Lifting weights is the best way to get strong and build an impressive physique. However, those are not the only benefits of strength training.
Whether you’re a general fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder, or new to exercise, the advantages of strength training extend to everyone, old and young.
In this article, we’ll explore the many remarkable benefits of resistance exercise, including everything from increased strength and improved bone health to better brain health and a boost in self-confidence and overall quality of life.
These are 20 of the most amazing benefits of strength training.
Increases Muscle Strength
It’s in the name: strength training makes you stronger.
When you engage in regular strength training and challenge your muscles, they adapt by growing stronger.
Your body becomes good at what you do, and if you lift heavy weights, it becomes good at lifting not only dumbbells and barbells but everything in everyday life.
One of the most obvious benefits of powerful muscles is improved physical performance in exercise and sports.
Muscular strength isn’t just valuable in the weight room or the athletic field, though. Daily tasks that used to be a chore or struggle are suddenly easy with stronger muscles.
Maintaining or increasing muscular strength becomes even more crucial as you age. After 50, you can lose 1.5–5% of your strength each year, and that rate of decline accelerates each decade.
Unless you do something about it.
Lifting weights considerably increases muscle strength in men and women over 50. Or even after 80.
It might not be the proverbial fountain of youth, but strength training is as close as you get. Progressive resistance training significantly boosts physical function in seniors.
If you haven’t lifted before, you quickly get stronger in the first weeks of strength training and start reaping the benefits as soon as you pick up the weights for the first time.
Healthy and strong muscles help you walk, run, lift and move things, jump, sport, play with your children and grandchildren, and all other things you love. And keep doing them your entire life.
Increased lean muscle mass is the second primary effect of weight training. While aerobic exercise can moderately boost muscle size, primarily in untrained people, resistance training is the best type of exercise for building muscle.
Many people want to build muscle for looks and to improve their physical appearance. And there is nothing wrong with that. Confidence in your appearance translates positively into many other parts of your life.
However, muscle size isn’t all about looks. Muscle mass is essential for function and health, especially as you age.
As with muscular strength, the size of your muscle mass also declines with age. If you are physically inactive, muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after 30 and even faster after 60.
At 80, close to half the muscle mass you had at 25 might be gone.
Again, strength training to the rescue. It is the best way to prevent age-related muscle loss and even gain lean mass.
Research shows that lifting weights “unequivocally results in substantial benefits exemplified by muscle fiber hypertrophy” in older adults.
Use it or lose it. Case in point: this magnetic resonance image of a 40-year-old triathlete (top panel), a 74-year-old sedentary man (middle panel), and a 70-year-old triathlete (bottom panel).
Some people, particularly women, are hesitant to start lifting weights for fear they will get bulky. That is a misconception: there is zero risk of suddenly finding yourself “bulky” or having built more muscle mass than you want.
It is possible to build massive amounts of muscle through weight-lifting, but it requires equally massive dedication and effort to training and diet, often a complete lifestyle change. It doesn’t happen unless you want it to happen.
>> How to Build Muscle: Exercises, Programs & Diet
Improves Bone Density and Reduces the Risk of Osteoporosis
Strength training isn’t just good for your muscles but also for that thing that carries them: your skeleton. Strong bones and muscles are a fantastic combination for a functional body that lasts a lifetime.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone density and deterioration of bone tissue. It increases the risk of fractures and other bone-related injuries.
Outside of non-modifiable things like age, race, and gender, a sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.
- Both aerobic workouts and resistance training provide weight-bearing stimulus to your bones. However, exercise has to stress your bones significantly to be effective. For example, walking is great for your health in many ways, but it is ineffective for osteoporosis prevention, as it only modestly increases the load on the skeleton.
- Exercise that enhances muscle strength and mass, on the other hand, increases bone mass and the strength of the specific bones stressed. That makes strength training invaluable for preventing, slowing, or even reversing the loss of bone mass in individuals with osteoporosis.
- Strength training stresses the bones, which signals the body to produce more bone tissue. As the bones become stronger, bone mineral density increases, which reduces the risk of fractures and other bone-related injuries.
Research has shown that strength training can improve bone density in people of all ages, but it is vital for older adults. As we age, our bones naturally become less dense.
Strength training can help to slow down this natural bone loss and even promote the growth of new bone tissue.
Authorities like the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommend that most adults should aim to engage in strength training three or four times per week for optimal bone health.
