But Why Lift Weights?

“But why lift weights? Why not cardio?” I often get asked this question. Its popularity is on par with:

“Should I eliminate [insert latest demonised food group here] from my diet?” (It depends, but probably not);

“Where are my abs?” (Where they’ve always been);

“How tall are you?” (6’4″);

“Do you even lift?” (That’s mean, but yes).

I’m often asked why the training programs at Optimal Health Personal Training are based around lifting weights and getting stronger, rather than cardio or the latest thing to hit the internet. I quietly chuckle to myself when I’m asked because it reminds me of this scene from Zoolander:

There are a multitude of reasons why lifting weights should be included as part of your overall balanced lifestyle, if improving your health and physique is important to you. Of course, the make up of your diet should be your first priority. You cannot out-train a poor diet. Your second priority? Lift heavy things.

But Why Lift Weights?: The Physical

A study from University of Michigan showed that a combination of controlling your diet plus incorporating weight training was beneficial for overall body composition improvement. Even though the diet only group did lose more weight overall than the diet and weight training group, the diet only group saw a decrease in their lean body mass (muscle), while the combination group saw an increase. This means the combination group not only lost more body fat, but their overall body composition was greater than the diet only group (more muscle, less fat).

The take-home sound byte? If you want to lose weight, diet. If you want to lose body fat, combine diet and weight training.

Another study conducted at Tufts University demonstrated that after 12 weeks of strength training participants increased not only their lean body mass but also their resting metabolic rate. Your RMR is the amount of calories your body needs at rest to fuel its metabolic activity, such as heart beat, breathing, temperature and muscle mass. This means the study participants needed to burn more calories per day to sustain their improved physiques.

The take-home sound byte? Increasing your lean muscle mass by lifting weights will fast-track your fat loss results.

But Why Lift Weights?: The Mental

There are benefits that go beyond the physical of why lifting weights is beneficial. Being challenged physically will reveal what you are made of mentally. You will learn more about yourself and your ability to overcome failure through physical challenges; Lifting weights; spending time under the iron; being tasked with the raw goal of lifting a heavy object off the ground, than you could via other pursuits.

There will be days when you don’t feel like going the gym. There will be sets that you don’t feel like finishing. There will be exercises you don’t like and be tempted to ‘phone it in’. There will be instances when everyone else in the gym will see you fail. If you keep showing up, then you’ll develop the mental fortitude to get past failure, work when you don’t feel like it, and discover what you’re really made of mentally and physically.

Far too often people get caught up on what the scales tells them. What if, after months of consistently showing up, putting in the effort in the gym and adhering to an appropriate nutrition framework, you hopped on to the scales only to see the number had shifted only slightly (if at all). Does that make you a bad person? Umm, no.

In a flip of the scenario as above, what if our focus were on tangible goals? The scale won’t tell you that your push-ups have progressed from knees to toes. The scales didn’t see you get your first pull-up. The scales can’t measure the feeling you have when deadlifting twice your bodyweight, for reps. The scale doesn’t know you; that you are better than you were yesterday. Jerk scales.

Focusing on tangible and performance-based goals will create a sense of purpose in the weight room, sustainable over the long term and be an incredibly mentally rewarding experience. Lifting weights solidifies your sense of self worth; in my experience if you can increase your efforts and performance in the gym, the initial reason you begun this journey to optimal health will take care of itself.

But Why Lift Weights?: Be A Better Version Of You

Finally, strength training allows you to transform into a better version of yourself. Improving your health and fitness allows you to do more in life. You will be more resistant to illness and injury, have confidence in your abilities while recognising your limitations. You will be able to keep up with your children (or grand children), walk up a flight of stairs without being short of breath, or change the world by inspiring others to take action on their own health.

Bronnie Ware, a nurse from New South Wales who spent over ten years caring for dying individuals and is now an international speaker and author said it best,

Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it ~ Bronnie Ware

The take-home sound byte? Challenging your body is a great method for discovering the strength of your mind. And one of the best ways to challenge your body is through lifting weights.

If you currently lift weights, great! Keep going. If you’re not, I hope there is enough evidence for you on why lifting weights is not only a beneficial aspect of any exercise and weight loss program, but it’s crucial in long-term weight maintenance. The psychological and self worth benefits should be spoken about more frequently and by more professionals.

Now please, no more questions about“But why male models?” If you do have further questions about why lifting weights is a good thing, you can reach me here.

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