- There are different kinds of strength training from HIIT to power-lifting to circuit training and muscle-isolation exercises.
- These types of workouts are often associated with toning muscles, but there are many physical and mental benefits to strength training.
- Strength training can help regulate your blood flow and heart rate, speed up your metabolism, clear up brain fog, and boost your mood.
There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training that need to be debunked, and most of them have to do with what people assume strength training actually does to your body. Unless you’re a bodybuilder, strength training exercises from weight lifting to bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and planks won’t make you bulk up, but they will offer a slew of other benefits – both physically, and mentally.
“I think many younger people start training for aesthetic reasons, while others want to get a competitive edge at their sport, or a combo of the two,” Reebok trainer, Mike Farr told INSIDER.
“As we mature physically and mentally, I believe our goals in life change, and with this, many people find strength training also. Strength training for general health purposes becomes a more prominent goal. Many also turn to strength training (competitive power-lifting/weightlifting) as a passion or hobby of its own. Although there is a wide variety of reasons why people begin training, the benefits for everyone are the same,” added Farr.
Here are a few examples of strength training can benefit your brain and body.
Bodyweight strength training helps you become more in tune with your physical self
Strength training is an umbrella phrase that encompasses a wide variety of training methods such as circuit training, power-lifting, explosive-dynamic training, and more. Each of these exercises work your muscles in different ways.
Bodyweight strength training, in particular, requires you to use your own body as resistance (rather than, say, dumbbells or machines), and because this method depends on your knowledge of your own body’s limitations and strengths, brand ambassador for Asana Rebel, Kelly Pender told INSIDER it strengthens your relationship with your body.
“Through [bodyweight training] exercises you can build an awesome physique, strength, balance, physical stamina, and improve flexibility and mobility. [But] my favorite part of bodyweight training is that you learn to tune into your body to see if you need to modify and rest or are able to challenge yourself and push yourself a bit further,” Pender told INSIDER.
“To connect with your body by learning you have the strength within to push yourself, you learn to honor your body and know when it’s time to rest,” she explained. “You push past any negative thoughts that may arise and remain in the present moment, accepting yourself, your body, exactly where you are at.”
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may speed up your metabolism
Oftentimes people associate cardio with burning calories, but Pender said HIIT routines do the trick, too, as the quick bursts of motion and plyometrics they’re comprised of burn a ton of calories and elevate your metabolism. Vince Sant, lead fitness trainer and co-creator of fitness platform VShred agreed.
“Personally, the boost in your metabolism is what I consider to be one of the biggest and most overlooked benefits to strength training because people think cardio is the best way to burn calories,” Sant told INSIDER.
“But while cardio is super important to a well-structured fitness regimen, strength training will burn a similar number of calories while helping you build lean muscle. Then that muscle will demand more calories every day as fuel and you will, in turn, burn even more calories.”
Strength training might improve your digestive system
Not only can strength training tone your abdominals, but it’ll also condition the organs behind your abs too.
“Through strength training, you get the blood flowing, which goes to your stomach and benefits your digestive tract,” Pender told INSIDER. “The blood sugar levels become more controlled, and your metabolism elevates. From a yoga standpoint, you are twisting and internally massaging your stomach, which in turn promotes healthy digestion and detoxifies the organs.”
Strength training may boost your immune system
Similar to how strength training fine-tunes your digestive system, your immune system benefits from these exercises, too, and it all comes back to blood flow, Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and celebrity trainer, Astrid Swan told INSIDER.
“Working out and especially strength training boosts your immune system as it is pumping blood throughout the body, relieving stress and releasing endorphins,” Swan explained. “The body often gets sick under times of stress but working out and lifting will help ease that stress.”
More research, however, is needed to confirm strength training’s effect on your immune system.
Strength training gives you endorphins and endorphins make you feel happy
According to Healthline, endorphins are neurochemicals produced by the nervous system and pituitary glands as natural pain relievers and, in turn, pleasure inducers. Swan told INSIDER that strength training releases endorphins, fighting off worry, stress, and depression to boost your overall mood.
“Blood flow, muscle ‘swelling,’ and hard work being paid off will always improve your outlook,” Swan said. “Getting that last rep makes you feel empowered and the reflection in the mirror verifies it.”
Strength training might also clear up brain fog
Stress can clog your brain and make everything feel fuzzy. Strength training releases a surge of endorphins, therefore uplifting your mood, and, in turn, clearing your head.
“Any stress that you walked in with is usually diminished [when you start training] and clarity kicks in,” Swan told INSIDER. “Depending on how hard you lifted you may be able to achieve the same as a runner’s high, but that will be to the individual.”
Strength training makes you strong outside of the gym, too
Strength training on a regular basis will definitely make you strong in the sense that you can lift heavy weights, but there’s so much more to strength than dumbbells and barbells, Blink trainer Macy Schwartz from Blink Penn Station told INSIDER.
“While strength training does create the ‘toning effect’ that people often crave, I am a big fan of being strong in general. I don’t mean being the strongest person in the gym, but being strong enough to not have to ask anyone for help,” Schwartz said. “A benefit of strength training is being able to live life, being able to take care of yourself, and being independent.”
Strength training conditions the body to optimally self-regulate its blood pressure and heart rate
Not only does strength training get your blood pumping, but it also regulates your overall blood flow and heart rate by putting physical stress on the body, Schwartz told INSIDER.
This is most effective through HIIT, “which can be done exclusively with cardio equipment, or including weight training,” she explained. This type of training increasing your body’s ability to self-regulate and, essentially, trains it to be more efficient.
Strength training can improve your mental health, too
“Strength training, or working out in general, is similar to education for your brain,” Farr told INSIDER. “It trains your mental toughness to continue when things seem impossible, it trains your ability to focus on the task at hand instead of what is happening around you, and most importantly it trains you to believe that you are capable of reaching new levels of mental and physical strength.”
Adding strength training to your regular routine can motivate you to be healthy in other aspects of life, too
Adopting a regular workout routine you genuinely enjoy and want to stick with can create a sort of domino effect. When you’re working towards becoming healthier in one aspect of life, you’ll start to notice yourself making an effort to make healthier choices in other aspects of your everyday routine, too.
“When someone makes strength training part of their lifestyle they often will make changes to their entire life that benefit their overall health, including drinking more water, eating more vegetables and making sure they get plenty of sleep,” Farr told INSIDER.
Strength training induces feelings of accomplishment, making you feel productive and motivated for the day ahead
Just as making your bed can start your day off right, so can checking off just about anything on your morning to-do list, including exercising.
“Starting your day with a hard gym session sets the tone for the rest of your schedule to be productive and starts the day off with a ‘win,'” Farr said. “I personally love the feeling of accomplishment after a hard training session. Muscle pumped and fatigued, my brain is firing on all cylinders, endorphins flowing, and I am ready for whatever task comes next in my day.”