The benefits of strength training (beyond building strength)

When you think about picking up a dumbbell, what comes to mind? For most of us, we think of weightlifting as a practice to build strength and muscle. And while this is certainly a byproduct of strength training, there are many other benefits that don’t get as much love or attention but are integral to our current and future health and longevity. For us, strength training is one of many tools to feel better, move better, and become well-rounded. We’re going to dive into some of these less-discussed health benefits and some ways you can integrate strength work into your weekly movement routine – including improved bone health, longevity, metabolism, flexibility, tendon health, and resilience to pain. 

Improves bone density & prevents osteoporosis 

First thing’s first: Age-related bone loss is almost entirely preventable via lifestyle, diet and supplementation choices. So often we hear to “consume more calcium” as a preventative to age-related bone loss. Yet calcium alone won’t do much good for your bone health. Nutritionally speaking, there are many other important minerals needed for your body to properly use calcium, including magnesium, boron, copper, vitamin D and zinc. Yet beyond nutrition, strength training is one of the best ways to maintain bone density and prevent age-related bone loss, particularly around menopause. Bone is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in mechanical loads by altering its mass, structure and/or strength. “The loads or strain imparted to bone via gravitational or muscle forces must exceed the typical loading patterns encountered during everyday activities, and as bone adapts the loading stimulus must be increased progressively (source)”. What might this look like? Resistance training incorporating moderate to high intensity loads (2–3 sets of 8–12 repetitions at 70–85% of maximal muscle strength), increasing progressively over time and prescribed at least 2–3 times per week has been shown to help maintain or improve bone mineral density (source). Resistance training might include squats, lunges, hip abduction/adduction, bent over rows, pushups, etc. 

Can help you live longer

There is a negative association between muscle mass & strength and all-cause mortality – more muscle = you live longer (source). Interestingly, grip strength has been shown in numerous studies and meta analyses to reduce all-cause mortality. This is likely due to as we strength train more, we lift more weight, which naturally increases grip strength. Lifting weights, TRX work, and hanging can all help improve grip strength. We live in a world where, unless you work with your hands in a physical job, most of us don’t get to practice grip strength in our day to day. So if you’re new to lifting weights, know that with repetition and consistency, you’ll build a stronger grip and those hands won’t feel fatigued forever! 

Elevates metabolism

When we strength train, we create micro tears in our muscles and connective tissues that the body then works to repair. This repair, or remodeling process, expends more energy and increases Resting Metabolic Rate by 5-10% post strength training session. Therefore, performing strength training consistently – say 2-3 times a week – essentially stokes your metabolic fire and elevates your Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), aka your metabolism (see study).

Improves flexibility

Moving through full range of motion with load (body weight or external load) helps to maintain or improve flexibility. A big component of flexibility is neurological, where our nervous system protects us from going any further. When we lift weights near or at our end ranges of motion in a safe manner, we are signaling to our nervous system that we are strong enough to safely enter and exit that range of motion, increasing our flexibility.

Improves tendon health

Our tendons connect our muscles to our bones. They are how our muscles transmit force generating movement. Just like muscles, our tendons respond positively to strength training. They don’t see the same growth as muscles do, but lifting heavy loads allows the body to add some collagen to the tendons, improving their capacity to do work (jump more, run more, cycle more, swing more, etc.). This reduces the likelihood of developing tendinopathies. 

Analgesic effects

Possibly one of the greatest benefits of strength training is the analgesic, or pain reducing effects we get after moving an injured joint or muscle. Strength training and exercise more broadly has been widely studied in its ability to relieve pain in populations with chronic and acute conditions. For certain injuries and chronic conditions, strength training has been shown to be just as effective at reduce pain as other modalities such as massage, acupuncture, dry needling and manual therapy. When implemented correctly, strength training can help reduce pain for conditions like neck pain, low back pain (study), arthritis, fibromyalgia (general muscle pain, see study) and tendinopathies (study). Strength training isn’t a silver bullet and pain has many more factors, but it is a great tool. If you’re dealing with chronic pain it’s best to inquire with a qualified rehab professional before starting up a strength training routine.  

Building a consistent strength training routine

The TurF Studio schedule is designed to be well-rounded and offers plenty of opportunities to partake in strength training. Currently, we offer Strength classes Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays with some of Vancouver’s best trainers who are knowledgeable, supportive and passionate about helping you move well. We also have hundreds of strength classes on the on-demand platform for you to do anytime anywhere with minimal equipment. 

Both TurF Strength + Impact Running x Strength classes integrate breath, core, glutes and challenge every muscle in your body to build strength and connection. Our Strength programming is designed to compliment your cardio endeavors: from meta, cycling, running, tennis and everything in between. Expect dumbbell circuits, HIIT training & a spicy finisher to leave you feeling the burn. 

Book into a Strength class and start reaping the many benefits of load bearing activities. 

– Trilby Goouch + Kyle Bryce