We all know that exercise is an effective counter to stress. Yet, most people tend to think of aerobic exercise, such as running, as the best way to calm the nerves and produce those feel good hormones. The reality is that weight training may just the better option when it comes to dealing with stress.
Faster Endorphin Release
Working out with weights is the fastest and most effective way to put stress upon your physical body. One of the body’s responses to this stress is to release a chemical called endorphins.
Endorphin release is triggered by neurons in the nervous system. Endorphins are intended to relieve pain after a workout. They do this by reacting with the brain receptors that lower our pain perception. In addition to lowering our sensation of pain, endorphins also bring about a feeling of euphoria that has been linked to taking morphine.
Most people have heard of the runner’s high that comes from endorphin release. Yet, recent research has shown that multi joint weight training exercises do an even better job of triggering endorphin release than running.
When you work out with weights you are putting a massive amount of stress on your muscle tissue. In fact, it actually causes micro tears in the tissue. This is a good thing if you want to get bigger and stronger. So long as you provide your muscles with plenty of protein and recuperation, they will grow back better than ever.
The exercises that place the most stress on your muscles – and, thus, lead to the greatest endorphin release – are multi joint exercises that work through more than one joint and recruit a number of muscle groups to complete the movement.
The best multi joint exercises to release endorphins are:
- Clean and Jerk
- Bench Press
- Leg Press
Many weight trainers start to really enjoy the feeling of exhilaration and happiness that results from endorphin release. The post workout endorphin high can, in fact, become a healthy addiction. As such, it can be used to replace less healthy addictions, such as alcohol, illegal and legal drugs, and food – which is the number one most abused drug in our society.
People who have an addictive personality and who want to replace one addiction with another, could find no better choice than weight training. In addition to all the other health benefits, the more you work out, the more you are inclined to eat better, sleep better and generally follow a wellness lifestyle.
Improving Life Balance
At the end of a stressful day, millions of people head to the local bar in order to drown their sorrows. Yet, more and more people are throwing in this self defeating habit and heading to the gym instead. By hitting the weights, they are able to deal with their stress in a far more positive way. Weight training will enable the person to get balance, perspective and fresh air. When they get home they will be renewed and refreshed.
Weight lifting helps to bring food, exercise and appetite into balance. It improves sleep patterns and eating habits, allowing a person to relax and unwind far more readily.
Exercise has long been used to treat clinical depression. Patients become less tense, less depressed, less fatigued, and less confused when they begin a regular weight training program.
Better Mental Functioning
When you work out with weights, you enhance blood flow to the brain. This allows your brain to function more efficiently, because it gets oxygen to the cells more quickly. Blood also brings glucose to the brain, providing it’s key energy source. All forms of exercise improve blood flow to the brain, but weight training does it more effectively than anything else.
Weight lifting provides a means by which a person can set and attain to specific measurable goals, no matter where they are starting from. If, during your very first workout, you can only lift a 5kg dumbbell for 6 reps, within two weeks, you will be up to 10 or more reps. The benefits in terms of enhanced self-esteem are huge.
As a weight lifter, you will be daily testing your physical and mental limits, challenging yourself to your own personal best. You will realize that your ability to achieve is limitless, that you have personal power and worth – and that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.
You will be hard pressed to find a person who has just finished a workout in a bad mood. It just doesn’t happen. You MAY find some who start out training in a gloomy state of mind, but something magical happens along the way. When you weight train, your body increases it’s production of two key neuro-transmitting chemicals that affect mental health. These two chemicals – serotonin and dopamine – give you an immediate mood make-over. Of course, other factors also come into play. The endorphin release improves your mood, as does the very fact of pumping blood around your body and getting your muscles active.
The Best Anti Stress Routine
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine tested various modes of weight training in order to discover which one was most beneficial in terms of stimulating endorphin release. They found that a training protocol that involved using around 70% of a person’s one rep maximum for 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions was more effective than using heavier weights (up to 95% of the one rep max) for reps in the 1-5 range.
The researchers also found that limiting the rest between sets to 60 seconds released a greater level of endorphins than extending rest periods out three minutes.
Based on that research, we recommend the following workout as a great way to beat stress while building a fit, strong, powerful body:
- Warm up – dynamic stretching
- Squats – 3 x 8-10
- Lunges – 2 x 8-10
- Deadlift – 3 x 8-10
- Pull Ups – 2 x as many as possible
- Bench Press – 3 x 8-10
- Barbell Curls – 2 x 8-10
- Reverse Dips – 2 x 8-10
Step up your workouts with these key performance tips:
- Wear workout shoes
- Keep your rest between sets to 60 seconds
- Start by learning proper exercise technique
- Progressively increase the weight, but keep your reps between 8-10