10 Reasons Resistance Based Exercise Is Non-Negotiable Brandon O’Connor, CMSS, MATm, RTSm
The human body is an engineering marvel: An interconnection of joints and muscles, designed to facilitate movement about our environment in order to live. (Ever watched a child run? The carefree grace and freedom of their movement is awe inspiring.)
Unfortunately, this freedom of movement begins to break down over time. Life serves up many types of stress. Human bodies are physically injured, both in small and large doses. And we deal with tremendous mental and emotional stress.
As we move through life, we overuse some parts of our bodies and underuse others. These injuries, stressors, traumas, and over-/underuse of our bodies lead to unwanted conditions.
These conditions include:
unwanted weight gain or loss
loss of muscle mass and bone density
loss of freedom of movement
loss of ability and confidence to participate in the activities we love
The machine that is our body can (and will) break down over time. It demands consistent maintenance in order to function properly long term. One of the best ways to help the body maintain its function is through resistance based exercise (RBE).
Crucial Exercise Forms
Movement can be broken down into three primary forms, each necessary for proper maintenance:
Intermittent Movement: Moving around throughout the day to avoid the risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Specific Exercise: Movement with defined time and/or participation parameters (e.g., raising your heart rate to a specific range for a predetermined time). Some sports fall into this category, while others would be included in an optional 5th form we call Sport Specific Exercise (see below). Sports that fall into the Specific Exercise category include swimming timed laps with the intention of getting faster, running with the intention of running longer or faster, or cycling with an intention of going a certain distance.
Resistance Based Exercise (RBE) (defined below).
Optional Exercise Forms
As part of your daily movement, you may find value in these optional additional forms of exercise:
Meditative Movement (e.g., Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong).
Sport Specific Exercise: Movement with the intention of playing a sport rather than measuring and improving specific task outcomes (e.g., basketball, tennis). Unlike Specific Exercise, Sport Specific Exercise include tasks that are primarily dynamic/reactive, rather than intentional/performance task specific.
While participating in Meditative Movement and Sport Specific Exercise can be valuable, we recommend that you still participate in the three primary forms of movement:
Resistance Based Exercise (RBE)
What Is Resistance Based Exercise (RBE)?
When people discuss exercise routines, they often mention a wide variety of movement types (e.g., RBE, walking, playing sports, movement based meditative exercise, and specific exercise like running, biking, or swimming) as if they all serve the same purpose and can be used interchangeably. This is simply not the case.
We want to emphasize 10 reasons why RBE is crucial for all teens and adults and should be considered a non-negotiable weekly activity in addition to a regular intermittent movement and specific exercise plan.
First, let’s define RBE: RBE uses body weight or another form of resistance to cause muscles to contract (against external or internal resistance) with expectation of outcome (such as muscle mass, strength, endurance, power, hypertrophy, Range of Motion, or improved joint/bone/metabolic health). Simply put, resistance training is an exercise process in which your muscle strength and function is challenged (and potentially improved) by making your muscles work against a variety of RBE.
Different forms of RBE include:
using free weights
internal and external isometrics
your own body weight.
RBE training programs can be properly modified and dosed to fit anyone from beginners to the most experienced weight lifters. All teens and adults will benefit from the incredible benefits of resistance based exercise!
Here are the top 10 benefits of making RBE a non-negotiable part of your exercise plan:
1. Reduce pain and improve range of motion
Our brains are constantly searching for proper information and feedback from our muscles. Stress, traumas, overuse, underuse, and injuries can seriously disrupt that neuromuscular information flow. For many people, that disruption of information flow can manifest as pain signals or signals to limit movement.
By contracting our muscles under a wide variety of conditions under load (RBE), much of that lost information can be restored. This restoration of your neuromuscular wiring can lead to a major decrease in those painful sensations and an increase in freedom of movement.
2. Maintain bone density
Strength training helps maintain bone density. Women have a much greater risk of losing bone density in comparison to men. Bones maintain their density in response to forces being imposed on them. No force or too little force being applied to the bones means the bones have no reason to remain dense.
RBE provides a controlled environment to apply safe forces into the bones. In fact, RBE may be the most important factor for bone density. Without specifically applied resistance, your chance of developing osteoporosis or osteopenia increases dramatically.
3. Maintain muscle mass for metabolic health and weight normalization
Building muscle via RBE helps to burn body fat. Muscle is metabolically active tissue. In simple terms, it utilizes stored energy in order to maintain itself. So, the more muscle you build by strength training, the more stored body fat you can burn, even when the body is at rest.
Contracting muscles also helps to pull glucose out of the muscles, liver, and blood stream. This can be highly beneficial for the prevention of metabolic conditions (e.g., type 1 and type 2 diabetes) and for those diagnosed with metabolic conditions (e.g., diabetes and insulin resistance).
Additionally, all adults start to lose muscle mass after age 30. In fact, physically inactive adults can lose up to 3-5% of their muscle mass every decade after turning 30. This is why a movement routine that doesn't include RBE often results in puzzling, unwanted weight gain without any changes in diet or lifestyle behavior. For other people, loss of muscle mass can result in unwanted weight loss.
In short, RBE is essential for all adults over the age of 30, and especially for post-menopausal women, for weight normalization and metabolic health.
