Adding a well structured resistance training program to your workout routine might be the missing piece in getting to your ideal body composition, reaching your overall health goals, or even managing stress. Resistance training is one of the most important types of exercise you can do, but is often skipped or done incorrectly.

So what is this “Resistance Training”? It can also be called strength training, weight lifting, and many other names. It refers to exercises that require your body to resist a force. This resistance requires your muscles to work harder, making them stronger in the process. Weights are the most common source of resistance, but you can also use the weight of your own body without needing fancy gym equipment or machines. Learning to do this is a useful skill so that if your gym ever closes or you are traveling, your health and muscle mass isn’t lost.

In this guide, we will explore all the components needed to build muscle and strength. These include build your ideal exercise program to stress your muscles, and also supporting your body’s muscle synthesis through nutrition, rest and recovery. When all these are done together, they result in stronger and bigger muscles.

Benefits of muscle mass

One of the most common reason people exercise is to look good in the mirror or feel more confident. Adding muscle can help transform your physique. This change in body composition — more muscle and less bodyfat — is often what people are often seeking, rather than simply weighing a lower number.

Want to get “toned”? Then you actually want to build muscle, or at the very least preserve muscle while you lose some body fat. Both of these will require doing resistance training correctly.

Want a 6 pack? You will definitely need to reduce bodyfat, but preserving muscle with resistance training and adequate protein will be a key part of doing this healthily and having visible muscle definition.

Want to work toward a superhero body? You guessed it — even more resistance training.

These types of aesthetic goals are generally the primary reason people want to gain muscle and go to the gym or try new diets. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and shouldn’t be your only motivation. The benefits of having adequate muscle mass and making resistance training a lifelong habit go far beyond just looks.

Whether your goal is longevity, productivity, losing weight or simply spending time with your family, having adequate muscle mass is essential. Even if you don’t care about physique at all, following this guide and resistance training will help in many other ways.

Reduce sarcopenia from aging

In your 30s and beyond, physically inactive people can lose muscle mass through a process known as sarcopenia. It happens by as much as 3-5% every decade. Resistance training can help prevent or even reverse this dangerous process, making it one of the building blocks for anyone interested in longevity. If you are already 30 or over, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start and rebuild the lost muscle!

Increased insulin sensitivity

Currently over 80 million adults in the US are prediabetic. Blood sugar disregulation is a very serious health issue for over a third of the population, and can lead to low energy and productivity in the short term, and eventually obesity and death. Resistance training expands the storage capacity for blood sugar in the muscles, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and reversing symptoms of prediabetes.

Increased longevity

Building muscles adds quality to the quantity of years in your life. As you age, having adequate muscle mass and avoiding sarcopenia leads to improvements in hormone production and balance, motor unit retention and increased protection against falls and fractures, which are common health risks of aging.

Increased functionality

Strength and muscle helps you be able to do the things you enjoy in life, from keeping up with the kids as they get older and more agile, to being able to handle every days tasks such as shopping or home repairs with ease,

Support your joints

Muscles help absorb the forces that impact your joints. The joint stability that muscles can provide during movement can also protect against excessive stress, preventing joint issues from intense exercise or just getting older.

Maintain an effective immune system

Recent research in mice has shown strong skeletal muscles play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

Prevent or reduce lower back pain

When programmed well, and adequate rest and recovery is taken, developing a strong core and posterior chain can help support the spinal discs. This promote good postures and can prevent or even cure lower back pain.

Improve sports performance

Developing powerful muscles specific to the areas needed for a particular sport can increase speed, power, strength and endurance, giving an athlete an edge, while also protecting them against injury from repetitive practice.

Increase libido

Resistance training increases muscle mass, which increases free testosterone, blood flow and the movements train your pelvic muscles, all of which can contribute to better performance in the bedroom.

Reduce anxiety, depression or low self-esteem

Exercise releases endorphins and other chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. The process of getting stronger and reaching new Personal Records can also boost your sense of confidence and achievement.

Strength the central nervous system (CNS)

Resistance training develops motor control by activating motor units, special units held within your muscles that influence strength, movement and coordination.

Maintain mobility and flexibility, especially as we age

Contrary to popular myth, more muscle provides more room for mobility and flexibility, but with the added bonus of more strength within those extra ranges.

Increase bone strength, bone mineral density (BMD) and prevent bone loss

Studies have shown that strength training, over time, can increase the strength of your bones as well as your BMD, the amount of minerals in your bone tissue.

Improve metabolism and fat burning potential

More muscle means increased metabolic rate, which means more calories being metabolized for things like maintaining and building muscle, instead of storing this unused energy as bodyfat. Of course having more muscle is not a license to eat whatever you want unlimitedly, but gives you a bit more flexibility to enjoy the occasional treat.