We all lace up our Nikes, knockback pre-workout blends, and bee-line to our gym’s free weight section for our own reasons.
Some of us pump iron for the strength-building perks.
Others lift with the hopes of turning an M into an XL.
A few stragglers — gym bros — want nothing more than to gloat about their 200-pound bench when they post the clip on Instagram (you know exactly who I’m talking about).
The truth is, weight training builds more than just strength. These 17 statistics will reveal the true benefits of resistance training!
Table of Contents
- What Percentage of the Population Lifts Weights?
- Crazy Weight Training Facts
- If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It (Muscle Loss)
- Benefits of Strength Training
- Strength Training for Noobs (Beginners)
What Percentage of the Population Lifts Weights?
- Just 30.2% of American adults meet the twice-per-week muscle-strengthening recommendations (includes weightlifting, resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises).
- Nearly 60% of U.S. adults skip regular strength training activities.
- Although more Americans than ever participate in strength training sessions, the nation fell below its 30% participation goal; just 17.5% of women and 21.9% of men trained strength at least twice a week in 2004.
- Only one in five women participate in weightlifting.
Why Don’t Americans Lift Weights?
Maybe it was those iconic Bro Science videos or the now-cringe-worthy Jersey Shore “GTL,” but there was just something about the early 2010s that convinced us all that Americans love lifting.
The statistics say otherwise.
So, why can’t U.S. adults be bothered to pick up a dumbbell or load up a bar? Especially when over 64.19 million Americans held a gym membership in 2019.
These facts might have something to do with it:
- The average American works 34.4 hours a week.
- Twenty percent of the population consists of “chronic procrastinators.”
- Almost 80% of all gym memberships go unused.
- Nearly 70% of the adult population is either obese or overweight.
- Eighty percent of Americans fall short of the general activity guidelines.
The most troubling part?
The real answer is likely, “It’s simply American culture.”
Americans are workaholics, suffer from unreal amounts of laziness, don’t use the resources available to them, and seem to care very little about their overall health.
The average Joe walks 3,000–4,000 steps/day; strength training requires double that effort.
Women & Weightlifting
The good news is that 20% of women lift weights. The bad news is that 80% don’t.
The likely culprits are the handful of myths swirling around social circles for decades, insisting that women shouldn’t train strength the same way men do.
To name a few …
- You don’t need to lift heavy; just tone up.
- Lifting weights will make you bulky or Hulk-like.
- Use a high rep range to avoid gaining too much weight.
- Do cardio instead — plain and simple!
- You’re not strong enough to use that; use resistance bands or do yoga instead.
No, no, no, no, and — one more — no.
While women can and do build muscle with resistance training, the odds of sculpting masculine-like mass are against them biologically.
The average adult woman has just 5–10% of the average man’s testosterone.
And, since T levels can boost muscle protein synthesis (repair) by 27%, men are naturally able to pack on more mass and develop more strength than women. You won’t become a she-Hulk!
(Also, please don’t offer unsolicited advice to the women who do lift at the gym.)
Crazy Weight Training Facts
- The two-minute bench press record-holder — Mike Carroll — lifted 8,994.86 pounds after performing 68 reps with 90 pounds loaded onto the bar.
- In 2018, Jarrad Young defeated three-time record-holder Carlton Williams, claiming the “most push-ups in an hour” title with 2,806 reps.
- The “most pull-ups in a minute” title belongs to Boris Nalbantov, who ousted the previous record-holder by performing 54 in 60 seconds.
Guinness World Records for Weight Training
Progressing to a 25-pound curl or 150-pound squat might just make your whole week (or year, depending on how things are going).
But if you can push your envy aside for a moment, take a look at these other mind-blowing — and often flat-out bizarre — Guinness World Records held by the fitness community:
|Guinness World Record||Current Record||Record-Holder|
|Longest Plank||8 hours, 15 minutes, 15 seconds||George Hood (USA)|
|Most Handstand Push-Ups (One Minute)||51||Siarhei Kudayeu (Belarus)|
|Heaviest Weight Lifted With Fingers||105.67 kg||Dariusz Slowik (Canada)|
|Most Weight Lifted By Overhead Squat (One Minute)||2,125 kg||Casey Lambert (USA)|
|Longest Deadlift With 100 kg Weight||6 minutes, 3 seconds||Marcello Ferri (Italy)|
|Most Weight Lifted By Deadlift (One Minute)||5,834.80 kg||Viacheslav Pavlichuk (Ukraine)|
|Heaviest Weight Lifted With Teeth||281.5 kg||Walter Arfeuille (Belgium)|
|Heaviest Deadlift In 24 Hours||500,457.53 kg||KenGee Ehrlich (USA)|
Are these completely outlandish Guinness Records safe for the average person? Not a chance.
Are they still somehow completely badass? Absolutely.
Why These Records Can Be Problematic
Not to rain on any of these athletes’ well-deserved parades, but we should talk about the elephant in the room (that some jacked guy is likely loading up on a cart to pull 100 yards as we speak).
Even the most well-trained athletes have limits. And, exposing your body, muscles, and even your immune system to such intense training can lead to dire consequences, like:
- Rhabdomyolysis: a severe muscle injury that kills muscle fibers, ultimately leading to kidney failure if left untreated — caused by extreme exertion of the muscles
- Strains: the technical term for “pulling” a muscle — caused by improper form when lifting insanely heavy objects
- Fractures: broken or cracked bones — caused by extreme tension on the bones, sometimes over a period of months
- Sprains: twisting or swelling of the ligaments in a joint — caused by improper form or landing oddly
- Severe illness: burning out your body to the point where it takes a toll on performance and weakens the immune system — caused by the body not being able to keep up with repair and rest during intense training
Think about it this way:
You can bet 99.99% of them aren’t vying for a Guinness World Record requiring 24 straight hours of exercise or thousands of reps.
