Resistance training is a form of exercise or physical activity that increases muscle fitness by working an individual muscle or a group of muscles against some external resistance. This results in increased endurance and stamina.
Resistance training also helps build muscle power and keeps them toned.
The simplest form of resistance training is moving your body against gravity while doing a push-up, plank, and pull-up.
Basic Principles of Resistance Training
According to the first principle of resistance training – specificity, the kind of exercises that you include in your resistance training must help you reach your fitness goal.
For example, for some people, losing their belly fat and toning the muscle may be the goal, whereas for another, increasing muscle strength and endurance may be the fitness goal. The kind of resistance training exercises will differ for both and will become very specific as they progress in their training. Also, specific exercises are more effective than just doing a few generic resistance exercises.
The next principle of resistance training is progressive overload. This means getting out of your comfort zone and pushing your body to do more. During resistance training, your body will adapt and become more efficient while you reach your fitness goals.
According to this principle, your muscles grow only when they are subjected to more stress than they are used to. In order to overcome progressive resistance during resistance training, your muscles get training to become stronger and larger. One need not increase progressive overload in a linear fashion.
This is one principle that all resistance trainees must remember– if you stop your resistance training for a few months to a year, all the gains you made ‘during’ your training will be lost, and you will be back to square one. Just like muscles get trained during resistance training, one can lose their muscle mass by not subjecting muscles to stress.
Progression and Individual Variability
This is an essential concept of resistance training, which states that all of us are different in the way we respond to muscle training. This is based upon our age, gender, genetics, and nutrition. While some people build muscles quickly, others take a while to get there with the same kind of workout schedule.
Muscle Strength and Recovery During Resistance Training
Gaining Muscle Strength During Resistance Training
When you are just beginning your resistance training, you may experience a quick increase in strength. This stage is followed by plateauing of the strength, i.e., you might not find an increase in your strength beyond this point. The next stage is an increase in muscle strength and size. However, this requires a lot more effort.
The initial increase in one’s strength during resistance training is due to a phenomenon called neural adaptation, wherein the nerves that supply the muscles tend to change their behavior based on muscle requirement. The nerve cells send signals frequently, and a lot of muscle units get deployed to fire when a muscle group contracts. This indicates the plateauing stage of maximum strength. However, even though you have reached your maximum strength and plateaued, the continued training helps to increase your muscle size. Continuing your resistance training post this plateau stage will get you past it.
Muscle Recovery During Resistance Training
Muscles, like any other body tissue, require periods of rest between workouts. Lack of adequate rest to your muscles affects their strength and growth. Ideally, after training a specific group of muscles, you need to rest them for at least 48-hours. This allows your muscles to relax and grow before your next workout session.
Benefits of Resistance Training
Resistance training has many benefits as per research, and these include:
- Improved physical performance in athletes
- Improved ability to control body movements
- Increased stamina and sustenance during a sport
- Increased walking speed
- Toning of muscles
- Improved muscle strength
- Reduction in belly fat
- Improved brain function
- Prevention of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases
- Improved mobility and balance
- Better posture
- Reduced chances of falls, therefore, reduces the risk of injuries
- Helps relieve insomnia
- Enhanced efficiency in sports and in performing daily tasks
- Improved brain function
How Does Genetics Influence Response To Resistance Training?
How your muscles grow, how much strength they can reach, and how resistance training affects them have a strong genetic component. There are several genes that have been found to affect muscle development, growth, and their response to resistance training.
Commonly associated genes include MSTN, CCL2, CCR2, LEPR, FTO, and SH2B1. Let’s understand more about their effects.
MSTN Gene and Resistance Training
The MSTN gene is a protein-coding gene that encodes the growth factor, myostatin. It regulates the size of muscles beginning in early embryonic development and continuing throughout life.
Two polymorphisms in the MSTN gene, A55T and K153R, have been shown to cause strength-training induced muscle hypertrophy among Chinese men.
The A55T variant is also called rs1805085. The GA and AA genotypes are associated with enhanced strength training-induced muscle building.
The K153R variant is also called rs1805086. The AG genotype is associated with enhanced strength training-induced muscle building as compared to the AA genotype.
LEPR Gene and Resistance Training
The LEPR gene or the Leptin Receptor gene is responsible for regulating body weight. This receptor is activated by the hormone leptin, which is released by the fat cells in the body.
rs1137101 is an SNP in the LEPR gene. In response to resistance training, adults with the G allele gained greater arm muscle volume and subcutaneous fat volume than adults with the AA genotype.
