More Than Building the Body: 5 Benefits to Lifting Weights
While training for impressive muscularity, for the singular purpose of developing a head-turning, eye-popping physique, remains the exclusive focus of hardcore bodybuilders (from Olympia hopefuls all the way down to recreational lifters looking to ‘bulk up’), there is another side to bodybuilding which makes it an activity all people can benefit from. Among its many advantages, bodybuilding, an activity which presents few barriers to full participation, broadly enhances health and well-being while providing a competitive outlet for those who wish to compete with others, or against themselves.
I would go as far as to say that notwithstanding its undoubted ability to transform one’s physique from pudgy and pitiful to unstoppably powerful and aesthetically pleasing, the bodybuilding lifestyle adopted by millions worldwide also has the potential to enhance mental health (bolstering, as it does, self-esteem and self-confidence while driving down depression and alleviating anxiety) while reversing the aging process (take a look at a typical lifelong bodybuilder past the age of 50 and you’ll see what I mean).
In short, bodybuilding is much more than simply a sure-fire means of building a mass-stacked physique. On whatever level you choose to pursue bodybuilding success, there are several benefits you’ll continue to experience the longer you keep pumping out the reps and pounding down the protein.
In no particular order, here are five advantages to hitting the iron and to adopting a lifestyle that makes successful lifting possible.
1: DEFYING AGE
Bodybuilding and the lifestyle which supports progressive musclebuilding may stall the aging process better than any other method. Building muscle while keeping definition and obscuring bodyfat to single digits is a gift that continues to provide more and more health benefits the older we get. Those who have stayed in the game long enough will know this only too well.
Though a definitive scientific account of why we age remains unclear, it’s believed that accumulated cellular damage (for example, DNA oxidation) gradually causes the body’s biological systems to fail. During this process, we become weaker (less physically and mentally agile) and our appearance begins to reflect the ongoing degeneration of bodily tissues (such as skin, bone, and muscle).
Most health experts will readily agree that healthy eating and regular exercise, optimum rest and recovery, and the avoidance of stress and other toxins (like cigarette smoke) will contribute to a longer, healthier, and happier life. As a general rule, putting all of these pieces together, consistently, may not only allow us to perform better as we age compared to our less disciplined peers but may also greatly enhance physical appearance well into one’s golden years.
While most of us, at least intuitively, know the above to be true, the problem for many remains inconsistency of effort. We all know someone (and maybe we fit this category ourselves) who has decided to adopt a healthy way of living once and for all. Ice cream and cookies are replaced with more nourishing and wholesome fare; morning cardio becomes a regular fixture; a broad selection of top line supplements is consumed daily, and the gym is hit as hard as the dance floor once was. Unfortunately, in most cases, such good intentions seldom last. But there is one way to bolster consistency, to ensure we stay on track for good: incentivized training.
Bodybuilding incentivizes training and healthy living like nothing else can. To attain bodybuilding success (reflected in more tangible results – greater strength, more muscle, and less body fat) we must work extra hard to ensure that training, nutrition, and all other fitness factors are routinely adhered to. Indeed, to experience bodybuilding progress means to ensure all of the above-listed variables are consistency kept in place.
Factors that even some dedicated bodybuilders may be prone to overlooking may throw the whole muscle-building mission off balance. For example, stress produces excessive amounts of cortisol (a hormone that destroys cells and thus contributes to aging), which, in turn, depletes muscle tissue. Therefore, as bodybuilders, we must work to eliminate stress. Insufficient cardio (an activity that strengthens the heart, produces sweat and keeps the mind sharp – all of which counter aging) keeps bodyfat levels higher than desirable thus thwarting the attainment of muscular definition. Therefore, as bodybuilders, we must do enough cardio to reveal the muscularity we have spent many hours developing in the gym.
In short, bodybuilding encourages the consistent application of the aforementioned age-defying practices better than any other activity.
2: GAIN ENERGY
Aside from time, most of us wish we could have more energy. More mental and physical energy means greater productivity. Getting more done in a more efficient manner means we may not only have more time to enjoy other areas of life but, with greater mental clarity and physical effort, we may also perform to a consistently higher standard. Indeed, greater energy enables the output and quality of our work to be increased while the time it takes to complete this task is concomitantly decreased. Unfortunately, however, a great many people tend to sleepwalk their way through life, giving only a fraction of their innate potential.
To gain more energy, a precious commodity that fuels productivity and allows one to live life to the fullest, we must make some significant wholesale changes to our existing lifestyle. Forget radical diets comprising paltry servings of protein and an energy-sapping caloric composition. Forget, endlessly “kicking back” so as to “conserve” valuable energy reserves. In fact, barring disease and illness, a lack of physical activity and improper nutrition are the two singular attributes responsible for draining most of us faster than a serious bodybuilder would a post-workout protein shake.
By cleaning up your diet you’ll discover energy you never thought you had. Getting your macronutrients in the right balance along with adhering to a solid supplement regimen will provide instant energy with which to get the most from life. Regular exercise (weights and cardio) will not only optimize the release of a cornucopia of positive neurochemicals to power myriad mental processes but will also enhance blood flow to the brain and muscles. Greater blood circulation enhances the oxygenation of tissues and shuttles life-giving nutrients to every cell of the body. And, once again, bodybuilding, via proper nutrition and regular, incentivized, vigorous activity, remains the most effective way to keep the body firing on all cylinders.
3: IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
The mental health benefits of regular exercise and good nutrition are many. Increased cognitive functioning and better memory, more self-confidence, and greater self-esteem, lowered stress levels, improved sleep (and the resulting restoration of mental functioning), the alleviation of depression and anxiety, and the enhancement of overall mood remain but a few such benefits.
