What Is Resistance Training? A Complete Explainer + 7 Tips To Start

Weight training is an organized exercise in which muscles of the body are forced to contract under tension using weights, body weight or other devices to stimulate growth, strength, power, and endurance. 

Weight training is also called “resistance training” and “strength training.”

The basis of weight training success is a combination of factors sometimes called FITT.

  • Frequency of training — How often
  • The intensity of training — How hard
  • Time spent — Session time
  • Type of exercise — Which exercises

What Is Resistance Training?

Resistance training, which is also referred to as strength training, weight training, or even weight lifting, involves performing specific exercises and movements under some type of load or resistance to increase the strength, endurance, or size of your muscles. 

The load or resistance used can come from any number of implements, such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, weight machines, or just your own body weight.

By using a load or “resistance,” resistance training overloads the muscles beyond their normal loads. This stimulates your muscles and connective tissues to adapt to the heavy loads and become stronger and more resilient. 

Muscles and Movements 

An understanding of your muscles and how they work is essential for strength training.

There are two types of muscle contractions:

  • Isometric contractions: The muscle does not lengthen. An example of this is pushing against a wall.
  • Isotonic contractions: The muscle shortens and lengthens. The shortening phase is called a “concentric: contraction and the lengthening phase is the “eccentric” contraction.

Joint Movements 

Muscle contractions relate to joint movements. Four important joint movements are flexion and extension, abduction and adduction.

Flexion is when you decrease the angle in the joint. An example is the upward movement of an arm curl which decreases the angle in the elbow joint.

  • The extension is an opposite movement, that is, increasing the angle while lowering the weight.
  • Abduction is moving a body part away from the middle of the body in the side plane. An example is raising a leg out to the side of the body.
  • Adduction is bringing the body part toward the middle line of the body.

Muscle Groups 

The main muscle groups of interest that make up the human body are the abdominals, adductors (inside thigh), dorsal muscles (middle back), shoulders, arm extensors, wrist extensors, gluteals (butt), arm flexors, wrist flexors, scapular fixers (shoulder blade), thigh flexors (hamstrings), lumbar muscles (lower back), sure (calves), pectorals (chest), quadriceps (front thigh) and trapezii (upper back).

Looking at it in less detail, the major muscle groups are the arms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, buttocks and abdomen. 

There are several ways to target all of your major muscle groups during training:

  1. You can perform a range of exercises that work your entire body in a single session (e.g. high-intensity interval training, HIIT; or CrossFit-style workouts)
  2. You can do body part split-type training (e.g. upper body-focused day, lower-body-focused day), which is common during traditional bodybuilding workouts
  3. You can focus on the major lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, clean & jerk, snatch) which tend to focus on the large muscle groups.

Reps, Sets, and RM 

You will need to know these basic terms used in workouts:

  • A repetition (rep) is one completion of an exercise: one chin-up, one squat, one arm curl.
  • A set is the selected number of repetitions before you rest. Let’s say 10 repetitions to 1 set of arm curls.
  • The rest interval is the time between sets.
  • The 1RM or repetition maximum is your personal best or the most you can lift once in any exercise. So 12RM is the most you can lift for 12 repetitions.

So how do you know how many reps, sets and rest time is best for you?

Here’s how it works in broad terms. The finer details are for you and your trainer to work on.

  • Strength training uses the most weight, the least number of repetitions and longeth st rest.
  • Hypertrophy or muscle size training utilizes lighter weights, more repetitions and less rest time.
  • Strength endurance has less weight again, with more repetitions and even less rest.
  • Power training involves lighter weights and longer rests while concentrating on the speed of the lift.

These are general principles. Adjust sets, reps, rest and exercise types to find the best combination for you.

One point to note here is that it is mandatory to take adequate rest betwheavy-loadedaded sets in strength training to achieve the best results.

In power training, a sufficient rest interval is also important because each lift has to be done at high explosive velocity for the best effect.

So, in strength and power training, make sure you get the required rest in between sets. 

In hypertrophy and strength endurance, it’s not as crucial to use shorter intervals, although it is ideal if you can.

8 Benefits Of Resistance Training For Runners

There are many benefits of resistance training for runners and non-runners alike.

As you build strength, activities like running require less effort and become easier because your muscles are accustomed to heavier loads and higher forces. 


  •  Resistance Training Helps Prevent Overuse Injuries In Runners

One of the primary benefits of resistance training is that it makes your muscles, bones, and connective tissues stronger. 

A stronger body is better able to tolerate the forces and impact of running.

The body is subjected to forces approximately 2-3 times your body weight when you run and research indicates runners take approximately 1,400 steps per mile at an 8-min per mile pace. 

Multiplying that out for even just a single run can illustrate the tremendous amount of pounding your body withstands during a week of training. 

By building the size and strength of your muscles and connective tissues with resistance training, you increase the ability of the muscles and connective tissues to handle higher loads themselves, which, in turn, offsets the stress that has to be absorbed by cartilage, joints, and bones.

Resistance training also reduces the risk of injury by helping prevent or correct muscle imbalances, particularly if you perform unilateral exercises.


  • Resistance Training Can Improve Your Running Form

Resistance training can improve your running form by correcting any muscle imbalances or weaknesses and building core strength.

A strong core enables a good, upright running posture, preventing you from hunching over or leaning back when you run.

Strong arms will improve your arm swing and help you drive your legs forward. 


