There are several exercise types that utilize techniques and movements that are designed to improve muscular strength and increase lean muscle mass. All exercise types that increase muscular strength and lean muscle tissue can be defined as resistance training. Resistance training is defined as performing an exercise that forces the muscles to contract when moving an object of mass. Resistance type exercises can be performed with free weights, dumbbells, weight machines, elastic bands or tubing, medicine and exercise balls, kettle balls, your own body weight (i.e. push-ups), or any other object of mass that forces your muscles to contract.
Under the exercise type of strength training, the exercise movements can be further defined based on the method in which the muscles are being exercised. In other words, the different resistance type exercises will work the muscles in varying angles and in a different manner. For instance, one resistance exercise type may predominantly work the “slow twitch” muscle fibers, which are predominately responsible for sustained, slow muscle contractions while other resistance type exercises may focus on working the “fast twitch” fibers, which facilitate shorter, fast bursts of movement. Below are the various types of resistance movements and the type of muscle contraction that they promote:
- Isometric Training – focuses on continuous muscle contraction with no joint movement. Examples of isometric exercise types include Yoga and Pilates and emphasize balance, coordination, flexibility, and a calming of the mind.
- Isotonic Training – focuses on performing movements involving free weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, medicine and exercise balls, kettlebells, and body weight. More specifically, isotonic exercises force the muscle that is involved in the movement to contract throughout the specific range of motion required to perform the exercise.
- Variable Resistance Training – typically involves performing exercises on large machines, commonly found at fitness centers and/or gyms. The variable resistance training machines equalize the weight that is being moved over the entire range of motion for each exercise. This form of resistance training differs from isotonic training. When performing an isotonic exercise the stress on the muscle and joint from the weight that is being moved varies throughout the movement.
- Isokinetic Training – is often used by patients involved in physical therapy and utilize resistance machines that match the force generated by the individual. In other words, as the individual pushes or pulls the machine varies its resistance to match that of the individual. On the other hand, if the individual is unable to generate much force, the machine will produce a low level of resistance that matches that of the individual. This form of exercise is very safe and explains why it is popular for individuals who are performing physical therapy.
- Plyometric Training – focuses on performing explosive compound movements and is also known as jump training. This type of training is considered a type of functional fitness and is designed to not only improve an individual’s overall fitness level, but also improve their sports performance as well. Caution must be taken into account when performing a plyometric training routine as the movements are explosive, and thus, increase the risk for injury.
All forms of strength training are designed to improve muscle tone, strength, and lean muscle mass when performed with regularity. However, weight training, or isotonic training, is the quickest way to rapidly achieve gains in strength and lean muscle mass. In addition, weight training also provides several less obvious health benefits as well. For this reason, all fitness programs should include some form of strength training.
Benefits Associated with Weight Training
Knowing the benefits associated with weight training is important for a few reasons. First, by knowing the health and fitness benefits derived from regularly performing a weight training routine you will be able to rationalize a sense of purpose with your effort. This, in turn, will allow you to maintain motivation and focus. Second, as you progress in your weight training efforts you will develop a sense of accomplishment in knowing that you are performing a positive activity that will improve your quality of life. Below is a list of several of the health and fitness benefits associated with regularly performing a weight training routine:
- Increases the number of calories your body burns per day by increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is due to the fact that muscle, by volume, is more dense than fat and requires more calories to be sustained. This increase in caloric expenditure occurs even while you sleep.
- Reverses the natural decrease in your metabolism (typically begins around 30 years of age) allowing for a higher number of calories to by burned per day. This, in turn, facilitates safe and effective weight loss.
- Reduces the probability of contracting adult onset diabetes.
- Lowers the resting blood pressure level.
- Decreases the gastrointestinal transit time which reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Increases HDL cholesterol levels in the blood (the good type).
- Maintains bone density and even strengthens bones. This, in turn, reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Improves heart efficiency and lowers the resting heart rate.
- Strengthens ligaments, tendons, and muscle tissue.
- Creates a well sculpted and tone physique.
- Reduces food cravings and facilitates safe and effective weight loss.
- Improves mood and centers and calms the mind.
- Reduces metal diseases associated with depression and anxiety.
- Improves self-confidence.
- Reduces the risk of several injury types, including lower back injuries.
- Increases daily energy, stamina, and endurance levels.
- Allows daily activities and chores to be performed more easily due to improvements in muscular strength and endurance.
- Improves and supports good posture.
- Improves and strengthens the immune system.
- Improves coordination, balance, flexibility, and maintains range of motion.
Quality of Life Benefits
As is evident, weight training provides countless health and fitness benefits. When tailoring a fitness program that is designed to meet your specific fitness goals consider incorporating a weight training routine into your overall fitness routine. Weight training coupled with some form of cardiovascular activity is an excellent start to becoming more active and achieving your personal fitness goals.
However, if should be noted that weight training is an exercise type that must be performed with focus, awareness, and caution. First, weight training can place a fairly heavy stress on your joints if you are lifting heavy weights. For this reason, if you are just starting out, use lighter weights for each exercise to allow time to perfect your form and to improve your strength. By doing so, you will reduce your probability of injury. Second, if using free weights you may want to consider working out with a partner. By working out with a partner you will have an individual that can lift the weight from you in the event that you reach failure and are unable to place the weight back at it’s starting position.
When if comes to properly weight training, there is actually quite a bit of information that is needed. From understanding the different muscle groups and how they work to the various exercises and the muscles that they work to the correct form that should be used when performing each exercise, it will take some time to gather a complete understanding of weight training and how best to begin a program that will meet your personal fitness goals.
For this reason, we have dedicated an entire section of our website to discussing virtually every aspect of weight training. Whether you are considering performing a weight training fitness routine for the first time or are a seasoned veteran, you will be sure to find the latest information, techniques, and concepts associated with weight training.