A lot of people love weightlifting; they crave additional hours in the gym when they’re alone and focused. The reason is simple: there are many benefits of weight training that make it worth it to get to the gym as much as possible.
Others despise lifting weights and prefer other less-intense forms of exercise, which rightfully have their place in the world.
However, there are more than a few reasons to hit the gym for a weightlifting session that you shouldn’t ignore.
What are the Benefits of Weight Training?
More than anything else, lifting heavy weights and placing a focused effort on conditioning your body builds a healthy lifestyle.
If you are interested in learning the seven most important benefits of weightlifting, keep reading below!
Weight Training Builds Muscle and Increase Your Basal Metabolic Rate
In simple terms, our body processes calories far more easily when you increase your lean muscle mass. As your muscle mass increases, your body will burn more calories to sustain itself. No matter who you are, you can benefit from weight training.
For example, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology,
“a program of resistance exercise can be safely carried out by elderly women, such a program significantly increases muscle strength, and such gains are due, at least in part, to muscle hypertrophy.”
Regardless of whether you build a large or small amount of muscles overall, conditioning the body with weightlifting helps improve your metabolism.
Weightlifting is one of the best strategies to help you healthily lose weight!
Weightlifting is Effective for Fat loss
If you want to know how to lose weight fast for men or women, weightlifting is your simplest answer!
As I mentioned before, lifting weight increases your metabolic rate- which helps you to burn fat whether you are currently training or not.
By burning fat while you are lifting weights as well as after you have stopped, you save yourself time and effort that you can use on other aspects of your life.
Continuously expending oxygen for hours and days after training is known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), and it is one of the most important concepts to understand when attempting to burn fat. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity,
“High Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE) three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of Steady State Exercise (SSE) exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat”
Nearly all weight training programs are a form of HIIE or HIIT, and nearly all will help you burn fat faster.
Activities such as DIY coolsculpting can help you remove fat quickly, but training will do much more for your body overall. Slimming teas and saunas can also help you lose weight and body fat, but they are not nearly as effective as weightlifting!
Weight Lifting Increases Your Daily Energy Levels
It doesn’t take more than a few weightlifting sessions to help you realize that working out helps increase the energy you have throughout the rest of your day.
Sure, your body will be sore and muscularly fatigued.
However, your mind will be more alert, and your overall productiveness will increase.
A study published by the National Institute of Health demonstrated that with a continuous increase in energy expenditure during your training sessions, energy balance and fat oxidation continue to improve positively regardless of training intensity.
Weightlifting Improves Your Sleep Quality
Strength training and weightlifting will immediately help you improve your quality of sleep. Not only will you fall asleep faster, but you will also notice that you can stay asleep throughout the night without waking up.
One study published in the International SportMed Journal suggested that High-Intensity Interval Training or early morning resistance training can affect the duration and quality of your overall sleep.
There are many forms of exercise which can improve your nightly sleep and weightlifting is one of the best options!
Weight Training Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Lifting weights can help both women and men reduce their risk of heart disease.
The American Heart Association advocates for every individual to physically exercise multiple times per week to improve the condition of their heart.
If you are new to training, you should consult a doctor or physician before beginning any intense workout program.
Also, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that people who lift weights are less prone to heart disease risk factors. These factors include:
- High Glucose Level
- High Blood Pressure
- High Triglycerides
- Large Waist Circumference
Lifting Weights Improves Your Bone Health
One of the common health issues that come with age is the loss of bone and muscle mass. Post-menopausal women stand at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis as a result of the body’s inability to secrete estrogen.
Weight lifting and resistance training is a great way to lower the risk of osteoporosis and bone mass loss.
According to one study produced in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness,
“Even a short-term weight training program can either maintain or improve the BMD (bone mineral density) of the femoral neck and lumbar vertebrae.”
Although this study was only conducted on a couple of specific regions, you can easily assume that weightlifting can stimulate bone health throughout the entire body!
Weight Training Relieves Stress
Generally, any exercise will help you relieve stress. Researchers have discovered over and over for years that people who engage in regular strength training are better equipped to manage stress and respond better to the effects of highly stressful conditions.
