Go into a fitness center, read an article online, or talk to a personal trainer… Pay close attention and I promise you will hear this phrase: Lose fat and build lean muscle tissue. Those may not be the exact words. But, if you wait long enough, you’re going to hear that in some form or fashion. It is what the majority of fitness programs and workouts are designed to do these days. But, if you’re like me when I first started getting into the fitness world, you might have the same question I did: Why??? It’s not the obvious “cosmetic” issue that I was wanting to understand. It was the science behind the argument of lean muscle tissue vs. fat. I hear the topic discussed all the time, so I want to share with you why it is that so many people are focused on lean muscle tissue.
Lean Muscle Tissue (LMT) – First and foremost, lean muscle tissue does not mean bulky. One reason most people are turned off by lifting weights is that they mistake LMT for huge, bulky muscles. Well, that’s simply not the case. Let’s first point out the discrepancy between LMT and bulky muscle.
Now, I’m not here to say which one is right or wrong, because quite frankly both of these women seem to be very healthy (I’m using females as an example because this is generally not an issue with men). I’m simply pointing out the difference between bulky and lean muscle. The female in the top picture would be considered bulky, with the larger shoulders and arms. The woman in the bottom photo would be considered more lean, with less definition in the muscles. Again, neither are right or wrong, just different.
So, back to the issue at hand. Why are so many people concerned with gaining LMT?? Well, there are many reasons, but I want to highlight a few for you. This will hopefully paint a clearer picture for you.
Metabolic Rate – We hear about metabolic rate all the time. But what is it?? Simply put, it’s the amount of calories you burn in a given day. You have different resting and exercise metabolic rates, obviously, with exercise being much higher. LMT affects this in a positive manner. Muscle has a MUCH higher metabolism than fat. So, it would make sense that the more muscle we have, then the higher our exercise AND resting metabolic rates would be. More muscle = more calories burned.
Increased Strength – This may not be a major issue for all of you. But, I’m sure you can think of multiple instances where it would be nice to be able to pick that heavy box up by yourself, or lift that heavier kettlebell next time in the gym. Whether we realize it or not, strength is a MAJOR component of health. Have you ever watched an elderly individual use up almost all of their strength to simply stand up from a chair??? Hard to watch, I know. Now tell me strength isn’t important.
Increased Bone Density – Again, this may not be next to “get in bathing suit shape” on your To Do List, but it is very important. Especially in the female population, bone density decreases significantly with age. The great thing about bones, you ask??? They are made to be stressed!!! No, not injured. Stressed. There is a difference. Bones strengthen whenever we place stress on them (i.e. lifting weights). The bones in the human body, particularly those within the spinal cord and lower body, are not only designed to, but benefit from, loads applied to them. So, although it may not be the most comfortable thing in the world, that barbell on your back during a squat isn’t the worst thing in the world, after all.
Balance, Flexibility, Injury Prevention – Is it true that if you don’t use it, you lose it??? Well, when it comes to muscle functioning, you better believe it. Resistance training increases balance by using bi-lateral movements (lunges, etc) that make you focus on balance and core activation. Flexibility can be increased without stretching simply by going through a full range of motion during exercise. Yes, you can actually improve flexibility without ripping your muscles off while stretching. Maybe more important than those two is injury prevention. It’s this simple… You want to avoid injuring your muscles?? Make them stronger!!! The stronger your muscles are, the more prepared they are to deal with the stimuli we present to them. What do you think supports your joints when you run, jump, or push something?? These things all go hand in hand with each other, and all depend on increasing LMT.
For those still not convinced…..
In case you cannot see, that’s 5 lbs of fat on the left and 5 lbs of LMT on the right. Now do you understand?? Outside of those reasons I just listed, this is the number one reason most people want to lose fat. Muscle tissue is MUCH more dense than fat tissue, which means for the same weight it takes up MUCH less space. Think of how much different somebody would look after losing 15 pounds of fat (3 TIMES THAT IN THE PICTURE) and gaining 3-4 pounds of LMT. It would make a world of difference.
The benefits of LMT are numerous, and I can’t express the importance of each one of them enough. Read this very carefully…. You don’t need a prescription from your doctor to lose fat!! You don’t go to the pharmacy to build lean muscle!! You need to drop the chips, get off the couch, and get on board with the great things that exercise has to offer!!!