What Is Resistance Training?

There is no denying that gyms can be intimidating places, especially for a beginner who is venturing out into the weight world for the first time. Walking into a huge open room with lots of mysterious-looking machines can be discouraging for some. If you’re interested in adding strength training to your routine, there are many options. You don’t necessarily need to have a gym membership or expensive weight machines to get started. Squatting, push-ups, planks and other movements that require your own body weight as resistance can be effective. Let’s break it down even further, what is resistance training?

What is Resistance / Weight Training?

Resistance training, also often known as strength or weight training, is the use of resistance (weight) to build strength, anaerobic endurance and the size of skeletal muscles. The principle of resistance training is that muscles will work to overcome a resistance force when they’re required to do so. With regular and consistent training, your muscles become stronger and adapt to overcome the resistance.

For many people, the idea of weight training tends to blur with weightlifting or bodybuilding; with many fearing becoming ‘bulky’. It’s important to remember that the goals of each of these sports and training regimes are different. For the majority of people, their motivation behind resistance training is to get stronger. Resistance training can be done in many ways and is easily adapted and individualised to your specific needs and goals.

Types of Resistance Training

Strength training is incredibly versatile, there is no wrong or right way to do it. You should train in whichever way you feel most comfortable and safest with. These are the most common types of ways to resistance train:  

  • Free weights – dumbbells or barbells 
  • Weight machines 
  • Medicine balls – weighted balls 
  • Elastic bands – giant rubber bands that provide continuous resistance 
  • Plyometrics – jump training
  • Bodyweight 

When you think about weight training, the two most common representations are free weights (like dumbbells) and weight machines – but which should you use? The simple answer, both. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both free weights and machines.

Free Weights 

Advantages: 

  • You’re able to do a variety of exercises that can target all of the muscle groups 
  • Allows for self-selected movement and individualisation for your needs
  • Using free weights also helps to build your coordination and balance. Extra control is required by your muscles to keep the weights in the correct position. 
  • You’ll work other muscle groups than just the one you’re focusing on. As an example, most free weight exercises will utilise the core musculature much more than using machines. 

Disadvantages:

  • Risk of injury from dropping bars or dumbells. It can be a good idea to have a partner to spot you when lifting free weights.
  • If you’re strong and require lots of weight, then you’ll need space to store all the dumbbells and plates if you’re planning on setting up a home gym
  • If you’re set on having a home gym it can get costly 
  • Free weight training does require some skill and knowledge. If you’re a beginner, it might be a good idea to have an exercise physiologist help you get started. 

Machines 

Advantages: 

  • They’re simple to use. All you need to do is adjust the pin to the amount of weight you want. 
  • For the most part, they’re relatively safe. Don’t attempt to lift weight that is too heavy or you might strain yourself. 
  • Using weight machines doesn’t require a lot of coordination. Actions generally include push or pull motions. 

Disadvantages: 

  • They require lots of space. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking at purchasing machines for an at-home gym. 
  • Weight machines can come with an expensive price tag 
  • They’re typically limited to working for just one muscle group at a time. Therefore you would need lots of machines to cover all the muscle groups.  

We suggest working through a variety of machines at the gym and free weight exercises to find what works best for you. If you’re struggling to understand exercises or correct technique, we recommend seeking out professional advice from an exercise physiologist. They will teach you the correct technique and create an individualised training program that is specific to your needs and will help you achieve your goals.

There are endless excuses people use for not exercising, but not having access to a gym facility shouldn’t be one. Expensive equipment and weight machines aren’t necessary to start your fitness journey. Low-cost, small pieces of equipment like resistance bands and medicine balls can equally provide an effective full-body workout.

Benefits of Resistance Training

Resistance, or strength training, is a vital component of overall fitness. It benefits everyone of all ages and capabilities, in particular those with health issues such as obesity, arthritis or a heart condition. Recent research also indicates that resistance training can increase athletic performance by improving strength, endurance, power production, speed, agility, balance and coordination. Everyone can benefit from resistance training, and here’s why:

You’ll get stronger and fitter 

Increasing your muscle strength makes it easier to do things on a day-to-day basis. Think of carrying groceries or picking up your kids or grandkids. Additionally, resistance training increases your body’s resilience and decreases your risk of injury. 

Protects bone health and muscle mass 

As we get older, the body naturally starts to lose muscle, this can affect day-to-day life. 30 minutes twice a week was shown to improve functional performance, and bone density structure and strength in postmenopausal women. Everyone can benefit from muscle-strengthening activities. It helps preserve and increase muscle mass, strength and power which are essential for bone, joint and muscle health.   

