February 5, 2013

Strength training not just for bodybuilders

In hopes of losing weight and increasing fitness, many people frequent the gym and jump on their favorite cardio machine. 

Often, though, people fail to realize that resistance training is crucial for body-fat reduction and preventing chronic diseases. A well-balanced workout program involving both cardiovascular and resistance training is necessary for optimizing weight management and good health.

According to the American Sports Medicine Institute, resistance training uses any resistance to the force of muscular contraction, also known as strength training. The overall goal of this type of training is to gradually and progressively overload muscles so strength is produced over time. Examples of upper-body exercises include bench press, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, shoulder presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions. Lower-body exercises include squats, leg press, lunges, calf raises and hip adduction or abduction movements. Core exercises, which are vital for spinal stability, involve crunches, sit-ups, planks and oblique-abdominal movements.

There are many benefits to resistance training besides gaining strength. According to researchers, resistance training lowers cortisol — a stress-induced hormone that retains fat — and increases the release of anti-aging hormones such as growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA and progesterone in females. Participants also have a higher rate of calorie burn for hours after strength training. This occurs because the body undergoes stress that involves muscle breakdown and rebuilding, which requires energy. 

Resistance training is shown to significantly increase both resting metabolic rate and sleep metabolic rate. Along with these changes, studies also point toward a greater reliance on fat as a fuel source. This is one of the ways resistance training can positively affect body composition. This type of exercise reduces body-fat percentage and increases fat-free mass, or lean muscle.

As a result, with a dedicated resistance-training workout program, an individual can build muscle tone. Muscle tone is the result of the creation of fast-twitch muscle fibers acquired from repeated anaerobic activity. Olympic sprinters, for example, possess these types of muscle fibers. In contrast, aerobic-exercise advocates such as marathon runners possess slow-twitch muscle fibers.

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