One of the theories for why weightlifting is effective for stress-management is that it provides you with a physical release of your energy.
Another reason is that exercising releases dopamine into your brain, stimulating a positive mood.
For multiple reasons, weightlifting is an excellent solution to relieve daily stress!
Are Free Weights or Machines Better When Weight Training?
I’m honestly surprised that people still debate whether it is better to use free weight exercises or machines because the answer is clear to me. In my opinion, there are only rare occasions when machine exercises are necessary because free weights are so much more functional!
It’s true, any form of physical exercise will improve your body and health in at least one way.
However, using free weights instead of machines is an easy switch that anyone can make to improve their body more.
As an athlete, machines seem completely useless to me. I often see other athletes using the leg press, machine bench press or other similar machines, and it fascinates me that they honestly believe it is beneficial.
The science clearly shows that exercises using free weights activate more primary mover muscles and stabilizing muscles, making them far more effective overall.
Unless you are beginning to rehabilitate an injury or you are of an age that using free weights is too strenuous, machine exercises are not necessary.
If machines are your only option, combine exercise machines and bodyweight exercises to get a better workout! Regardless of whether you have access to free weights or not, you should never avoid the opportunity for physical exercise when you have the time.
Taking the time for even a moderate amount of physical exercise will:
- Promote Heart Health and Function
- Improve the Physical Capabilities of Your Body
- Boost Your Immune System
- Improve Your Mood and Reduce Stress
However, there are still better options for physical exercise, and each person has unique training needs.
As seen in nearly every weightlifting center in America, some people believe it is impossible to get a good workout done without the aid of fixed machine exercises.
Modern gyms often are filled with expensive machinery and weight lifting equipment that can help build your body, but only in certain situations. Many gyms (*Planet Fitness*) focus a large part of their resources on exercise machines, while they dedicate less space to dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and other more functional equipment.
In my opinion, free weights are the superior training option for most people. Elderly fitness lovers, people revering from an injury, or those who have limited motor-development will benefit from machine exercises the most, since every other healthy individual will obtain more benefits from the challenge provided by free weight exercises.
If you are looking for more information, you can read all the information you need at LifeToLiveIt.com about the best free weight and machine exercises that will help you lose fat and get a toned and lean body.
Whether you choose free weights or machines depends on your goals and ability level, but in my opinion, choosing to exercise with free weights is the best option!
The distinct difference between training with free weights and machines is that when you use free weights, you have a “free” movement pattern for the exercise you are doing, compared to the fixed position of machine exercises.
Without a doubt, free weight exercises use a larger range of muscles during each exercise, and they are more taxing on your body. Over time, your muscles will develop significantly more if you use primarily free weights.
Not only will you build more muscle (or burn more calories), your workouts will be far more efficient as well.
There are many different forms of exercises with free weights, notably:
Interestingly enough, I do consider cable “machines” as free weights. Although cable attachments are a type of machine, they function entirely as a free weight. Your body can move organically when you are using cable exercises, which is why I consider them to be “free weights.”
Is There Ever a Reason to Use Machine Exercises for Weightlifting?
Although I rarely ever use machine exercises, I do believe that they are beneficial for some people. For example, machines can become a savior for rehabilitating injuries when used properly.
Although free weights are certainly necessary for a lot of injury rehabilitation, machines are very useful for isolating muscle groups or movement patterns which need an extra boost. In certain situations, it is far more effective to isolate a certain muscle by using a machine exercise.
The negative side-effect of using a machine exercise is that it will only work the body in one precise range of motion, but it is occasionally beneficial and even necessary.
Another example of a reason to use machine exercises is for older adults, who want to remain active in any way. They can certainly use free weight exercises as well, but machines can accomplish a lot for them.
Furthermore, machines are also used for isolation exercises. For example, if you are doing Triceps Push Down you are only focusing on your triceps. Machines are great to use after you have build a foundation of lean muscle tissue.
Personally, I tend to look at machines as the equivalent of a roof and its role in building a house.
If you are planning to build a big house you would not build the roof first if you do not have a foundation.
