Resistance Training as the Mode of Choice for Health and Fitness

I was alerted to the following paper through James Steele via Twitter:

Uncomplicated resistance training and health-related outcomes: evidence for a public health mandate.

Abstract: Compared to aerobic training (AT), resistance training (RT) has received far less attention as a prescription for general health. However, RT is as effective as AT in lowering risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other diseases. There is a clear ability of RT, in contrast to AT, to promote gains, maintenance, or slow loss of skeletal muscle mass/strength. Thus, as an antisarcopenic exercise treatment, RT is of greater benefit than AT; given the aging of our population, this is of primary importance. In our view, a substantial barrier to greater adoption of RT is the incorrectly perceived importance of variables such as external load, intensity, and volume, leading to complex, difficult-to-follow regimes. We propose a more feasible and easier-to-adhere-to paradigm for RT that could affect how RT is viewed and adopted as a prescription for public health.

I find two things interesting about this paper: first is that Richard Winnett and Stuart Phillips are the authors and have long been champions of “uncomplicated resistance training.” The second item of interest is how much of their recommendations mirror what was tentatively put forth in “Biomarkers.” Now understand that I’m not suggesting that an aged population doesn’t come with its own unique set of circumstances and problems however it is important to note (as I’ll be showing in my series) that what works for people in the least responsive period of their lives, as far as health and training adaptations are concerned, will most certainly work for people when their biology is much faster on its feet.

What I find so interesting is how we’ve understood the value of this for decades and yet practitioners continue to recommend less-effective treatment, sometimes dangerously so. Some of this comes from strongly held beliefs rather than science and evidence-based outcomes. Some comes from the same reasons why selling only barbells isn’t the most profitable thing in the world: you only have a customer once. Get them to believe that drugs (or supplements) are required and you have a customer for much longer. Prescribing proper exercise brings home the bacon from a perspective of health for the user but it does not bring home the bacon for the prescriber on a monthly basis.

However in more rational societies, at least in this context, proper strength training is prescribed for total public health improvement. I can only hope we see something of that nature soon in America.

7 thoughts on “Resistance Training as the Mode of Choice for Health and Fitness

  1. I often wonder if there will come a time when I can tell people that I like to strength train every day for quite a long time without someone going “yeah, but what about cardio? what are you doing for your heart? How is that gonna help you when you’re older?”

    It’s so weird how many ideas persist not only in the face of science, but in the face of science that literally proves the exact opposite of that very idea. No wonder the fitness game can drive smart people insane.

    One thing of note: I also like how they mention that paying attention to specific parameters is basically a red herring. Weight training is so beneficial it’s better to just do it than worry about programs. another idea I wish people would get in their heads before coming down with analysis-paralysis.

    1. It’s what I try to explain to my clients who still ask things like “what treadmill should I get?” My first response is always “why do you want a treadmill?” Typically they want to lose fat and, though I’ve explained it eleventybillion times, they’re still have the aerobics zeitgeist burned in their head.

      1. God forbid you tell anyone that you don’t need a treadmill to lose weight, they go absolutely batshit. I’ve dropped my bf% from 28 down to nearly 13 and the last time I did cardio was summer of 2010, and people still think I’m crazy for not jogging.

  2. VartanK.
    Do I understand from your post that you are weight training every day?
    Could you tell us your routine please?
    (I like the ‘analysis paralysis’ metaphor.Its everywhere).

    Regards Frank

    1. I hesitate to answer that question, because it’s totally anti-HIT training that I’m doing because I simply love it. I love these blogs and forums, but what I do is pretty off the grid.

      But here goes. Basically I don’t have a set routine, I usually walk into the gym with a general idea that I want to attack 1-2 power lifts, and based on how I feel, I develop a rep and weight scheme. Usually I like to squat every other day, with front squats thrown in on the other days. I bench 2-4 times a week, and other times I do chins, dips, and dead lifts. After that I do a lot of assistant work usually on machines.

      The closest routine to mine is this one, written by CS Sloan(the advanced version)
      Although I’ve changed it to where I probably do even more volume.

  3. VartanK
    Thanks for the reply and the link.
    In these days of almost compulsory minimalism in training, this approach
    is refreshing.


  4. Skyler,

    Great post. I think what we are coming to discover is that “the least responsive period of our lives” is really just as responsive as when we are 20 or 30. What has really changed is a systematic lack of applying the appropriate stimulus. The longer the time span without the stimulus, the less responsive you appear. Start applying the stimulus at any point along the way and mysteriously the responsiveness returns”.

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