Bodybuilding and its corresponding fitness lifestyle help bring about all of the above. However, unlike regular exercise, bodybuilding, kept in its proper perspective, is potentially a more satisfying, and mental health-boosting, pursuit.
When exercising for general health (which bodybuilding also addresses), comparatively little in the way of ongoing physical change may be experienced as the trainee will in most cases be working non-progressively to maintain a certain level of fitness. Here, fitness may self-defeatingly become a negotiable part of one’s daily plan, not an overarching and all-consuming objective in itself – as is the case with bodybuilding.
For many a fitness adherent, training is often a one step forward, two steps back proposition, a process which usually ends in disillusionment and discouragement. With bodybuilding, because ongoing progress is paramount the only direction is forward. Thus bodybuilding can, in the long run, be more affirming, rewarding, and gratifying.
With bodybuilding, strength, muscle, and body fat levels are constantly manipulated and monitored to ensure the physique takes on a superhuman appearance – an extremely gratifying and empowering experience in and of itself. Even if such an appearance does not manifest entirely, the motivation to achieve a great physique and the thrill of any indication of progress can also boost self-confidence and heighten one’s enthusiasm to continue training (and reaping the mental health benefits of such training) above and beyond other, less regimented, forms of exercise.
When kept in perspective (and not allowed to spiral into an unhealthy obsession sparked by self-delusion), bodybuilding fosters a winning mindset and a healthy attitude toward self-improvement. All lifters, whether pro-level or recreational, become athletes hell-bent on consistently bettering performance and appearance. Such a mindset does wonders to enhance self-confidence and to improve the many parameters of mental health.
4: BUILD AN IMPRESSIVE BODY OF WORK
Sure, while there are countless bodybuilding benefits which go beyond the mere superficial, looking good, for many, remains one important way to maintain a positive sense of self. As the old saying goes, “if you look good, you’ll feel good.” Like most sayings, it’s a simplistic one but nevertheless one that also contains a large grain of truth.
Much the same way a good suit will make you feel like a million dollars, a suit of muscle will also make you feel like you’ve achieved something significant – as you undoubtedly will have. Whether we would like to admit it or not, appearance does, justly or unjustly, count for a lot in the increasingly competitive world in which we live. Whether applying for a job, meeting a prospective life partner for the first time, representing a company, or simply putting your best foot forward in whatever task you are seeking to accomplish, there is much to be said for presenting a healthy, fit, and commensurately commanding appearance.
The best way to develop a physique that reflects strong and desirable inner qualities such as discipline, dedication, perseverance, and integrity is by – you guessed it – adhering to a fitness lifestyle, specifically one centered on the time-honored principles of progressing bodybuilding training. By investing in your most important asset, your health and wellbeing, and by association building your most impressive-looking asset, your physique, you’ll stand a better chance of succeeding in many of life’s arenas. After all, who wants to hire an out of shape, unhealthy-looking employee who’ll likely treat his or her role the same way he or she might treat their body?
5: A MEANINGFUL PURSUIT
To be a successful bodybuilder is to be among a select group of hard-training, dedicated individuals. By building your physique and adopting a lifestyle based on healthy living, you’ll be setting a positive example for others to follow. Bodybuilding, at its core, teaches us to maintain a healthy respect for our bodies, which, by itself, makes it a meaningful pursuit – a hobby that can be adopted on many different levels but all for the same fundamental purpose: self-improvement (of both mind and body).
Because bodybuilding is a 24/7 pursuit, every second of every day takes on its own special significance. From meal planning to proper rest, to regimented training, every aspect of the bodybuilding lifestyle requires full commitment. As such, bodybuilding has the potential to be immensely enriching and character-building. Only the strongest and most dedicated can achieve success in what for many becomes a full-time and all-encompassing passion.
Bodybuilding gives structure and direction to an otherwise unstructured and directionless life. With bodybuilding serving as a rock-solid foundation, all other areas of life tend to flow better. The bodybuilder will likely have more energy, more focus, and a greater work ethic, be healthier overall, be functionally stronger, and possess excellent time management and organizational skills. Put in its proper perspective, bodybuilding has the potential to completely change a person’s life for the better.
MORE THAN MUSCLE
It’s no coincidence that the most successful bodybuilders are equally as adept at keeping their lives in perspective while seeking to fully experience the many benefits bodybuilding has to offer. Building muscle at all costs without due respect given to health and self-improvement generally may only stifle self-development and, paradoxically, lead to fewer and fewer gains in lean muscle. However, by immersing oneself in the complete bodybuilding lifestyle (which makes room for the all-important rest, restoration, and life balance), rather than overemphasizing certain aspects of bodybuilding such as training and strict nutrition, so much more can be derived from this singularly beneficial activity.
About the author
David Robson is a prolific health and fitness author with a particular interest in how training, nutrition, and mindset can assist bodybuilding progress, David Robson, a personal trainer and health educator, also walks the walk as a seasoned bodybuilding competitor. David, a Tae Kwon Do black belt, and second place finisher at the 1997 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships, has competed internationally in both Tae Kwon Do and bodybuilding.
In addition, David, who holds separate degrees in psychology, journalism, teaching, and sports performance, is Founder and Director of Advanced Personal Training New Zealand (ATPNZ), a company set up to educate people on how to become fitter, healthier, and better-performing in their day-to-day life, and as athletes.
Charity work forms a large part of David’s life. As Founder and President of the New Zealand Wheelchair Bodybuilding Federation (NZWBBF) and Founder and Director of Fit Futures Charitable Trust, David provides sporting and fitness training opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
David also provides online coaching for fitness and bodybuilding results.
Contacted David at: firstname.lastname@example.org