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Benefits of strength training

No disrespect to cardio, but if you want to burn fat, get in shape, and rock everything that comes your way—both in and out of the gym—strength training is where it’s at. Here’s why

It makes sense that strength training would make you stronger, but sometimes you need a little extra motivation. Here are some of the amazing benefits of strength training you might not know about.

You’ll burn more fat

Forget that “fat-burning” zone on the treadmill. According to a study published in Obesity, strength training is better at helping people lose belly fat, compared with cardio. While aerobic exercise burns both fat and muscle, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat.

You’ll burn more calories

Just sitting on your butt reading this, you’re burning calories—if you lift weights, that is. Your muscle mass largely determines your resting metabolic rate—how many calories you burn by just living and breathing. “The more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends,” says women’s strength expert Holly Perkins, CSCS.

You’ll be stronger mentally

“Strength has a funny way of bleeding into all areas of your life, in the gym and out,” says Jen Sinkler, an Olympic lifting coach, kettlebell instructor, and author of Lift Weights Faster. By constantly challenging yourself to do things you never thought possible, your confidence grows. “Weight lifting empowers you,” she says.

You’ll boost your flexibility

Full-range resistance training workouts can improve flexibility just as well as your typical static stretching regimen, according to research. The key word here is “full-range.” If you can’t complete the full motion—going all the way up and all the way down—with a given weight, you may need to use a lighter dumbbell and work up to it.

You’ll strengthen your bones

Weight lifting doesn’t only train your muscles; it also trains your bones. When you perform a biceps curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. “The cells within those bones react by creating new bone cells,” Perkins says. Your bones become stronger and more dense.

You’ll drop a size

It’s possible that lifting weights could make you weigh more, but only because you’ll be gaining muscle mass. The more your weight comes from muscle, rather than fat, the smaller you’ll be. “In fact, body weight often goes up with strength training, but dress size goes down one or two sizes,” Perkins says. 

You’ll ease joint pain

Go ahead, squat low. Your knees will thank you. “Proper strength training is the solution to joint issues,” Perkins says. “Stronger muscles better hold your joints in position, so you won’t need to worry about your knee flaring up during your next run.”

You’ll be a better runner

Stronger muscles mean better performance. Your core will be better able to support your body’s weight and maintain ideal form during other exercises (like running), plus your arms and legs will be more powerful. “What’s more, strength training could actually help you burn more calories during your cardio workouts,” Perkins says.

© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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