Resistance Training a Beginner’s Guide: Part 1.

Pink vest and complete lack of effort optional.

Resistance training is the use of an external load to place an exercise stimulus on the body. These external loads can come from the use of your own body known as callisthenics (press ups/sit ups etc.) to the use of implements such as barbells, dumbbell, kettle bells. Resistance training can help people reach a wide variety of goals. From those who want to look like Schwarzenegger to those who just want to look good in a dress Resistance training can be used to help you reach your goal.

What are the benefits to resistance training?

What a lot of people don’t realise is that the majority of the energy you expend is done at rest typically 70-75% in the average person (Rowette, 2008). This energy is expended during the upkeep of your bodily tissues from the repair and replacement of cells. These processes take part in the metabolically active tissue (lean mass) of which skeletal muscle makes a large proportion (40-50% for the average male and 30-40% for the average female).

Whilst in a calorie deficit (created through diet) the body becomes significantly more likely to use muscle as a source of both energy and amino acids this leads to a loss in lean mass. This loss in lean mass in turn may lead to a drop in Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This drop in BMR can lead to the rebound effect experienced by dieters who after coming off a period of reduced calorie intake return to regular eating habits resulting in the regain of some if not more body fat than lost during the diet (Skender et al, 1996).

One of the most effective ways to avoid this phenomenon is through the use of resistance exercise both during and after a period of diet and significant weight loss. The implementation of resistance exercise has been shown to significantly increase the maintenance of lean mass over other forms of exercise during periods of calorie deficit (Bryner et al, 1999).

Resistance exercise has also been shown to significantly increase BMR (Bryner et al, 1999) this increase in BMR can lead to sustained or increased fat loss.

Resistance exercise has been shown to have the following benefits:

• A decrease in LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol.
• An increase in cardiovascular fitness (for sedentary people).
• Increases in lean mass.
• Increases in insulin and glucose sensitivity.
• Decreases in subcutaneous and visceral fat (visceral fat is one of the main risk factors for coronary heart disease.)
• Increases in bone mineral density (of special interest to both ladies and the elderly.)
• Reductions of lower back pain.
• Increases in the strength of connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) reducing the risk of injury significantly.
• Increases in growth hormone (one of the major hormones associated with fat oxidisation after exercise).
• Significant increases in testosterone levels (in men).

But I don’t want big muscles!

One of the most common reasons for ladies in abandoning heavy progressive weight training into their schedule is the fear of putting on large amounts of muscle mass which may lead to them appearing bulky or manly.

This fear is however totally without merit women lack the key ingredient to significant levels of muscle hypertrophy, testosterone. Women have on average 1/100th of the serum testosterone found in men (Folland and Williams, 2007) given that testosterone is by in large the main anabolic hormone this proves a problem when trying to put on muscle mass.

Also given that women naturally have much higher levels of body fat (average healthy range for a lady is 20-30% and 10-20% for a man) ladies have a much tougher time getting lean enough to appear muscular.

Given its positive effects on both health and aesthetics can you really justify omitting resistance exercise from your routine?

In the next instalment we will look at common goals for the beginner/intermediate trainee and practical solutions to achieve these objectives.


1. Bryner R.W., Ullrich I.H., Sauers J., Donley D., Hornsby G., Kolar M. and Yeater R., Effects of Resistance vs. Aerobic Training Combined With an 800 Calorie Liquid Diet on Lean Body Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate, (1999) Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 18, No. 2, 115-121
2. Folland J.P. and Williams A.G, The Adaptations to Strength Training: Morphological and Neurological Contributions to Increased Strength, Sports Medicine:Volume 37(2)2007pp 145-168
3. Rowette Research Institute, Energy Expenditure Fact Sheet, 2009 (https://www.rowett.ac.uk/edu_web/sec_pup/energy_expenditure.pdf)
4. Skender M.L, Goodrick G.K., Del Junco D.J., Reeves S.R., Darenell L., Gotto A.M. and Foreyt J.P., Comparison of 2-Year Weight Loss Trends in Behavioral Treatments of Obesity: Diet, Exercise, and Combination Intervention, (1996), Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Volume 96, Issue 4, April 1996, Pages 342-346