All You Need to Know About Resistance Training
Chapters of Resistance Training
- Types of Resistance Training
- How Does Resistance Training Work
- Benefits of Resistance Training
- How Much Resistance Exercise Should You Do?
- How to Get the Most of Resistance Training
- How to Design a Training Plan
- Tips for Designing your Training Plan
- Resistance Exercises for Building Strength
- Final Thoughts on Resistance Training
Resistance training or resistance exercise refers to any workout that causes the contraction of muscles against an external resistance with the expectation of an increase in strength, mass, tone, and/or endurance. The external resistance referred to here may be your own body weight, exercise tubing, dumbbells, or any other object that causes muscle contraction.
Types of Resistance Training
There are several types of resistance training. However, what comes to mind when most people think about it is the gym. Gyms are definitely great places to exercise using weights since they usually have a variety of dumbbells and fixed weight machines, but there are other forms of resistance exercise that you can do either in the gym or at home.
Olympic lifting, powerlifting, weightlifting, rehabilitation exercises, circuit training classes, and bodyweight exercises are all forms of resistance exercises that can be used for improving your muscular strength. Simply put, when you lift weights to get bigger, stronger, or more toned muscles, you are performing resistance exercise.
Technically, it would be incorrect to refer to resistance exercise like strength training, bodyweight exercises, hitting the weights, or even pumping iron, since all these are expressions commonly used to refer to forms of resistance exercise. The term resistance exercise as used here refers to the type of weight lifting you do at the gym or at home to get stronger, bigger, or more toned muscles as well as increasing muscular endurance.
How Does Resistance Training Work?
Resistance exercise works by causing microscopic tears or damage to the muscle cells, which the body in turn repairs quickly to help the muscles regenerate and grow even stronger. When the body repairs the muscle tissue it overcompensates in order to prevent further injury in the same area. This leads to the development of extra muscle tissue and increased strength. The same thing happens when bones are broken. “Catabolism” is a term that refers to the breakdown of the muscle fibre while “anabolism” refers to the repair and the regrowth of the muscle tissue.
Growth hormones, testosterone, protein, and other nutrients rush to the muscle after a resistance exercise session to aid with the repair of the muscles to improve their strength. The muscles will then heal and grow when you are not actually working out, which is why recovery time between workouts is absolutely necessary. During this time our metabolism accelerates due to how demanding the muscle cells are, making it effective for burning body fat.
Benefits of Resistance Training
The benefits of resistance exercise have been well documented and ongoing research proves that it is important to engage in this type of workout. Research studies show that physical inactivity is one of the leading preventable causes of death. So, besides preventing premature death, here are the other benefits of resistance exercise.
Reduced Risk of Injury
If you have stronger muscles, you will have a stronger body, which means that your chances of picking up a muscle injury or strain will be lower since the muscles are better conditioned and used to stress.
Reduced Risk of Illness
Studies show that performing resistance exercises regularly increases the production of special white blood cells in the body responsible for attacking viruses and tumours. The effects are especially pronounced in people that have not been involved in this form of exercise before.
If you strengthen the body the right way, you can address muscle imbalance and realign common problems with posture such as rounded shoulders, a tight lower back, and weak abdominal muscles. The result is that you will have less discomfort.
Burning More Calories
Stronger muscles result in a higher metabolic rate i.e. the speed at which the body burns calories. The calorie-burning effects occur whether or not you are working out. For each extra pound of muscle on the body, you burn an extra 50 calories each day. Muscles burn even more calories after intense work out sessions.
If you follow a training programme that’s structured the right way, it is possible to improve strength in every muscle using resistance exercise. Everyday tasks such as shopping, lifting, gardening, running, etc., become easier and will be within your abilities.
You obviously want to look your best and toned muscles are definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to achieving that goal. The combined effects of the rest of the benefits discussed here will all contribute to you looking healthr="ltr">
How Much Resistance Exercise Should You Do?
To get the optimal benefits from your resistance exercises, you need to aim to do two separate 45-minute sessions every week. Less frequent workouts can still bring benefits, but the gains start diminishing after 72 hours. So, for the best results, you should do two sessions separated by 48 to 72 hours.
If you have a hard time fitting two sessions in your week due to time constraints, you can try using resistance exercise with cardiovascular exercise in a single session and repeat it twice every week. Circuit training classes might be challenging, but they achieve exactly that since they typically pack more into an hour-long session compared to a single discipline alone.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Resistance Training
To get the most of your resistance training, you should lift with machines, free weights, or just your body weight. Any good gym should have a selection of resistance exercise equipment that can be used for building strength, toning muscles, aligning posture, and correcting imbalances in the muscles. Here are the equipment options for resistance exercise as well as their pros and cons.
Free Weights (Barbells and Dumbbells)
Dumbbells are pairs of hand weights with weights ranging from 1kg to 40kg each. Barbells are a selection of bars with weights permanently attached at each end. The weights range anywhere from 4kg to 30kg for every barbell.
