Should I Be Lifting Weights?
10 reasons why men who lift weights make better humans
Congratulations: if you’re a weights room regular then you’re raising the bar (literally) for the entire human race. Why? New research from The University of California has found your workouts restore connections between brain neurons, which improves your memory and learning. But that's not the main reason to load up the barbell. Whether you’re looking to boost your confidence, muscles or sex life (yes, even that), weightlifting is the way forward, according to science. So get ready to give yourself a pat on your expertly defined back as you tick off the benefits of your gym-going habits.
1. Weightlifters are smarter
Apart from that guy you’re pretty sure is on steroids who’s continuously bicep curling, everyone else in the weights room packs a punch in the brain department. Exercise boosts hormones like BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that stimulates neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells.
And that’s not all: an intense workout can actually boost the size of the hippocampus, your memory centre, according to the Georgia Institute of Technology. That means your entire memory is boosted by 10% - just enough so you can remember the many reasons why weightlifters beat all.
(Related: How to boost your IQ by 17 points in one week)
2. Weightlifters are happier
Here’s something to smile about: researchers from the University of Alabama found that men who performed three weight workouts a week significantly improved their measures of calmness and overall mood over six months. It’s all thanks to endorphins, your feel-good chemicals released to ease your body during the physical strain of weightlifting.
(Related: 6 more reasons exercise will make you happy)
This effect is so great that a study from Duke University found that 60% of people suffering from depression could overcome the illness with four short strength sessions a week rather than antidepressants. So turn off the treadmill and get your endorphin fix with barbell exercises like the overhead squat.
-Grab a barbell with palms facing down and hands almost at the ends of the bar.
-Lift it to your chest then overhead, locking your arms and retracting your shoulders to take the weight. This is your start position.
-Keeping your arms straight and taking care to not arch your back, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
-Drive your heels into the floor to push yourself explosively back up to the start position.
-Repeat, then lower the bar under control after you've finished all your reps.
3. Weightlifters sleep better
Got a friend who’s always complaining about a lack of shuteye? Take them to the weights room. The National Sleep Foundation of America says that the more vigorous the exercise (with weightlifting being the most intense), the better you sleep. In fact, a study published in the journalMental Health and Physical Activityfound men aged 18-85 experienced a 65% improvement in their quality of their Zs if they had at least three sessions a week in the weights room. Now that’s a dream result.
(Related: The best time for you to exercise for better sleep)
4. Weightlifters have better testosterone levels
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: weights beats running. And you don’t even need to imagine a fight between Mo Farah and Schwarzenegger to work that out; astudyfrom the University of Alberta found testosterone levels were actually lower in male athletes who ran at least 64km a week compared to those who did absolutely nothing at all. So what? Well, a lack of testosterone can lead to fatigue, depression, height deficiency and erectile dysfunction.
(Related: Are you testosterone deficient?)
The cure? You guessed it: your trusty weights bar. A study published in the journalSports Medicinefound strength training is the most effective at boosting your manliest hormone, particularly if you introduce compound moves – exercises that target several muscle groups at once – into your training.
Not sure which ones are best? Convert yourself to this holy trinity:
Areas worked: quads, hamstrings, core, back, shoulders
-Stand behind a grounded barbell. Bend your knees slightly to grab it, keeping your shins, back and hips straight.
-Without bending your back, push your hips forwards to lift the bar.
-From upright, push your hips back to lower the bar, bending your knees only slightly.
Incline dumbbell bench press
Areas worked: chest, core, arms, shoulders
-Lay on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand just above your shoulders, with your arms close to your body.
-Extend your arms directly above you until they're completely straight.
-Then lower and repeat.
Weighted pull up
Areas worked: Triceps, shoulders, chest
-Whilst wearing a weighted belt, grab the handles of the pull-up station with your palms facing away from you and your arms fully extended. Your hands should be around shoulder-width apart.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, exhale and drive your elbows towards your hips to bring your chin above the bar.
- Lower under control back to the start position.
5. Weightlifters have more confidence
Sure, your last big lifts workout will have maxed your T-levels and revved your mirror muscles, but will crafting a perfect body actually hand you inner-confidence outside the gym? In short: hell yes. According to 40 trials published inArchives of Internal Medicine, clocking over an hour a week in the weights room is enough to raise your confidence levels and quell symptoms of worry by 20%. Need more convincing? Another study from the Journal of Health Psychology found that the act of weightlifting alone is enough to make you feel much better about your body image.
6. Weightlifters can lose weight faster
Weightlifters know that you never have to resort to jogging round the park donning skin-tight lycra to burn your blubber. A study fromJournal of Strength and Conditioning Researchfound incorporating at least two days of strength training for every one of cardio will burn through significantly more calories than an entirely steady-state cardio regime alone.
The reason? While endurance training mainly targets type I muscle fibres, strength sessions target larger type II fibres, which use up more of your energy, raising your metabolic rate as it raids your fat stores. Bottom line: if you’re looking to lose weight then follow the single-digit body fat of a weightlifter.
(Related: The 11 best exercises for weight loss)
7. Weightlifters have more sex
It’s true: lift more weights and you’ll get more mates. Research from UCLA found packing more muscle means you’ll probably have double the notches on your bedpost than your skinnier peers. Why? It’s simple: you’ll be more attractive and confident, claims the research leader Dr Martie Haselton.
And the muscles best for attracting a mate? Your abs? Biceps? Answer: shoulders. That’s according to research from the journalEvolution and Human Behaviourthat found men with broader shoulders rather than a solid core have more sexual partners. Looks like you better try this upper-body superset before your big night out:
Perform 12 reps
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumb-bell in each hand.
- Let the weights hang to your sides and keep a slight bend in your elbows with your palms facing each other.
- Raise your arms out to your sides and stop when they are even with the top of your shoulders. Lower to the start.
Seated dumbbell shoulder press
Perform 8 reps.
-Sit on a bench and hold a dumb-bell in each hand.
-Raise the weights so they are in line with your shoulders on either side of your head.
-Straighten your elbows to press the weights above your head until your arms are straight but not locked.
-Slowly lower the weight back to your shoulders along the same path.
(Related: The four-move workout that will build boulder shoulders)
8. Weightlifters have better sex
Fact: if you’re lifting like a pro then you’re going to give her an Olympic performance in the bedroom. And that’s not just because you’re more likely to have read our ultimate 28 tips; a survey fromThe Journal of Sexual Medicinefound two hours of weight sessions per week will give you harder erections, longer orgasms and increased all-round sexual satisfaction. Plus, all that extra muscle will leave you in prime position to try these 17 sex positions she’s never tried. Remember, us thoughtful gym-goers aren’t just doing it for ourselves.
(Related: Take our quiz to find out just how good you are in bed)
9. Weightlifters live longer
While most gruelling running sessions make you feel like you’ll die from boredom, bending metal will keep you alive for longer. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine shows that muscle lengthens life more than fat can curtail it. Looks like you can feel smug about the benefits of weightlifting for years longer.
10. Weightlifters have more energy
You wouldn’t think so, but a brutal squat session will actually give you more energy in the long run. Spend a few hours quickly bossing the weights room each week and you'll have 20% more energy all day long, according to researchers at the University of Georgia. Why? Weightlifting deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to hit the gym again.
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