 Reasons To Lift Weights
#1 - Lifting weights increases metabolic rate in the long run
When many people first start out on a fitness regimen they mistakenly emphasize traditional cardiovascular exercise over resistance training. The thing to consider in this instance is that resistance training elicits a myriad of positive ramifications on the endocrine system and metabolism.
In a nutshell, when you train with weights (intensely enough), you tear down muscle tissue, and after allowing proper recovery and providing nourishment you rebuild that muscle tissue. Given that muscle tissue is more metabolically demanding than adipose tissue, by building muscle you inherently are elevating metabolic rate.
#2 - Lifting weights enhances natural anti-diabetic activity [1,2,3,4]
Resistance training has time and time again been shown to positively alter blood sugar concentrations and insulin sensitivity in both healthy and diabetic individuals. Most of these positive effects are acute (lasting ~12-24 hours after resistance training has occurred) but that doesn’t mean they aren’t significant/beneficial.
For the healthy person, increasing insulin sensitivity is certainly advantageous to building muscle given the highly anabolic properties of insulin. Moreover, people with impaired insulin sensitivity would obviously benefit from better toleration of carbohydrates and managing swings in blood glucose levels.
One thing to keep in mind though is that while many bodybuilders swear by “spiking insulin” levels after working out, there is no significant advantage to the muscle protein synthetic response from superfluous elevation of insulin in the physiological range (e.g. more is not necessarily better). The exception in this instance would be with individuals who are taking exogenous insulin injections that cause levels to be above physiological concentrations.
#3 - Lifting weights improves bone health [5,6,7]
Unfortunately, as we age through our adulthood, our bone tissue becomes prone to degeneration or even full-blown osteoporosis. The good news is that intense resistance training appears to not only mitigate bone mass loss, but stimulates osteogenesis (generation of new bone mass).
Furthermore, it appears that this effect isn’t exclusive to older individuals either, even adolescents can benefit from this. There seems to be a myth floating around health/fitness subculture that weight training in adolescents will stunt the growth and cause premature closure of the epiphysis. The reality is that neither of those would occur do to resistance training, and if anything, adolescents will likely have improved bone health over their non-weightlifting peers.
#4 - Lifting weights helps you build your skeletal muscles (wow who knew?!)
I shouldn’t need to elaborate too much on this one, but I had to put it in here or people would have likely been in an uproar. Yes, when you train with weights and nourish yourself properly, you will develop new skeletal muscle tissue. The thing to keep in mind here is that resistance training is just the stimulus to initiate muscular hypertrophy, without proper protein and overall nutritional intake you will likely inhibit potential muscle growth.
And it goes without saying, if you value strength and sculpting your physique, then resistance training is your go-to form of exercise.
#5 - Lifting weights increases libido
This is another nice little perk of resistance training, especially for individuals who find that they lack that natural sex drive they had in their late teen & early adult years. This adaptation isn’t an acute effect of resistance training but comes with time as you are consistently hitting the iron and revving your natural sex hormone production.
As cool as it would be go do some bicep curls and instantly notice the “launch sequence” is initiated, it’s just not the reality. And no, ogling members of the opposite sex in the gym does not count as raising your libido via resistance training.
#6 - Lifting weights helps you develop functional strength
As was alluded to in number 4 above, when you develop your musculature you inherently increase your strength and ability to produce force. This in turn makes you, a bipedal homosapien, more useful to mankind because you can now do tasks that require manual labor.
So next time you’re in the gym just imagine how easy it will be to go scoop the snow out of the driveway, or maybe you can just go full out Incredible Hulk mode and start carrying cars above your head.
#7 - Lifting weights increases anabolic hormone production 
The primary anabolic hormones in humans are testosterone, growth hormones, insulin, and a variety of growth factors. Research seems to suggest that resistance training elicits an acute elevation of many of these hormones soon after training occurs (generally within a half hour). While chronic hormonal adaptations are less pronounced, there does appear to be some changes in resting hormonal concentrations.
Why this is a benefit is mainly due to the fact that these anabolic hormones are critical to skeletal muscle growth. Intuitively then, this is why anabolic steroids are the drugs of choice when it comes to many athletes and bodybuilders.
#8 - Lifting weights strengthens & keeps your joints healthy [9,10]
Many people seem to believe that lifting weights will cause joints to deteriorate from all the mechanical stress placed on them at high intensities, but the reality is quite the opposite. Studies on patients with osteoarthritic complications actually indicate reduction of pain and stiffness in the joints of these individuals, and increased mobility.
