Thinking about taking on the task of lifting weights? Do you want to tone up and lose excess fat?
Many fitness enthusiasts take up weightlifting for its wide range of benefits. Weight training is a very enjoyable workout that offers an effective way to improve all components of your fitness—strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.
The benefits of weight lifting are relevant for both men and women. Understanding its benefits allows you to make the right choice when personalizing your workouts and maximizing your progress from every session.
Let's take a quick look at the basics of strength training.
What happens to your body when you start weightlifting?
Your body undergoes various physiological responses when you lift weights. It all depends on what component of your fitness you want to choose, and what methods and options you plan to use in your daily life.
If you want to achieve "muscle growth", you might want to consider lifting harder and doing fewer reps. If you're looking to increase your "muscular endurance" you might want to consider lifting lighter and doing a lot more reps.
Let's start with adaptation. This phase usually lasts approximately 4-6 weeks and can be the hardest mental part.
It's natural for everyone to experience pain when they start weight training (people complain about it the most in their arms and legs). It is the body's natural response to identifying physical activity as new.
It could be because your muscles haven't been physically active for a long time, or it could be the first time they just need time to get used to a new routine.
The onset of this pain, stiffness, and soreness usually occurs 48 to 72 hours after strength training has been performed on targeted muscle groups. This feeling usually disappears after a few days.
Many people may lose motivation or be tempted to quit smoking at this stage. The reasons may vary, but most often it is due to the fact that people have high expectations or do not anticipate the initial reaction of their body.
The key is to know that your body will experience this during the adaptation phase. These feelings will decrease after each workout and will eventually disappear after about a month.
It is also important not to overload your body when adapting to strength training. Doing too much too soon can lead to injury.
Start with simple exercises, as opposed to complex movements. Choose light weights over heavy weights and do lots of reps to get your body used to strength training.
Once your body gets used to the physiological response to exercise, you can focus on more important goals like building muscle from weight training.
Standard recommendation: 3-4 sets, 15-20 reps per exercise
Muscle breakdown and growth
Before your muscles can grow, they must repair and develop by enduring small, microscopic tears immediately after vigorous weight training.
Tears in muscle fibers are caused by the repeated contraction of the muscles used in a single resistance exercise. This is the first step to building lean and active muscle mass.
The most effective method of breaking down muscle cells so they can repair and grow is a process called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is best achieved when we lift the maximum weight we can for 8-12 reps on one exercise of a given set.
Building muscle through hypertrophy
There are two important factors for building muscle mass through hypertrophy: mechanical damage and metabolic failure.
When we lift weights, there are two contractile proteins in our muscle cells, actin and myosin, that help generate force to overcome the resistance we are lifting. Mechanical damage to these proteins stimulates our body's response to muscle growth.
Muscle recovery can take 2 to 5 days, especially if you are a beginner. It's important to allow at least 48 hours of rest after training a specific muscle group before doing more weight training.
Metabolic failure means depleting all the energy in our muscle cells when we lift weights. These energy molecules in our cells are called ATP. Of course, you can feel that these shops are exhausted for the last time.
These energy reserves are restored fairly quickly. That is why it is recommended to rest 30-60 seconds before performing the next set of exercises.
For more detailed advice on the basics of hypertrophy, see the National Sports Medicine Association guidelines.
Tip: during recovery after strength training
While actively resting your muscles before your next workout, it's important to include proper nutrition to accompany your body's recovery. This includes adding the right enzymes, amino acids and protein. Protein intake immediately after strength training is essential for muscle recovery.
Standard recommendation: 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps per exercise
Maybe you are more conscious of getting that bulky look? Perhaps your desired goals are simply to feel, look leaner, and be stronger. For this reason, you can focus on muscle endurance.
When we perform higher reps without achieving hypertrophy, we are subjecting our muscles to vigorous strength training without destroying as many muscle fibers. It helps us get more of that toned look, as opposed to when we tear and rebuild more muscle fibers, creating that aesthetic growth or voluminous effect.
Muscular endurance is the ability to continuously contract a muscle against a given amount of resistance. This includes doing higher reps with less weight and building muscle endurance.
Another way to improve muscle endurance is to do exercises that require you to hold a position for a long period of time (for example, on a plank, sitting on a wall).
If your fitness goals are to improve the repetitive functional exercises in your daily life, such as cleaning the garden or renovating your home, then improving muscle endurance is the key to achieving those goals.
The same can be said from a sports point of view. Whether you want to climb a mountain or climb long hills on your bike, you must train your endurance to build fatigue-resistant muscles.
Standard recommendation: 3-4 sets, 15-30 reps per exercise
The myth of women and weightlifting
A common myth that has surrounded women and weightlifting is that "if women lift weights like men, they will become more masculine."
This story has led to "mental blockage" for many women who want to gain lean muscle mass through resistance training - an irrational fear or thought of having bulky muscles like men have. Although women have a tremendous ability to lift the same weight as men, they do not have the same ability to increase muscle mass.
Due to human anatomy, men produce much more testosterone than women. Thus, no matter how many times women do weight training weekly, they will be able to increase muscle mass, but will not put on weight like men.
