The bones that make up the framework within your body are comprised of living tissue. Bones react to resistances placed on them by growing and strengthening much the same way that muscles do. This is because bones are made of dynamic living tissue with cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts that build up and tear down bone, respectively. As we age the amount of osteoblasts within bone tissue decrease which could potentially cause osteoporosis. Weight training helps to lessen the risk of osteoporosis by ameliorating the resorption of osteoblasts. In other words, exercise that involves lifting weights helps to slow or prevent bone loss.
Weight-bearing exercise can also improve muscle and bone strength which helps to reduce the risk of falls and the fractures that typically occur as a result. Exercises performed in the standing position (e.g., shoulder presses, bicep curls, overhead tricep extensions) are ideal in developing good overall muscle and bone strength. The more the load placed on your bones, the more the effect of bone stimulation and growth.
Excellent weight-bearing exercises include running, jump roping, stair climbing, dancing, basketball, volleyball, tennis, skiing, skating, soccer, hiking, gymnastics, and of course weight training. These types of exercises tend to have the most effect on maintaining or increasing bone mineral density because they involve jumping or hopping. Short bouts of vigorous weight-bearing exercises tend to be more effective for bone strengthening than long-duration sessions. For example, a short sprint is better at stimulating bone growth than a long jog. Satisfactory weight-bearing exercises include walking and using the elliptical machine. Non-impact exercises such as swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi have very little effect in terms of bone stimulation and therefore are least beneficial for bone growth.
BOTTOM LINE: To maintain or increase bone strength, perform short bouts (i.e., 5 to 10 minutes) of weight-bearing exercise (e.g., jump roping, sprints) most days of the week. If you are older, perform walking most days of the week. Even the small gains in bone strength from walking can lessen the risk of fracture.
Here are some very common errors made by beginners who seem clueless when it comes to the proper way to gain strength and muscle mass: More is not necessarily better when it comes to weight training in the gym. Your body needs time to recover when it's put under the stress of heavy lifting. Remember, when you perform weight training exercises you are literally tearing down muscle fibers. This means that in order for your muscles to grow the muscle fibers must undergo a healing process. If you fail to allow adequate recovery by giving at least 48 hours rest before hitting the same muscle group, you will likely fail to gain any appreciable muscle mass. Weight training provides the stimulus for growth but rest and proper nutrition is what's needed for the growth process to occur. Bottom line: Train each bodypart hard 30 to 60 minutes per session once per week and do cardio 20 to 30 minutes per session 2 to 3 days per week. In order to gain strength and muscle mass, you must lift progressively heavier weights over time. In other words, patience and discipline is required to make quality gains. Piling on a ridiculous amount of weight to gain strength and muscle mass faster is foolhardy at best and injurious at worst. Using bad form, bouncing the weight, and performing very short range of motion while straining to lift enormous amounts of weight is a recipe for disaster (read: injury). Bottom line: Utilize small incremental increases in weight from workout to workout while performing lifts. Failure in weight training is a good thing. This means that you are lifting a weight as many repetitions as possible until you're not able to perform one more rep. Soreness is the name of the game when lifting to failure. Just going through the motions is not going to cut the mustard. The weight lifted must be challenging enough that if your goal is to perform 10 reps, you will need to utilize intestinal fortitude in order to perform 11 reps. Each and every set needs to be this challenging in order to warrant a rest period. Be sure to limit any intensity technique such as drop sets, forces reps, rest-pause, etc. for the last set of an exercise in order to lessen the risk of overtraining. Bottom line: Make each and every set count by lifting a weight that causes muscle fatigue. If you're not training legs as intensely as arms, you are making a big mistake when it comes to gaining overall strength and muscle mass. Legs consist of the largest muscles within the body. Why would you want to avoid training such large muscles unless you'd prefer to have an imbalanced physique (i.e., humongous arms sidelined by toothpick legs!). If you want to get big, you need to squat, period. Compound movements such as squats, leg presses, hack squats, and lunges is what's needed to build a respectable physique. The bonus is training legs spurs more growth hormone release than training the upper body. Not only this, but your metabolic rate will increase significantly as well due to the increase of quad, hamstring and gluteal muscle mass. This means more calories will be burned while resting. Not a bad tradeoff. Bottom line: You must train legs if you want to gain appreciable strength and muscle mass.
Those cast-iron or steel balls which look like small cannonballs with a thick metal looped handle on top can be useful for working on joint flexibility as well as functional-type movements (e.g., deadlifts). One of the key benefits of working with kettlebells is the possibility to work the entire body for a powerful and efficient workout. Other benefits include increasing strength (including core strength), power, endurance, flexibility, mobility and cardiovascular capacity. You can achieve a strenuous workout in less than thirty minutes.