- You build coordination since moving and controlling free weights takes skill.
- Free weights allow for self-selected movement on the basis of your anatomy.
- You can perform different workouts using the same weights.
- You can target just about any muscle using free weights.
- The risk of injury is present from dropped barbells or dumbbells.
- If you require numerous weights you will need a lot of space to store them.
- Free weights require knowledge and skill to use effectively.
- Dumbbells and barbells can be quite expensive to buy.
Resistance Training Machines
Resistance exercise machines are dedicated pieces of equipment designed for working out a specific part of the body or specific parts of the body. Examples of these machines include Lat pull-down machines and shoulder press machines.
- You don’t require a lot of coordination to operate the machines
- It is relatively safe to use these machines compared to free weights
- It is relatively simple to use these machines
- You can exercise difficult areas such as the back when done correctly
- Can be useful for a less able-bodied user
- You can injure a joint with repetitive use over time if the body fails to anatomically match the machine’s movement.
- Each machine is limited to working just one muscle group, which means that multiple machines are needed to cover all muscle groups.
- Resistance exercise machine hardly allows for completely functional muscle training.
- You require a lot of space to store the machines.
- The machines are quite expensive to buy.
It comprises of elastic tubes that have handles, which can be used in place of resistance exercise machines or free weights to help you build muscle strength and improve tone. To increase the tension, they are available in various thicknesses and different colours too denoting the tension.
- A versatile and inexpensive way to get started with resistance exercises
- You can use them to perform multiple exercises
- You can start with a set of 4 for quite cheap
- If you use a door strap, you can perform more exercises with tubing compared to free weights
- The tubing does not dent the floor if you drop it
- You can easily store it in a closet, drawer, or any other convenient location
- You can easily carry them around
- Over time, exercise tubing loses some of its elasticity and you may have to replace it
- It can snap if it rubs up against a sharp object
Your own body weight can be used for resistance exercise. Squat thrusts, chin-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, step-ups, and lunges are some of the workouts you can perform to strengthen the body. The great thing about these workouts is that you can do them virtually anywhere. The only major drawback is that you cannot change your body weight to reduce or increase the resistance.
- No equipment needed
- Cannot adjust the level of resistance
How to Design a Training Plan
If you want to have the most success with your resistance exercises, you will first have to come up with a personal training plan. Here are the steps you need to follow for this:
Defining Your Goals
Goals will be different for different people, but beginners typically look to tone their muscles and make them stronger. Fortunately, lifting give you both and you can expect gains in strength within just a few weeks. Tone comes much later and depends on the amount of excess body fat you have.
Assess Your Skills
You should hire a fitness trainer to work with you especially if you are a beginner. It is hard to learn how to properly lift weights from watching a video or reading a book. It is possible to do it, but the hands-on approach with a trainer is superior. You don’t actually have to use the trainer for all your sessions. Once you learn how to lift weights properly, you will have the confidence to lift on your own and get stronger.
Decide Where to Lift
You can choose to either work out at home, at the gym or both at home and at the gym. It is completely up to you. Here are some tips for designing your personal training plan depending on where you choose to do your workouts.
Exercising at Home
If you choose to exercise at home, you should consider investing in exercise tubing because it is a cheap but effective way to get started. If you prefer using free weights, you will require the following:
Dumbbells: Solid dumbbells are more preferable since the plate-loading variety can be tedious to change repeatedly
Bench: You should look for a properly constructed adjustable bench. It should feel solid when you lie on it and should not rock.
Bar and Plates: It is not recommended for beginners due to safety issues. However, if you choose this option, look for a bar with collars for locking in the plates and then buy plates for loading the bar.
Exercising at the Gym
It is a good option for both experienced and beginner lifters. The gym has a wide variety of dumbbells and machines, so you get to see and try out different positions. Gyms also have trainers, which can be quite good if you are a beginner since he/she can plan a programme for you and teach you how to properly do the workouts. Once you get the hang of it, you are free to confidently explore it on your own.
Tips for Designing Your Training Plan
If you want to design the most effective resistance training plan, you need to consider the following tips:
Weight: It is advisable for beginners to start with weights that they can be lifted between 10 and 12 repetitions to fatigue with proper form. Fatigue refers to being unable to lift the weight for one more repetition with proper form. If you have to throw the weight up or lean back, then it is too heavy. Lifting 10 to 20 repetitions to fatigue maximises your strength gains while reducing the risk of injury or overtraining.
Sets: Beginners may start with just 1 set for each workout. If you have time you can do more, but research reveals that 1 set is enough to yield significant strength gains for beginners.
The time between Sets: If you want to develop tone and endurance, rest less than 1 minute between sets. If you want to focus more on strength, rest up to 3 minutes since the additional recovery time lets the muscles work harder and lift more on the next set.
