In order to discover the effects of strength training, we must explore the physiology of strength training. Strength training, also known as resistance training, is any exercise that forces a muscle to contract under an external loading.
This can occur with no equipment using body weight exercises or using external equipment such as barbells, dumbbells and resistance bands etc. There are many different types of strength training and the prescription of strength training will vary depending on individual needs.
Strength training has many widespread physiological benefits for all. We will look at each of these benefits and explain how they occur, and the specific exercises that are most suitable.
- Increased muscular strength and size.
- Improved body composition and reduced cardiovascular health
- Improved bone mineral density
- Increased Connective Tissue Strength
Improved Muscle Strength And Size
The most obvious physiological effect of strength training is improved muscular strength. This occurs as individual muscle fibres experience trauma as a result of being forced to contract under load. These fibres adapt to this trauma over time which leads to individual muscle fibres increasing in size (muscle hypertrophy) and an increased number of individual muscle fibres (muscle hyperplasia).
Increasing cross-sectional areas of a muscle means that the muscle can generate greater force, hence increased muscle strength. This is of particular benefit for healthy ageing as increased muscle strength and size is linked to improved capacity to perform activities of daily living and reduced risk of falls.
Improved Body Composition And Reduced Risk Of Chronic Disease
Strength Training is extremely beneficial for improving body composition and reducing the risk of chronic disease. As mentioned previously, muscle size increases through muscle hypertrophy and muscle hyperplasia which increases our lean muscle mass. Furthermore, resistance training assists with reducing both subcutaneous (the flabby bits) and visceral fat (in the abdominal cavity and surrounding our organs).
A combination of progressive resistance training in conjunction with moderate to vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be most effective in improving body composition and reducing the risk of chronic disease.
Chronic disease refers to any of the following long term conditions: Osteoarthritis, pulmonary disease, neurological disease, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease & diabetes.
Resistance training has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing such disease in the first place and as a great management tool to prevent further development of the pathologies.
Improved Bone Mineral Density
A major physiological benefit of strength training is improved bone mineral density. This is especially beneficial for the elderly population and those who are exposed to reduce bone density such as those with osteoporosis and cancer.
Progressive strength training and bone loaded exercise can improve bone mineral density by stimulating the bone remodelling process. The bone remodelling process is a constant event in which older bone is removed from skeletal tissue and is replaced by newer bone cells. Strength training has been shown to improve the development of new bone tissue which leads to stronger bones.
Increased Connective Tissue Strength
Tendons and ligaments also benefit from specific strength training which is important for various injuries including tendinopathies, ligament tears, and other musculoskeletal injuries. Strength training at moderate to intense loads has been shown to increase the stiffness and size of tendons which is beneficial to increasing the strength of these tendons.
A combination of both concentric (muscle contracting under load) and eccentric (muscle elongating under load) have been shown to be most effective for improving connective tissue strength by increasing cross-sectional tissue strength.
So What Is The Best Type Of Strength Training For Me?
In order to get the most out of strength training, it is imperative to seek guidance from an exercise physiologist to screen for any medical conditions and to specifically prescribe the most suitable forms of exercises.
From here, an individualised strength training program can be developed based on your current physical condition and based on your individual goals.
If you’d like to schedule a consultation with an exercise physiologist contact Hoys Health + Allied Wellness today!