Benefits of resistance training

December 5, 2011

Benefits of Resistance Training

Resistance training, also known as weight or strength training, is probably the best type of workout to tone up, develop body shape, increase strength, and maintain fitness. Most people, especially those who are into sports, consider resistance training as an essential element for fitness and power enhancement, but many non-athletes don’t understand the aerobic and general health benefits of resistance training.

This kind of training increases muscle strength and endurance. To quote Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, “if you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose [as you get older], you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body, but strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age.”

One of the essentials of resistance training is the principle of progressive overload. Progressive overload refers to the gradual increase of workload overtime in order to let your muscles adjust to the resistance workout with the primary goal of gaining more strength and mass.

According to Richard Weil, an Exercise Physiologist, WebMD Medical Expert, another essential thing is to lift each set to volitional fatigue, which is the point in the training set where you cannot lift one more rep without cheating it up, either by using momentum or leaning way back.  

Shorter, more intense workouts versus longer, less intense workouts

When it comes to calorie burning, research proves you can burn fat faster when you exercise through shorter, more intense workouts (Baechle and Earl, 2000). It has also been found more intense workout is more effective because it can burn excess calories for up to three days after the workout has finished.

With this kind of interval training, you execute short bursts but intense workouts, and then take a longer period of rest to recover. Working out at shorter, more intense releases certain hormones such as growth hormones that help build muscles and stop fat from stocking on our body.

The Department of Health further adds evidence that low-volume, high intensity workout is good for muscles and their metabolism. Short, intense workouts are designed primarily for people with concerns in enhancing their overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss, without losing the muscle mass they already have.

Since this kind of training program is physically demanding, it is very important to slowly but continuously build up your workout program so that you do not exhaust yourself and to avoid some problems.

Two key elements of short, intense workout is one’s maximum effort and a planned training program. Below is a sample of a detailed workout program for beginners who want to try short, intense workouts.


Warm up

Work Interval (Max Intensity)

Recovery  Interval (60-70% MHR)


Cool down

Total Workout  Time


5 min 1 min 4 min 2 times 5 min 20 min


5 min 1 min 4 min 3 times 5 min 25 min


5 min 1 min 4 min 4 times 5 min 30 min


5 min 1.5 min 4 min 2 times 5 min 21 min


5 min 1.5 min 4 min 3 times 5 min 26.5 min


5 min 1.5 min 4 min 4 times 5 min 32 min


5 min 2 min 5 min 3 times 5 min 31 min


5 min 2 min 5 min 4 times 5 min 38 min


Aerobics Training

Aerobic training conditions both the heart and lungs by means of increasing the oxygen available to the body and allowing the heart to utilize oxygen more efficiently. Obviously, exercise alone cannot prevent or cure heart disease.

However, the American Heart Association prefers aerobics training for reducing cardiovascular risk. It acknowledged aerobics activities as the best approaches to improving the vital capacity of the lungs and efficiency of the heart.

The main purpose of the aerobic training is to improve the oxygen transport of the body circulation, to improve the muscle’s ability to use the available oxygen, and to improve the ability to recover and build up your strength after hard exercise.

One key element in planning for the aerobic exercise is the heart rate. Heart rate gives a good impression of one’s training capacity. It provides valuable information about the training effect especially when exercising hard. In a study made by Lene Gilkrog entitled, “Aerobic Training”, he stated that the workload is related to a proportional increase of both the heart rate and the rate of oxygen uptake.

Therefore, using the formula below, you can use it to calculate the relative workload:

Relative workload (%) = (heart rate – heart rate rest) /

(heart rate max – heart rate rest)

 The table below shows the relationship between the heart rate and oxygen uptake. The values are average values, which are calculated from scientific research. The inaccuracy is ± 10%. (Source: Michalsik, 2002: 160 and McArdle, 2001: 242)

% of max heart rate

% of max oxygen uptake













The key to aerobic training is limiting your maximum time to a short yet intense duration. This ensures that you are getting fitter and fitter every month. In a research presented in the Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, it shows that using high-intensity intervals for your training program, the total amount of calories your body burns an hour after your workout is increased up to 107% more than with low-intensity, short-duration exercise, and 143% more than with low-intensity, long-duration exercise.

Interval exercise reaches levels above 80 percent maximum-intensity effort can speed up metabolism for up to three hours after exercise, which is the rate at which your body burns calories.    

Ideal Exercise Regime

In 2008, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults age 18 to 64 engage in at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and biking, or an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity like running each week.

On the other hand, Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist, recommends her patients to have an interval training of at least twice a week for 20 to 30 minutes. She stated that no special equipment is needed but it would be a great help if there will be a heart rate monitor for gauging how hard you are working.

For heart purposes, it is better to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes five times per week. For those who want to improve their fitness levels, it would be better to exercise harder for a short period of time. For new resistance training practitioners or those people using interval training methods, it is very important to track how hard you exercise and the effects of it to your body.

One great tool in measuring how hard an exercise feels is the rate of perceived exertion scale (RPE). Ben Wilson, author of the top selling book Rugby Fitness Training: A twelve month conditioning program, personally created the RPE scale below.

RPE Scale

20  -> About to collapse the exercise is so hard, gasping for breath,

15  -> Hard effort, could do 3-5 minutes max, breathing deeply.

10  -> Comfortable, could do 15 minutes at this level, breathing a more deeply than usual

5     -> Easy, could do 30 minutes at this level, very slightly out of breath

0 -> At home watching television with the feet up.

One good example of an ideal exercise regime for resistance or strength training is Crossfit. Many CrossFit practitioners assert that a healthy, fit person needs proficiency in each of ten general physical skills such as cardiovascular or respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

CrossFit defines fitness as increased work capacity across all these domains and says its program achieves this by provoking neurologic and hormonal adaptations across all metabolic pathways. Regardless of age, weight or athletic ability, resistance training is good for you.

Other benefits of weight/resistance training

Dr. Scott Collier, the lead investigator of the study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, found that the resistance training increases blood circulation resulting in as much as a 20 percent decrease in a person’s blood pressure.

Its benefits are better than taking medication for anti-hypertensive. In addition, he discovered that the beneficial effects of resistance training continued about 30 minutes after the exercise had ended and as long as 24 hours in individuals who trained for 30-45 minutes three times a week.

Resistance training also helps protect against or even cure osteoporosis. It increases metabolism as well as provides social and psychological benefits.

Research studies have shown that regular resistance or weight training can increase your Basal Metabolic Rate by up to 15%.

In fact, weight training is proven to be an excellent way of combating several symptoms of aging. It can reduce bone deterioration and build bone mass, preventing osteoporosis.

Working out your muscles can also slow down the effects of sarcopenia, the age related loss of muscle mass, strength and function.

Normally, after reaching the age of thirty, there is an expected loss of 3-5% of muscle mass per decade. Furthermore, resistance training has been proven to have a positive effect on insulin resistance, resting metabolism, blood pressure, body fat and gastrointestinal transit time.

Such factors are linked to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer which can be greatly reduced through resistance or weight training. Programs through resistance exercise can increase fat-free mass and decrease the percentage of body fat.

One of its exceptional benefits is its positive impact of increasing energy expenditure during the exercise session and during the recovery period. It is evident that a number of the adaptations in the resistance exercise are linked to several health-related benefits.

Further research studies are required to clarify the effects of resistance training on blood lipids, lipoproteins and blood pressure in hypertensives, and to determine what type of training programs may best modify these risk factors.        


Baechle, T. & Earl, R. (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, V. (2007). Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance.


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