5 Reasons to Resistance Train (Besides the Obvious)
Spend enough time in the fitness industry as a coach and you are bound to explain the benefits of resistance training a few…thousand…times.
Whether it is a curious client who bought into the cardiovascular movement of the eighties and nineties, a young female friend who is fearful of waking up with Hulk Hogan’s mustache if they lift over ten pounds for their upper body, or your own Mother who repeatedly questions why her knees and back hurt so frequently in her golden years…
You find yourself explaining the benefits of lifting weights a lot. You find yourself stating the same scientific claims that have been the backbone of the argument for well over a decade. Depending on your crowd, you have a few obvious “go-to” justifications that hit home.
1. Improved Muscle Strength
2. Improved Muscle Tonus (No, not “tone”)
3. Improved Metabolic Output (Anaerobic)
4. Improved Body Composition
5. Enhanced Bone Density
Put simply, you’d have to think that any product/activity with a list of “features and benefits” that include these 5 items wouldn’t have any rebuttal. One would imagine that people would leap at the opportunity to engage in the behavior that is the closest thing to a “magic pill” that exists.
Yet, in a world where people get most of their news (and opinions) through social media there are plenty of deniers and contrarians. Their reasons?
There are a lot of people who will argue with you because they think you are “biased” because your role, rationalize why they are “different”, and otherwise attempt to discredit the science because it violates their ego’s identity and legitimately places responsibility on their own shoulders.
You’ll find people performing extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics to state “WHY” resistance training isn’t going to work for their body, effectively resisting THE training that will improve just about every aspect of their life.
Now, as a coach and advocate of resistance training there are a few options for how to deal with these sorts of rebuttals. You could do one of the following:
BAD: Go head on and engage in a full-blown argument using your “informed” opinion as a weapon of enforcement and an example of your superiority
Our goal is to positively impact the world and we can’t do that if we keep creating communities of “us” vs. “them”. Moreover, we can’t use our access to the information as proof of our correctness; history is littered with examples of people claiming that their intelligence, education, and the “research” is right – only to later be dismantled.
BETTER: Choose not to engage and leave the person to their own devices with the additional information you’ve given them.
We can’t force change. We can only provide better information and proof of it’s validity. Ultimately, all opinions and decisions are left to the individual. By intentionally removing our own emotional connection to the data we can leave a positive impact – much like a booklet at a health center. We exist to inform and gently nudge with zero intent of forcing compliance and acceptance. Still, we have no guarantee that the individual will shift their beliefs, which can limit our ability to positively impact the world.
BEST: Ask them what benefits they seek and use our own expanded knowledge of resistance training to meet them where they are.
Once a person identifies what they care about – we can better influence them by speaking about lifting weights through the lens that matters most to them. Maybe this person just wants to have less instances of depressive episodes, and so all that chatter about muscle-building sounds irrelevant. Maybe this person is tired of being run over at work, at home, or in their personal relationships. They want confidence. All the chatter about metabolic output misses its mark.
We want to positively influence the world as coaches, trainers, and lovers of the weight room. We don’t want to isolate ourselves, gatekeep because of petty arguments, or come off as hostile to an already sensitive population who tends to avoid things that make them uncomfortable…
Which is what leads us here, to the 5 Benefits of Resistance Training that most don’t discuss.
1. Anxiety and Depression
Let’s make one thing clear before exploring this avenue. There is no substitute for proper medical mental health therapy if you, or someone you know, is dealing with more severe bouts of anxiety and depression. There is evidence that exercise, specifically resistance training, can help in even the most severe cases, but it is important that we honor our scope as trainers and fitness enthusiasts and avoid blanket statements in the medical profession.
To the point, resistance training has been proven to improve mood in the short term – both during and after the cessation of a training bout. That improvement of mood, through the release of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and “feel good” hormones such as dopamine provide a boost of energy, optimism and vitality.
Regular resistance training takes this a step further by having an impact on sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone – optimizing them for surviving and thriving.
For individuals who are feeling more anxious – resistance training provides an avenue to “aim” that energy, those feelings of nervousness, and an activity that quite literally fatigues the neuromuscular system – a perfect recipe to lose the edge and feel more at ease.
The biggest thing to be cautious of when lifting weights in an anxious state is overtraining.
For individuals who are suffering through a bout of depression, the excitation of the load against your body will prime epinephrine release – potentially ripping you out of the fog and slog that you find yourself in. Furthermore, the release of dopamine, testosterone, and even the increase in cortisol levels can contribute to a more energetic and optimistic state of being.
In a depressed state, the hardest part will be STARTING and getting through the first ten to fifteen minutes.
Many individuals around the world are better able to manage their anxiety and depression cycles (with and without medication) via exercise. Individuals who engage in resistance training appear to have even greater benefits than those engage primarily in cardiovascular training methods.
Both, though, are essential to a healthy exercise lifestyle.
Confidence is momentary. It’s the feeling you get when your veins pump out against your skin, your shirt feels smaller, and the lighting has you looking the best you’ve ever looked. It’s the feeling of being an unstoppable force of nature in the very moment you are in.
