Why Strength Training Matters
Strength Training has a different meaning to many people. To some it may mean working out, to others it may be any kind of resistance training, and to some it may be training with the sole intent of building strength. No matter your personal definition, strength training is extremely beneficial. For the purpose of this article “strength training” will refer to training that is specifically designed to increase an individual’s strength. For someone who has been sedentary just working our might be considered strength training, but for an advanced lifter this may mean a very focused 6-week portion of their overall training plan.
In my mind, the benefits of strength training can be broken down into two major areas; improved athletic performance and improved overall health. While these two go hand-in-hand each can be broken down into more and more subsections. On top of this, someone’s desired outcome could greatly change their training. For example, a professional football player will most likely train with athletic performance in mind, whereas the majority of the population will likely be training for the health benefits associated.
Improved Athletic Performance
Strength Improves Other Qualities
Strength, and the process of training for it, is extremely important for athletic performance. Strength underpins nearly every other athletic quality. This means that improving your overall strength can help to improve other qualities such as; power, endurance, balance, coordination, and many others.
Increasing an athlete’s strength levels, while keeping all other qualities equal, would ultimately result in a better overall athlete. Power is essentially strength expressed over time, so being stronger would result is a more powerful athlete given they had the technical proficiency to perform any movements the same. Building a higher level of strength, especially relative to your bodyweight, would also improve balance capabilities. Because your body is capable of supporting more and more weight as you become stronger, handling your own bodyweight becomes easier.
Reduces Risk of Injury
A study completed in 2013 concluded that general workouts reduced injury risk by ~37 percent, but strength training reduced the risk by ~68 percent. This study included over 26,000 participants over 25 separate trials. These results are extremely telling and provide an enormous case for strength training. This makes a lot of sense conceptually as well. A stronger system has a greater ability to control limbs and joints through space.
Low Hanging Fruit
Strength training really is the low hanging fruit. Overall, strength provides so many benefits, it simply makes the most sense to chase that adaptation before any other. This is why many athletic performance programs spend so much of their time and resources focusing on building strength. There is certainly a point of diminishing returns, but for vast majority of people strength training will increase athletic performance, and many other individual attributes as well.
Health Drives Performance
Before we get into the additional health benefits that have been associated with strength training, I’d like to point out that health drives performance. This simply means that by creating a healthier system overall you will also improve your ability to perform. Each of these next points can also be seen as performance enhancing benefits on top of their health benefits.
Overall Health Benefits
Improved Bone Mineral Density
Strength training has been shown to improve bone mineral density as well as reduce the risk of osteoporosis. According to a 2014 study, strength training can improve bone mineral density by 2.2%. Very few people strength train for the sole purpose of increasing their bone mineral density, so this is an amazing additional benefit. This can be extremely important for older individuals as well, as osteoporosis is more common in those over age 50.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
According to a 2018 research study, individuals who regularly strength train have better-functioning HDL. It has also been shown that strength training improves blood pressure and triglyceride levels in the body. The best part about this is the barrier to entry is very low. According to the study, individuals decreased their risk of metabolic diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes) by 29% by strength training for an average of 1 hour per week. This is a huge effect for very little work. A small amount of strength training can greatly improve your heart health.
Improved Body Composition
While it is possible to gain strength without muscular growth, the two usually go hand in hand. There are also may benefits associated with increases in muscle mass. The most well known benefit of increased muscle mass is an increase in metabolic rate. This simply means that more muscle mass equals an increase in calories burnt throughout each day. This can also lead to improved body composition over time. By increasing the metabolic rate and burning more calories each day, the body could lose fat over time which would result in a better overall composition.
Strength training is associated with many benefits to overall health and performance, but perhaps the most meaningful is its relationship with life expectancy. According to a 2012 literature review, it was determined that strength training can increase life expectancy by .5 to 4.2 years.
Strength training, no matter your definition, can greatly improve your quality of life. Whether you’re looking to increase your athletic performance or just become a healthier version of yourself, strength training often provides the most bang for your buck. Focusing on building your strength can make daily living activities easier, can improve your body composition, and can reduce your risk of metabolic diseases and injuries. Strength training can be done by anyone and often without any (or very limited) equipment.