Strength training can make women produce more growth hormone, according to the American Council on Exercise. This hormone helps metabolize fat and is said to reduce the effects of biological aging. But this does not help to stimulate the reaction of the swelling muscles. 
What are the benefits of lifting weights?
Of the many physiological responses we receive when lifting weights, we receive many rewards for both men and women. Here are 5 key benefits of how you can live a healthier life by lifting weights:
1. Weight loss
One thing we've learned from modern exercise science is that resistance training is just as effective as cardiovascular activity when it comes to weight loss.
Weight training allows our body to use its aerobic and anaerobic systems efficiently. This means that we can burn calories from all energy sources when doing resistance training - carbohydrates, sugars and fats, while still targeting muscle groups and increasing muscle mass.
When we begin to produce muscle mass on the body, this contributes to further weight loss. Now, when you consume energy or food, your active muscles need calories before they can be stored in your body.
Having new muscles helps shed pounds and boost your metabolism to new levels. Lighter muscle mass can still burn calories at rest.
2. Musculoskeletal health
The musculoskeletal system consists of the muscular and skeletal systems. The function of this system is to support the entire body through the support of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and organs.
Weight training can reduce symptoms of musculoskeletal health by aiding in joint lubrication and reducing joint pain and stiffness. It also prevents muscle tension and imbalance.
By properly training the agonist and antagonist muscles (opposite muscle groups), we can avoid any biomechanical problems that could lead to future bone and organ problems.
This is especially important for people who are sedentary and sit for long hours or exhibit poor posture during the day. Weight training for your hip flexors and postural muscles is essential to musculoskeletal health, as it can lead to spinal or pelvic complications if neglected.
3. Improve mood, confidence and self-esteem
Building muscle or feeling lean can certainly improve our body's physical balance and our functional strength. Just as importantly, it improves our mental health.
Aesthetically, it looks and feels better, restores a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, and this has a positive impact on our social health. Lifting weights also releases feel-good endorphins in our body and increases serotonin levels, making us feel more alert and productive!
The release of these healthy chemicals in our body also reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.
4. Sports performance
Athletes must practice what they preach if they want to perform on matchday. Depending on what sport you're doing, you'll need to mimic a weight training program to match what you're doing with your competitors.
For example, if you're a 100m sprinter, you'll want to do a leg strength program to achieve explosive strength. If you're a basketball player, you'll want to outperform your opponent, so adding a plyometric program to your training squad will be essential.
Regardless of your ability, it would be a good idea to consult with an experienced strength and exercise coach to take your strength training program to the competitive level.
5. Healthy heart
While it goes without saying that the cardiovascular system is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health, it has also been proven that strength training can help strengthen your heart.
While you can get an effective cardio workout through strength training, there are several reasons why strength training can improve your heart health.
When we lift a weight, we increase the speed of circulation. Blood is more efficiently directed throughout the body to the working muscles. When we increase muscle mass, we send oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body much more easily and more frequently. It improves our vascular system and promotes a healthy heart.
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
Weight training helps fight the risk of various heart diseases. Because strength training increases heart rate and lowers BP, it also reduces symptoms that can trigger heart attacks, such as stress and arrhythmias.
Resistance training also stimulates weight loss. Weight loss is a key goal for preventing diseases such as diabetes, heart failure and stroke. An interesting example from Harvard Health explains how weight lifting can reduce heart disease.
Better sleep quality
As mentioned earlier, strength training helps release endorphins and serotonin in our system, helping us feel more relaxed and less stressed. It helps people who are exercising relax and sleep better at night.
Good sleep lowers your heart rate because more oxygen enters your body, which lowers your blood pressure.
How long does it take to see the benefits of lifting weights?
Everyone wants to see fast results from weightlifting, but weight training is a game of patience.
During the adaptation phase (4-6 weeks) you will see more physical benefits than aesthetic ones. In other words, during this time your body will learn to cope with recovery.
Your muscles will feel less and less sore between each workout (there will be several days off) and you will start to feel stronger, thinking you can take on more.
Within the first month, you will begin to see aesthetic differences in regards to changes in your body composition.
You may see small or large differences in muscle mass compared to body fat. Changes in how your body composition will change during this time will depend on the intensity of your training (sets, reps, speed, rest time).
While you don't see this warrior in the mirror yet, your jeans might fit better.
If you are new to weight lifting, your body should adjust to the increase in muscle mass in 4-6 weeks. Now is the time to reduce the number of repetitions, increase the weight and reduce the rest time a little.
Your body must be ready to take on these muscle tears in order to grow muscle. If this is your main goal, you should start to see big differences within 8-12 weeks if you are ok with your program.
It's important to be aware of your fitness goals when it comes to strength training.
My advice is to train all the components of your fitness, as they are essential for different stages and aspects of your life. There are many benefits to lifting weights and you can maximize them.
Your musculoskeletal health is especially important. Keep your weight training dynamic so that it includes a lot of movement. This adds extra value to your cardiovascular health.
If you are an office worker who sits for long periods of the day, it is vital that you improve your posture, hip strength, and your body through corrective exercises.
If your job requires hard work, like working in a warehouse, it's important to train your strength and endurance.
No matter what situation you are in, practicing reading will help you enjoy the last years of your life.
If you want to compete at a high level, I recommend consulting with an experienced personal trainer in your area.