The best time to use machines is if you are planning to do some more advanced techniques such as Drop Sets or Super Sets where the intensity may be dangerous to do on free weights if you do not have a spotter.
The important thing is to ensure that you do not rely on machines for the bulk of your normal training routine since it will undoubtedly cause imbalances and weaknesses in your body.
For the majority of people, there are many more health benefits from using free weights instead of machines.
What are the Advantages of Training with Free Weight Exercises?
As I said before, free weight exercises are far more beneficial for your body.
Even if you are performing a machine exercise that is considered a compound movement (such as the leg press), the machine exercises will not work your body as intensely as a comparative exercise with free weights.
When you perform free weight exercises you cause your body to use more than one muscle group. Such an action helps you burn more calories because you are getting more of your body involved in the exercise and workouts.
The calorie-burning rule is simple: the more muscle groups in your body are stimulated while exercising the more calories you will burn. If your aim is to burn the most calories possible while you are doing resistance training then I would suggest you to focus on free weight exercises rather than machines.
An excellent example of the comparative benefit of exercises with free weights was proven through a study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, entitled “A Comparison of Free Weight Squat to Smith Machine Squat Using Electromyography.”
The study intended to determine whether a free weight squat or a Smith machine squat would be more effective for activating the muscles of the legs, and the stabilizing muscles of the legs and the core.
To determine this, participants performed one set of eight repetitions using their original 8RM (eight-rep max). While the participants performed their squats, electromyographic (EMG) activity measured muscle activity of their leg and core muscles.
Although the study concluded that there was no significant difference between the free weight squat and the Smith machine squat in the percentage of individual muscle used (all muscles activated equally on each version of the squat), the free weight squat averaged 43% higher overall EMG activity!
If you choose to use free weights instead of machines, you can legitimately believe you are working your muscles about 40% more for all your exercises!
One of the biggest benefits of using free weights is that they help you build more “functional” muscles.
Especially when you consider compound movements such as the back squat, deadlift, and the bench press; you can get a full body workout in an extremely short amount of time with free weights! Furthermore, you can easily amplify the benefits of free weights by using simple tools such as the Fat Gripz.
It is much more difficult to do any modification to machine exercises, and their overall range of use is very limited.
Free Weight Movements and Stabilizing Muscles
As the study published above concluded,
“The free weight squat may be more beneficial than the Smith machine squat for individuals who are looking to strengthen plantar flexors, knee flexors, and knee extensors.”
One of the most significant advantages of training predominately with free weights is that you must work to coordinate and stabilize the body entirely on your own, which is directly applicable to real-life situations.
Initial stages of injury recovery can include a variety of simple machine exercises, but true performance recovery must involve free weights.
Especially for anyone who is an athlete (even in high school), training with free weights is completely necessary for developing a functional and athletic body. Machines are detrimental to athleticism in some ways since they will add bulk without adding strength or coordination.
In fact, over-using machine exercises will reduce the ability of your stabilizing muscle groups, and can negatively effect your muscle and joint stability.
Are Free Weights or Machines Better for Training at Home?
For many reasons, people can opt to do their workouts at home, compared to at a commercial fitness center. Outside of social and psychological factors, there is also a large difference in the equipment you will have available if you train at home instead of a fitness center.
Machines are very expensive and will take up a large amount of space, which is why they are inefficient for home use.
If you are going to be training at home often, the most logical choice is to use free weights and bodyweight exercises. Free weights are very affordable, especially if you understand where to purchase them.
Also, they require far less space than machines. You can put your dumbbells or kettlebells in nearly any room of your house to get a good workout. Barbells are a little bit tricker, and probably need to be in a basement or a garage.
Buying used fitness equipment is an excellent way to build a home gym on a limited budget, especially if you choose to purchase dumbbells and barbells instead of exercise machines.
If you are going to use a machine, I highly recommend you choose a Total Gym because you can do a lot of different exercises in a small space. For an “exercise machine,” the Total Gym is as efficient as it gets.
How to Design a Weight Training Workout Plan
Exercise and fitness can have a lot of different meanings to each different person. For one person, it might mean being able to walk a mile each day, and to another, it could be multiple weight training sessions per day.
