How Strength Training Impacts Metabolism

Strength training

Strength training (or resistance training) does much more than build strong muscles and bones. Research in the past few years has confirmed that lifting weights changes human metabolism in ways that improve health and well-being. Resistance training improves resting metabolic rate and cardiorespiratory fitness. That’s a powerful swing of the pendulum from days when pushing barbells and mastering squats were seen primarily as ways to boost strength, muscular endurance, and bone density.

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a measure of the calories we burn at rest. RMR accounts for 50%–75% of daily caloric expenditure (Aristizabal et al. 2015). Maintaining the body’s vital functions, such as heart rate, breathing and brain function, demands quite a lot of energy.

Muscle mass and thyroid hormones have a profound effect on RMR. Apart from building lean body mass, strength training may trigger metabolic changes in muscle that influence thyroid hormones, though more research is needed in this area (Aristizabal et al. 2015).

Research shows that strength training can disrupt muscle differently than aerobic training does. Strength training leads to muscle protein synthesis and repair, which are energy-demanding metabolic processes. Higher exercise intensities produce more EPOC because they cause more muscle disturbance (Greer et al. 2015).

Practical Recommendations

To boost RMR, it’s a good idea to use periodized programs in which you cycle progressively through various aspects of training and there are systematic changes in intensity and volume (Aristizabal et al. 2015). For maximum results, use compound exercises that recruit as much muscle mass as possible at higher intensities relative to a person’s fitness level (Greer et al. 2015).

The study found a clear dose-response relationship between the number of sets and hypertrophy, the scientific term for muscle growth. In counting weekly sets per muscle group, the researchers found that significant hypertrophy occurred with the following: <5 sets (+5.4%); 5–9 sets (+6.5%); and >10 sets (+9.6%).

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