Improves Heart Health and Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Contrary to popular belief, the bicep is not the most important muscle in the human body. The heart might just edge it out.
Your heart keeps you alive and pumps out blood 100,000 times per day. The benefits of strength training extend to your heart, just like all your other muscles.
Strength training offers cardiovascular benefits and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Regular strength training can lower blood pressure, improve lipid metabolism by increasing the “good” cholesterol and reducing the “bad,” reduce inflammation in your body, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve cardiovascular function by increasing cardiac output, the amount of blood your heart pumps.
- All the above are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, making weightlifting one of the best things you can do for heart health. In fact, research shows that as little as 60 minutes of weekly strength training is associated with a 19% lower risk of dying from CVD.
In short, incorporating strength training into a well-rounded exercise program offers significant cardiovascular benefits and reduces the risk of CVD. The American Heart Association recommends at least two days of strength training per week in addition to aerobic exercise for overall heart health.
Increases Metabolism and Helps You Burn Fat
Lifting weights is a crucial component of weight management and improving body composition. It is as effective as aerobic training for losing body fat but uniquely effective for preserving muscle mass and metabolism during weight loss.
A weight-loss diet without strength training invariably leads to significant muscle loss. You can minimize or entirely prevent that scenario by incorporating weightlifting into your fat-loss efforts.
Strength training can improve metabolism and increase fat burning in several ways.
- When you engage in strength training, you build lean muscle mass. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue, so the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. On average, nine months of resistance training increases the resting metabolic rate by ~5%. That might not sound like a lot, but it adds up over time, working in the background to burn calories 24/7.
- Strength training increases excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which is the amount of oxygen your body consumes after exercise. The increased oxygen consumption leads to an increased calorie burn for several hours after your strength training workouts, more so than after aerobic exercise.
- Weight training also burns a significant amount of calories during the exercise itself. Not as much as endurance exercise or high-intensity interval training, but lifting weights requires more energy and therefore burns more calories than low-intensity exercises like walking or yoga. Most people burn between 4 kcal/min and 8 kcal/min during a gym workout. Compound exercises like the squat or deadlift work major muscle groups and burn significantly more calories than doing isolation movements for small muscles.
Strength training alone is not enough for significant fat loss. But combined with a caloric deficit and a healthy diet, it will help you lose fat while maintaining or gaining muscle.
>> How to Cut: Lose Fat and Keep Your Muscle Mass
Increases Joint Mobility and Flexibility
Back in the day, trainers and coaches advised their athletes to avoid strength training or outright forbade it out of fear they would get “muscle-bound” and inflexible.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Weight training increases your joint range of motion.
- When you perform strength training exercises through a full range of motion, it can help to increase your joint’s range of motion. For example, performing squats through a full range of motion increases hip and knee flexibility.
- Lifting weights is just as effective as stretching. Effective enough that you might not even need stretching before or after your training sessions to improve flexibility. The lifting itself takes care of it.
- Strength training also helps increase your muscle fascicle length. Fascicles are simply a bundle of muscle fibers within a muscle. Longer muscle bundles are associated with greater muscular power.
- In addition, strength training indirectly makes you more flexible by stabilizing your joints. Stronger muscles keep your joints stable, reducing the risk of injury as they can move more freely and with greater movement and position control.
If your flexibility is poor, you’ll see the greatest improvement by taking up regular resistance training. But trained and active people with a high baseline of flexibility experience significant improvements in flexibility, too.
I’m sure it’s possible to become more inflexible by resistance exercise if you consistently use heavier weights than you can handle and only perform a minimal range of motion.
However, weightlifting using proper form and a full range of motion has a positive effect on your muscle and joint flexibility and is one of many benefits of strength training.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance
Maintaining good insulin sensitivity is vital for overall health.
A high insulin sensitivity allows your body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. On the other hand, a low insulin sensitivity forces your body to produce more insulin to keep your blood sugar in check.
Being sensitive to insulin reduces the risk of developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other medical conditions.
- Research shows that strength training is highly beneficial for your insulin sensitivity. For example, a recent study found that three weekly strength training sessions helped improve insulin sensitivity in overweight men by 16% in just six weeks.
- Over time, a lower insulin sensitivity through weightlifting translates into a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. One study followed more than 35,000 older women for an average of 10 years and found that those who lifted weights experienced a 30% reduced rate of type 2 diabetes.
