Sometimes known as strength training or weight lifting, many people (women in particular) believe that this form of training will make them hairy, muscular and in need of a beard trimmer. However, asking someone to chose between resistance training or Cardio work is like having to choose between having no food or no water-both are essential for a healthy toned you.Resistance training is a type of exercise where the muscles apply force to an external resistance. It doesn’t necessarily involve lifting heavy weights, as resistance can be provided by a variety of things-body weight, elastic bands, bottles of water and even bags of sugar can all be used to provide an effective work out.

Exploding the myth

Before we begin it is important to deal with a few long standing myths:

Women and weight training

Women who lift weights do NOT develop bulky muscles, or resemble Russian weight lifters. Muscle growth is largely dependent on the male growth hormone testosterone, so men are much more likely to bulk up. In women exercising in the correct range will enhance muscle tone, giving a firmer shapelier figure.

Will weight training make me cumbersome?

Weight training will NOT make you slow and cumbersome. Increased muscle tone improves speed, co-ordination and agility, with training institutes around the world using resistance work to get the best speed power and agility out of their athletes. Sprinters are some of the most muscular athletes around-they are certainly not slow. It does NOT take ages to get results-study after study has shown that high quality workouts lasting just 20 minutes and performed 2 times a week can bring substantial improvements in your strength, muscle tone and bone density. By using good technique and the right number of sets and reps you will get results in no time at all.

Burning fat

You cannot target specific areas to burn off unwanted fat. Many magazines and articles lead you to believe that if you do 100 sit-ups a day you will have a flat tummy. The body works as a whole system, and only by addressing the whole system (nutrition, lean muscle mass, energy output, and metabolism) will improvements come. The body burns fat from all over, so resistance training all body areas will start to tone and increase overall lean muscle mass and burn fat from all over.

Muscles help burn fat

Muscles that are toned are on standby all day, and burn more energy. In our previous article we talked about the all-important metabolic rate, and how lean muscle mass influences it. By resistance training you will begin to increase this mass ans so are starting up an engine that will be using fat all day.

Resistance training and weight loss

If you do start to reduce your calorie intake to lose weight, the silver lining is that as you are placing demands on the muscles the body must hold on to them-starvation response is avoided and the only source of energy left is fat.

Resistance training and bone density

There are even more benefits-as we age our bones become more brittle and porous, but weight training reverses this process and makes the bones adapt to stimulus. This ensures your bones retain their vital strength. The earlier you start the better, but even at the age of 90 resistance training can give dramatic improvements in bone density.

You will also stabilise the joints, improving your balance and co-ordination. All the joints are held together and supported by the muscles-the stronger they are then the stronger and more stable your joints are. Weights also improve the way your brain communicates with your muscles, making you more co-ordinated. They similarly improve the fast twitch fibres that you use when reacting quickly. This is the key to good reflexes and will help if you ever have to brake suddenly in the car or step out of the way of a bus!.

Resistance training improves functional strength

Functional just means something you would do in everyday life. Whether lifting shopping, playing football, or fixing the sink, functional strength translates into all aspects of your life. This has a tremendous impact on your overall well being and also reduces the risk of an injury at work or at play by up to 30%.

Other proven benefits…

Reduce and control osteoarthritis

Lowers unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels

Manages and reduces negative stress

Prevent back pain

Reduced effects of diabetes

Enhance confidence and self-esteem

Hot tips..

Always use good form and technique

Train 1–3 times a week

Always allow a day for recovery. During resistance training you are actually damaging some of your muscle fibres; these need a day or so to repair (stronger and better) so always go for it on alternate days for the best results.

Have realistic expectations when you start-be willing to put in some effort and time and you will get the results you want!

To get the muscles to adapt and improve you must go into overload- don’t worry, this doesn’t mean bursting at the seams, just that the last few reps have to be hard.

Breathe out with the effort, breathe in when returning to the start position

Sip plenty of water during your session