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16 Benefits of Lifting Weights Based on Scientific Literature

These are the 16 primary benefits associated with lifting weights i.e. weightlifting, based on the relevant scientific data:

  1. Increase testosterone levels
  2. Stronger bones
  3. Boost metabolism
  4. Improve heart health
  5. Boost strength
  6. Improve brain health
  7. Lower risk of injury
  8. More confidence
  9. Improve sleep and mood
  10. Better balance
  11. Improve flexibility
  12. Regulate insulin
  13. Lower inflammation
  14. Lower risk of cancer
  15. Fight chronic disease
  16. Better quality of life

All of these science-based benefits make weightlifting a healthy and rewarding activity that you might want to consider if you’re not already into it.

However, weight training also comes with several cons such as needing proper equipment (e.g. barbells and dumbbells) and the risk of injury when performing exercises with bad form.

Also, I’d recommend keeping the intensity and amount of weight that you lift at moderate levels because excessively heavy lifting can actually be harmful.

If you lift weights that are too heavy you risk causing muscle and joint damage, while in extreme cases even death may occur if a heart artery is torn.

But don’t let this discourage you – if you’re healthy and train smart, all should be well.

I’ve been lifting weights (including really heavy stuff) for over a decade now and I’m perfectly fine, praise the Lord.

And to help you learn more about the advantages of weightlifting and how to get the most of it, in this article I’ll cover the following topics:

  • A science-based look at the top 16 benefits of weightlifting.
  • Men-specific benefits of lifting weights.
  • Women-specific benefits of lifting weights.
  • The cons of weight training.
  • How to make the most of your weightlifting routine.
  • How to lift weights safely.
  • Strength training and weight training explained.

Top 16 Benefits of Weightlifting

Here’s a more detailed look at the main benefits of weightlifting with the corresponding studies:

1. Increased Testosterone and Muscle Mass

Lifting weights has a direct impact on your testosterone and muscles by stimulating them.

Here’s what science has to say:

  • Training with free weights leads to increased muscle thickness and higher free testosterone levels, according to a comparative study from the Journal of strength and conditioning research (1).

Basically, think of weightlifting as a trigger that releases more testosterone, while also stimulating your muscles to grow bigger and stronger.

2. Stronger and Healthier Bones

Weightlifting plays an important role in bone development and maintenance, regardless of your age.

Research is conclusive on the positive effects of strength training on bone health:

  • Resistance exercise is a potent method for improving bone mass in both men and women of various ages and it can be used to reverse the age-related loss of bone mass, according to the Endocrinology and Metabolism journal in Seoul (2).

The exact mechanism of the bone-strengthening effects of weightlifting is quite simple.

When you exercise with weights, your bones are put under temporary stress that signals the body to rebuild and strengthen the bones.

This is why strength training is a viable tool against osteoporosis, which is a health condition that causes your bones to become brittle and weak.

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3. Boosts Your Metabolism and Fat Loss

Working out with weights is a very powerful tool for ramping up your metabolism as relevant studies show:

  • Strength training boosts the metabolic rate for up to 72 hours (3 days) after a workout session, according to the European Journal of Sports Science (3).

And guess what? An increased metabolic rate means that your body becomes an efficient fat-burning machine.

There’s plenty of scientific literature that shows how effective weightlifting is for reducing lower belly and total fat:

  • Training with weights is effective at lowering both abdominal and overall body fat in comparison to other activities, according to the Obesity (Silver Spring) journal (4).

This is quite important as the lower belly fat (especially visceral fat) is very unhealthy as it’s associated with an increased irks of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2.

4. Improved Heart Health

The heart is an incredibly important muscle in our bodies that pumps blood to all of our other organs.

And it’s incredibly important to do your best to keep it healthy. One way to do this is by lifting weights regularly as studies show:

  • Resistance training can effectively decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure, according to a meta-analysis from the Official Journal of Japanese Society of Hypertension (5).

Thus, exercising with weights means that you’re also directly improving your heart’s function and health.

5. Boosts Strenght

It’s not exactly shocking that strength training improves your strength, which mostly goes hand-in-hand with an increase in muscle mass, although it might not always be the case.

Here’s what the studies say:

  • Strength training produces notable improvements in strength, regardless of training frequency, according to the International Journal of Exercise Science (6).