- Lifting weights also helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. As your muscles grow, they can better transport glucose from the blood into your muscle cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use. Your skeletal muscle accounts for up to 80% of your glucose consumption. The more lean body mass you have, the better your glucose tolerance and regulation.
Improves Cognitive Function
Strength training builds your brain, not just your muscles. The many benefits of strength training include better cognitive abilities as well as brawn.
- Lifting weights increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain and promotes brain health and function, including improved cognitive abilities such as focus, attention, multi-tasking, and problem-solving skills.
- In addition, strength training may increase your levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that promotes the growth and maintenance of neurons and is associated with improved cognition.
I knew it was a smart thing to start lifting weights!
Reduces the Risk of Certain Cancers
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce cancer risk. While most research has focused on aerobic training, evidence shows that strength training offers unique benefits.
- People who regularly lift weights have a significantly lower risk of colon, kidney, and bladder cancer than those who don’t lift. According to one systematic review, combining resistance and aerobic exercise might confer even more significant benefits. Strength training might also lower the risk for other cancers, but there isn’t enough research to say for sure.
- Another study followed over 80,000 adults aged 30 and older for ~20 years and found that strength training at least twice weekly was associated with significantly lower cancer mortality. Participating in any form of resistance training, gym-based or focused on bodyweight exercises, reduced the likelihood of dying from cancer by a massive 31%. And that’s after accounting for factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health status.
It is important to remember that all these studies look at the association between strength training and cancer.
They can’t prove cause and effect.
That being said, even if strength training may not directly reduce the risk of developing cancer, it certainly contributes to an overall healthy lifestyle that helps lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
Reduces Your Risk of Injury
Few things are as effective as strength training for preventing injuries. Improving overall strength and stability increases your body’s resilience and allows you to engage in sports and physical activities without fear of hurting yourself.
- Strong muscles provide support and stability for your joints, reducing the risk of sprains, strains, and similar injuries.
- Weight training also strengthens the integrity of your tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues.
- Resistance training can address muscle imbalances due to certain activities, postural habits, or repetitive movements, reducing the risk of overuse injuries and improving movement mechanics.
- Research shows that strength training is a superior and safe way to prevent acute and overuse injuries and athletes. The more weight training an athlete includes in their workout routine, the better for sports injury prevention.
Of course, you don’t need to be an athlete to benefit. Everything above applies to everyday activities that require physical effort: stronger muscles allow you to do everything more safely.
In addition, a weight training exercise routine that strengthens your core muscles assist in supporting your lumbar spine and is highly effective for improving low back pain.
Improves Sleep Quality and Duration
Getting enough sleep is essential for both your body and mind.
But how much you sleep is not the only important thing.
The quality of it also dramatically impacts your health and well-being.
- Sleep is critical in maintaining physical health and supports immune function, a healthy metabolism, weight management, and cardiovascular health. Lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of conditions and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Additionally, sleep is closely tied to mental and emotional well-being, and getting sufficient sleep enhances cognitive function, including memory and attention.
Regular strength training improves all aspects of sleep, particularly sleep quality.
Also, lifting weights improves anxiety and symptoms of depression, which can impact your sleep negatively.
Want to sleep better? Go lift some weights! The benefits of strength training are apparent even when you’re not awake.
Enhances Athletic Performance and Physical Function
Strength training is crucial to improving athletic performance across many sports and athletic activities.
- The direct consequences of lifting weights – hypertrophy, strength, power, and muscular endurance – all play a role in achieving peak performance.
- When you improve your muscle strength, your body can generate more power, and you can propel yourself faster. You can use that power to enhance performance in explosive movements, such as sprinting, jumping, and throwing, as well as in activities that require force production and resistance, like tackling or grappling in contact sports.
- Furthermore, lifting weights is a great way to improve body composition: more muscle and less fat mass. A higher proportion of muscle mass is highly advantageous in sports that require strength relative to your body weight, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, and combat sports.
Many decades ago, trainers sometimes forbade their athletes from lifting weights out of fear it would make them slow and bulky.
Today, almost every athlete engages in high-intensity strength training, as it is proven to benefit performance in nearly every sport.
Increases Self-Esteem and Confidence
Weightlifting has been promoted as a cure for low self-esteem and confidence for many decades. Comics books used to be filled with ads for courses promising to make confident men out of “weaklings.”
