Resistance Training 101: How lifting weights can improve your health

American society has been accustomed to trust Doctors and allied health care professionals to prescribe medication and treatment plans.  Common connotation might suggest that pills and surgery are the first thingthat pops into our minds when talking about western medicine.  While these treatments are certainly useful, what if we could stop the ailments or at least limit the symptoms from occurring? What if there was a way to reduce or even eliminate the need for certain medications?  Would you believe me? Would you follow through and honor a preventative approach if it would give you positive health outcomes? 


Where a Doctor prescribes drugs and medications, an exercise physiologist prescribes exercise as a part of the health intervention.  There are vast amounts of literature published on how exercise can help improve health.  Resistance training is one modality of exercise that can provide such benefits.  Some of these benefits include (but are not limited to) improved strength, muscular endurance, balance, motor control, nervous system tone, mobility, acute improvements in insulin sensitivity and many others.


When talking about resistance training I like to look at the big picture.  Resistance training has a lot of different meanings depending on who you ask.  Any type of training focusing on muscular strength, power, endurance can fall under the umbrella of resistance training.  To be more specific, there are several components that help define the type of resistance training and therefore define the type of training adaptations you will get from your program.  The basic phases are listed below:

Concentric contraction -  involves shortening the muscle under tension, meaning moving in the opposite direction of the force (resistance) applied.  For example, pushing the weight off your chest during a bench press.

Eccentric contraction – involves lengthening the muscle under tension, or moving the same direction as the force (resistance) applied.  For example, lowering the weight towards your chest during a bench press.

Isometric contraction – involves the muscle contracting but no movement is occurring, or holding the weight in a fixed position.  For example, when trying to perform a maximal bench press you are able to lift the weight half way but find your “sticking point” and you are not able to move the weight any higher.

Each phase of a lift has specific benefits and training adaptations.  To reap the most benefits of resistance training a comprehensive program is required that has a combination of concentric, eccentric and isometric training.  I will discuss programming principles in a future article for how to create a structured routine. 


If you are interested in taking your training to the next level contact me to set up your next appointment.  We have comprehensive programs from strength and conditioning to metabolic and medical conditions.  Stay tuned for other tips on how to make resistance training an effective piece of your workout routine.


-Alex Edwards, CEP

Exercise Physiologist