The key takeaway here is that the participants in this study saw strength improvements, regardless of how frequently they trained.

Thus it’s safe to say that you should get stronger by lifting weights, even if you only workout twice a week.

6. Improved Brain Health and Function

One of the lesser-known benefits of weightlifting is improved brain health and even protection against age-related cognitive disorders.

This is what studies in older individuals reveal:

  • Adults with cognitive frailty (mean age of 73.9 years) saw improvements in memory, processing speed and cognitive flexibility among other cognitive functions, according to a randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging (7).

Other relevant studies reveal even more incredible results:

  • Heavy workouts can boost BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels, which is connected to learning and memory, based on findings published in the Frontiers of Physiology journal (8).

7. Lowered Risk of Injury

Although it might sound counter-intuitive, lifting heavy stuff can actually prevent injuries.

Here’s some solid scientific research to support this:

  • Every 10% increase in resistance training volume correlates to a 4% lower risk of injury, according to a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (9).

Weightlifting helps you decrease the risk of injury by optimizing the mobility of your tendons, muscles and ligaments, while also fixing any muscle imbalances.

8. More Confidence and Higher Self-Esteem

I can tell you from first-hand experience that strength training most definitely helps you to have higher self-esteem and be more confident.

And there’s plenty of research to back this up:

  • A scientific review published in the Sports Medicine Journal has found that resistance training is linked with improved physical self-worth and increased self-esteem in young individuals (10).
  • A systematic review courtesy of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has found a link between working out with weights and a positive body image (appearance, body satisfaction etc.) (11).

9. Improved Sleep and Mood

Weightlifting can improve your life in other aspects too, such as benefiting from better sleep and mood.

First, let’s take a look at how it can improve your doze off sessions, according to science:

  • When combined with aerobic exercise, regular strength training improves all aspects of sleep, especially sleep quality as shown in a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in the Sleep Medicine Reviews journal (12).

And this is how training with weights can elevate your mood:

  • Low-to-moderate intensity strength training is associated with a robust decrease in anxiety, based on a study published in the Frontiers of Psychology journal (13).

On top of that, weightlifting makes the body release endorphins that are well-known hormones with mood-boosting capabilities.

10. Better Balance and Reduced Risk of Falling

Balance is an often overlooked aspect but it becomes more important as we grow older.

Here’s what studies say about weightlifting and balance:

  • Resistance training combined with functional and balance exercises can reduce the rate of falls by about 34% due to improved balance and muscle strength, according to a meta-analysis published in the Cochrane database of systematic reviews (14).

However, note that to get the most of strength training’s anti-fall effects you need to add balance and functional exercises into the mix.

11. More Mobility and Flexibility

Some people say that lifting weights makes you stiff as a board. However, proper strength training can actually make you more flexible.

Let’s take a closer look at a relevant study:

  • Strength training is just as effective as stretching when it comes to increasing your range of motion that’s tied to your overall mobility and flexibility, based on a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Healthcare Journal of Basel, Switzerland (15).

To get all the flexibility and mobility benefits of weightlifting, I’d recommend going for the full range of motion on each exercise i.e. doing the entire movement.

12. Regulated Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels

Training with weights can have a positive impact on the body by regulating insulin and blood sugar levels, which is especially beneficial to type 2 diabetes patients.

This is what research has to say on this subject:

  • High-intensity resistance exercise produces more a profound reduction in insulin and blood sugar levels when compared to low-intensity resistance training, according to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (16).

The method behind the blood sugar-lowering effects of having greater muscle mass is quite simple.

Having more muscles means that more blood sugar is pulled from the blood and sent to muscle cells, which improves blood sugar management in the body.

13. Lowered Inflammation

Inflammation is necessary bodily process things that are harmful to it need to be removed, but excessive inflammation is not welcome.

This is where resistance training comes into play and here’s what science shows:

  • Both occasional and long-term resistance training improves low-grade inflammation, according to a scientific paper published in the Nutrition, Research and Practice journal (17).

This study also shows that resistance training helps in the prevention of insulin resistance that over time leads to type 2 diabetes.

14. Lowered Risk of Cancer

The anti-cancer properties of resistance training might not so obvious because this is an indirect benefit of lifting weights.

The lowered risk of cancer when working out with weights comes from the decreased body fat, especially visceral fat that’s a different benefit of strength training.

