February 3, 2024

Resistance Training: Surprising Long-Term Benefits

Written by our expert


Avanthika Nityanand

M.Sc Human Genetics, B.Sc Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology

Resistance Training: Surprising Long-Term Benefits
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Updated on: 12th February, 2024


Before we get into some evidence-based health benefits of resistance training, let's address some frequently asked questions about this popular choice of workout.

What is Resistance Training?

Resistance or strength or weight training is a form of physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.

This resistance can come from free weights like dumbbells or barbells, weight machines, resistance bands, or body weight.

The key principle is to apply a load heavier than your muscles are accustomed to.

Resistance training builds muscle mass and enhances strength, endurance, tone, and bone density.

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It involves various exercises targeting different muscle groups, with specific sets and repetitions to achieve desired fitness goals.

Resistance training stimulates muscle adaptation and growth by challenging and progressively overloading the muscles, increasing strength and muscle size.

Is Yoga Resistance Training?

Yoga is not typically categorized as resistance training, but it incorporates some elements.

Traditional yoga focuses on flexibility, balance, and the mind-body connection, using body weight to create resistance.

Certain yoga styles, like power yoga or vinyasa, can be more physically demanding and may help build strength in various muscle groups.

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However, yoga generally does not provide the same muscle overload and intensity level as conventional resistance training.

While yoga can contribute to overall strength, especially core strength, balance, and flexibility, it is not a substitute for resistance training if the primary goal is to build significant muscle strength and size.

Does Resistance Training Burn Fat?

Resistance training can effectively burn fat, both during and after workouts.

While it might not burn as many calories as aerobic exercises during the activity, it significantly impacts overall body composition.

Building muscle through resistance training increases the body's resting metabolic rate (RMR), meaning you burn more calories at rest.

This is because muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue.

Additionally, resistance training can lead to Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), where the body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate after the workout.

Incorporating resistance training into a fitness routine can be a powerful tool for fat loss, especially when combined with a balanced diet and regular aerobic exercise.

What is Resistance Training in the Gym?

Resistance training in a gym involves using various equipment and machines to exercise your muscles against resistance.

This includes free weights like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, weight machines, cable machines, and resistance bands.

Gyms offer a wide range of equipment that targets specific muscle groups, allowing for a comprehensive resistance training program.

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In the gym, you can perform squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bicep curls, and leg presses.

Gym-based resistance training is typically more structured and can offer a higher workout intensity than home-based routines.

It allows for progressive overload, where you gradually increase the weight or resistance to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth and strength improvements.

Does Resistance Band Training Build Muscle?

Resistance band training can effectively build muscle, although the results might differ from traditional weight training.

These bands provide a form of resistance that can help in muscle strengthening and toning.

The key advantage of resistance bands is the variability in resistance throughout the exercise movement, offering constant tension on the muscles, which can benefit muscle growth.

They are particularly useful for targeting smaller muscle groups and improving muscular endurance.

While heavy weight lifting is more efficient for rapid muscle building, resistance bands are a versatile and effective tool for overall muscular development, especially for beginners or those looking for a low-impact alternative to weights.

Why Resistance Training is Better Than Cardio

Whether resistance training is better than cardio depends on individual fitness goals.

Resistance training is superior for building muscle mass, increasing strength, and improving body composition by reducing body fat percentage.

It enhances bone density and metabolic rate.

On the other hand, Cardio is essential for improving cardiovascular health, increasing stamina, and burning calories.

It's effective for overall weight loss and maintaining heart health.

Ideally, a balanced fitness regimen should include both resistance training and cardio for optimal health benefits.

Choosing between the two also depends on personal preferences, fitness levels, and specific health or fitness objectives.

How Often Should You Do Resistance Band Training?

The frequency of resistance band training depends on your fitness goals and experience level.

Generally, it is recommended to engage in resistance training, including with resistance bands, 2-3 times per week for beginners, ensuring you target all major muscle groups.

As you progress, you can increase the frequency or intensity of your workouts.

It's important to allow at least 48 hours of rest between sessions for a particular muscle group to enable adequate recovery and muscle growth.

