Why you should prioritize strength training
Whether your goal is to build muscle, lose fat (or both), maintain or build strength, stay healthy into old age or improve athletic performance, strength training is a requisite.
You see, whilst you can adapt your training to suit specific goals, for the most part, the training required for fat loss is the very same training required for muscle gain, the difference is what you eat.
To burn fat, you will need to do strength training and be in an overall calorie deficit.
To build muscle, you will need to do strength training and be in a calorie surplus.
If you try to lose weight, or more specifically body fat, without strength training (through just diet or endless cardio) you fail to challenge your muscles enough to signal to your body that it needs that muscle tissue, and whilst in a calorie deficit, your body will burn some of your energy-consuming muscle tissue in an attempt to save itself from starvation. You may burn fat as well, but the amount of muscle tissue you lose will be higher than if you do strength training, and the amount of fat you burn will be lower.
If however, you do regular strength training and challenge your muscles, your body recognises that it needs that muscle tissue (because it’s being used) and will hold onto it, tipping the scales in favour of burning more fat and less muscle.
So, whether your goal is muscle gain or fat loss, you should be doing strength training along with the appropriate dietary protocol.
Whilst “cardio” (such as running) has always been the go-to for weight loss, and it is great for burning calories, it just doesn’t challenge the muscles enough to preserve them if you’re in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, so the weight you lose from running will likely be both muscle and fat.
This is the reason I would always prioritise strength training over “cardio”.
If you only have 2-3 hours a week to train, don’t run, lift weights.
It’s also worth remembering that muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue (meaning it burns more calories), so losing muscle tissue will actually result in you burning fewer calories, not just when you’re training, but all day every day too! So, it’s definitely worth putting the effort in to at least maintain whatever muscle you have.
And for anyone worried about “getting muscly” – don’t.
For a start, if you’re in a calorie deficit, you simply won’t have the building blocks needed to pack on masses of muscle tissue, and even if you’re in a calorie surplus, it’s HARD to build lots of muscle tissue! Even for men who have more testosterone to help (ask any guy in the gym – it’s not easy to get big!).
If your goal is to maintain or build strength, this will also be through regular strength training, and there’s no downside to being stronger! This, to me, should be a goal for everyone, regardless of age, but it becomes even more important as you get older when people tend to lose strength and mobility. If you can start or maintain a strength training routine, you’ll be less likely to suffer the usual problems that many elderly people face due to a lack of strength and mobility.
For athletic performance, you’ll generally want stronger, more powerful muscles, and that again will come from strength training - this is where it becomes more important to ensure you’re doing the right kind of training to suit your specific goals and sport, but suffice to say, if you’re not doing strength training, it’s unlikely that you’ll progress as much as you potentially could.
Finally, health-wise, stronger muscles will support your body more effectively as well as help you maintain your weight and keep insulin levels under better control as the muscles will be burning fuel and creating space for the fuel you eat to be stored in the muscle rather than just going straight into fat cells. Stronger muscles will support your joints more effectively and may help reduce aches and pains too. The added challenge of strength training also helps keep your bones strong and will stave off osteoporosis as you age.
The benefits of strength training are many, more than I can list here, and if you’re doing it safely, there’s really no downside.
So, prioritise strength training over other types of exercise and reap the rewards, whatever your age.
If you need help with getting an appropriate routine in place and getting your nutrition aligned with your goals, get in touch and let’s have a chat :)
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