Do You Even Lift, Bro?! Why Heavy Resistance Training is an Essential Part of Life For Everyone
I don’t want to hear it if you’ve tried a dozen times to get into a routine of going to your local GloboGym and using the machines for a dozen sets in an effort to “tone up”. I don’t want to hear it if you’ve attended a handful of BodyPump classes with your friends but couldn’t keep up with it due to scheduling or how sore it made you. I definitely don’t want to hear it if you think that your sporting or daily activity demands do not benefit from weightlifting, and that is the subject of this post.
You should be performing heavy resistance training most (i.e. ~3-5) days of the week, whomever you are, whatever your schedule and lifestyle and goals. I don’t care if you’re an ultra-endurance athlete or a tennis player, a full-time cyclist or a CEO, lifting weights 3-5x/wk is essential not only to your health and longevity, it creates the bottom of the pyramid for all physical abilities.
Our friend Bret Contreras recently wrote a post from a global perspective about why you should lift and why most people lift (to look good naked, obviously) and his list of scientifically documented benefits of resistance training is pretty comprehensive
Maintain functional ability
Increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance
Increase metabolic rate
Improve glucose metabolism
Decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness
Decrease body fat and central adiposity
Improve gastrointestinal transit time
Reduce the risk of diabetes
Reduce the risk of heart disease
Reduce the risk of cancer
Reduce the risk of falls, fractures and disabilities
Decrease cardiovascular demands of exercise
Decrease triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels
Increase HDL cholesterol levels
Increase muscle and connective tissue strength and hypertrophy
Increase mobility and flexibility
Increase joint stability
Improve balance and coordination
Increase brain/cognitive function
Increase confidence, self-esteem, and happiness
Combat depression and anxiety
Combat metabolic syndrome
Combat frailty syndrome
Improve function in people with cancer, dementia, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, post-stroke disability, lupus, asthma, diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autism, bipolar disorder, COPD, epilepsy, low back pain, neck pain, chronic headache, and erectile dysfunction
Increase strength, power, speed, and endurance
Prevent ACL, hamstring strain, lumbar, ankle sprain, and shoulder injuries
Improve quality of life
This list, for the record, blows the equivalent list for jogging or putzing around on the eliptical out of the water!
“But I’m an endurance athlete,” you might say! “I need to be skinny and light and don’t need strength.” Check out this Outstanding Infographic from our friend Dr. Yann Le Meur.
I have a personal theory that if all endurance athletes stopped whining about their weight and added five pounds of muscle, they would (if trained properly) all get faster. The literature heavily supports this theory (see below) but legions of skinny folks out there won’t put it to the test. I don’t know about you all but personally my favourite scene in endurance sports is the muscular group of Cavendish, Kittel, and Greipel battling it out at the end of a long Tour de France stage. Those guys are ATHLETES!
Muscle is cool.
I won’t dive today into why women should lift too, as that is definitely a whole other post to come soon. What I will say is that if you still think that lifting is only for people who want to get big, watch Olympian Zoe Smith complete her Clean & Jerk and Snatch. If that isn’t a beautiful display of human strength and athleticism from a person with a physique all women could strive for, then I don’t know what is!
Go outside right now, pick a heavy barbell up off the ground, find a bar and do a pull-up, do some dips, a handstand, or a simple lunge, and try to claim that you don’t feel better. Just lift, bro!
Aagaard P, Andersen JL. Effects of strength training on endurance capacity in top-level endurance athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2010: 20 (Suppl. 2): 39-47.
Aagaard P, Andersen JL, Bennekou M, Larsson B, Olesen JL, Crameri R, Magnusson SP, Kjaer M. Effects of resistance training on endurance capacity and muscle fiber compositionÂ in young top-level cyclists. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2010: 21: e298-e307
Apro W, Wang L, Ponten M, Blomstrand E, Sahlin K. Resistance exercise induced mTORC1 signaling is not impaired by subsequent endurance exercise in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2013: 305 E22-E32.
Bishop D, Jenkins DG, Mackinnon LT, McEniery M, Carey MF. The effects of strength training on endurance performance and muscle characteristics. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999: 31:886-891
Green H, Goreham C, Ouyang J,Ball-Burnett M, Ranney D. RegulationÂ of fiber size, oxidative potential, and capillarization in human muscle by resistance exercise. Am J Physiol 1999: 276: R591-R596
Paavolainen L, Hakkinen K, Hamalainen I, Nummela A, Rusko H Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. J Appl Physiol 1999: 86: 1527-1533.
Ronnestad BR, Hansen EA, Raastad T. Effect of heavy strength training on thigh muscle cross-sectional area, performance determinants, and performance in well-trained cyclists Eur J Appl Physiol 2010: 108:965-975.
Ronnestad BR, Mujika I. OptimizingÂ strength training for running andÂ cycling endurance performance: aÂ review. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2013: 4: 602-612.
Tesch PA, Komi PV, Hakkinen K Enzymatic adaptations consequentÂ to long-term strength training. Int JÂ Sports Med 1987: 8 (Suppl. 1): 66-69
Chilibeck PD, Syrotuik DG, Bell GJ. TheÂ effect of strength training on estimatesÂ of mitochondrial density andÂ distribution throughout muscle fibres Eur J Appl Physiol Occup PhysiolÂ 1999: 80: 604-609.