Resistance exercise can be described as any type of exercise which causes your muscles to contract against an external resistance. Simply put, it means exercising the muscles against an opposing force.
It is also often referred to as strength training.
A resistance workout routine usually consists of various exercises, performed on different types of equipment that have been specially designed for building specific muscle groups. A normal resistance training workout session should last for half an hour or so, in which you can perform one or many sets of each exercise. Some of the basic equipment used for this form of exercises includes dumbbells, barbells, rubber exercise tubing, resistance bands and swimming machines. Of course, this does not mean that resistance training can only be practiced at a fitness center. You could engage in strength training at home, using your body weight as a form of resistance force.
In order to increase your muscle mass within a shorter period of time, you should perform two to three resistance workout routines every week. Most people claim to see an improvement in their muscle mass and tone within the first few months of training.
Muscle hypertrophy or an increase in the size of muscles is not the only advantage of resistance exercises. Many individuals take up strength training in order to –
- Augment bone mineral levels
- Boost strength, stamina and power
- Enhance body shape
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Increase metabolism
- Lose weight
- Promote a better and healthier sleeping pattern
Contrary to what many people believe, resistance exercises are also good for older people. Strength training increases the levels of bone mineral thereby preventing osteoporosis. Elderly people who engage in resistance training twice a week also notice a dramatic increase in mobility, strength and agility.
Though there are several benefits of resistance exercises, it is important to check with a doctor before taking up strength training. This is especially important if you are elderly or are suffering from any underlying medical condition.
A typical resistance workout session should last for around half an hour and should consist of several types of exercises (around 8 to 10). Each exercise should be specifically designed to build certain muscle groups and some of them may require exercise machines. You may be asked to practice one or several sets of each exercise, with each set comprising of 8 to 15 repetitions.
Certain physical activity guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine include suggestions for resistance exercises. According to these guidelines, 2 or 3 workout sessions every week have been recommended for most individuals, depending upon their age, body type and medical history.
Never engage in resistance training on a daily basis, as it causes your muscle fibers to break down. In the days following the workout session, the fibers get repaired and become stronger than before, so that they can meet the demands that have been placed on them.
Therefore, the days of rest are as important for building muscles, as the exercise days.
Besides increase in muscle mass, there are several different health benefits that have been associated with strength training –
- Weight loss: As the muscle mass in your body increases to replace fat, your metabolic rate gets enhanced. Therefore, strength training not only helps you lose weight, but also enables you to stay within a healthy weight range at all times.
- Preventing osteoporosis: Strength training increases the bone mineral amounts in your body. Performing resistance exercises regularly after the age of 35 slows down the loss of muscle mass and reduces the risks of developing osteoporosis.
- Improving heart health: Resistance exercises help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglycerides. This improves the overall functioning of your heart and prevents heart attacks. Strength training also lowers blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the risks of diabetes.
Though there are many health benefits associated with resistance exercises, it is important to check with a doctor before trying them. If you are suffering from a preexisting medical condition like hypertension, you may be advised to lift lighter weights for more repetitions.
There are 3 methods of practicing resistance training exercises and these include –
- Weight machines: These include devices with adjustable seats and handles that are attached to hydraulics or weights. Your movements are controlled by the machines you choose to exercise with. However, you can choose the weights you want to lift by adding or removing plates.
- Free weights: These include training tools like barbells and dumbbells. They allow you to control and determine your body position while lifting weights.
- Calisthenics: These are resistance exercises that you perform without any tools or equipment. Calisthenics usually include activities in which your body weight becomes the resistance force, for example - chin ups, sit up and pushups.
It is important to take up resistance training under the guidance and supervision of a certified fitness expert. In fact, it is highly recommended that you speak to a doctor, a personal trainer or gym instructor and a physiotherapist before you start weight or resistance training.