Time and research have shown that there is indeed truth to the concept: strength training works wonders for your self-esteem.
- Strength training improves your body composition: it increases your muscle mass, reduces body fat, or both. An enhanced physical appearance can positively influence body image and self-perception. And when you’re confident in your appearance, it can translate into many other parts of your life.
- When you see yourself getting stronger, lifting heavier weights, and achieving personal fitness goals, you feel accomplished, boosting your self-esteem and confidence in the gym and other areas of life.
The positive effect of strength training on self-esteem and confidence is particularly apparent in young people.
One systematic review found that resistance exercise improves self-efficacy, perceived physical strength, physical self-worth, and global self-worth in children and youth between 5–18 years.
Physical activity in general, including strength training, is a fantastic way to boost self-esteem.
Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
One of the benefits of strength training is its ability to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Beyond its physical benefits, strength training offers several advantages in maintaining blood sugar control and promoting overall health that impact the risk of type 2 diabetes in a good way.
- As I mentioned earlier, lifting weights improves insulin sensitivity, promoting better blood sugar control and reducing the risk of developing insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Your muscles act as glucose sinks, absorbing and utilizing glucose from your bloodstream, reducing the burden on the pancreas.
- More muscle mass means an increase in your metabolic rate and calorie expenditure, boosting your metabolic health and improving fat loss and weight maintenance. A healthy body weight without excessive body fat significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- In addition, strength training targets your visceral fat depots, the deep abdominal fat surrounding your vital organs. Having too much visceral fat significantly increases your risk of developing severe medical issues like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The good news is that strength training effectively helps eliminate excess visceral fat, although following physical activity guidelines and also including aerobic workouts in your routine is even more effective.
In short, resistance training is crucial if you already have type 2 diabetes and is an effective intervention to prevent or delay the onset of it if you don’t have it but are susceptible. Free weights and resistance bands are equally effective.
Improves Immune System Function
Hitting the weights benefits your immune system and improves the function of your immune cells. It makes you less susceptible to infections and enhances the effectiveness of vaccinations. The effects are noticeable in both younger and older people.
- Lifting weights helps keep the production of pro-inflammatory markers in check. It increases the release of anti-inflammatory substances, reducing chronic low-grade inflammation, which helps strengthen your immune system.
- It also increases the production of antioxidants in your body. These little guys help neutralize harmful free radicals that can damage cells and weaken your immune system.
- A single strength training session is enough to affect your immune cells positively. A gym workout stimulates the production and release of immune cells like natural killer cells, neutrophils, and macrophages, which are essential in identifying and eliminating pathogens. However, you need long-term lifting for your immunity to improve and to lower levels of inflammation in your body.
Keep at it, and you’ll keep the sniffles away.
Reduces Risk of Falls in Older Adults
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults over 65.
Three leading causes are low lower body strength, difficulty walking, and poor balance.
If only there were an inexpensive, effective, and fun way to mitigate or eliminate those risk factors.
- A resistance training program focusing on the major lower-body muscles strengthens all muscles involved in standing up, walking, and keeping your balance. Stronger muscles provide better support and stability to the body, reducing the risk of falls and enhancing mobility.
- Strength training exercises often incorporate movement patterns challenging balance and coordination in a safe environment. As your muscles get stronger, you enhance your balance and coordination significantly at the same time, reducing the likelihood of falls.
- Weight training exercises strengthen the muscles that keep your joints mobile and aligned, providing increased stability and support. Strengthening the muscles around the hips, knees, and ankles makes your entire body more stable and reduces the risk of instability contributing to falls.
Research shows that even exercise programs that contain only strength training are effective for preventing falls in older adults, more so than training that doesn’t focus on increasing strength.
Unfortunately, the number of available studies and their quality are low, making it hard to draw any definite conclusions based on them. But we do know that fall risk is reduced by improving muscular strength and balance, two things where strength training excels.
Including muscle-strengthening exercises in a training program designed to prevent falls is paramount, although it should also include direct balance training activities.
Reducing the risk of falls in older adults is key to preventing injury or even death and improving quality of life. The fear of falling prevents an active lifestyle, leading to a downward spiral of inactivity and weaker muscles.
Also, should you fall anyway, having a strong body makes it much more likely you won’t get seriously hurt. Improved muscle strength and reaction time make for quick reflexes and the ability to catch yourself during a fall, potentially preventing more serious injury.