Here’s what science says:

  • Visceral fat cells are shown to produce a lot of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2), which is a cancer-activating protein and methods for lowering visceral fat (such as resistance training) may play an important role in cancer prevention, according to a study published in the Oncogene journal (18).

Thus, weightlifting may have an indirect impact on lowering the risk of cancer by reducing the amount of visceral fat in the body.

15. Fight Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular (heart) diseases are some of the primary causes of death in modern times.

And this is where weightlifting comes into play as a potentially available method for fighting chronic disease.

This is what studies reveal:

  • Resistance exercise training may be a potent strategy against chronic diseases such as heart disease, physical mobility problems, type 2 diabetes and cancer, based on a Frontiers in Psychology study (19).

16. Improved Quality of Life

Frequent strength training workouts may improve the quality of your life and sense of coherence.

There’s more than enough scientific data to back this up:

  • Long-term resistance training has a positive impact on the qualify of life and sense of coherence, especially in older individuals as shown in a randomized controlled trial published in the Quality of Life Research journal (20).
  • Resistance training has also been shown to positively affect vitality, pain management and general health as it improves the health-related quality of life, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Health Promotion Perspectives journal (21).

Benefits of lifting weights, a man lifting an olympic barbell over his head

The Main Weightlifting Benefits for Men

Although lifting weights has a plethora of benefits for men, there are a few ones that truly stand out.

Here are the top 3 weightlifting benefits for men that you need to know about:

1. Your Testosterone Levels Will Go Up

Working out with weights does wonders for your male hormones, in particular your testosterone.

And relevant studies support this:

  • Heavy resistance training that incorporates compound moves (using free weights) produces a drastic increase in testosterone levels, according to a scientific review published in the Sports Medicine journal (22).

Again, the emphasis is on heavy compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups and dips.

These multi-joint exercises will elicit the strongest testosterone response in your body.

2. You’ll Appear More Attractive to Women

It’s quite simple really – the more muscular you are, the more attractive you’ll appear to the opposite sex.

There’s a fine line between being ripped or toned and being overly muscular i.e. a bodybuilder though.

Yet, studies on this subject show that having muscles will increase your chances of finding a mate as opposed to being small and skinny:

  • Being more muscular is directly related to having more sex, according to a UCLA study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (23).

So, start pumping some iron if you want to increase your chance of finding a girlfriend/wife/partner.

3. You’ll See Improvements in Erectile Function

Erectile dysfunction is a horrible condition that’s represented by not being able to hold an erection.

This totally sucks and that’s why you need to pay close attention to your erectile function. Thank the Lord, weightlifting can help with that!

Here’s what research says:

  • Men who perform physical activity (135 minutes per week) in combination with 2 resistance training sessions per week saw a 15% improvement in their erectile function, according to a systematic review courtesy of the Sexual Medicine journal (24).

Now go hit the weights to make her happy.

Benefits of lifting weights, a woman doing barbell curls

The Main Weightlifting Benefits for Women

These are the primary strength training benefits for women that the ladies need to know about:

1. Improved Estradiol Levels

Estradiol is the major female sex hormone and one of the 3 estrogen hormones that the human body produces (including men, albeit in much smaller amounts).

It’s worth noting that estradiol plays a key role in regulating the menstrual cycles of women and it naturally declines with age.

But research shows that resistance training can help with that:

  • Resistance training for 12 weeks has been shown to improve estradiol levels, bone mass density and the overall quality of life in postmenopausal women, according to a study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences (Qassim University) (25).

2. Improved Sexual Function

We know that female sexuality is a complex puzzle for us men to solve… most of the time.

But their sexual function is much more straightforward, although it does experience a decline as ladies grow older. This can be alleviated by working out with weights though!

Here’s what research shows:

  • Physical resistance training produces significant improvements in lubrication, desire and excitement in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), based on a study from The Journal of Sexual Medicine (26).

Strength training also helped the women who took part in this study with their depression, pain and anxiety issues.

However, the female participants in this research all suffered from a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome. Just something to keep in mind.

The Cons of Lifting Weights

Weightlifting might have a number of amazing evidence-based benefits, but it also has certain disadvantages that I want to share with you.

