Strength and resistance training is an essential part of any exercise routine. There is a common misconception that strength training will make you bulky or that it's reserved for body builders, however, partaking in regular resistance training can provide you with a multitude of benefits.
What is strength training?
Put simply, strength training involves working specific body parts against an external force, whether that be weights, resistance bands or your own body weight to improve muscle mass, strength or endurance. There are a number of different types of strength training, including:
Training for muscular power – power strength means overcoming resistance or weight in the shortest amount of time. It is good for explosive movements and is commonly used by athletes that require short bursts of strength.
Training for muscular strength – muscular strength is the ability to exert force against a resistance and refers to your ability to move and lift objects.
Training for muscular endurance – muscular endurance is the body’s ability to exert force repeatedly for an extended period of time. Training for muscular endurance usually involved low weight high rep.
Training for muscle hypertrophy – this is the process of building muscle and can be achieved by resistance training which stimulates muscle growth.
There are different types of equipment you can use, depending on the nature of your training, these are:
Free weights – free weights are objects that aren't attached to anything and are free to move around. Examples of free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells.
Weight machines – weight machines are exercise machines with adjustable settings to cater to different strength levels.
Resistance bands – resistance bands are a highly versatile elastic band used for strength training and provide resistance when stretched.
Body weight – body weight exercises use your own bodyweight as resistance to perform movements.
What are the benefits of strength training?
Strength training provides benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels and has the ability to improve one’s functional fitness in all areas of their life. Some of the main benefits include:
1. Improved strength
Becoming stronger through weight training improves your ability to perform daily tasks whether that be carrying boxes or groceries, gardening or running around after your kids. It can also improve your athletic performance in sports which require some form of strength (which is most sports).
2. Can preserve muscle mass and bone health
As we age, our muscle mass and bone density decreases. Studies show that participating in resistance training 2-3 times per week has the ability to improve muscular strength, mass, bone density and structure (1). This is why it is important for people of all ages to partake in strength training.
3. Reduces risk of injury
Resistance training not only improves the strength of your muscles, but also strengthens connective tissues, ligaments and tendons, therefore improving motor performance and lessening the strain on your joints.
4. Mental health and mood
Studies have shown that engaging in resistance training has the ability to enhance psychological well-being and reduce state anxiety. Exercise also releases endorphins which fight off negative feelings and boost overall mood. These feelings are experienced even if physical changes do not occur (2).
Another psychological benefit is that training can boost your self-esteem. As you overcome challenges, hit PBs, and work towards goals, you will feel better about yourself and therefore result in improved self-confidence.
5. Can make you appear leaner
Strength training helps you to build muscle and lose fat which results in more muscle definition therefore making you appear leaner. Because muscle weighs more than fat, you may notice physical changes but not changes to the number on the scale. This is normal!
6. Other physiological benefits
Studies have shown strength training to provide many physiological benefits. These include improvements in VO2 max, lowered blood pressure and body composition (3). Benefits to heart health occur as muscle increases, it requires more blood from the cardiovascular system resulting in less pressure in arteries and therefore, a lower chance of heart related problems.
There are a number of major muscle groups in your body and it is essential you exercise every muscle to reap the greatest possible benefit from your training. There are around 600 muscles in the human body which can be categorised into chest, back, arms/shoulders, legs/glutes and abdominals. The best way to target a number of different muscles is by doing compound movements.
Compound movements are exercises that use multiple muscle groups to perform a certain action. They are popular as they replicate natural movements that are commonly performed during sport or real life. Some examples of popular compound exercises include:
In conjunction with compound movements, isolation exercises should also be included in your strength training regime. Isolation exercises target one specific muscle group and are beneficial to achieve more specific goals.
Strength training is an essential part of any exercise regime
The benefits achieved through strength training have numerous benefits that will improve one’s quality of life
Compound movements are the best way to target multiple muscle groups and reap the greatest benefits from training
- 1. SEGUIN, R. (2003). The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, [online] 25(3), pp.141–149. Available at:
- Tsutsumi, T., Don, B.M., Zaichkowsky, L.D., Takenaka, K., Oka, K. and Ohno, T. (1998). Comparison of High and Moderate Intensity of Strength Training on Mood and Anxiety in Older Adults. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87(3), pp.1003–1011.
- Tsutsumi, T., Don, B.M., Zaichkowsky, L.D. and Delizonna, L.L. (1997). Physical Fitness and Psychological Benefits of Strength Training in Community Dwelling Older Adults. APPLIED HUMAN SCIENCE Journal of Physiological Anthropology, [online] 16(6), pp.257–266. Available at: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ahs/16/6/16_6_257/_article/-char/ja/