Excess body weight is a problem in America, and it is a growing problem in much of the developed world as well. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about the cause of the problem (processed food, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, sugary drinks, etc.), but that discussion will be reserved for future posts. The fact is we have an obesity EPIDEMIC in our country right now, and arguing about the cause of it won’t help us solve it.
As we continue our series looking at the benefits of resistance training, especially in some groups that may have a bit of a resistance to the idea, it is time to take a look at some of the more common questions/concerns/fears/urban legends/whatever else you want to call it of many overweight or obese people as it pertains to strength training.
So, without further ado…
If I’m trying to loose weight, shouldn’t I just focus on cardio?
NO! While it is accurate to say that cardiovascular exercise burns more calories while exercising than resistance training does, the caloric burn after a session of resistance training continues long after exercise has stopped. Yes, cardio is important. Yes, you should still do some walking/biking/swimming/jogging/etc., but you absolutely have to incorporate strength training into the mix as well in order to maximize your ability to lose weight.
Last time I was at the gym, I saw some skinny people lifting weights. I tried to do the same exercise after they left, but could only do a fraction of the weight. I’m too embarrassed to lift weights any more.
Look. There will always be people who are stronger than you. That is out of your control. But do you have any idea how long those “skinny people” have been working out? They likely have been working out regularly for years to get to their current levels of strength, and I promise they had to start somewhere.
Besides an increased metabolism, what benefit can I expect to get from strength training?
One of the biggest benefits of strength training is the residual effect that stronger muscles have on the rest of your body, especially your knees and low back. Since you are carrying some extra weight, there are extra forces placed on your body when you are walking, jogging, etc. but by building strength in your muscles, especially in your core and legs, your muscles are able to absorb some of the stress that day to day activity has on your joints. Ergo, you are more comfortable at the end of the day, and more likely to engage in the extra physical activity that will benefit you as you work to improve your health.
I tried strength training a few times, but I was sore for days afterward. I’m not going to do exercises that cause me to be in pain the following day.
Assuming you did the exercises with proper form, the discomfort you are experiencing is a totally natural part of exercise. But here is the good news, if you stick with the exercises, the discomfort will diminish. And when it is gone completely, you’ll know it’s time to increase the intensity of your workout. Without getting too technical, let me explain what causes the soreness that you’re feeling. When you perform any physical activity that puts a strain on your muscles, such as lifting weights, your muscle fibers literally tear on the microscopic level. The resulting soreness is what happens when the body goes through the process of healing itself. So, when you feel that discomfort in the muscles you just worked out for the next 24-36 hours, you know you had a really good work out. Gym rats love that feeling, and often think they cheated themselves if they aren’t feeling ‘the burn’ for a couple days after their big workout. Now, you may never get to the point that you love that feeling of discomfort, but if you can stick to working out regularly you will be able to use it to gauge the intensity of your work outs rather well.
When all is said and done, there is no one formula for working out that is a perfect fit for everyone. Really, there is no one formula that is perfect for any single person. A good exercise program is all about incorporating different types of exercise in order to challenge your body on a number of different levels. And what is a challenge today, will hopefully be less of a challenge tomorrow.
Going through that process is how you change your life and improve your health, and even though it’s not always comfortable or enjoyable, it is worth it.
If you fall into the overweight or obese categories and you are determined to make changes to improve your health, I applaud you. I won’t lie, the journey will be a challenge. But if you commit to yourself that you WILL do it, come hell or high water, there is no challenge too big for you to overcome. And by including weight training in your arsenal of ways to improve your health, you are giving yourself a better chance to make the lasting changes you desire.
Have you fought the battle against excess body weight before and succeeded? Did strength training help? Let me know in the comment section. And if this post is helping to encourage you in your weight loss efforts, let me know. I’d love to offer you any additional support or encouragement along the way.