Whether your 8 or 80, weightlifting can be used to improve your overall health. While at one time it was thought that children should avoid lifting weight as exercise because it can cause damage to their maturing bones, and that seniors are just too weak and frail to weight lift. Both of these ideas have proven unfounded. Weightlifting when done correctly can help anyone get and keep fit. There has been very little evidence of bone growth plate damage in children who weight train properly, and seniors well into their 80’s and 90’s have shown to actually reduce some of the bone loss that comes with aging by working out with weights.
Weight lifting has a multitude of benefits that do not start and end with the obvious of increased strength and more lean muscle mass. We know that increased muscle mass increases your metabolism. Increased metabolism helps you lose weight and keep it off. Weight lifting is also a great natural anti-depressant. It relives stress like any strong work out by raising the level of endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, which are known to fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
Basic weight lifting techniques and workouts are usually what are called isotonic exercises, because the muscles are used to apply force to push or pull a weighted object. That object could be anything, but most commonly we are talking about barbells or dumbbells, or weight machines. Weight lifting exercises to gain strength and improve health can be isolation exercises or compound exercises. An isolation exercise is one that is designed to workout or build a specific muscle or muscle group, like a leg lift. Compound exercises are those weigh lifts that are designed to work several muscle groups. Inclined leg presses, where you use both legs to press out to move a weight while reclining on a weight bench is a compound exercise because it involves the quads, the hips, hamstrings, and glutes and even can strengthen the knee joints. That is one of the greatest health benefits of weight lifting – many single exercises can be used to work groups of muscles, and produce a great total body workout. Compound exercises are the best to develop increased strength for overall health and daily activities. The muscles worked out in most compound weight lifting exercises most closely resemble the pushing, pulling, bending, and lifting we do in our everyday activities, and will make these tasks much easier after just a few weeks of weightlifting. Most of the common weight lifting exercises you are familiar with like the Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press are compound exercises. Another example of an Isolation Exercise would be the Curl for Biceps. Isolation exercises can be helpful if you want to target a specific muscle group and improve performance for a given sport like your golf or tennis swing, or improving your forearms to help carry around your four year old, as my wife recently discovered!