By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Interested in building muscle, losing weight, trimming away fat, burning calories quickly, and boosting your day-to-day energy levels? Strength training exercise with weights remains one of the best ways to boost your overall wellness and fitness as a man and build strong health habits for the future.
Some think that going to the gym and lifting is just for younger men or those interested in competitive sports. We’re not talking about bodybuilding here. Even simple exercises with free weights or machines can be highly beneficial to your overall health. No matter your age, strength training will help preserve existing muscle mass and provide a number of benefits.
Training your muscles in the gym helps keep the body fit and strong and makes it easier for your body to carry out everyday activities. Here’s just a small sample of many weightlifting benefits.
Lifting weights in the gym helps your heart become stronger, which has a profound effect on your cardiovascular system and general fitness. As a result, the American Heart Association advocates at least two sessions of strength training per week.
Weight training that places stress on the bones increases density and cuts the risk of osteoporosis. At the same time, tendons and ligaments also strengthen as men train with weights, which lowers the risk of an injury down the road.
Many say strength training helps reduce signs of chronic ailments like arthritis, back pain, and depression. Heading to the gym a few days per week is much cheaper than spending money on medication or visits to the doctor.
If you maintain a healthy weight, you’re likely to also maintain a positive self-image. Strength training is one of the best ways to do so since it naturally increases your metabolism and ability to burn calories. For those looking to add some muscle and size, lifting weights is a tried-and-true way to pack on muscle.
One of my favorite benefits of strength training is the mental clarity and agility it provides. Research suggests that weight training can boost thinking and learning skills among older gym-goers. Personally, I always walk out of the gym with a rejuvenated mind, especially if I started my workout when I was a bit sleepy or tired.
Don’t feel like you have to rush to use fancy equipment in order to effectively train with weights. You also don’t need to spend hours in the gym each day. It’s certainly possible to see gains in strength and general energy even if you’re in the gym for just 20–30 minutes, provided you are focused and come prepared with a plan.
Deadlifts are seen as the ultimate strength training exercise. It’s a comprehensive, full-body workout that primarily strengthens the legs, core, and back, while also targeting other parts of the body. The process of a deadlift (bending up and down) is also a basic human motion, so getting good at deadlifts means your body is better prepared to carry out tasks like picking up heavy items off the floor or shoveling snow.
Many people have a hunched-over back due to sitting down for long hours in a car or at a computer. This greatly weakens the back, which can also have a profound effect on posture. The cable or bent-over row is a strength exercise that stretches out the back, eliminates shoulder tightness and helps your body to stand up straighter. This exercise helps build your strength while also contributing to a better quality of life by improving your posture.
The bench press is a well-known strength exercise that’s great for sculpting the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. People often associate these muscles with a powerful and healthy look. However, there’s more to the bench press than just aesthetics. I love the exercise since it releases a lot of hormones that keep me feeling energetic and active long after I leave the gym.
It’s impossible to outrun a bad diet when strength training. Protein is an important building block of an effective training routine since it is required for muscle growth. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, and beans. Strength coaches often recommend that you consume anywhere from 10–35% of your total daily caloric intake through protein.
Aside from protein, eating carbohydrates and fats are essential while strength training. Carbs help fuel your workouts, while fats also come into play to help give your muscles energy while exercising. Good sources of carbohydrates include low-fat milk and yogurt, while heart-healthy fats are found in walnuts, almonds, and olive oil. Aim to consume 20–35% of your total caloric intake as fat. Eating healthy contributes to a strong sense of wellbeing outside the gym, too, so you should make your diet a focus of your wellness plan.
Some men choose to take advantage of supplements, like protein powder, creatine, or amino acids to help performance in the gym. While these items can be beneficial, make sure to do your research before you consume any supplement. It’s totally possible to get healthy inside the gym without using any. But if you’re interested in learning more about these types of enhancements, check out this article on pre-workout supplement benefits.
Strength training has immeasurable benefits. Men can build muscle, lose fat, gain more energy and stamina, and cultivate a healthy lifestyle and mindset. You can feel more energized and stronger as you move through your day.
However, lifting isn’t good for just men. Heavy lifting for women is a tried-and-true way for ladies to get fit and focus on wellness, as well.
No matter your exercise routine or fitness goals, remember that consistency is key when going to the gym to build strength. You don’t have to make every workout perfect; just be sure that you show up for it. Developing a strength training routine can change your life for the better.