4. Look better and feel better
To be honest, RBE makes you look better and feel better, especially when combined with healthy diet and lifestyle factors like good sleep hygiene. Many women avoid RBE due to fear of getting “bulky.” However, most women don't have a genetic predisposition to gain “bulky” mass. And even when they do, RBE can be customized to avoid this outcome.
It's also common to look “bulky” when doing RBE combined with an inflammatory diet or a high calorie diet. When combined with a nutrient dense "paleo" diet, RBE allows you to gain muscle and lose fat in all areas of the body including arms, legs, hips, abs and glutes. For men and women who desire to gain weight, RBE combined with a “clean” (i.e., non-inflammatory), higher calorie intake is equally effective. Bottom line: A custom RBE and diet plan can help anyone with weight normalization so they can look and feel better.
5. Preserve daily functioning
The benefits of RBE are transferable to every area of life. Do you ever have a difficult time doing manual labor or jobs around the house or yard? Picking objects up off the floor? Carrying a child or heavy items?
Walking long distances on vacation or whileshopping?
If you said yes to any of these, then you may be lacking the muscle strength and endurance you need for daily functioning. By enhancing muscle strength and endurance via RBE, challenging daily tasks suddenly become much more manageable!
6. Improve mental health and gain confidence
Body movement has been shown to improve mood, decrease depression and anxiety, and bring more mental focus. RBE is excellent for mood improvement because it raises your circulating levels of endorphins, which improves mood and energy.
RBE will also give you more confidence. Getting stronger, gaining or recovering muscle mass, and weight normalization will help boost your confidence in ways you never thought possible. Every time you see the progress with the weights, on the scale, or in the mirror, it will help you feel more confident in all areas of your life.
7. Preserve Range of Motion and joint health
Our joints are like our teeth. We only get one set. And while some of them can be replaced, that should be a last resort. The best way to keep joints healthy is to make sure that all of the muscles that cross them are functioning properly.
RBE is the best way to maintain that function. This is where weight machines are most helpful. There are a wide variety of resistance machines designed to isolate the muscle systems crossing a wide variety of joints. The isolated strengthening these machines provide is critical. Don’t be swayed by recent trends in exercise to marginalize weight machines. Weight machines provide controlled and guided RBE that is appropriate for almost everyone.
RBE also helps to maintain and improve Range of Motion in your joints. One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is that they feel tight and would like a stretching routine. The reality is that the tightness they're experiencing is almost always due to muscle weakness in the area that feels restricted. Once we establish a strength training plan for the tight area and begin to execute RBE consistently, the tightness begins to clear up and range of motion improves dramatically.
8. Improve cardiovascular health
Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood to muscles and vital organs in your body. Doing “cardio” is RBE with very light resistance. Adding shorter duration bouts of intentional weight based RBE with even moderate intensity will help improve the function of the heart tremendously.
9. Improve posture and balance
Another common question I get from clients is, “How can I fix my bad posture?” Upon assessment, I typically discover weakness in some of the major muscle groups associated with posture issues such as the neck, shoulder girdle, and spine. By designing a RBE program to strengthen those areas, we see major improvements in posture.
The ability of the body to balance on one side at a time is another area that commonly declines with age. Unless someone is suffering from a neurological condition or has had a major trauma to a part of the neurological system or body, loss of balance is typically the result of weakness in muscles of the foot and lower leg, knee, and hip. By strengthening those areas with RBE, we see major improvements in the client’s ability to maintain balance.
10. Avoid chronic pain
RBE keeps muscles strong throughout the body, which limits the need for the body to develop a compensation pattern in order to manage the forces it has to deal with on a daily basis. Compensation is essentially a high functioning group of muscles having to pick up the slack for an under functioning group of muscles.
Compensation is the most common reason that many people develop stress points in their bodies. Examples of stress points are chronic low back pain, plantar fasciitis, and hip bursitis. A lifelong RBE practice is one of the most important ways you can avoid future chronic pain.
We recommend that teens and adults starting RBE work with a certified exercise professional to learn proper technique and to be sure RBE is “dosed” and progressed appropriately. Be sure to ask a potential trainer questions about their exercise philosophy and experience to make sure you feel they are a good match for your goals and ability. Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise.
In general, teens and adults should resistance train 1-2x per week for 45-60 minutes. However, its normal to start lower, and slower and progress to this goal. If you choose not to work out under the supervision of a professional, be sure to use “Selectorized” machines (those with a weight stack where you can choose your weight) which are the safest way to train on your own. These machines typically provide enough stimulation to achieve the general health and wellness benefits outlined above which also providing guided technique.
If you have significant challenges to exercise, look for a professional who's experienced in helping people with injuries or medical conditions exercise safely. There are techniques (e.g.,isometrics, passive exercise) that can help you get started today.
Brandon O’Connor is the owner of Austin Muscle Restoration and is a Muscle Restoration Specialist who has created his own unique Muscle Restoration System© to address muscular and neuromuscular issues so clients can live the life they desire without pain and movement limitations. Austin Muscle Restoration specialists and trainers do comprehensive root cause evaluations and create custom RBE programs to dose and progress exercise appropriately for any client, from those with autoimmune and injury to elite athletes.