Unlike cardio – which burns calories mostly during the time that you spend exercising, weight lifting encourages your body to build muscle. The process of building muscle consists of several steps, which makes your body burn calories for hours after a workout as it expends energy to forming muscle tissue. So although strength training may burn fewer calories in the moment, it boosts your resting metabolic rate for hours after your workout.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in September 2012 concluded that people who partook in aerobic and strength training, as opposed to just one or the other, reaped the most health benefits from their workouts. Additionally, while cardio workouts helped participants reduce fat and body mass, resistance training was responsible for muscle formation.
To put it simply, strength training helps your body become strong.
I was hesitant to incorporate weight lifting into my exercise routine because I had never done it before so I was worried that I would do it wrong and hurt myself. By focusing on form first, however, I learned how to position myself within each motion of the routines I did. It was a gradual process but I had fun teaching myself something new. If you’re not super body-aware and are afraid of being off-balance or otherwise hurting yourself I strongly suggest finding a good trainer that can teach you the ropes, or rather how to handle the weights.
Once I had figured out how to do each exercise properly, I began to focus on increasing weight and repetitions each week. My first time working with weights was when I did P90X and they set out goals and guidelines for you to follow. Building on the routines each week and writing down how much I was lifting I learned to keep tabs on whether or not I should increase the weight the next time around. Tracking it also helped me to visualize my progress, which was much more motivational than simply being able to jump higher or run faster in cardio routines. P90X also switched up the weight lifting sequences every several weeks so I never got stuck in a boring rut and my muscles kept learning new movements.
Nowadays I try to incorporate weight lifting once a week, but I also do a lot of strength training using my body weight as resistance, like in yoga. This helps me not only focus more on my balance and core but also has helped me to maintain a leaner form.
After two rounds of P90X I had noticed that my muscle definition, especially on my arms, was too much for my personal taste. By paring back the weights and lifting my body weight I have successfully avoided “bulking up”. Trust me, if you’re worried about having too much muscle definition you’ll notice it before others do, and you’ll know how to change up your routine by then. Cross that bridge when you get there. And in the meantime, have fun incorporating strength training into your routine!