Here are the main cons associated with resistance training:

  • You need equipment such as dumbbells and barbells unless you improvise with something readily available at home, but it won’t be anywhere near as convenient or effective.
  • Heavier lifts such as deadlifts and squats require a certain technique, otherwise, you risk injuring yourself.
  • There are more optimal training protocols for burning calories and fat such as combining both cardio and strength training.

Regardless, the pros of weightlifting vastly outweigh the cons so don’t let any of this discourage you from pumping iron.

Benefits of lifting weights, a man on his phone and a man who is doing bench press

How to Get the Most of Your Weightlifting Routine

Here are 7 tested and proven methods that I recommend using when trying to make the most of your weightlifting routine:

1. Start with Lighter Weights

It’s always better to start lighter and work your way up to heavier weights slowly and gradually to avoid overtraining and even injury.

This is especially important for beginner lifters because building strength takes time.

2. Keep Your Workouts Under 1 Hour

Limit your workouts to a maximum of 45-60 minutes that’s is optimal if you train 2-3 times a week, which is how many times most people train per week.

3. Don’t Neglect Good Form When Using More Weight

If your repetition range is 6-12, only add more weight when you can do 12 reps with proper form.

Don’t rush things by trying to add weight that you can handle. Add more weight gradually and prioritize proper form.

4. Train All Major Muscle Groups

Do your best to train every major muscle group in your body, including your legs, back, chest, shoulders, arms and abs.

Neglecting any body part can lead to muscle imbalances, which is a big no-no.

5. Get Enough Rest Between Workouts

Try to get around 2 days (48 hours) of rest between training sessions for better results.

Lifting heavy weights causes micro-tears in your muscles and it’s the repairing process that makes them grow bigger and stronger.

6. Focus on Slow and Controlled Movements

Don’t speed through the reps as slow and controlled movements are the way to go.

As a general rule of thumb, lift for a count of 2 and lower for 3-4.

7. Don’t Stick to the Same Exercises All the Time

Hitting a plate is a very real thing that happens to just about every lifter out there. Trust me, it sucks.

That’s why you need to change things up every now and then by doing different exercises or beginning a new weightlifting program altogether.

How to Lift Weights Safely

This is what you should do and don’t do in order to ensure that you’re lifting weights safely:

  • Perform each exercise correctly as proper form is a must).
  • Breathe out as you lift the weight and breath in as you lower the weight (don’t hold your breath).
  • Train your body as a whole, not just some muscle groups.
  • Give your muscles enough rest and avoid training the same muscle group 2 days in a row.
  • Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before a weightlifting session.
  • Don’t move the weight too fast, but go for a slow and controlled motion instead.
  • Listen to your body and if you feel any unusual pain, stop.

Strength Training and

Weight Training Explained

Here’s an easy-to-digest explanation of both:

  • Strength training – Any type of activity or exercise that relies on your body weight or equipment (e.g. machines) to increase strength, endurance and muscle mass.
  • Weight training – A type of strength training that relies on lifting weights for added resistance. Weight training can be performed using barbells, dumbbells, free weights and machines.

Both types of training rely on damaging your muscles during the workout so that they repair, adapt and get stronger over time.

Also, both training methods are highly effective at getting bigger and stronger although my personal favorite is weightlifting.

Conclusion

Lifting weights has a plethora of amazing benefits, but the primary ones are:

  • Improved muscle mass and testosterone levels.
  • Stronger and healthier bones.
  • Improved metabolism and fat loss.
  • Improved cardiovascular (heart) health.
  • Increased strength.
  • Improved brain and mental health.
  • Reduced risk of injury.
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem.
  • Better sleep and improved mood.
  • Improved balance and reduced risk of falling.
  • Increased mobility and flexibility.
  • Improved insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • Reduced inflammation.
  • Reduced risk of cancer.
  • Battle chronic diseases.
  • Improved quality of life.

Or in other words, weight training can not only make you look better – but it can also make you healthier overall.

But it’s worth noting that there are certain cons associated with weightlifting, including needing certain equipment such as dumbbells and barbells to perform the exercises.

Also, lifting weights that are too heavy can lead to nasty injuries.

That’s why you need to have proper form when weight training and add more weight to the bar slowly and gradually.

Other than that, I’m a huge proponent of weight training as a way to make yourself look and feel better.

References:

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Although I'm a Ph.D., I'm not a medical doctor. The content on this websites is meant for educational and informational purposes only, it's not medical advice. The information and other content found on this website is not a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.