What Happens When You Lift Weights?

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Are you thinking about lifting weights to improve your health and fitness? No doubt, strength training has many benefits to offer to people of most ages. But what exactly happens to your body when you start weight lifting? 

This article offers a comprehensive overview of the effects of weight lifting on your body, so you can better understand what’s happening under the hood as you do those straight arm raises and deadlifts.

Let’s get started.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is a type of exercise that involves lifting weights or other resistance to build and tone muscle. When you perform strength training exercises, you’re working against a force that provides resistance to your muscles. free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, your own body weight are a few examples of such resistance.

Strength training stands to deliver various benefits. For instance, it helps you build muscle mass and improve bone density, which can help improve your athletic performance. Additionally, this type of training is known to boost metabolism and the body’s calorie-burning ability, which can be helpful for weight reduction. [1] You may also experience better mental health, which can keep symptoms of depression and anxiety at bay.

There are various types of strength training, including circuit training, traditional weight lifting, and plyometrics. Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises in quick succession, while traditional weight lifting focuses on lifting heavier weights with fewer repetitions. Plyometrics involves explosive movements like jumping or bouncing to increase power and speed.

man with barbell in the gym

What happens to your Muscles When You Lift Weights

Your muscles undergo a variety of changes when you lift weights. Weight lifting puts your muscles under stress, which forces them to adapt and grow stronger. The process of weight lifting causes microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. These tears are repaired by your body during rest periods, causing your muscles to become larger and stronger over time.

During weightlifting, your muscles undergo two types of contractions – concentric and eccentric contractions. [2] Concentric contractions occur when you lift a weight, and your muscle fibers shorten as they contract to lift the weight. Eccentric contractions happen when you lower a weight, and your muscle fibers lengthen as they contract to control the weight’s descent. Both types of contractions contribute to muscle growth and strength.

Lifting weights is also linked to increased blood flow in the body. [3] Your muscles require more oxygen and nutrients to function correctly as you lift weights, so your body responds by sending more blood to your muscles. With increased blood flow, your muscles get the essential nutrients they need to repair microfibers and grow.

So lifting weights is an effective way to become stronger and more toned. Additionally, you’ll notice an overall improvement in your fitness and health when you start doing strength on a regular basis.

Benefits of lifting weights

Weight lifting is a powerful way to boost your fitness level beyond just achieving a toned and muscular body. It comes with several health benefits, including burning body fat, strengthening bones and joints, reducing injury risk, and making your muscles bigger. 

Building muscle is essential for overall health, even if you’re not aiming for a bulky look. Lifting weights is the best way to build muscle as it increases hypertrophy, the growth of muscle cells. [4] This happens because weight lifting boosts the body’s production of testosterone and growth hormone, promoting tissue growth and allowing muscles to get bigger and stronger. The muscle mass built through weight lifting is crucial for performing daily activities, helping older adults remain functionally independent for longer periods of time.

Weight lifting also effectively burns body fat as muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does. So, by building stronger muscles through weight lifting, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat. 

weight lifting is beneficial for health

Another benefit of weight lifting is that it strengthens your bones and joints, enabling you to fight against natural weakening that occurs as you age. Strength training targets bones in the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the most likely to fracture. Full-body strength training is an effective way for premenopausal women to maintain bone mineral density. 

Finally, weight lifting has significant cardiovascular benefits that can improve your long-term health. Engaging in weight lifting has been found to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and can even reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40% to 70%. [5] So, if you’re looking to reap these benefits and more, add weight lifting to your workout routine and remember to maintain proper form to prevent injury.

When will you see a difference?

Lifting weights can help you get stronger in just a few workouts, but it may take a bit longer to see significant changes in your physique. In the beginning, any strength gains you experience are likely due to improvements in your mind-body connection. Your brain learns how to recruit more muscle fibers during a lift, allowing you to produce more force. [6] This improvement starts immediately and is at its peak about two months after starting a consistent workout routine.

However, you won’t notice significant changes in your physique right away. To make your body look bigger, you’ll need to create new muscle fibers, which takes time. After about three months of consistent weightlifting, you may start to notice visible muscle gains.

But don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Muscle growth begins early on in your strength training program, even if you can’t see it in the mirror. And while noticeable muscle growth takes time, knowing that it’s happening can help you stay motivated and committed to your workout routine.

Muscular man doing exercise

To help you visualize your progress, here’s a table that outlines what you can expect to see after different periods of consistent strength training:

Time period Difference you may see
After a few workouts Improved mind-body connection and some initial muscle swelling due to increased blood flow and inflammation
4 weeks Small increases in muscle growth, likely only visible with ultrasound
2 months Peak strength gains due to improved neuromuscular activation
3 months Noticeable gains in muscle mass for most people

Remember, everyone’s body is different, so your progress may not match exactly what’s outlined in the table. The most important thing is to stay consistent with your workouts and celebrate every bit of progress, no matter how small it may seem.

