I had a friend ask me this past Sunday, "So Ben, what is it, man? Is it 70/30 diet/exercise? Is it just strength training? Is it all nutrition? What is it? How are you so fit?"
I responded, "Nah, I just take a bunch of pills, man."
In case you didn't catch that, I was totally joking.
The truth is that fitness is so many things wrapped into one that there is no real true answer. Ask 10 trainers or fitness pros, and you will probably get 10 different answers. Chances are you'll hear yoga, or that you have to run, or that you have to drink this, or that you have to bike, dance, spin—the list is never-ending.
That's because we are all different and there is no "one size fits all" for any of us.
Before I go into what being fit really is, let me just say that being thin is not fit. I can't tell you how many times I meet with people who appear to be "fit," but when we test them, we find high body fat. This is what we call "skinny fat," and it's just as dangerous as being fat.
We all know how important it is to control body fat, right?
Look, I love all aspects of fitness, and I do believe we need a good mix of everything, but if I had to dig down deep to the root for getting fit, the number one thing I would say is actually lifting weights.
Without strength and good muscle tissue, we are not using our bodies the way they were designed to be used.
Let me go a little further on the whole "thin vs. fit" thing.
With "thin" or "skinny fat" people, you will find that:
- Their body fat percentage will be high even though you don't see a lot of fat on them. If their muscle percentage is low, then their fat percentage will be high.
- Their resting metabolism will be low since little muscle is present to burn calories at rest.
- Their body won't be functionally strong, which will lead to injuries and frustrating workouts.
All right, so knowing all this, what do we do?
We lift weights
Simply put, when we train for strength, we have to put our muscle in a position where it has to overcome resistance. When the resistance is high enough, the muscle will adapt. Your endurance increases, muscle grows and you burn fat. There are many ways to do this—dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, bars, balls, cables, sandbags, and yes, even your body weight.
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When you lift weights against resistance, the following happens:
- Muscle tone increases
- Cardiovascular capacity increases
- Flexibility increases
- Chances of injury are reduced
If that doesn't get your attention, then know that I've helped hundreds if not thousands of clients at Xceleration Fitness lose 10, 30, 70 and even over 100 pounds by lifting weights.
Stay with me.
Here are eight reasons why you should add strength training to your workouts, even if you're not an athlete, bodybuilder or powerlifter:
1. To Build Muscle. I can already hear the ladies out there asking, and the answer is NO, you will not "bulk up" from lifting weights. You won't. If it happens, you can fire me. What will happen is you will have lower body fat, better energy, a flatter tummy, and a more defined body from head to toe.
2. To Lose Fat. When there is more muscle on the body, you burn fat just sitting still. Muscle uses food and nutrients, making it a gigantic calorie burner. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn without even moving.
3. To Build Strong Bones. If you don't use 'em, you lose 'em! Remember that saying? Osteoporosis is real and we need a way to combat it. Well, that's what strength training does. You will stress your bones and make them stronger. So when you fall down or slip up, the chances of breaking your bones goes way down.
4. To Alleviate Anxiety, Stress and Depression. There is a saying on our wall, "Wow, I regret that workout, said nobody ever." It's true. When you lift, your body releases endorphins that make you feel fantastic. Yeah, that's a much better approach than popping a pill.
5. To Sleep Better. Again, a much better alternative to pills. Lifting spikes all the hormones your body loves and controls your adrenal glands. Your muscles will beg you to recover, making your sleep more effective (and more important!)
6. To Improve Insulin Sensitivity. Yet again, we are saved by the weight training. I can't tell you how many people I know with diabetes who have been helped with strength training. Prescriptions get taken away because of their new health from strength training.
7. To Improve Good to Bad Cholesterol Ratio. Yes, it helps. Blood pressure and heart health are improved with strength training. To build muscle you need oxygen. As you lift more and more, your body get better at transporting the oxygen. Your heart adapts and gets stronger. Your cholesterol gets lower and you make your doctors happy.
8. You get shredded. More muscle = less fat on your body. Less fat on your body helps reveal more muscle. So yeah, you are no longer scared to take your shirt off in or get into that bikini. And your butt will be lifted and firmer—assuming you train your glutes. Who doesn't want that?