Strength training boosts metabolism by increasing muscle mass, which leads to weight loss. Walking or pedaling a stationary bike will burn calories, for sure, but the body's metabolism quickly returns to pre-exercise levels, usually within about 40 minutes. Not so with strength training, also called resistance training.
According to researchers at John Hopkins University, strength training leads to increased calorie burn for up to two hours after the workout ends. It also builds muscles you won't get otherwise, and maintaining muscle mass is key to keeping your metabolism from dipping while you diet. Working with weights also helps people jiggle less and fit back into clothes that were uncomfortably tight, since muscles take up less room than fat.
In a study comparing strength training with aerobic exercise, researchers at Brigham Young University found that middle-aged women who participated in a home strength training program three times a week for 12 weeks experienced greater improvements in body image than those who walked at the same frequency and duration. Other studies show that strength training leads to less blood sugar readings stored as fat, making people who lift weights, used dumbbells, or do sit-ups and push-ups less likely to develop the belly fat that leads to diabetes and heart disease.
Does lifting heavier weights build more muscle?
If your goal is building big muscles, you'll want to lift heavier weights. If you're looking to burn calories during your strength workout, you have a choice. You can lift heavyweights and be done with your workout quickly or lift lighter weights for a longer period of time. Either will burn the same number of calories.
If big muscles are your priority, go with the heavier weights if you can safely handle them. You'll challenge your body in new ways and increase the size of your muscle fibers more. Compare the physique of a marathoner with that of a sprinter. The sprinter with huge, powerful legs probably does leg presses with heavyweights. The marathoner, more concerned with endurance and overall toning, probably doesn't.
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