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Strength Training vs Working Out

muscle strength weight training workout Dec 17, 2021

“I should work out more!”

It’s a phrase that’s all too familiar this time of year. 2021 is wrapping up and 2022 is, literally, weeks away. I’m sure resolutions, goals, or dreams of healthier lifestyles are on all our minds. Whether our goals are to lose weight, get stronger, move better, or feel better, our New Year Resolutions can either inspire or trigger us. 

We’ve all had the same guttural responses to the thoughts of becoming healthier, haven’t we? Lots of mixed emotions- A little bit of motivation to get healthier, mixed with grief from past failed attempts, and maybe some repressed trauma from daily shots of Kale juice and the hours spent at the gym to chase the “magic” number of calories burned. Then there’s the confusion of which fitness avenue to choose!

Crossfit, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Bootcamps, Cardio Machines, Running, Basketball at the Y, Yoga, Pilates, or Strength Training.

**Before I go any further, I need to preface all of this with: I think all forms of exercise is good! Everyone should find something they enjoy and do it as often as possible.

It’s pretty confusing, right?

Personally, I own a bias towards strength training. Strength training can check a lot of the boxes for your goals whether it’s to drop a few pounds, be able to keep up with small children, or to help feel more confident and balanced as we continue to age.

I know some of you may be reading this and asking, “Well, what’s the difference?”  So here’s my “unofficial” definition of strength training: Strength training is a mode of exercise which specifically targets the body’s capability towards building strength through a coordinated plan of the utilization of resistance training. Secondly, I’ll be “that guy” and answer your question by asking you questions: What are you trying to accomplish from your “work out?” Are you trying to only burn calories or are you trying to build something? At PT Lab, we’re about lifelong health! We believe having an effective strength training program can be more beneficial in the long run than running on the metaphorical hamster wheel of “burning calories.”  Some of the benefits of strength training include:

  • Builds muscle mass
  • Creates metabolic resilience 
  • Improves brain health
  • Positively affects bone health (more on the last these last 2 in part 2, so check back in for more)

So as we head into the New Year, I’d like to make a case for starting a strength training program, rather than just trying to “work out more” this year!

Building Muscle Mass

When training with a specific and deliberate strength training program, one of the by-products of strength training is muscle hypertrophy. Muscle Hypertrophy is simply defined as building muscle mass. Having bigger muscles isn’t just for showing off at the beach, but it is essential for lifelong health. On the short term scale, bigger muscles means more ability to burn calories (I’ll explain more later). On the long term, studies have shown that after the age of 40, we start to lose strength, power, and muscle mass. If you’re under the age of 40, it’s important to know the more muscle mass we build when we’re younger, the more resilient we become to Father Time’s demands. If you’re already over the age of 40, you might already feel a little bit weaker. But here’s the good news, it’s not too late! Regardless of your age, now would be a good time to start trying to build muscle mass. (We can help you! Join the PT Lab and let us help you write a new story!)

For those of us trying to age a bit better, muscle hypertrophy decreases our fall risk. The leading cause of death in people over the age of 65 is falls. If we allow age to occur without preventative measures, we’re likely to lose muscle mass. Losing lower body muscle mass can be detrimental in our ability to stand. So the more muscle mass we have prior to the age of 65, the stronger we are likely to be as we get older. The stronger those muscles (quads and glutes) are the more effective we become at catching ourselves when we fall. Studies have suggested that people who undergo a strength training program twice a week cut down their risk of falling by a third!

Metabolic Resilience

As I mentioned earlier, strength training gives us bigger muscles. How does this affect our metabolism? The answer is: more muscle mass means more calorie burning capability. Have you ever seen what a bodybuilder eats in a day? Better question, have you ever seen HOW MUCH they eat in a day? Case in point, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, former professional wrestler, actor, and action movie star (also, my man-crush) consumes upwards of 4,000 calories per day. If you follow his social media accounts, he’ll occasionally share his EPIC “cheat” meals! 

Other than my public appreciation for The Rock, there is an important concept to understand here! Our bodies need energy (calories) for normal function. The energy requirements for our brains, internal organs, and muscles to function is our base metabolism. For the most part, we can’t control the inner processes of our bodies to require more energy. However, the more muscle mass we have, the more energy our bodies need to function correctly. This is a way for us to create metabolic resilience. So when we go back to thinking about The Rock (*swoon*). He’s a big dude! He has a lot of muscle mass. Because he has all those big muscles, he gets to eat a lot. So when I talk about metabolic resilience, I’m talking more about the occasional big meal, the date night dessert, or the “I feel like In-n-Out” Double-Double. If we have more muscles to burn off those excessive calories, we can better enjoy life! More muscle mass means more ability to burn calories, thus making us more resilient metabolically.

What are you building?

Like I said before, I have a bias towards strength training. Yes, the number of calories burned through a “tough” work out is appealing to chase, but what if good health goes beyond the calories. Having a well-planned and coordinated strength training program checks a lot of the health boxes. It’s something we need at all stages of our lives. At PT Lab, we’re about helping people build up. We’re helping people build healthy life-long habits. We’re also building a community to join so they don’t have to do it alone! If you’re interested in joining our community, don’t wait until the time is right. Time may not be on your side, but the PT Lab is! Check it out here.

 Isak earned his Master’s degree in Physical Education at Azusa Pacific University, where he worked with the Women’s Volleyball, Baseball, and Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams. From there, he spent seven seasons with the San Diego Padres organization as a Minor League Athletic Trainer, working at all Minor League levels. Isak believes in the power of exercise and movement as medicine and exercise’s ability rewrite the narrative of people’s lives.



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