last updated May 19, 2021

What Is Resistance Training and How Do You Start?

by Rob Arthur

Resistance training is one of our most powerful tools for looking and feeling awesome.

In this article, we’ll cover what resistance training is, explore its benefits, and then talk about how you can start.

If you have any questions at the end, feel free to leave a comment 🙂

What is resistance training?

Resistance training is exercise providing progressive overload to muscles to promote gains in strength and/or size (1).

This kind of exercise is also often referred to as “strength training” or “weight training” (2).

However, “strength training” might be considered a specific type of resistance training, compared to, for example, training for size (3).

Also, weights aren’t the only tool in your resistance training tool box.

You can see muscular benefits using elastic bands, bodyweight exercises, Pilates, or even yoga (4,5,6,7,8,9).

Of course, you’ll want to pick a modality that aligns with your specific needs, preferences, and goals.

Before talking about that, though, let’s dive into why you might want to start resistance training.

The benefits of resistance training

As you may already know, resistance training is a great way to get bigger and stronger (10,11). 

That said, bigger and stronger muscles aren’t just for aesthetics or performance.

Some consider muscle mass a new vital sign, as low muscle mass is linked to a variety of poor health outcomes (12).

Furthermore, increasing muscle mass isn’t the only way resistance training benefits your body.

It can improve bone health (13), blood lipids and inflammation (14), glycemic control (15), and body composition (16,17).

It’s been shown to be effective for managing chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia or lower back pain (18,19).

Resistance training is even associated with reduced risk of death, particularly when combined with aerobic training (20).

The benefits you might expect to see extend beyond physical health.

You might use resistance training to improve your mental health, too.

There’s evidence it reduces symptoms of depression (21), alleviates anxiety (22), and protects cognition (23).

Put simply, resistance training has the potential to improve your quality of life across a variety of domains (24).

Now let’s talk about how you can start seeing these benefits yourself.

How to start resistance training

It’s generally recommended that resistance training be performed two or more days a week (25).

This can be easier when you have a plan or program to follow, so let’s explore some options you might consider.

If you’re into lifting weights, a proven barbell routine might be a good option.

For example, you might look into something like Starting Strength, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, or StrongLifts 5×5.

If you have limited access to equipment or prefer body weight exercises, there are other options to consider.

You might find bodyweight programs like GMB Fitness, Convict Conditioning, or one of the r/bodyweightfitness/ routines worth trying.

If you thrive in a group setting, consider a local group fitness class.

You might also consider working out with a friend, especially if you want some company or competition.

If you’re new to resistance training, consider working with a personal trainer or strength coach.

Seek out a professional who values and promotes quality movement, safety, and appropriate progression.

Ideally, you’ll work with somebody who has a proven track record of long-term, injury-free clients.

This might be a considerable investment of time and money.

Doing so, however, could spare you a costly injury or slow progress.

Whatever you do, find a routine that fits your needs, preferences, and goals .

This might help you stay consistent.

Any exercise program is only beneficial if you do actually do it.

What to do now

Start by reflecting on your goals.

What outcomes are you looking for?

Are you looking for strength, for size, or just to feel better?

Do you prefer training alone or with others?

What kind of time constraints do you have?

Next, consider your options (see above for examples) and pick whatever appeals to you the most.

Give whatever resistance training routine you choose a month or so of consistent effort.

Keep track of how it affects how you look, feel, and perform.

Can you handle more weight, sets, or repetitions?

What changes are you noticing in your sleep, mood, and focus?

Finally, are you enjoying yourself?

Life’s too short to slog through workouts you hate.

Remember also that your value as a person is not dependent on how much you can lift.

It’s not dependent on your size or body composition.

You have more to offer than your strength, size, or physical appearance.

Finding an approach that works for you may take some time and effort.

You are worth that time.

You are worth that effort.

Start where you are.

Do what you can.

You’ve got this.


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