Do you ever find yourself so focused on losing weight that you ignore building strength and muscle?
If you’ve been preoccupied with weight-loss, doing whatever it takes to get the scale to drop, I’m here to give you fresh motivation to prioritize resistance training.
Diet and traditional cardio exercise certainly have their roles, but being strong is about more than aesthetics.
Today, I am aiming to unite two camps.
One camp, including government health agencies, touts “Lose fat! Excess weight is a contributing factor of so many terrible things!”
Science confirms that this is, indeed, the case.
The other camp, including me and others who have a passion for physical fitness, tout “Gain muscle! Muscle is beautiful and functional and building muscle also helps you be healthier!” (I actually wrote a post related to that a few months ago, here.)
Science confirms this to be true, as well.
I will now attempt to make harmony between the oft-related but not mutually exclusive goals of fat loss and muscle gain, suggesting that both are good and healthy and necessary for overall quality of life.
Moreover, I’m suggesting that the “treatment” for one who is overweight should not be limited to calorie control and a sole focus on weight loss, but rather a joint focus on nutrition AND muscle & strength development.
BMI…, blah, blah, blah. We’ve talked about the obvious drawbacks and the fact that Body Mass Index tends not to adequately account for the relatively high muscle mass of some individuals with “dense” weight-to-height ratios.
Basically, we’ve established that there’s a decent correlation between high BMI and high body-fat percentage and further correlation between high body-fat percentage and high risk of sooner-rather-than-later mortality.
Not only does a low body-fat percentage positively correlate with health…
A high lean body mass percentage positively correlates with health.
In other words, the more muscle mass one has, the more likely one is to have other attributes associated with health.
Being overweight or obese increases your chances of everything from heart disease to cancer, and, as stated above, lots of other “terrible things.”
However, just a low bodyfat percentage is not necessarily the best way to combat these things. In fact, percent lean body mass, perhaps more directly than BMI, has been correlated with positive health outcomes pretty much across the board.
Not only does physical fitness allow one to prevent many “terrible things,” but it also aides in recovery from such “terrible things” should they occur.
Research is just starting to nudge professionals to encourage resistance training in conjunction with nutritional changes as the most effective way to reduce risks associated with obesity.
Here are some potential benefits of having substantial muscle mass–or at least a high muscle mass index (ratio of lean body mass to height-squared)–for you to ponder while you consider your weight-loss goals.
- The more muscle mass you have, the less likely you are to be obese. Therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the less you run the risk of having to face all of the risks associated with obesity.
- Muscle mass seems to have a protective effect related to insulin resistance and diabetes.
- The greater the muscle mass, the better the bone density and lesser the risk of osteoporosis.
- Those with higher muscle mass and lower fat mass have the lowest risk of cardiovascular mortality. Moreover, even those with higher muscle mass and higher body fat, fare better than those with lower muscle mass when it comes to cardiovascular disease.
- In longevity studies, those with higher muscle mass, all other factors aside, have a longer life expectancy.
- Having “reserves of muscle mass” makes you more likely to rebound from both illness (like cancer), as well as trauma (such as that from severe burns).
- Those recovering from illness/trauma with a greater amount and function of muscle tend to require less extensive interventions and shorter duration of debilitation.
Bonus fact: Muscle strength, rather than merely muscle mass, has even more of a impact on health for the 70+-aged crowd!
So, the next time you are tempted to increase your running distance rather than increase your load for kettlebell thrusters–all in the name of health, longevity, or weight-loss–remember this: it’s not just about a “healthy” BMI or a low body-fat percentage. It’s also about lean muscle, both in mass and function. Being skinny-fat doesn’t help you recover from a car accident, but it seems that being strong will.
To that end, if you want to be strong in the most minimalist of ways, you’ll want to join Pat’s Inner Circle ASAP. He is just dropping his best-yet Tactical Strength program, guaranteed to make you–quite literally–harder to kill.
And here’s a 5-Minute SWEATY with some muscle-maximizing moves.
2 minute cap:
Explosive push-ups to failure,
Deficit push-ups to failure,
Standard push-ups to failure;
Plyo lunges x 30s;
*1.5-rep reverse lunges x 10 R, x 8 L, x 10 R, x 8 L, …. for the remainder of your 5 minutes
*For a full 1.5-rep lunge on the R: From standing with feet at hip-width, step back with left leg and lower into a full lunge and rise back to the top of the lunge; then, lower to half-depth and rise back to the top of the lunge; lastly, bring the left leg back to original standing position, but do not pause here. Instead, keep the weight in your right leg and immediately step back for the next 1.5-rep reverse lunge. You’ll complete 8 total on the left before switching sides.
[P.S. Obvious clarification: The lower the bodyfat percentage, the healthier the person does not apply for the whole spectrum. If it dips too low, there are serious risks. Similarly, the higher the lean body mass percentage, the healthier the person has a limit as well.]
Stronger Every Day,