Standard kettlebell exercises should incorporate four basic movements: the press, the pull, the squat, and the deadlift. Examples include shoulder press, bent-over row, sumo squat, and Romanian deadlift. Swinging the kettlebell (e.g., single- or double-arm swings) is another example of a pulling movement that makes the kettlebell uniquely beneficial for training purposes. The end result is the incorporation of more muscle groups, including your core muscles (i.e., abs, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings), being worked. Studies have shown that using kettlebells can improve coordination and balance in addition to increased muscle strength and endurance. By swinging one or two kettlebells, you will be able to target your hips, back, glutes, shoulders, and legs. An additional benefit is increasing grip strength.
If you minimize the rest periods between sets, you can also get a cardiovascular workout with kettlebells. Be sure to start out with lighter weights in order to get a feel for the movements and an understanding of how to properly control the weights. The risk of injury (i.e., torn muscle, tendon, ligament) increases greatly if the kettlebells are too heavy, are swung incorrectly (i.e., away from the sagittal plane) or are swung too strenuously. Focus on using good form by improving your technique. Sloppiness is a recipe for injury.
of kettlebell training include:
- Efficient, quick workout incorporating many fitness components (i.e., strength, endurance, power, flexibility, cardiovascular)
- Requires minimal space
- Relatively inexpensive
- Excellent way to condition your body for sports due to functional movements
- Ideal tool for gaining core strength
of kettlebell training include:
Bottom line: Kettlebells can be useful for anybody but should be utilized as a complement to your workout program rather than your exclusive workout program. Kettlebells should be thought of as a tool in conjunction with dumbbells, barbells, machines, and cables as another means to enable yourself to gain strength, balance, coordination, endurance, and good cardiovascular conditioning.
- Limited weight capacity
- Fixed weights
There are principles of training you should abide by in order to gain muscle mass. Here they are:
Since your body adapts to the stimuli placed upon it, you should continually increase the intensity (i.e., loading) of exercises to get stronger and therefore gain muscle mass. Incremental changes must occur (i.e., increasing the loadings, reps, or sets) to keep the body guessing and stimulate further muscular growth.
This principle essentially entails splitting your training into what are called mesocycles (e.g., endurance, mass, strength, power), each of duration from about one to three months. The purpose here is to focus on a particular resistance training goal (e.g., gain muscle mass) which falls within one mesocycle. Recommended training programs incorporating certain techniques (i.e., compound sets, supersets) and parameters (i.e., %1-RM, number of sets, number of reps, rest periods) are then employed in an effort to achieve the resistance training goal.
If you want to gain muscle mass, for example, you need to eat BIG. That is, strive to eat a lot of clean food to feed your muscles. You must maintain a positive caloric balance, meaning you're eating more calories than you are expending during each day. Your recommended caloric intake is essentially based on five parameters: bodyweight; height; age; lean body mass; and physical activity level. Once you've determined how much you should eat, you need to break the macronutrients down into percentages of caloric intake (e.g., to gain muscle mass, eat about 65% carbs, 25% protein, and 10% fat). Now split up you caloric intake into six to eight meals per day.
If you want to get big, plan on getting at least seven hours of sleep daily. Why? Because adequate sleep is necessary to allow for enough growth hormone release and muscle recovery from hard training to take place. Growth hormone enables the muscles to grow and facilitates joint repair and fat loss. Most importantly, adequate sleep is needed to replenish your energy levels to push heavy weights and train intensely.
Remember, nutritional supplements are designed to supplement
your diet, not to take the place of it. Determine all the healthy, clean foods you should be eating first before incorporating certain supplements into your nutritional regimen. Here are the must-have supplements for gaining muscle mass:
- Whey protein--take before breakfast, pre- and post-training
- Creatine monohydrate--take pre-and post-training
- Multivitamin--take with breakfast
- Fish oil--take with breakfast
- Glutamine--take with whey protein and creatine
- Branched-chain amino acids--take with whey protein and creatine
- Casein protein --take before bedtime and post-training
This principle entails applying varying training techniques (e.g., supersets, drop sets, rearranging exercise order, etc.) to keep your body guessing in order for it to continually adapt and therefore grow.
If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to keep your repetition range within the so-called hypertrophy range: eight to twelve reps.
It's all about K
tupid! Don't make your training more complicated than it needs to be--stick with the basics: use free weights for compound movements (e.g., bench press, squat, deadlift) and avoid balance platforms, stability balls, etc.
The human body tends to lose about 1 to 2 percent muscle mass after age 50 as a result of the normal aging process. This means that most people lose muscle and gain fat as they get older. Along with less muscle comes all of the assorted health maladies that go along with it such as loss of strength, increased frailty, and the development of chronic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc.). But this dire situation is not inevitable! The solution: you guessed it...get off the couch and spend time exercising.
The old saying of "use it or lose it" is quite applicable here. Resistance training is the answer when it comes to maintaining (if not gaining) muscle mass and strength. A recent study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2011, volume 25, 1-9) has indicated that age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss) is not inevitable as long as resistance training occurs. The resistance training promotes the release of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone associated with muscle growth. If you have been sedentary for a while, the recommendation is to begin a gradual training program of weight lifting. You will discover dramatic improvements in muscle mass and strength gain. In addition, you'll feel more energized, be able to sleep much better at night, and have a more upbeat attitude!
