10 Reasons Everyone (And Their Mom) Should Do Strength Workouts
“What’s the best kind of exercise?”
I used to answer that by saying something like, “It depends on your goals, your preferences, your injury history, your blah blah blah blah blah.”
Oh, it’s a true answer — it just isn’t helpful. You may as well consult a Magic 8-Ball to help you create your workout routine.
It might be a stretch to call strength workouts the “best” type of exercise. It’s not a stretch at all to say that it’s the only type of exercise every single person (and their mom) would be smart to include as part of their routine — regardless of their goals.
So if you don’t do strength workouts now (or don’t have someone creating a personalized program for you), I have 10 reasons you might want to reconsider. I think you’ll be surprised by a lot of them.
I’ll make it a “top 10 list” (but in no particular order). Starting with…
#10 — It’s good cardio! (Say what???)
Yep. If you hate jogging, or biking, or rowing, or swimming, or sex, or ellipticals…
🙍♀️: Wait, what’d you say?
🙍♀️: No, before that?
🙍♀️: I must have misheard you.
Anyway, if you hate that stuff, strength workouts can do wonders for your heart health — assuming you have a well-designed workout and aren’t just hopping from machine to machine.
Doing cardio specific exercise is great, but for the everyday person without a lot of time on their hands…
*in other words, if you’re only going to do one thing*
…strength-based workouts will get more done in less time.
Heck, on our walk today I sprinted up our neighborhood’s very long, VERY steep hill and felt fine, and I haven’t done “cardio” in a long time.
#9 — It’s good for flexibility.
Full disclosure: I’m one of the least flexible people you’ll ever meet. Always have been.
I hated the “touch your toes” test in elementary school.
I even quit gymnastics as a kid because I didn’t like the coach telling me I needed to stretch more (at least that’s my memory of it).
Admittedly, I’m biased, but I think stretching is overrated.
Now that you know my personal feelings, let me give you the cold hard facts:
✅ There’s not necessarily a benefit to being more flexible than what you need for normal daily tasks.
✅ A lot of issues people try to solve with stretching would actually be better improved (in the long-term) with more strength.
✅ Strength exercises (when done correctly) can improve your flexibility at least as well as stretching — and in some cases more so.
✅ The toilet paper roll should always be over, never under (this isn’t exercise related, but it’s still a fact).
There’s a lot of nuance to these points (other than the last one), so don’t misunderstand.
I am NOT anti-stretching.
In fact, I’d probably do well to add a regular stretching routine to my day. But that’s the thing… there are so many things I “should” be doing.
I don’t have time for it all.
I’d rather start with what will get me the biggest benefit in the least amount of time.
That’s why I prioritize strength-based workouts. They’ve taken the Shakespearean tragedy that was my flexibility and improved it to being more of a modern day rom-com.
It’s not perfect, but I never feel limited at all. And isn’t that the goal of flexibility anyway?
#8 — It’s how to tone up.
For the record, I highly recommend NOT toning up to the point of trying to have a six pack. The amount of effort that takes isn’t worth it.
Especially since no one gives a flying duck (thank you autocorrect) about whether they can see your abs anyway.
On the other hand, with 20-30 minutes of strength workouts 2-3 times per week (and a nutrition plan that complements that routine), toning up to more of an “I have an actual life outside of the gym” degree isn’t all that difficult.
No, I didn’t say it was “easy,” Karen. (Sorry to any actual Karens out there. What a bummer for you, huh?)
It’s just that achieving that sort of goal is much easier than most people think.
So here’s the deal. Toning up requires 2 things:
Losing fat and building strength.
For the first part (losing fat), you don’t necessarily have to do strength exercise — although your efforts will be WAY more effective if you do.
But for the second part (building strength), it’s pretty obvious that requires strength exercise.
In other words, toning up without strength exercise is impossible. (Read “How to Exercise if You Want to Tone Up” for more on that.)
#7 — It’s the secret to healthy weight loss.
Losing weight without strength training can lead to a vicious cycle.
That’s right — it can cause children to stop believing in Santa, which then forces him to start laying off elves. But Santa can’t just bring himself to continue firing one elf after another, so he ends up keeping too many workers on the payroll. And the next thing you know, Mrs. Clause is taking Rudolph out behind the barn because it’s the only way they can afford to eat.
Is that what you want?!
And if you don’t care about that (what kind of person are you?) then check out this other vicious cycle that’s actually real…
When you lose weight, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re losing fat. Your weight can also drop from losing muscle, bone, and even organ mass.
This means you’re losing “lean mass” rather than fat.
If you aren’t strength training, a larger percentage of the weight you lose will be from that lean mass.
The more lean mass you lose, the more your body will start to think something is wrong.
At that point, you’ll have a more difficult time continuing to lose weight AND you’ll be more likely to gain the weight back (as more fat) later…
Starting the cycle all over again. 🔁
On the other hand, even just 2 well-designed strength workouts per week can significantly change that. It signals to your body to hang on to more lean mass and lose more fat.
Listen, there are other things to consider when losing weight, too. If your diet is off, that doesn’t help either.
This is just one of the “big picture” things that you really have to consider if you want weight loss to stick.
(And if you don’t want Rudolph to end up on Santa’s plate for Christmas dinner).
#6 — It makes you feel younger (more so than other types of exercise).
I don’t want to sound like a jerk here.
I don’t mind if I really am a jerk, just as long as I don’t sound like one. 😜
Unfortunately, I don’t know a nicer way to say this…
If your body feels more and more like it’s falling apart, it’s not because you’re getting older — it’s because you don’t have a well-designed strength program you can follow consistently.
Before I get a bunch of hate emails, hear me out.
Your body does change as you get older. There’s even a good chance that eventually you’ll die (the science supports this — I googled it).
There are certain things you can’t change, and I’m NOT insensitive to things like disease, injury, etc.
But MANY of the negative effects attributed to “age” can be significantly reduced, slowed down, or negated completely with strength exercise.
And MOST people who feel their age catching up to them are actually still capable of feeling as good or better than when they were supposedly “in their prime.”
Just ask my 64 year old mom (and client) who, 10 years ago, could barely do more than a few unweighted squats. Now she’s the person I trust most if I need help moving something heavy.
“Why strength training though? Wouldn’t any type of exercise help me feel younger?”
It’s just that strength (or the lack of it) plays a big role in how our bodies function (or stop functioning) as we get older.
And you’re not going to accidentally get stronger.
If you never exercise a day in your life, you may be active enough to have a healthy heart. You may eat well enough to not gain weight.
But if you aren’t intentional about building (or at least maintaining) your strength, you’re going to lose it, and you’re going to feel “old” WAY sooner than you have to.