  • Resistance Training Improves Running Economy and Efficiency

Resistance training causes neuromuscular adaptations such that your brain gets better at activating the muscle fibres you already have. 

This means that the nerve impulse that travels from your brain to your muscle signals a greater percentage of muscle fibres to contract. 

This results in stronger, more powerful movements, which can lead to a better running economy. 

When your running economy improves, it takes less energy to maintain a pace or workload that was previously more taxing. Therefore, you can run faster and further before fatiguing.

Resistance exercises also make you stronger, which makes you a more powerful runner.


  • Resistance Training Can Increase Aerobic Capacity

We tend to think of strength and cardio as two separate things, so it might be surprising to learn that studies show resistance training workouts can improve aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and submaximal endurance performance in endurance athletes 

This is thought to be mostly due to neuromuscular adaptations.


  • Resistance Training Can Improve Your Overall Health

Research has found resistance training can induce various general health benefits like reducing blood pressure, improving blood sugar control, and reducing triglycerides and cholesterol.


  • Resistance Training Increases Bone Density 

Research shows that resistance training increases bone density, which is important for all runners because running places a lot of stress on the bones upon impact. 

There are two different ways in which resistance training signals the bones to adapt and increase their mineralization and cellular content.

Being under the load or resistance itself stimulates the bones as does the fact that your muscles get stronger as a result of resistance training.

They are all more forcefully on the bones when they contract. 

This increased stress also signals your body to deposit more minerals to strengthen the structure of your bones.


  • Resistance Training Increases Your Metabolic Rate

Resistance training workouts geared towards hypertrophy (muscle growth) increase your metabolic rate.

Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat, so building muscle can improve your body composition and help you burn more calories throughout the day.


  • Resistance Training Can Boost Your Confidence

We all want to feel good in our bodies and confident in our athletic ability, whether or not we run. Many people find resistance training to be a great way to boost self-esteem and confidence.

Best Resistance Training Exercises For Runners 

Resistance training for runners should include unilateral exercises to prevent muscle imbalances and mimic the demands of running, as well as a compound, multi-joint exercises, which build strength.

It would be short-sighted to claim that there’s a definitive list of the best resistance training exercises for runners, but here are some of our favourites:

  • Lower body: Squats, Jump squats, Step-ups, Lunges, Lateral lunges, Deadlifts, Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, Glute bridges, Clamshells, Side-leg raises, Banded side steps, Hamstring curls, Farmer’s carries, Burpees, Calf raises
  • Back: Pull-ups, Rows, Superman, Reverse fly
  • Chest: Push-ups, Chest presses, Chest fly 
  • Arms: Curls, Tricep Dips, Tricep extensions 
  • Core: Planks, Pallof press, Russian twist, Bird-dog, Dead bug, V-ups, Chops

How To Incorporate Resistance Training Into Your Workout Routine

In terms of when you should do your resistance training workouts, most coaches recommend scheduling your resistance training workouts on your easy run days rather than when you have a long run or hard workout scheduled so that you don’t overdo it on your body.

If you’re a runner or other athlete with a primary sport other than lifting weights, do your run or cardio workout first and then your resistance training.

This will help ensure your legs aren’t already exhausted from your gym workout before you go running.

If you want your resistance training workout to be your primary goal or sports activity lift first and then do any cardio you may want to do.

7 Tips For Resistance Training: Tips For Beginners


  • Schedule a Session With a Trainer

Most gyms offer a complimentary session with a personal trainer who can show you how to properly perform basic exercises like squats and lunges and how to use various resistance equipment. 

Even if you don’t have the means to work with a trainer long-term, an introductory workout and orientation to the equipment can get you on the right track to do your resistance training workouts safely and effectively on your own. 


  • Follow a Training Program

Following a resistance training workout will give you direction and make sure you are hitting all the exercises you should be doing for your goals.


  • Choose the Right Weight

When you’re new to resistance training, you want to start with light weights. However, many runners continue to work with loads that are too light. 

If you want to get stronger, you need to work with weights that are heavy enough that you can only lift them with proper form for 12 reps at most.

A good rule of thumb is to use a weight that you lift with good form for 8-12 reps. If you can get to 15 reps, it’s time to jump up to a higher weight.

If you want to build muscle, go even higher with your resistance, such that you’re totally fatigued by 8 reps.


  • Pay Attention to Your Form

Using proper form prevents injuries and ensures the exercise is actually effective. 

If you find you are unable to maintain the correct form for all the reps in a set, swap to a lighter weight or stop the set early. 

Use mirrors to watch your form, or lift weights with a buddy who has the experience and can give you feedback and form cues.


  • Go Slow

Don’t cheat and use momentum or gravity. You have to use your muscles to reap the benefits of resistance training.

Lift slowly and deliberately through each movement.


  • Don’t Get Stuck In Your Routine

Keeping resistance training workouts fresh by using different forms of resistance (bands, weights, medicine balls, etc.), different loads, different exercises, and different numbers of reps and sets not only prevents boredom, but it also keeps your muscles constantly challenged, which prevents plateaus.


  • Make It Convenient

We are all busy these days, and chances are that if you’re a runner or do some other form of exercise already, resistance training might not be your first choice of activity.

First of all, be proud of yourself for getting your workouts in, but also make it easier on yourself by removing as many barriers as possible. 

See if you can buy a few adjustable dumbbells or resistance bands for at-home workouts or find some other way to make your workouts convenient.


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