Workout Order: Design the workout plan such that you work out the large muscle groups before the smaller ones. The logic here is that if you fatigue the smaller muscle group first, then the larger group will not work as hard as it can.
Workouts: Select 1 or 2 workouts for every muscle group. Below is a list of at least 2 workouts for each muscle group using machines and dumbbells ordered from larger to smaller muscle groups:
- Arms: Biceps curls, then Triceps Kickbacks, then Triceps Press-Downs
- Back: Bent Over Row, then Cable Row, then Pull-Down
- Legs: Squats, then Leg Extensions, then Curls on Machines, then Leg Press on Machine
- Chest: Dumbbell Press, then Dumbbell Flyes, then Chest Press, then Cable Flyes
- Abs: Crunches, then Knee-Drop Crunches
- Shoulders: Side Lateral Raise, then Front Raise, then Upright Row
Recovery and Rest: It is always important to keep in mind that muscle growth happens during downtime and not during training, so allow 1 or 2 days between workouts especially when you first get started to allow the muscles to recover and grow. You should perform your workouts when refreshed and at least as strong as the previous workout.
Splits: It is a term that refers to how a workout is organised. For example, you may choose to work on your chest only on the first day and the back on day two. It is the type of lifting you do once you are more experienced and stronger. It is not recommended for beginners since it is too intense and may lead to overtraining or injury.
Resistance Exercises for Building Strength
If you want to build muscle strength, you should try out the following resistance exercises. It is also a good idea to work your abs at each workout.
From all fours, use your right arm to reach forward while reaching back with your left leg such that both are parallel to the floor. Hold 3 seconds, and then return to your starting position before switching sides. Do 15 repetitions on each side.
Lie on the floor flat with the lower back pressed against the ground. Extend your hands flat to the sides or put them beside your head whatever feels most comfortable. Lift your feet off the ground while crossing the feet at the ankles to a point where your knees create a 90-degree angle. Now press the lower back on the floor while contracting the abdominal muscles. The hips will rotate slightly and the legs will reach towards the ceiling with every contraction. Exhale while contacting and inhale when returning to the starting position.
Kickback with Resistance Band
Loop a resistance band above the knees while standing. Lift your right foot off the ground and then drive it behind you. Pause for a while, and then return to the starting position. Do 15 repetitions before switching sides.
Vertical Leg Crunch
While lying on the floor flat with the lower back pressed against the ground, press your hands behind the head to provide support. Extend the legs straight up in the air, crossed at the ankles with the knee slightly bent. Lift your torso towards the knees to contract the abdominal muscles. Don’t forget to keep your chin off the chest with every contraction. Exhale while contracting upwards and inhale while returning to the starting position.
Dumbbell Clocker Shoulder Raise
Use light dumbbells for this. Imagine that you are at the centre of a clock facing 12 and then raise the arms until they are parallel to the ground and then lower. Repeat at 1 and 11, 2 and 10, as well as 3 and 9. Perform the sequence at least 4 more times.
Hip Extension Leg Curl with Exercise Ball
Lie on the floor with your arms by your sides and your heels on top of the ball. Raise the hips such that the body forms a straight line. Pull the ball towards your butt and then roll it back for 30 repetitions.
Stabilise your upper body by gripping the hand holds and lightly press the lower back against the back pad. The starting position is when you are holding the body up while the legs are dangling below. Next, lift your knees in slowly towards the chest. Your motion should be deliberate and controlled as you bring the knees up and return them to the original starting position.
Place your right foot on a box that allows your thigh to be parallel to the ground. Push through the right heel and leg to stand, and then step down with the left leg. Repeat for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Reverse Crunch with Exercise Ball
Roll over the exercise ball such that your hands are on the floor in front of it. Walk out your hands until they are below the shoulders and the lower legs are resting on the ball. Pull in the ball by bending your knees and hips, and then roll it back. Do it for at least 60 seconds.
Single-Leg Pelvic/Bridge Thrust
Lie on the back with your feet under the knees. Straighten the left leg and push through the right heel to raise the butt. Pause, then lower slowly. Do 20 repetitions before switching sides.
While lying flat on the floor with the lower back pressed against the ground, place your hands beside the head. Next, bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle or so and then start going making a bicycle pedal motion slowly. Touch the right elbow to the left knee and then the left elbow to the right knee. Keep even and maintain relaxed breathing throughout.
Resistance training is an excellent way to round out your workouts if you already do cardio. It helps you build strength, improve tone, and even preserve muscle as you lose weight. It will also help you feel good about yourself and your physique.
No matter the resistance exercises you choose, ensure that you stay consistent but vary the routine. Failing to vary the workouts and resistance means that you are not getting the full benefits. Try different things to vary your workouts and you will definitely be pleased with the results.
We also have further blogs for top 10 best chest workouts as well as top 10 best shoulder workouts. Be sure to read those if you enjoyed and found this one interesting!