Without years of daily practice, attempting these ridiculous records can bust you up and add you to the growing list of weight lifting injury statistics.
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If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It (Muscle Loss)
- Along with slower metabolism and great body fat development, an inactive lifestyle can trigger a 3–8% loss in lean muscle mass each decade.
- Aging, a sedentary lifestyle, and a poor diet all contribute to declining bone mass, as much as 1% every year after you turn 40.
- Inactive people will have just half of their previous muscle mass by the time they celebrate their 80th birthday.
Other Age-Related Benefits of Weight Training
If you’re somewhere around the age of 25, we have some good and bad news.
On the bright side, you’ll never be stronger than you are now — your physique is at its peak. Unfortunately, that means it’s all downhill from here.
A few caveats to mention: you can control just how quickly you lose mass and strength, and you could remain in peak shape for the next ten or so years before setting off on that decline.
But weightlifting doesn’t only offer a few extra years of shirtless beach escapades before the “dad bod” settles in. As you get older, regular weight training can also:
- Minimize bone loss, reducing the risk of osteoporosis or fractures
- Reduce joint stiffness common in arthritis
- Improve everyday tasks (reaching for cabinets, picking up boxes, etc.)
- Prevent muscles loss and fat gain
- Lessen your risk of depression and isolation
- Cuts your chances of heart attack, stroke, or premature death
2018 research even supports a direct link between low muscular strength and 50% greater odds of dying early. You’ll look and feel good today, a decade from now, and in half a century!
If you’ve ever spent a few months (or even a few years) away from the gym, the motto “if you don’t use it, you lose it” certainly rings true on a more personal level.
That’s a lesson we learn the hard way!
A layer of fat conceals that once-defined six-pack, those softball-sized shoulders look more like tennis balls these days, and your legs returned to their natural state: toothpick (sorry).
The silver lining is that a little something called “muscle memory” might work to your benefit.
According to an article published in the Journal of Physiology, “de-training” might not be such a permanent loss in muscle mass. In fact, regaining that mass can be even more efficient.
As you train strength, you boost the number of myonuclei (muscle fiber nucleus). When you pause your training for several weeks, your muscles begin to atrophy (lose subtle mass).
But though the mass declines, the nuclei remain constant. These nuclei allow the concept of “muscle memory” to kick in, allowing growth to return by 15% in just eight weeks of training.
Benefits of Strength Training
- The link between strength training and restful sleep is comforting to the fitness community, with 60% of weightlifters sleeping for 7+ hours a night.
- Weightlifting can help boost bone mineral density by 1–3%.
- After ten weeks of strength training, you can speed up your metabolism by 7%, gain three pounds of lean mass, and shed 3.9 pounds of body fat.
- Three months of CrossFit training can trigger a 22% boost in muscular endurance.
A Deeper Look
The statistics above make one thing quite clear: strength training (or weightlifting) can benefit nearly every aspect of your health, fitness, and physique.
Honestly, it’s a little bit of everything.
A 2001 study found that 24 weeks of strength training can boost resting metabolism by 9%. The faster you burn calories while resting, the more likely you are to shed stubborn body fat.
Lifting weights activates the bone-building cells known as osteoblasts, allowing bones to generate more tissue and become relatively denser.
Weightlifting also forces the breakdown of ATP (energy), which converts into adenosine. Adenosine encourages drowsiness, allowing you to get more restful sleep.
You also have athletic benefits that depend on how you train strength.
Regular old weightlifting can drive your strength and power. CrossFit’s unpredictable nature can boost endurance, balance, agility, and coordination.
Strength Training for Noobs (Beginners)
- The ideal rep range for those new to strength training is 8–12 reps.
- Eating 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight is ideal for recovery, muscle growth, and strength-building.
- Adding creatine to a strength training routine can fast-track growth and progress.
Beginner Strength Training Tips
One lesson nearly every newbie makes is assuming all programs, supplements, and diet plans are “beginner-friendly.” Just because you understand it, that doesn’t mean you’re ready for it!
So, before you download that brutal Athlean-X program or commit to a 12-week Arnold-style training routine, learn how to maximize your strength gains in the gym with:
- 2–3 full-body workouts per week — sorry, no bro splits just yet! (2018)
- 8–10 exercises per workout
- 1 set per exercise
- Up to 15 reps per set (or 8–12)
- Emphasis on multi-joint exercises (deadlift, bench press, squat)
After about 8–16 weeks, you’re ready to move up to the big leagues (well, sort of). Feel free to switch to a PPL program, add a few extra plates, and squeeze in some isolation exercises.
Diet & Supplements for Noobs
The only thing that matters more than what you do in the gym is how you prepare for gains in the kitchen. We’re talking about a nutritious, balanced diet and safe fitness supplements.
If you want to maximize strength and mass, here’s an ideal macro breakdown that even bodybuilders use to perfect their physiques (2004 review):
|Nutrient||% of Daily Calories|
Supplements like pre-workout powder (for an energy and strength surge 30 minutes before a workout) and creatine (which can boost your strength by 8% more) can also nudge gains.
Stay away from fat burners, testosterone boosters, and any other supplement that features absurd promises on the label — 30 pounds in 10 days, add 50 to your bench in a month, etc.
Maybe you want to add 100 pounds to your squat or turn those 15″ noodle arms into 21″ pythons. No matter why you train strength, you must focus on one thing: progressive overload.
Your muscles will repair bigger and stronger after every strength-building workout. In other words, you need to put them under even more stress to continue with your strength and mass progress.
When you top your rep goal for every set, add another 2.5 or 5 pounds to the lift during your next exercise. Just never sacrifice good form to do so.
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