"If you don't have good muscle, you don't have good health." It's hard to argue with advice from David Marshall aka The Bodydoctor, who is the trainer to the stars and is responsible for getting Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl, Lily Allen and Rachel Weisz in shape.
Every so often the fitness world gets a new darling to rave on about - last year it was the importance of resistance training, and while that is still the favourite among personal trainers, this year the spotlight is on weights.
Specifically the importance of doing them, and what part they have to play in losing weight, getting toned or simply getting strong.
Celebrity trainer and former UK's Strongest ManRob Blakeman says: "Only weight training will improve your shape and give you that Hollywood style tight biceps and buns. All the aerobics and calisthenics in the world may improve your cardiovascular system and increase flexibility, they may even help burn a few pounds off but if you start out as a pear shape you’ll end up a slightly smaller pear shape. New, improved curves will only come with progressive and intense weight training."
Ladies, this one is for you too - as we've heard the lament go round the office about the fear of getting bulky. Nia Shanks on her website sums this up perfectly: "the true culprit that gives a woman a bulky appearance is excess body fat. Period."
How often should I work out?
If you work out on Monday at 7 p.m., your body is in muscle-growth mode until Wednesday at 7. p.m. After 48 hours, though, the biological stimulus for your body to build new muscle returns to normal. That means it's time for another workout.
Similarly, Women's Health reported: "A recent study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham compared dieters who lifted three times a week with those who did aerobic exercise for the same amount of time. Both groups ate the same number of calories, and both lost the same amount—26 pounds—but the lifters lost pure chubb, while about 8 percent of the aerobicisers' drop came from valuable muscle. Researchers have also found that lifting weights is better than cardio at whittling intra-abdominal fat—the Buddha-belly kind that's associated with diseases from diabetes to cancer."
We asked the experts about the best reasons to do weights. Here's what they had to say:
The more lean muscle you have, the more fat you burn - especially if you are exercising at the right intensity.
David Marshall says: If you want to burn fat and you want to get to your destination, you need to use your muscles to push, pull and stretch. When people just do cardio – invariably they go out running - they just send shockwaves through the body. Your heart doesn’t differentiate whether it’s beating however many times a minute – it just understands there is a demand for oxygen and blood.
More energy, better posture
"These are the changes you and everyone else will notice," says Rob. "Loads more energy, improved posture, more strength, (as opposed to more muscle wastage) better pain-free joint movement, fewer colds and flu, better recovery, less stress (because you now have a real workout to channel it through!) less tiredness and greater concentration. The longer you continue your regime change, the more profound and noticeable the improvements."
Muscle training prevents osteoporosis
Weight training helps protect your bones and prevent against fractures. David says: "For the purposes of general health, resistance work does the trick every time. You have to do a full body workout and expand it without hitting your body with stress factors."
It protects against injuries
Caroline Ciavaldini, world class athlete and North Face athlete says: "While climbing you always work on your biceps, much less the antagonist muscle, which could lead to a disbalance, and injuries. Doing weights is a protection against injuries."
It helps with anti-ageing
"Building new lean muscle tissue is the ultimate in anti-ageing," says Rob. "It will also reduce drastically the chances of serious illness such as Heart Attacks and Strokes if performed regularly and consistently."
It's great for relaxing
"As much as I love climbing because of its complexity, it is sometimes enjoyable to go to the gym to just make very simple exercises, like weight lifting," says Caroline. "It's a little holiday for your brain!"
Also on HuffPost:
It Staves Off Cravings
In the course of a <a href="http://news.health.com/2012/09/18/exercise-curbs-appetite/">Brigham Young University study</a>, 18 normal-weighted and 17 clinically obese women were followed for two full days. On the first day, they exercised for 45 minutes, walking briskly on a treadmill, and then looked at 240 photographs, 120 of which were food (the other 120 were a control: flowers). The researchers then tracked the women's food intake and activity level for the rest of the day. On the second day, one week later, the women were shown the images without the workout. Again their food and exercise choices were tracked. Researchers found that both the obese women and the women at a healthy weight had a lower brain response to the images of food and moved around more following the 45 minute morning workout.
It Frees Up Your Day
This is an obvious one, but getting your workout in before work means that you'll be up for impromptu happy hour or dinner plans. No more "I can't, I have spinning" for you!
It Helps You Stick To It
What's more, getting your workout out of the way first means you'll actually do it. "If you work out before your day distracts you, your chances of exercising regularly go way up," Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise <a href="http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/morning-workout">told <em>Women's Health</em></a>.
It Ups Your Energy
When you exercise, the effort helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles, organs and other tissues. And that means your whole cardiovascular system will work more efficiently, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676" target="_hplink">upping your energy</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It Jump Starts Your Brain
Exercise has both short-term and <a href="http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/ExerciseFitness/17907">long-term</a> brain benefits. Research shows that the short-term benefits<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19276839"> include better executive function and memory recall</a>. That brain boost means that a morning workout <em>could</em> take the place of a caffeine fix.