Resistance training can loosely be defined as exercising with resistance with the intention to build muscle and strength. The effects that are seen from resistance training include increased strength and muscle mass, fat loss, and improvements in all positive health markers. Although most forms of exercise provide some health benefits, only resistance training builds and strengthens muscle (and speeds up the metabolism as a side effect) to a significant degree. Unfortunately, people tend to be confused about what forms of exercise really constitute resistance training.
To begin with, simply using resistance in your workout does not make it resistance training. Walking and running use the resistance of your body, swimming uses the resistance of the water and circuit training (a workout where you are moving from one exercise to another without rest) which can use equipment like dumbbells or barbells, do not qualify as true resistance training. Remember, resistance training builds strength, muscle and metabolism most effectively. Below I will list the factors that must be present in order for your workout to be considered resistance training.
You must use resistance
Any form of resistance can theoretically be used for resistance training, although there are a few more popular and effective types. Your bodyweight can be manipulated to provide resistance like you see in a push up or squat. This form of resistance training is very convenient as it requires no equipment, however it does limit exercise selection for many people as some bodyweight exercises such as pull ups are too difficult for some people.
Resistance bands are another great tool to be used for resistance training. They take up little space and are suitable for most people with bands ranging from very light resistance to very heavy. They are also useful for variety due to the fact they can provide resistance in pretty much any direction you can think of.
Free weights are a classic and a commonly used tool for resistance training. They can vary in weight to be made suitable for beginners all the way to the most advanced. They are known for being the most effective resistance training tools due to their fast muscle and strength building ability. One downside is that they are difficult to travel with and they take up a lot of space for storage.
You must use sufficient resistance
In whatever form of resistance training you engage in, it must provide enough resistance to stimulate a strength and muscle building response. This means movements in which you can do hundreds or even thousands of repetitions (like walking or running) don’t count. Rep ranges anywhere between 5 to 50 that are performed with a relatively high-level intensity will tell your body to build strength and muscle. Moderate to high level intensity means the reps you perform are very challenging.
You must rest in between sets
A set is when you perform your desired number of reps. For example, if you did an intense set of squats for 30 reps and then stopped to rest, that would be considered a set. Once a set is completed you must rest long enough to allow your body enough time to rebuild and replenish its stores of fast burning muscle energy (known as ATP). This is usually 30 seconds to 3 minutes of rest depending on the individual. If you don’t give yourself sufficient rest, you are essentially just doing more and more reps (even if it’s a different exercise) and you begin to lose the muscle and strength building effect. This is why circuit training is less like resistance training and more like cardiovascular training.
Everyone and anyone who is interested in increasing their strength, improving muscle tone/shape, and in teaching their body to burn more calories (faster metabolism) should make resistance training the cornerstone of their exercise regimen. It also doesn’t need to be done often, 2-3 days a week being more than sufficient for most people.