Aids in weight loss  

It’s well-known that aerobic exercise such as walking, running and cycling are attributed to losing weight due to the number of calories that you can burn. What can also aid in weight loss is resistance training. Muscle-strengthening activities help increase your resting metabolism – meaning the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re going about your day. 

Improve and develop body mechanics 

Resistance training helps to improve and develop your balance, coordination and posture. It is particularly beneficial for older people who are at risk of falling and injuring themselves. Resistance training reduced fall risk by 40% compared to those who didn’t strength train. 

Improves energy levels and mood 

Exercise in any form increases endorphins. In turn, this boosts energy levels and improves mood. Recent evidence also suggests that strength-based exercises may help you sleep better.

Weight Training for Youths 

Over the past few decades, resistance training for children and adolescents has been an area of interest and controversy. Some clinicians once considered this type of training for youths to be unsafe and potentially injurious to the development of the musculoskeletal system. However, current research indicates a relatively low risk of injury to youths who follow age-appropriate training guidelines which includes qualified supervision and instruction. 

Participation in any kind of sport or physical activity carries a risk of injury. A well-designed program has no greater inherent risk to youths than any other sport or activity. Rare cases of growth plate fractures related to resistance training are attributed to the misuse of equipment, lifting inappropriate weight amounts, incorrect technique, or training without qualified supervision. 

Resistance training for youths that is supervised and well-designed by medical, fitness and sports organisations is now becoming universal. The increasing popularity is due to its ability to enhance athletic performance. Strength training programs for young athletes should focus on speed, agility, strength, power, mobility, balance and endurance.
Here at QSMC, we run a Youth Athletic Development Program. This program, which is run by one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists focuses on strength training and movement development to help increase athletic performance. You can read more about this program here.

Resistance Training Guidelines

Many people choose to incorporate resistance training into their exercise routine to get stronger. The majority of these people will not start in a class or receive one-on-one instruction before commencing resistance training. Instead, many people watch others use the equipment or view videos online. Unfortunately, this can lead to lifting weight with poor positioning and posture which can result in injury. Resistance training can be dangerous if your technique isn’t right. That’s why we recommend seeking advice from a qualified professional such as an exercise physiologist or having a personal trainer at your gym show you around.

Before starting a resistance training program, you should identify the following factors which may influence a higher risk of experiencing a health problem or injury during physical activity: 

  • Previous injuries 
  • Pain when lifting
  • Medical conditions
  • Training goals
  • Motives and expectations – what is your motivation for beginning a strength program and what do you want to achieve
  • Technique – do you understand and can you perform proper technique

If you have any health issues or have significant past injuries, you should speak with your doctor, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist about what type of strength exercise is best to meet your needs and abilities. Initially, resistance training exercise should be learned with low loads. When the correct technique is understood then incremental weight loads can be added. Your resistance training program should also target all major muscle groups.

Safety Tips

There are simple safety measures you can take to keep yourself (and others) safe when resistance training. Always pay attention to your form and those around you to reduce the risk of injury. You should always warm-up before undertaking any type of resistance training. Light aerobic exercise for 5 minutes such as walking, cycling or rowing will warm your muscles and increase blood circulation. Dynamic stretching, which involves slow and controlled movements through your full range of motion, should also be done before strength exercises. Here are some additional safety tips you should know: 

  • Maintain proper technique, posture and form throughout the movement 
  • Increase weight gradually and start slow 
  • Only use safe and well-maintained equipment
  • Don’t hold your breath during repetitions and movements
  • Always be in control of the weights
  • Don’t train through injury or when you’re feeling overtired or sick 

For youths, free weights can be the most effective resistance training method. Smaller youths may not fit into weight machines, as they’re built for adults. Injury can result from their bodies not being properly supported. Free weight training programs can focus on using dumbbells, barbells, elastic bands and plyometrics.

For youths in a team environment, like a sports team, resistance training should be non-competitive and fun. Injuries are more likely to occur when they’re competing against each other to see who can lift the most weight. Attempting to lift inappropriate weight can cause strain on bones and muscles. Progress should be tracked based on each student’s improvement rather than comparing themselves to others.

For youths, adults and the elderly alike, a well-rounded fitness program should include some form of resistance training to improve and preserve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines recommend that adults, in particular, participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. If you want to begin resistance training but you aren’t sure how to get started, our exercise physiologists can help. Contact us today on 07 3891 2000.


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