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Why Strength Matters

One of the most compelling reasons to do resistance training is that it is necessary for retaining functional fitness and good health. Our bodies were designed to be strong and active. Our prehistoric ancestors had to be physically active – they ran and lifted heavy things daily - in order to survive their harsh environment.  But exercise - and strength training, in particular - is largely thought to be nonessential to survival in today's world.  Mark Rippetoe eloquently states in his book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training:

              Since most of us now have been liberated from the necessity of personally obtaining our subsistence, physical activity is regarded as optional.  Indeed it is, from the standpoint of immediate necessity, but the reality of millions of years of adaptation to a ruggedly physical existence will not just go away because desks were invented (1).

The decision to begin an exercise program is a huge step toward improving one's wellness and quality of life.  Many new to exercise focus exclusively on aerobic exercise, and for some, this is an appropriate choice.  Most people starting out could benefit from both cardio and resistance training, however.  Resistance training can be intimidating because it requires a little skill and patience to learn proper technique. It also requires some knowledge of how to structure a workout session in order to achieve results.  It doesn't help that the typical person hanging out by the squat rack may look like a member of another species to someone new to lifting. Intimidating as it may seem, the benefits of resistance training are too important to ignore.

Resistance training improves how you look and feel.  Toned, defined muscle is attractive on males and females. When you look good, you feel good about yourself.  Resistance training boosts confidence. Women often shun resistance training because they are afraid of "bulking up". While some women are genetically predisposed to gain more muscle than others, the fear of looking like a linebacker is unfounded because women produce only about a tenth of the testosterone that men do. Testosterone is essential for muscle synthesis.

Indeed, strength training can help one look leaner.  Muscle is one of the more metabolically active tissues in our body; adding muscle through resistance training helps one burn more calories, even during rest.2 Performing resistance training to retain muscle while cutting calories can make weight loss much easier.  Those who are overweight typically have a higher metabolism by virtue of being larger.  They have developed musculature to support additional weight.  Preserving that muscle through resistance training while losing fat will help counteract the metabolic slowdown that can sideline one’s weight loss efforts.

Gaining muscle is good for your heart and metabolic health. Lowering one's body fat percentage by adding muscle mass in addition to a healthy diet may reduce the risk of disease, as well as improve one's appearance and level of confidence.  A high body fat to lean tissue ratio is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders and heart disease.  Muscle is more dense than fat, so an increase in muscle mass decreases one's body fat percentage.  Even people who appear thin can still have a high body fat percentage if they lack muscle. Studies have suggested that normal weight obesity can be a risk factor for metabolic disorders.3

Strength training makes you, well, stronger. Strength, in and of itself, is a desirable attribute. Traditionally, men are admired for their strength, and now increasingly, women are as well.  Strong and powerful athletes – male and female – are American royalty.  

                                        martha blog

More importantly, however, strength is necessary to maintain balance and coordination, mobility, and overall fitness. Strength training, especially weight bearing exercise, causes adaptations in our bones, making them stronger and preventing the likelihood of osteoporosis and fractures. Connective tissue also benefits from increased muscle mass.  The ACSM states that research suggests that larger muscles mean stronger connective tissue.4 Strength gains in muscle, bone, and connective tissue can help us avoid injury, particularly as we age. The older population can prevent debilitating injuries and maintain independence by including a resistance training program that includes exercises to maintain balance and improve mobility.

Resistance training is at least as important for our health and well-being as a cardio program.  To summarize, the benefits are as follows:

·         Improves appearance, confidence

·         Improves fat to lean body mass ratio

·         Boosts metabolism, fight fat

·         Helps combat heart disease, metabolic disorders

·         Increases strength, bone density, and connective tissue strength

·         Improve mobility and balance

Martha Snee is a certified personal trainer and group instructor for The Fitness Loft. She obtained her certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise Science from Capital University.  Martha earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and currently enjoys CrossFit and strength training. Join Martha on Saturdays for the Beginner Weights series.

1.  Rippetoe, M., & Kilgore, L. (2007). Starting strength: Basic barbell training (2nd ed.). Wichita Falls, TX:      Aasgaard.

2.  Alexander, J. (2002). The role of resistance exercise in weight loss. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 24(1),         65-69. Retrieved June 10, 2015, from                PDFs/PT Classic - The Role of Resistance Exercise in Weight Loss.pdf

3.  Mayo Clinic. (2008, March 29). Normal weight obesity: An emerging risk factor for heart and metabolic   problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 10, 2015 from

4.  (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2015, from

                Written for the American College of Sports Medicine by Jay Hoffman, Ph.D., FACSM


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January 12, 2019
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February 18, 2018
Very smart, indeed, we get soft these times because of our life conditions, we are yet to learn the real effects of that in our life quality. It's optional to strengthen our bodies and usually we start getting preoccupied by that only when it's too late. The simple benefits of squats can be a wake-up call. Finding the time for getting physical is definitely not a waste, it's always a gain for every little aspect of our lives.
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