We all know the obvious benefits of strength and resistance training. “Build muscle. Burn fat,” said the meathead. That’s true in an overly simplistic way. Here’s how it works in a nutshell. You lift weights, progressively heavier and heavier over time, you get stronger by way of adding muscle mass. Muscle mass requires more calories to maintain, therefore your metabolism gets a bit faster. That’s the holy grail because that means you can eat more without eating too much. It’s a dream scenario!
The fat burning comes in via the more muscle and faster metabolism because if you’re burning more calories during the day you’ll lose fat if you’re not overeating. So those are the obvious two, but what about the so-called hidden benefits of strength training?
Sharpen your mind
Unlike cardio or other forms of exercise, when you’re lifting weights or tossing a barbell around you need to stay focused. You need to keep your mind engaged on the task at hand with good form, good control, and good muscle tension. Lose focus and you open yourself up to potential injury. When’s the last time you focused on every step or stride while on the treadmill or the elliptical? My guess is probably never. You can let your mind wander while doing most forms of cardio.
One more point on training your brain. This will have positive affects on other aspects outside the gym too. You’ll notice more focus and clarity as your brain starts to gather and store new information. Your ability to move better and more freely, too, is an indication of the central nervous system adapting more so than your muscles.
Boost your sex drive
Strength training has been shown to be one of the best natural testosterone booster. For both men and women, this will increase your libido. It’s widely believed that strength training will help balance your hormones. That, in addition to your growing self-confidence will increase your sex drive. Obesity and inactivity have led to an increasing number of individuals with sexual dysfunctions (43% of women; 31% of men). Small bouts of exercise can drastically improve sexual functioning.
Improve your mood
Resistance training will boost not only your muscle but also your mood. A recent study found that people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training two or more days a week saw "significant" reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not. The findings also suggested that resistance exercises may be even more beneficial for those with more severe depressive symptoms.
Fight off illness
Regular exercise, especially resistance training, strengthens the body’s immune system in part by repeatedly placing it under stress. One of the best ways to fight back against chronic disease is through lifting weights. Things like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and osteoporosis can be prevented through a healthy diet and exercise.
Muscle is one of the best things to have when it comes to guarding against diabetes. Muscle is a tissue that’s super sensitive to insulin, glycogen, and sugar. Simply put, if you want to improve your insulin sensitivity, add more muscle. This will allow you more flexibility in your diet.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass.
Build your confidence
Strength makes you feel more confident. When you can carry your groceries in from with car without help or carry your luggage through the airport without rolling it, that builds confidence. Building muscle takes time, consistency, and dedication. So when you start out deadlifting 95 pounds and after a few months of practice you’re pulling 225 from the floor, that’ll make you confident as hell.