But it’s fleeting.
Efficacy, however, is a form of long term confidence that has less of a peak, but also less of a valley. A person with higher efficacy knows, truly, that they are going to have bad body days in the mirror at the gym. They know there will be days where they PR lifts without much strain. They know that they are excellent, and yet they know that they have room to grow.
Resistance training, specifically the process of shaping your own body and performance through the act of overcoming external loads is perfect for improving efficacy. The process of wrapping your hand around a cold steel bar week-after-week, and loading the plates onto the machines workout-after-workout is a progressive experience.
That progress, over time, can be measured and demonstrates proof of concept that you can get better at anything you work towards so long as you put in the time and intensity.
Show up to the gym 5 days a week and hit most of your lifts with a focused and fiery mentality?
You’ll definitely get stronger, more muscular and develop other aspects of your physicality.
Show up to the kitchen and the pillowcases 7 days a week and eat right and get your sleep?
You’ll absolutely turbocharge your progress, feel better, and achieve your goals.
This carries over to outside of the gym too. You'll see every task in your life as a little bite compared to the massive ones you've taken in the gym. You'll prepare your mind and body to withstand more stress, for longer, and with less downrange problems.
Resistance training is the pathway to confidence, sure. But more importantly, it’s the pathway to being a confident person in the long term.
3. Less Complaining
What happens when you take control of your health and fitness?
You quickly realize how much else in your life is in your control. You take ownership of your sleep schedule, of your kitchen and the food that comes out of it, your effort at your job, and the attention you pay to your significant other. You load up the barbell and you lift the weight. Your body gets stronger and more fit because of your efforts.
You don’t complain about the process – because the process is the fun part.
It’s bigger than that too. You also realize the vast array of things that happen in your life that you don’t have much, if any, control over.
Your morning commute is slowed by an accident near a major exit? It happens, let’s hope everyone is OK. Let’s check traffic before leaving in the mornings going forward.
Your boss won’t stop grinding you down and pushing overtime on you? Clearly, there is more to the organization than just you. Maybe it’s time to update the resume and shop the market.
The takeaway on this?
Complaining hasn’t gotten anyone, anywhere, ever.
As famous men’s coach Michael Desanti says, “complaining is just arguing against the Universe with no intent of changing anything”.
The translation: bitching and moaning about things that happen in life isn’t going to solve anything – your actions will.
And resistance training teaches us just that. We learn what we can control and realize just how meaningless other problems can be in the grand scheme of life.
4. Improved Body Awareness
People who lift weights move better. They can throw the ball with their kids, dance at their friend’s wedding, and tend to avoid accidental injuries doing mundane tasks.
They catch their posture slouching. They know how to lift with their legs instead of their back.
A person who regularly trains with weights builds stronger neuromuscular connections, which gives them more control of their body in space. That limits the risk of injuries in training and in life. It also opens the door to an active life that is full of new and fulfilling experiences. They can build memories on the sides of mountains in Colorado, balanced on a surfboard in Costa Rica, or in the yard as Thanksgiving dinner is being made.
Life exists outsides the 4 walls of your favorite training facility. Use the weights, the machines, and the various tools of the trade to prepare your body for the random, non-linear, and explorative movements that make up life and sports.
You don’t just train to be good at training. You train to be better at life. You live an active life - not a sedentary one using activity as punishment.
5. Improved Sex Life and Attractiveness
Let’s omit the obvious physical changes that resistance training can make to the body. We know you’ll get more muscular, burn body fat, and build strength and power. All of these things will make us look and feel more attractive and contribute to a spicier and more fulfilling sex life.
Yes, on average, healthy and attractive people are happier with their sex lives, their partners, and their own bodies.
But the benefits of resistance training on our sex life extend beyond the obvious...
Resistance training through full ranges of motion can improve flexibility and mobility – making some of those crazy ideas more possible.
Resistance training in higher repetition ranges can improve your muscular and cardiovascular endurance – making round 1 less exhausting, and round 2 or 3 more attainable.
Resistance training also boosts your confidence – which for many men and women is the thing that holds them back from having better sex in the first place. If you feel good, then you’ll feel like you look good, and if you feel like you look good, then you are only focused on enjoying your partner (instead of your own insecurities).
And all in all, and improved sex life only makes you more attractive. You won’t be walking around unsatisfied, desperate, and in need of validation. You’ll have that efficacy about your prowess and your body that most are missing.
All because you invest more time in the gym building yourself.
It’s simple. As it should be.
To know more is to have greater responsibility for sharing it, especially in the absence of our own ego and identity. A teacher doesn’t do so because they want to validate their own feelings, or at least, they shouldn’t. Instead, they do so because the positive impact that information and empowerment make on their students.
Use this list to further justify why you train, empower those you love to join you in the act, and inform those who are curious (or even defiant) of the benefits.
Let’s save “the resistance” for our training blocks and keep it out of our conversations.