>> Building Muscle After 50: The Essential Guide
Improves Sexual Function and Libido
Obesity and physical activity are the leading causes of sexual dysfunction in men and women. Even a small to moderate amount of exercise can drastically improve the situation, and strength training can have a positive impact on sexual function and libido in several ways.
- Lifting weights helps regulate hormone levels in your body, including testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone not only for building muscle. It also plays a role in sexual desire and function, and by increasing testosterone levels, strength training can enhance libido, erectile function, and sexual performance.
- Strength training improves body composition by increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat, and when you are physically fit, chances are you feel more confident and satisfied with your body. An improved body image increases sexual satisfaction. Body satisfaction predicts sexual function, particularly in women.
- Training to muscular failure can offer benefits in the gym, but you don’t want it to be a limiting factor in the bedroom. Resistance exercise improves physical fitness, stamina, and muscular endurance, which can translate into enhanced sexual performance and energy levels.
Strength training might not be a miracle pill for sexual function, but when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits, such as a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management, it’ll help enhance your sexual libido and performance.
Reduces Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
We all know how effective strength training is for improving our physical status, but did you know that it also offers numerous mental health benefits?
Strength training is proven effective for reducing depressive symptoms and anxiety, regardless of health status or whether you improve your strength and body composition.
- Weightlifting stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural mood elevators and pain relievers. That’s why you often experience a feeling of well-being and an overall improved mood after working out.
- There are many other potential mechanisms by which strength training reduces symptoms of depression, like the control of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which play essential roles in mood regulation.
Regardless of how it works, the evidence is clear that physical activity is supremely effective in reducing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Most research indicates that it is as or more effective than psychotherapy and pharmaceutical therapy for patients with depression, anxiety, or psychological distress.
All types of physical activity are beneficial for improving mental health, including aerobic exercise and resistance training with free weights, your own body weight, or weight machines.
Improves Your Blood Lipid Profile
There is a relationship between cholesterol levels and heart disease, and reducing your total cholesterol levels is considered the best way to decrease the risk of cardiovascular issues.
Research shows that resistance training can help reduce your total cholesterol. While low- to moderate intensity weightlifting improves total and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), you need to up the intensity to increase HDL cholesterol, the “good” kind.
When you engage in long-term strength training, you enhance the ability of your skeletal muscle to use lipids instead of glycogen, lowering plasma lipid levels.
To maximize your blood lipid profile benefits, you should adhere to a well-rounded exercise and nutrition plan that combines strength training with cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet. However, weightlifting might be effective enough to compensate for not engaging in too much aerobics.
Improves Overall Quality of Life
Of all the myriad benefits of strength training, number 20 sums them all up: improved quality of life. Strength training contributes to an improved quality of life in numerous ways, all supported by scientific evidence:
- Bone mineral density
- Lipoprotein profiles
- Glycemic control
- Body composition
- Symptoms of frailty
- Metabolic syndrome risk factors
- Cardiovascular disease markers
- Perceived stress
- Reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mental fatigue
Just to name a few.
Strength training is crucial for improving overall quality of life, enhancing almost all physical and mental health aspects.
Maintaining strong muscles is even more of a game changer for older adults, as it promotes independence and functional ability. Several health problems that affect mainly seniors can be countered by engaging in a regular resistance training program.
By incorporating strength training into your lifestyle, you can experience a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that positively impact your well-being and quality of life.
Strength training is more than just lifting weights and building muscle – it’s a lifestyle that can enhance every aspect of your life.
You can incorporate strength training into your life in many ways. You can utilize the abundant variety of training equipment in a gym, work out at home using nothing but free weights and a bench, or perform bodyweight exercises with no equipment at all.
The good news is that all types of regular resistance training offer similar health benefits.
From improving your physical appearance and fitness level to boosting your mental health and well-being, it’s never too late to hit the weights and reap the benefits of strength training. You’ll not only sculpt your muscles but a more vital, healthier, and more fulfilling life.
If you are looking to get started with strength training, we have all the resources you need to succeed:
>> How to Get Stronger, Part 1: The Beginner
>> Beginner Barbell Workout Plan & Training Program
You can also download our workout tracker to help track your training and see what you lifted last time and do more in your next workout, like a personal trainer in your pocket. It’s also filled with numerous training programs and workouts, many of which are free and ideal for beginners.
StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use with the links below.
Good luck with your training!
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