Non-genetic Factors that Affect Muscle Strength
There is no age limit for when one can begin resistance training. However, the rate of muscle growth and development is greatest from 10-20-years of age. After reaching growth maturity, muscle growth and strength increase do not happen quickly.
Gender affects the quantity of muscles. Men inherently have more muscle mass than women, and the growth of muscles in men is favored by testosterone. The larger the muscle, the stronger a person is.
Type of Muscle Fiber
There are primarily two types of muscle fibers that come into play when it comes to training – slow-twitch and fast-twitch. The slow-twitch fibers are used for aerobic activities as they produce small forces for a long period of time. This makes them ideal for endurance-based activities. Fast-twitch fibers, on the other hand, produce strong forces for short periods, making them great for anaerobic activities and ideal for Olympic sports like weight lifting.
Though there is no gender difference in the distribution of slow and fast-twitch fibers, some people are inherently born with a higher percentage of one of the fiber types. While most marathon runners have higher slow-twitch fibers, football players may have higher fast-twitch fibers. During resistance training, fast-twitch fibers experience a greater increase in muscle size and strength and show faster results.
Limb and Muscle Strength
The length of your limbs is an important factor that determines if you can lift heavyweights. People with short limbs can lift heavier weights due to favorable lever mechanisms in their arms and legs. However, those with longer muscles have a larger scope of increasing their muscle size and strength as compared to people with shorter muscle lengths.
The Location of Tendon Insertion
Did you know that muscle strength is directly affected by where its tendon is inserted on the bone? The farther your tendon insertion from the joint, the greater your mechanical advantage. So, people who have forearm tendon attachments away from the elbow joint tend to lift more weight than those who have them close to the joint.
In order to train your muscles well, you must ensure you are practicing good lifting techniques. The right techniques will bring about effective results.
Type of Program
Apart from all the factors mentioned above, your muscle’s response to strength training depends upon the type of training program you are undergoing.
Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations For Resistance Training
For an effective resistance training plan, a good diet and nutrition plan along with healthy lifestyle habits is crucial.
Count your calories: During your resistance training, you need to limit your calories. Using online calorie counters is a good way to keep track of your caloric intake.
Measure your food: It is common practice for athletes and sportsmen to measure the food they eat. Measuring food can seem tedious at first but is very useful in keeping track of what you are eating and how many calories you consume in a day. You can use a small scale with measuring cups and spoons for this exercise.
Eating sufficient amounts of macronutrients: While training, you must get sufficient amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats as these help in muscle growth and development and keep your body cells healthy. During resistance training, protein intake is particularly important because your muscles are made up of proteins.
Also, remember to consume sufficient calories each day as these fuel your workouts. Having an energy deficit prior to your workouts can make building muscle and endurance difficult. Always chart out a plan for foods during your resistance training, prior to it and after it. Having a large banana and 1 cup of cottage cheese or two whole wheat bread slices with egg whites, etc., make for great pre-workout meals.
Strict meal timings: Just as your workout timings are important, timing your meals and sticking to them consistently each day is important too.
Limit your drinking: Alcohol is bad for your health and even worse if you are resistance training for an event. Alcohol is very high in calories, and your body tends to burn this alcohol as fuel before burning other fuel types. Also, it can disrupt your next day’s schedule and interfere with your training schedule.
Avoid wrong foods: Eat only what does your body good. This means you must stay away from the bad foods that include sugary-foods, processed foods, etc.
Keep yourself hydrated.
Get a good night’s sleep and rest every day as this helps your body cells and tissues recover.
- Resistance training is an essential part of getting your body prepared for any sport or athletic event.
- The effectiveness of resistance training depends upon your body’s response to the external resistances provided in a progressive manner.
- Muscle growth, muscle development, strength gain, and recovery of muscles all have a strong genetic component. Variations in the MSTN, CCLr-CCR2, LEPR, FTO, and SH2B1 genes are said to have direct effects on how muscles react to resistance training.
- Other non-genetic factors such as age, gender, type of muscle fiber, etc., also affect one’s strength training, in combination with the existing genetic factors.
- In addition to a strict fitness regimen, healthy dietary and lifestyle habits are essential for resistance training.