The age, fitness level, and goals of your self or your client should heavily influence the structure and type of fitness training that you incorporate when designing a workout program.
A training plan exists to help move a person closer to their goals, regardless of whether you as a trainer believe that those goals are adequate, or you think your goals are hard to obtain.
To create a workout plan- it’s vital that you understand fitness and exercise science, as well as get to know your self or your client and recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and current ability level which will impact the pursuit of goals.
While you don’t necessarily need a degree in physiology or years of experience as a trainer to write up a plan, it’s imperative that you understand how the body works and how to improve both physical fitness and strength for your self or your client.
Creating a training plan without any prior knowledge is likely to cause injuries, imbalances and slow progress towards goals.
At the very least, you should understand how to build lean muscle mass, how to improve physical strength and work capacity, and why the most popular workout programs are structured the way that they are.
It’s also necessary to look into the specific goals of yourself or your client. So, if (for example) you want to improve at soccer, you understand soccer and what strength and fitness needs must be improved to to improve your game.
Obtaining a personal trainer certification is necessary for many personal trainer jobs, and most fitness trainer certifications are relatively simple to complete.
If you are only trying to write a workout plan for yourself, you can simply study information through places such as my website or other health and fitness websites, or also read scientific research from places like Google Scholar.
The way you structure any workout plan is nearly as important as what exercises it contains.
Not only do you need to ensure that the workout program has enough workload to induce muscle growth, strength increases, and fitness improvements, but you must also structure it to allow for adequate recovery and adherence.
If you or your client is new to fitness, it’s worthless to setup an intense 5-day program because it’s unlikely to have the discipline to start there. For new trainees, it’s wise to start slowly and build up.
As well as the structure of on and off days, you’ll want to consider that when you’re writing a fitness program you need to factor in the exercises that you have setup for each day.
For example, a simple workout plan that involves individual muscle groups could look like this:
- Monday- Legs
- Tuesday- Chest/Triceps
- Wednesday- Off
- Thursday- Back/Biceps
- Friday- Shoulders/Core
- Saturday- Off
- Sunday- Cardio
However, this is only an example and it is a very basic setup. Personally I prefer to do full-body training every workout.
Therefore, I focus on creating unique workout plans for each day, and I my week is more structure around RPE (Rate of Perceived Intensity) each day.
For example, a normal week of mine (in my head), looks like this:
- Monday- RPE 7
- Tuesday- RPE 5
- Wednesday- RPE 8
- Thursday- Off or Active Recovery
- Friday- RPE 9
- Saturday-RPE 8/9
- Sunday- Off or Active Recovery
This type of workout routine allows me to have more variety in the exercises I choose, while helping me improve my body in a variety of ways.
Regardless of whether you choose to plan your week or month of workouts as specific muscle groups or in any other way, there are a few consistent rules you should follow.
First, you should always begin with a dynamic warm up. Doing a dynamic warm up will prepare your body to work as hard and as well as possible, and it will also help you avoid injuries.
Next, you should always begin with heavy compound exercises.
Examples of these exercises include:
Performing heavy compound exercises first will illicit the greatest hormonal response from your body, producing the best overall results from your training.
Next, you should perform your secondary exercises. These type of exercises include:
These exercises are effective and important, but they should come after your heavy compound exercises.
Lastly, you should perform specific assistance exercises. Many people like to do their core exercises last because they are a usually viewed as an assistance exercise, which isn’t necessarily wrong. However, you can also do core exercises earlier in your workout program if you would like.
Read Next: Benefits of the Saitama Workout Program
Concluding Thoughts – Health Benefits of Weight Training
Whatever the reason you want to take-on resistance training or weightlifting, there is no doubt you will be doing nothing but good for your body.
Whether your goal is to become a better athlete, maintain your overall health, or stimulate an aesthetic body, there are numerous reasons you should be weightlifting regularly.
Before you being any weightlifting program, it is important to understand that you need to train safely and within your ability levels as you certainly cannot build anything at all if you are injured.
Barring this, there is no doubting the overall benefits of lifting weights!