"Strength is a glass." a common phrase I have adopted when I discuss the importance of strength training. What this phrase communicates is the stronger you are the bigger your proverbial glass. In other words, regardless of my goal, if I get stronger it will be much easier to achieve my goal. This being said, the means to get stronger can sometimes be intimidating.
For instance, I remember when I was in middle school, I wanted to get more fit, but I was actually scared of free weights. I would explain myself away thinking I do not need them, and in fact, they are just more dangerous than they are good for me.
Truth is free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and other implements are amazing tools truly helping individuals get strong. However, the fear of moving heavy weight has led to a trend of only using cardio and aerobic-esque type classes in order to improve body composition.
I am hear to say, that if body composition improvement is desired, than you must be willing to push yourself. For some of us this takes courage and it forces us outside of our comfort zone. But when you do step out you will be awakened to a wonderful world you may not have ever known.
Without going too in depth with the science, lifting weights and getting stronger has some key roles as it pertains to changing your body composition. An older study performed by Campbell et al. (1994) found that resistance training and the increased muscle mass that comes from it increase the bodies energy requirements. In other words your body burns more calories when it has more muscle, even if you're not doing anything.
Stiegler and Cunlife (2012) looked at resistance training for individuals when they were following a weight loss nutrition plan and found that resistance training helped preserve their muscle mass. This is huge, because once the diet is over, the better preserved your muscle mass the easier it will be to maintain the changes you have made for yourself.
Suffice to say, the key ingredient for increasing lean mass, specifically muscle, is strength training. However, there are some caveats to remember. THESE ARE IMPORTANT.
- ONLY COMPARE YOURSELF TO YOURSELF - Are you doing something better today than you did yesterday? Are you stronger today than you were yesterday? Great that is all that matters. Even if strength for you is not the same as someone else. Even if you it seems like you are weaker than someone else, this is OKAY! They are not you, rather than look at them spend some time looking in the mirror. Focus on yourself, be better than yourself, and do not worry about what others are doing around. I promise they are not judging.
- NUTRITION IS KEY - To paraphrase a popular quote, "the road to a six pack is not filled with doughnuts and beer." This does not mean you have to forsake this stuff forever, but what this does mean is you need to be conscientious of what you are eating. A couple of keys are to make sure you eat lots of protein, lots of veggies, and drink lots of water.
- EMBRACE THE PROCESS - I cannot say this enough. The biggest mistake people make when trying to change their body is they get hung up on the outcome they desire. The goal of body composition is not a straight path, rather its like a walk through a meadow. If you are too focused on getting out of the forest you will miss the beauty and nature around you.
- ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY - This old adage holds true for anything. Those super fit models on instagram? They did not get like that over night. A lot of major overnight success stories did not actually occur over night. Same with achieving a body that you are happy about. Back to my earlier point, it is a process.
If you want meaningful lasting change in both health and your body, you need to be willing to get stronger, but most importantly at your own pace. Take my words to heart, and take the above four points to heart, and you will find yourself not just achieving your goals, but maybe even having a little bit of fun in the process.
Campbell, W. W., Crim, M. C., Young, V. R., & Evans, W. J. (1994). Increased energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in older adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 60(2), 167-175.
Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports medicine, 36(3), 239-262.