Different Types of Weight Lifting

Different Types of Weight Lifting

Weight lifting is an effective way for athletes to enhance their performance. When devising a strength training program, there are five places to begin with: bodybuilding, brute strength powerlifting, circuit training, isometric weight training, and high-volume training.

Bodybuilding, or hypertrophy training, is focused on building muscle mass and manipulating body composition. Compound exercises and accessory work are both utilized, and weights are generally lighter with higher reps. This approach greatly increases the fuel stored in the muscles, which ultimately increases muscle size.

Brute strength powerlifting aims to move as much weight as possible and involves going heavy, with weights going up significantly and reps being cut down to around 3-8. Progressive overload is crucial, as the body needs to get used to the stimulus of lifting heavy loads for fewer reps.

Circuit training involves rotating between five to ten exercises that complete one circuit for either a set number of rounds or a designated amount of time. Such exercises are typically higher in reps and lower in weight. This type of training is a great way to challenge the whole body, even with limited time.

circuit weight training

Isometric weight training involves holding a specific position, which increases time under tension and tears down muscles so that they can build back up stronger than before. This type of training is low impact and ideal for those who are injured, have joint issues.

High-volume training involves an increase in the number of reps or rounds, which means that the weight needs to decrease. By collecting reps, you are collecting time under tension, which builds strength. 

Ultimately, the two things to consider when choosing a type of weight lifting program are personal preference and your goals. Regardless of the weight training you choose to perform, you will see results. While isometric training does not yield noticeable results, it makes a great supplement to other types of weight lifting. 

Type of weight training

Focus

Reps/Weight

Bodybuilding

Build muscle mass and manipulate body composition

Lighter weights with higher reps

Brute Strength Powerlifting

Move as much weight as possible

Heavier weights with fewer reps

Circuit Training

Rotate between exercises to complete one circuit

Typically lower weight or bodyweight with higher reps

Isometric Weight Training

Hold a specific position

Increase time under tension

Interesting facts

  • Contrary to popular belief, women who lift weights won’t necessarily bulk up or look masculine.
  • The term “no pain, no gain” originated from Jane Fonda’s workout videos in the 1980s.
  • The sport of powerlifting has been an official event in the Paralympic Games since 1964.
  • Some individuals have used weightlifting as a means of coping with addiction or other challenges.
  • Weight lifting can help build a sense of community through group fitness classes and training sessions. 

Conclusion

There you have it, everything you need to know about weight lifting and how it can impact your physical and emotional wellbeing. Although it looks like a standard activity that every other person is performing, there’s much more to lifting weights than meets the eye.

To recap, here are the important things to remember about lifting weights:

  • Strength training mainly involves weight lifting, since weights provide the resistance necessary to gain strength.
  • There are two types of contraction that occur during weight lifting: eccentric and concentric contractions. 
  • Weight lifting offers a diverse range of benefits, including increasing muscle mass, reducing weight, decreasing aging, and more.
  • It can take a while to start getting results from weight training (first noticeable results come after a few weeks).
  • There are several kinds of weight lifting programs, each with their own style and resistance form.

Overall, weight training can be a good addition to your fitness regime. And while people may tell you that you need to hit the gym in order to engage in it, there’s plenty you can do at home with proper weights and equipment. Start lifting weights today and see the difference it brings in your life.

References:

  1. Strength training can burn fat too, myth-busting study finds. (2023, March 31). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210922121905.htm
  2. Concentric and eccentric: Muscle contraction or exercise?(n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899915/#:~:text=There%20are%202%20types%20of%20isotonic%20contractions%3A%20concentric%20and%20eccentric.&text=In%20a%20concentric%20contraction%2C%20the,force%20the%20muscle%20is%20producing
  3. Exercise and your arteries. (2019, June 21). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/exercise-and-your-arteries
  4. Kandola, A. (n.d.). Muscular hypertrophy: Definition, causes, and how to achieve it. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/muscle-hypertrophy
  5. Heart attack stroke risk: Less than an hour of weight lifting per week can reduce heart attack, stroke risk by more than 40%. (2022, September 15). The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/less-than-an-hour-of-weight-lifting-per-week-can-reduce-heart-attack-stroke-risk-by-more-than-40/photostory/94213963.cms
  6. Neural adaptations and strength training. (n.d.). Strength and Conditioning Blog | BridgeAthletic. https://blog.bridgeathletic.com/neural-adaptations-and-strength-training

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