Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.
Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger.
A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve bone, joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, as well as aerobic exercise to improve your heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance exercises. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
You should vary your progressive resistance training program every six to eight weeks to maintain improvement. Variables that can impact on your results include:
intensity (weights used)
frequency of sessions
rest between sets.
If you vary your resistance training program through the number of repetitions and sets performed, exercises undertaken and weights used, you will maintain any strength gains you make.
Examples of resistance training
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or the gym.
Different types of resistance training include:
free weights – classic strength training tools such as dumbbells or barbells
weight machines – devices that have adjustable seats with handles attached either to weights or hydraulics
medicine balls – weighted balls
resistance bands – like giant rubber bands – these provide resistance when stretched. They are portable and can be adapted to most workouts. The bands provide continuous resistance throughout a movement
your own body weight – can be used for squats, push-ups and chin-ups. Using your own body weight is convenient, especially when travelling or at work.
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Health benefits of resistance training
Physical and mental health benefits that can be achieved through resistance training include:
improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury. It also helps you maintain flexibility and balance and helps you remain independent as you age
weight management and increased muscle-to-fat ratio – as you gain muscle, your body burns more kilojoules when at rest
greater stamina – as you grow stronger, you won’t get tired as easily
prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity
improved mobility and balance
decreased risk of injury
increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis
improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood
a better night’s sleep and avoidance of insomnia
enhanced performance of everyday tasks.