The key to remember here is that joint injuries are somewhat problematic in trainees who utilize excessive weight and/or poor technique. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t lift heavy weights, but consider using accessories that promote cushioning and blood flow to the active joints, like knee wraps when squatting or elbow sleeves when pressing.
#9 - Weightlifting, not just traditional aerobic exercise, improves cardiovascular fitness [11,12]
A variety of studies have found that resistance training actually improves heart health and blood lipid profiles of individuals, such as lowering LDL cholesterol, raising HDL cholesterol, and increasing VO2 max. It has traditionally been thought that aerobic exercise, as far as physical activity goes, is the best for improving heart health and lowering LDL cholesterol but that may not necessarily be the case. The one exception is that resistance training doesn’t appear to lower blood pressure significantly, and some studies actually suggest it may raise blood pressure in certain situations.
Don’t take this to mean that aerobic exercise is inferior to resistance training (anaerobic exercise) for keeping your heart healthy, but just that it’s not the only option as far as physical activity goes. Ideally, you would follow a concurrent training regimen that incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
#10 - Lifting weights is a way to relieve stress
This may be a bit subjective and variable from person-to-person, but I can’t even begin to count how many individuals I know who enjoy lifting weights because it helps them get the stresses of whatever else is going on in their lives out of the way. And this doesn’t necessarily mean these people go in the gym pissed off and raging that the real world outside of the gym hasn’t been very kind to them, but just that exercise, especially resistance training, is a good psychological relief for many people.
This isn’t really a surprise mechanistically speaking since exercise releases a variety of “feel good” chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and epinephrine.
So there you have it, 10 solid reasons to get off your computer/phone/tablet (or God knows how many devices you can use) after reading this and go hoist some iron. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list either; the benefits of weight training really are numerous and positively affect many aspects of your life.
Just remember to train smart, train intense, and have fun; I think a lot of people view going to the gym as some sort of chore, but it’s a privilege to exercise so treat it that way and don’t take your workout for granted.
1. Castaneda, C., Layne, J. E., Munoz-Orians, L., Gordon, P. L., Walsmith, J., Foldvari, M., ... & Nelson, M. E. (2002). A randomized controlled trial of resistance exercise training to improve glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 25(12), 2335-2341.
2. Fenicchia, L. M., Kanaley, J. A., Azevedo Jr, J. L., Miller, C. S., Weinstock, R. S., Carhart, R. L., & Ploutz-Snyder, L. L. (2004). Influence of resistance exercise training on glucose control in women with type 2 diabetes. Metabolism, 53(3), 284-289.
3. Ishii, T., Yamakita, T., Sato, T., Tanaka, S., & Fujii, S. (1998). Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity in NIDDM subjects without altering maximal oxygen uptake. Diabetes care, 21(8), 1353-1355.
4. Dunstan, D. W., Daly, R. M., Owen, N., Jolley, D., De Courten, M., Shaw, J., & Zimmet, P. (2002). High-intensity resistance training improves glycemic control in older patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 25(10), 1729-1736.
5. Maddalozzo, G. F., & Snow, C. M. (2000). High intensity resistance training: effects on bone in older men and women. Calcified tissue international, 66(6), 399-404.
6. Layne, J. E., & Nelson, M. E. (1999). The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(1), 25-30.
7. Blimkie, C. J. R., Rice, S., Webber, C. E., Martin, J., Levy, D., & Gordon, C. L. (1996). Effects of resistance training on bone mineral content and density in adolescent females. Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 74(9), 1025-1033.
8. Kraemer, W. J., & Ratamess, N. A. (2005). Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training. Sports Medicine, 35(4), 339-361.
9. Schilke, J. M., Johnson, G. O., Housh, T. J., & O'Dell, J. R. (1996). Effects of muscle-strength training on the functional status of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee joint. Nursing research, 45(2), 68-72
10. Kell, R. T., Bell, G., & Quinney, A. (2001). Musculoskeletal fitness, health outcomes and quality of life. Sports Medicine, 31(12), 863-873.
11. Daşkapan, A., Tonga, E., Durutürk, N., & Tüzün, E. H. (2012). Effects of two different quadriceps strengthening exercise approaches on cardiovascular fitness in healthy female subjects: A single blind randomized study. Journal of back and musculoskeletal rehabilitation, 25(2), 81-87.
12. Hagerman, F. C., Walsh, S. J., Staron, R. S., Hikida, R. S., Gilders, R. M., Murray, T. F., ... & Ragg, K. E. (2000). Effects of high-intensity resistance training on untrained older men. I. Strength, cardiovascular, and metabolic responses. The journals of gerontology series A: Biological Sciences and medical sciences, 55(7), B336-B346.
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