Of all types of physical activity, strength training is probably the most beneficial. It combines a number of health benefits, a significant improvement in appearance and a much more comfortable daily life. And most importantly, it doesn’t require a large commitment at all. Just two one-hour workouts a week are enough to completely change your life.
Perhaps the biggest health benefit is the significant strengthening of the bones. Our skeleton develops until the age of 30, then it gradually degenerates, losing on average 1% of its mass each year. Of course, this can be counteracted at a later age, but the most effective way is to take care of it while it is growing, when it is easiest. At 60, would you like to have the bones of a 40 year old, or perhaps an 80 year old?
Contrary to popular belief, ordinary physical activity does not strengthen our bones, quite the contrary. Research shows that the opposite is often true – professional cyclists have significant calcium depletion and thus are at risk of accelerated osteoporosis. Our body adapts to the challenges it faces. By lifting a heavy weight, we “teach” our musculoskeletal system that it will soon have to face an even heavier one, so it needs to get stronger.
Strength has a powerful effect on mood, especially in men. Each of us has a savage in us, somewhere on some subconscious level we still run with a spear after mammoths. The more we try to hide it, the more we tell ourselves that it doesn’t concern us – the more hypocrisy we live in. We are our bodies and no philosophical treatise can change that. I experienced it on myself – I have always considered myself an exceptionally fit person, self-confident thanks to the long time devoted to martial arts training, despite the fact that I was incredibly thin – less than 60 kg at 179 cm tall. A few years ago I decided it was time to change that – I wanted to become big and strong, partly for health reasons, partly out of a simple desire to improve my appearance.
The effect was quite amazing. Along with the next kilograms, tension, insecurity, aggression disappeared from me – things I didn’t realize I had. Somewhere in the depths of my subconscious I felt threatened by the bigger and stronger males around me. I became much more helpful, smiled more often, and was no longer so conflicted. Somewhere along the way I lost the anxiety and depression that sometimes plagued me. And what’s most interesting, people started to treat me completely differently, even store assistants smile more often now.
Admittedly, this is just personal experience, but the science backs up these observations. A group of college students were sent to the gym. As a result, after just 20 strength and endurance workouts, their levels of feeling depressed were reduced by 37% and anxiety by 27%. The effect is comparable to or even greater than the latest medications, with no side effects. Additionally, the gym – but not the endurance training – significantly reduced CRP levels from 1.56 to 0.084.
Strength is probably the feature of our body that is most useful in everyday life. A friend of mine once pushed a car out of a ditch by himself in winter. He was quite drunk, but three people in front of him at the same time couldn’t do it. Moving furniture in the house, carrying groceries, unscrewing jars… More than once and more than twice everyone has probably seen videos where a passer-by lifted an unconscious man and carried him out of a building engulfed in fire, for example.
There is also the aspect of avoiding injury. I am currently following Marco Pietrowski on Facebook – not so long ago a bodybuilder and fitness model, he is now struggling to stand on his own two feet after damaging his spine in a car accident. Doctors told him directly that if it wasn’t for the powerful muscles that cushioned the impact, he simply wouldn’t survive. Not only did he survive, but the damage was not so severe as to completely paralyze him – he is slowly getting back to fitness.
It can happen to anyone that they simply have to defend themselves from an attack. The most effective style of self-defense is a good result of running 200 meters, but what if the threat concerns, for example, the fiancée? Of course, knowledge of combat sports is in this case much more important, but it requires the sacrifice of many years and most likely to the end of life will not have the opportunity to use these skills. We have our strength “for free”, as a side effect of training to improve our health and well-being. The example of Pudzian shows that a large physical advantage can be sufficient.
It is not known whether strength prolongs life, or maybe people who are healthier and more resistant are stronger at the same time. But the relationship is there, and it is very clear. Researchers in Japan accessed patient data from 20 years ago, the standard procedure there was to measure the squeezing power of the device. It was possible to look at how the chance of surviving such a period depends on how hard we are able to clench our fist. The results were shocking. The strongest young men had halved the risk of death, the older ones 30-35% lower. More interestingly, similar results were obtained for women – every 5 kg of squeeze reduced the risk of death for men by 11%, and for women by 13%.
I probably don’t need to mention looks – it’s too obvious. One can only refer to the often repeated argument “I don’t want to look like Schwarzenegger”. Probably the best answer to this was given by himself – “don’t worry, you never will”. An unattractive, “repackaged” figure in both men and women requires, firstly, at least a dozen years of really hard training, secondly – the use of a lot of anabolics. It’s safe to say that practically all celebrities in the fitness world are taking something.
There is also the issue of joints. There’s no denying it, competitive sports are deadly for them. But this applies to people who, thanks to chemistry, exceed the capabilities of the human body. The average person doesn’t realize what percentage of an athlete’s score in the Olympics is due to chemistry. In one study done on AIDS patients, it was found that lying in front of the TV all day and taking testosterone will make you stronger and build more muscle than working out in the gym every day without steroids. Of course a person lifting 250 kg on a barbell will destroy his rotator cuffs, but an amateur exercising Smith probably will not exceed 120 kg. Such loads strengthen joints instead of degenerating them.
As I mentioned at the very beginning, the training requires only minimal time load, which is extremely important in today’s rat race. To achieve satisfactory results, it’s enough to do a full body workout twice a week, lasting about an hour – 2 series for each major muscle group, plus possibly one for individual muscles. Of course the effects will be far from those achieved by the professionals, but it is enough to literally double the amount of kilograms that we can lift in a short time. There is no point for me to write on the blog of “natural healing” about the various programs, there are sites where it is done much better, here I just want to convince readers that it is simply very healthy.
Diet is very important. And contrary to what you may think, it’s not about protein – the high intake that is sometimes recommended is simply a myth, which has its source in mindless repetition of nutrient supplements’ advertising slogans. Muscles only grow when body mass increases, so you simply need to eat more. Sometimes I observe “bodybuilders” who exercise for a year in a row and fail to increase their muscle mass by more than 2-3 kg. The laws of physics are absolute here – without providing energy in the form of calories, body mass will not increase. Of course, people who have a lot of body fat do not have to do this, they can “remodel”, which means they can lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.
What else can be added? Probably only that you do not have to sign up for a gym. It is more convenient than exercising at home, but on the other hand – quite expensive and takes much more time. My home gym cost me about $100, it has not lost anything in value and I can sell it at any time, and if I went to a “normal” one, I would be poorer by over $1000. In fact, at the beginning 2 dumbbells 15 kg for which we will pay a little over $30 will be enough (I recommend that you immediately purchase the cast iron, loads from them can then be used for barbells).
And oh, one more thing – you really should NOT do at home “barbell bench press”. This is the only really dangerous exercise, the slightest mistake, injury or temporary loss of consciousness – and we can never wake up. You can replace barbells with dumbbells without any problem.