Best Exercise Method No Matter What
In the world of fitness, we are constantly seeing new methods come to the forefront for improving ones health, strength, flexibility, etc. It begs the question, “Which one is best?” As biased of a post as this may be, the one thing this article will cite that is inarguable is science. Resistance training has been proven time and time again to be the best method for eliciting long lasting results. In this article, we’ll dive deep into:
- Why Resistance Training is the Best Exercise Method no matter what
- What other methods compliment, and are complimented by Strength Training
- How to Implement Resistance Training and other methods for the best overall effect
Part 1: Why Resistance Training is the Best Method
When we think of long lasting results, we typically think of being lean, strong, flexible, conditioned, and resistant to injury. Resistance training is the ONLY method that can provide all of these attributes without significantly giving up one attribute over another. And although it may not be the best method for improving each individual method over the short term, the long term benefits far outweigh and outmatch the short term results.
We discussed this topic in our article on increasing your metabolism. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. The higher your resting metabolic rate, the more fat mass you will burn at rest. We define rest as any activity that doesn’t get our heart rate above 55% of our maximum heart rate.
We only have so many hours in a day. Banking on your calories burned during exercise has its limits. Resistance training is the only method that allows us to burn calories during and after our workout while increasing our resting metabolic rate for the long term.
The muscles of the body need resistance to improve the strength of a particular movement pattern. There is no other way to improve our strength without the application of resistance training.
Various methods of exercise may help to increase our relative strength for a while. However, once our body adapts to the training intensity, instead of maintaining our strength, our body will start to go backwards. You can think of it as storing your money under your mattress. You may not be losing money, but the value of your money drops every year that inflation goes up. Engaging in Resistance Training puts our body to work for us, not the other way around.
I know it sounds odd, but using resistance is a very popular method for increasing our flexibility. Better yet, when we use resistance as a way to increase flexibility, we also help increase stability. Simply stretching a tissue to lengthen it’s range of motion doesn’t guarantee that; A) You’ll keep that range of motion, B) You’ll have enough stability to do anything with that range of motion afterwards. This is the dangerous are where flexibility can actually become a problem.
We like to refer to useful flexibility as mobility, or how much range of motion our body can actually control. Because (when done correctly) resistance training forces us to control our movements through a set range of motion, we not only can enhance the range of motion of that movement, but increase the stability of that movement as well.
We don’t typically think of resistance training as being a form of cardiovascular exercise. But if done correctly, resistance training has the ability of providing benefits to both our anaerobic (without air) energy systems and our aerobic (with air) energy systems. The energy needed to perform 10 reps of a squat is anaerobic. We don’t need air to complete the exercise. However, in order to recover from that exercise, our body taps into our aerobic energy systems to assist. You may recognize this phenomenon after doing a set of squats, running a sprint, or going up a flight of stairs as a fast pace.
Whether we choose to superset our exercises, perform exercises at a high intensity, or shorten our rest periods between sets, it is possible (and preferred) to train both these energy systems over the entire training session. Here, we can burn calories during the training session by maintain a heart rate of 60-70% for entire 30-60 minute period, as well as burn calories at rest following the training session and increase our resting metabolism. Let’s see a treadmill do that!
Resistant to Injury
Lastly, resistance not only builds up our muscles, but all of our soft tissues. It’s a pretty well know fact that the stronger our muscles are, the less likely we are to injure ourselves. What’s not well known is the more resistance we use in a controlled manner, the stronger our tendons and ligaments become. This is due to the fact that we build up what is known as “tensile strength” in the soft tissues of the body.
So although Resistance Training may not be the best method for building up individual attributes, it far surpasses any other method’s ability to build up all the attributes at once.
Part 2: What Methods Compliment, and Are Complemented by, Resistance Training
Despite how this article started, we aren’t exercise tyrants. We acknowledge there are other methods that compliment, and are complemented by, Resistance Training.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a great way to burn calories and rev up the metabolism. However, unless you’re performing resistance training in conjunction with HIIT, there’s only so much you can get out of it (Read our Article on HIIT for an explanation). The stronger a person is, the higher the intensity they will have the potential of reaching. Without resistance training, once we develop the proper conditioning, we’ve pretty much maxed our our potential for continual progress.
That being said, the more conditioning a person has, the more effective and efficient they are during resistance work. A person who is better conditioned will have better recovery between sets and between exercises. They will also have the ability to sustain stress to the body for a longer period of time. HIIT is the best way to train this ability.
Low Intensity Exercise
Yoga, pilates, hiking, walking, etc. These are all forms of low intensity exercise. Though they may be difficult to perform, they do not place a great amount of strain on the body. They also require fewer calories to perform than resistance or high intensity interval work. Therefore, the more lean muscle mass a person has, the more calories they will burn performing these methods of training.
In addition, low intensity exercises help our bodies to recover from higher intensity work, as well as lower stress. Too much stress in the body and lack of recovery between workouts is linked with higher body fat percentage.
Again, although there are benefits to performing other methods of exercise, Resistance Training stills sits atop the training hierarchy. It has the greatest benefit across all attributes of health and fitness.
Part 3: How to Implement Resistance Training for the Best Effect
So, now that we know Resistance Training is best for us, how do we go about implementing it? And where do all other forms of exercise fit in? We’re glad you asked.
We’ve broken down what the time allotments are depending on your goal. It is important to note that, in most cases, achieving the amount of recommended time is not possible. Therefore, it is recommended that if you only have 3 hours per week to workout, you spend your time in the highest priority(ies) before entertaining the lower priority(ies):
Strength and Size
Resistance Training: Up to 4 hours of High Intensity Resistance Training
Low Intensity Exercise: Up to 4 hours of Low Intensity Exercise focusing on Muscle Hypertrophy and Restoration
HIIT: Not recommended
Strength and Weight/Fat Loss
Resistance Training: Up to 3 hours of Moderate to High Intensity Resistance Training
HIIT: Up to 1 hour of High Intensity Interval Training split into 2 or more sessions
Low Intensity Exercise: Up to 2 hours of Low Intensity Exercise focusing on stress reduction, rest, and recovery
Weight Management/General Health
Resistance Training: Up to 3 hours of Moderate Intensity Resistance Training
HIIT: Up to 1 hour of High Intensity Interval Training split into 2 or more sessions
Low Intensity Exercise: Up to 3 hours of Low Intensity Exercise focusing on Physical Activities and recovery strategies
Regardless of your goal, Resistance Training should hold the highest priority in your training needs. It is the most efficient and effective method for accomplishing numerous attributes of health and fitness.