Consistency and progressively increasing the resistance or complexity of exercises are key to improving strength and muscle tone.

How to Do Resistance Training at Home?

Resistance training at home can be effectively done with minimal equipment.

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and sit-ups are great for building strength.

You can also use resistance bands, dumbbells, or kettlebells for added resistance.

Start with exercises that target major muscle groups and work your way up in intensity and complexity.

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Create a balanced routine that covers all major muscle groups, and aim for 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions for each exercise.

Ensure proper form to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness.

As you progress, increase the resistance or the number of repetitions to continue challenging your muscles.

Does Resistance Training Stunt Growth?

No scientific evidence suggests that resistance training stunts growth in children or adolescents.

When done properly, it can benefit bone strength, muscle development, and overall fitness in growing individuals.

It's essential, however, for young people to engage in age-appropriate and supervised resistance training.

Excessive loads or improper techniques can lead to injuries.

A well-designed program focusing on technique, moderate resistance, and a balanced approach to various muscle groups can contribute positively to physical development without affecting growth.

Health Benefits Of Resistance Training

Resistance training strengthens and tones muscles and is critical in boosting metabolic rate, improving bone density, and enhancing joint flexibility.

Resistance training improves lower limb strength and muscle mass in elderly individuals with type 2 diabetes. Still, it did not significantly impact muscle quality, rapid strength, functional performance, or quality of life. [ref]

A 2021 meta-analysis strongly supports the efficacy of resistance exercise interventions in boosting muscular strength, power, and overall functional abilities in this demographic. Resistance exercise also significantly enhanced muscular strength, power, and functional capacity in acutely hospitalized older adults. [ref]

Regular resistance training can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

A 2017 study involving 170 sedentary, overweight, or obese adults aged 50-69 with prediabetes 3-month supervised resistance training phase, followed by a 6-month maintenance period with either social cognitive theory guidance or standard care, and a final 6-month no-contact phase. Results showed that after the initial three months of resistance training, 34% of participants no longer had prediabetes, a status maintained through 15 months. [ref]

A 2023 systematic review showed that resistance training significantly improved pain, fatigue, muscle strength, and functional capacity in patients with fibromyalgia. [ref]

Resistance training contributes to better posture and balance and can even improve mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

An extensive 2017 systematic review involving 922 participants evaluated the effect of resistance training on anxiety symptoms. The findings reveal that RET significantly reduces anxiety symptoms, with a notable effect size (Δ = 0.31). The improvement in anxiety symptoms was more pronounced among healthy participants. [ref]

Analyzing data from 33 randomized clinical trials involving 1,877 participants, a 2018 meta-analysis found that resistance training significantly reduced depressive symptoms. [ref]

Simple Resistance Training Techniques

Simple resistance training techniques can be easily incorporated into a fitness routine without complex equipment. Here are some basic methods:

  1. Body Weight Exercises: Utilize your own body weight for resistance. Exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and sit-ups are great starters.
  2. Resistance Bands: These bands offer varying levels of resistance and are perfect for exercises like band pulls, leg presses, and arm curls. They're portable and can be used anywhere.
  3. Dumbbells: Simple dumbbell exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, and dumbbell rows. Start with a comfortable weight and increase gradually.
  4. Kettlebells: Exercises like kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and deadlifts are effective for building strength and endurance.
  5. Household Items: Use items like water bottles or canned goods as makeshift weights for light resistance training.
  6. Chair Exercises: Use a chair for seated leg lifts, chair squats, and dips to strengthen various muscle groups.
  7. Step Training: Using a step or a low bench, perform step-ups, box jumps, or elevated lunges.
  8. Wall Sits: Lean against a wall and squat as if sitting in a chair; hold the position to strengthen leg and core muscles.
  9. Planks: This full-body exercise strengthens the core, arms, and legs.
  10. Yoga and Pilates: Incorporate elements of resistance and strength training, particularly for core strengthening.

Remember, consistency and gradually increasing the intensity are key to seeing improvements. Always prioritize proper form to avoid injury.

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