Whether you are 8 or 80, when done properly, weightlifting can be used to improve your overall health and fitness.
Once upon a time it was thought that children should avoid lifting weights as exercise because it could cause damage to maturing bones. At the other end of life, it was also thought that seniors were just too weak and frail to train with weights.
Both of these ideas have proven unfounded.
Weightlifting when done correctly can help anyone get fit and stay that wayt. There has been very little evidence of bone growth plate damage in children who weight train properly, and seniors well into their 80's and 90's have shown to actually reduce some of the bone loss that comes with aging by working out with weights. They also develop more strength and coordination which helps prevent falls and other injuries associated with age.
Weight lifting has a multitude of health benefits that do not start and end with the obvious one of increased strength and more lean muscle mass.
We know, for example, that increased muscle mass increases your metabolism. Increased metabolism helps with permanent and healthy weight loss. Weightlifting is also a great natural anti-depressant. It relives stress like any other strong workout by raising the level of endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, which are known to fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
Most weightlifting techniques and workouts are usually
what are called isotonic
exercises, as opposed to isometric exercises
(done without movement), because the muscles are used to
apply force to push or pull a weighted object through what is called a
"range of motion". That object could be
anything, but most commonly we are talking about barbells or dumbbells,
or the resistance provided by various forms of weight machines.
Weightlifting exercises to gain strength and improve
health can be either isolation
exercises or compound exercises.
An isolation exercise is one that is designed to work
out or build a specific muscle or muscle group, like a leg lift.
Compound exercises, on the other hand, are those weight
lifts that are designed to work several muscle groups. Inclined leg presses, where you
use both legs to press out to move a weight while reclining on a weight
bench is a compound exercise because it involves the quads, the hips,
hamstrings, glutes and even can strengthen the knee joints.
This is one of the greatest health benefits of weight
lifting - many single exercises can be used to work groups of muscles,
and produce a great total body workout.
Compound exercises are the best to develop increased strength for overall health and daily activities.
The muscles worked out in most compound weight lifting exercises most
closely resemble the pushing, pulling, bending and lifting we do in our
everyday activities, and will make these tasks much easier after just a
few weeks of weightlifting.
Most of the common weight lifting exercises you are familiar with, such as the Squat,
and Bench Press are compound exercises. Another example of an
Isolation Exercise would be the Curl for Biceps. Isolation exercises
can be helpful if you want to target a specific muscle group and
improve performance for a given sport like your golf or tennis swing,
or improving your forearms to help carry around your four year old, as my wife recently discovered!
You can also achieve various fitness results by varying the types of exercises, number of repetitions, sets of exercises, and
combinations and sequences of exercises. For example, I combine and alternate weight lifting, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, and various calesthenics in one exercise session several times a week for a good cardio workout which also develops strength.