Why building muscle is the best approach to looking and feeling great
There are three primary reasons in my opinion to build muscle:
1) Increase strength
2) Burn more calories
3) Improve body composition
In order to build muscle one must participate in some form of resistance training program. Your muscles can’t tell the difference between dumbbells, machines, cables, tubing, medicine balls, kettle bells or simply gravity to name several kinds of resistance tools. That said though, they each challenge the body in slightly different ways. Thus, a comprehensive program should include several approaches to placing an external load upon the body while performing a variety of movements.
Strength increases come as result of two factors: neuromuscular improvements and increases in muscle size. Simply stated, neuromuscular improvements result in increases in strength due to a learning curve and an increase in efficiency by your nervous system. Following an improvement in your nervous system’s ability to perform a particular movement pattern additional gains in strength are due to an increase in the actual size of the muscle. Plain and simple, larger muscle results in increased force production, which means increased strength. Therefore, in order to see gains in strength beyond those seen at the beginning of a training program due to neuromuscular “learning” you are going to have to increase muscle size.
Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, which means it needs to expend energy to sustain itself. You may be more familiar with the term burning calories. By increasing the amount of muscle on your body you will be increasing the amount of energy you will expend or the amount of calories you will burn at rest. In a typical cardio session lasting one hour in duration the average exerciser can burn anywhere from 500-700 calories. However, once the session is over, the after-burn is minimal almost non-existent especially if the session was your typical steady state training as seen in jogging. A strength training or resistance training program targeted at increasing muscle will lead to an increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR). That means that although your strength training session for that hour may expend less calories than running for an hour, the added muscle (over time, not from a single session) will lead to an increase in total calories burned throughout the day which you just don’t get from traditional aerobic training.
Improved body composition is another benefit in participating in exercise that builds muscle. Positive lean muscle mass to fat ratios have been suggested to be beneficial in reducing heart disease, diabetes, and in connection with reducing the chances of getting certain cancers. From a pure vanity perspective muscle just looks better. Muscle is denser than fat, which means it occupies less space. So for those women that fear adding muscle will make them look bigger my reply is that it will do the exact opposite. “Well, Jason I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder”. Don’t worry you won’t. The key to the success of the very large bodybuilders is three-fold: training volume (how much they do), nutrition (how much they eat), and in many cases what kind of drugs they do. Muscle will make you look leaner and sculpted.
The only problem however occurs when you increase muscle without reducing fat. Proper nutrition is a big component of weight loss. It is almost impossible to exercise the weight off and keep it off long term. Initially, it is possible that if you build muscle and still have a layer of fat surrounding the muscle you will have the appearance of having gotten bigger. For example, picture a balloon inside of a balloon; the inside balloon being muscle and the outside balloon being fat. If the inside balloon increases and the outside balloon remains the same the two together are larger. You may say that this is the very reason you are afraid of strength training. That is short-term thinking. Go back to my earlier points on the benefits of muscle building. If you build muscle you will expend more calories; that in conjunction with a proper eating plan will lead to a reduction in fat mass. With less fat and more muscle on your body you will be a smaller, more compact version of your old self. By beginning a resistance-training program today you will be on your way to feeling and looking your very best.