Consider increasing your protein intake (e.g., whey and casein protein post-exercise) to accommodate the increased muscle mass. But don't go overboard on increasing your protein intake as too much may affect kidney function and cause kidney stone formation. Good sources of protein include chicken, fish, milk, eggs, yogurt, beans, and peanuts.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recently recommended that adults over age 50 should get 1200 mg and 800 IUs of calcium and vitamin D, respectively. These nutrients help maintain bone density and muscle health. Vitamin D has been found to have antioxidant properties and may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes.
The answer is yes, it is okay to cheat or use "body english" when lifting weights. Cheating involves incorporating assistive or ancillary muscles in order to facilitate the execution of a full range-of-motion movement of an exercise (e.g., standing dumbbell bicep curl, barbell row, standing dumbbell lateral raise, etc.). It becomes noticeably apparent when one deliberately hitches the weight upward by utilizing a jerking movement.
If you choose to decide to cheat in order to complete a set, be sure to do so only during the tail end of the last set of an exercise. In other words, cheat only when you're very close to muscle failure. Muscle failure occurs at the point during a set when you would not be able to complete another repetition by yourself even if your life depended on it. Then, and only then, is it permissible to cheat when performing an exercise. The purpose of cheating in this case is to take a muscle slightly past the point of muscle failure and into the realm of near total muscle fatigue. Maximum muscle fiber destruction occurs at this point in which the goal is to gain more strength and muscle mass.
By now you should know that the combination of cardio and weight training is the best approach to losing bodyfat. Cardio exercise is certainly good for fat burning, whether in the aerobic zone (i.e., 65% HRR for 45 minutes) or aerobic/anaerobic zone (i.e., interval training with one minute at 85% HRR and two minutes at 55% HRR). Strength training (i.e., weight training with free weights, machines, or cables) is also highly recommended to facilitate the fat-burning process. Why is lifting weights important for losing bodyfat? Because muscle stimulation due to weight training can dramatically enhance one's metabolic rate. In fact, metabolic rate can be elevated for hours after a weight training session depending on the intensity of the workout. In other words, the greater the weight training intensity (i.e., increased loading, shorter rest periods, higher reps), the greater the metabolic rate. The greater the metabolic rate, the greater the fat burning that can occur.
So what are the best strength training exercises one should do to effectively enhance the fat-burning process? The answer is to perform mostly compound exercises involving multiple joints of the body, particularly the lower body (e.g., the knees and hips). The lower body joints are where the largest muscle groups (e.g., quads, hamstrings) of the body attach. Thus, by performing exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts, or leg presses, one can definitely get the most bang for the buck in terms of burning bodyfat. All of the aforementioned exercises incorporate the usage of large muscle groups and multiple joints. Not surprisingly, it is these exercises that are more difficult and intense than single-joint exercises such as bicep curls or tricep extensions.
If your primary goal is to lean out (i.e., burn bodyfat), be sure to add squats, lunges and deadlifts into your workout regime. Three sets of 8 to 12 reps of each lower body exercise performed three days per week is more than adequate to burn that stubborn bodyfat.
The philosophy of "no pain, no gain" has some merit but the confusion occurs when thinking that one must experience muscular pain every time during and after workouts. The reality is you can accrue increased strength and muscle hypertrophy without the muscular burning sensation during a set or from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) after a workout. DOMS is the body's response to pain experienced one to three days following an intense workout after muscle fiber micro-tears have occurred. The lingering soreness following an intense workout occurs as the body goes through the healing process and can last up to a week. During the healing process, the muscles can become stronger and bigger. But DOMS does not necessarily need to occur in order for the body's muscles to get stronger or bigger. The same statement can be said regarding the lactic acid burning sensation experienced during an intense set--the burning does not need to occur for muscles to get stronger or bigger.
This bears repeating: Do you need to feel pain in order to gain more strength and muscle mass? The answer is NO, NO, NO! The pain is merely your body's signal that you trained hard a couple days ago and that's all. The pain is NOT a necessity for increased strength and muscle mass to develop. Also, be sure to understand the difference between muscle pain ("good" pain) and joint pain ("bad" pain). Generally, "good" pain should feel like a dull, slow-onset, aching pain that occurs during a hard workout set whereas "bad" pain will feel like a sharp, quick-onset, focused pain. Remember, pain is the body's response mechanism to a stimulus, whether good (muscle pain) or bad (joint pain).
Most muscle fiber damage occurs during the execution of the eccentric portion of an isotonic exercise (e.g., the extension of the arm during a bicep curl), so it makes sense to emphasize slow extension of movements when weight training. It is the eccentric component of muscle movement that primarily contributes to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Muscular soreness is an indication of fiber damage and is a prelude to the anabolic process of increased muscle hypertrophy and strength. Since it is known that the eccentric movement of exercises primarily contributes to muscle fiber damage and soreness, it follows that in order to get stronger and bigger it would be better to s-l-o-w down the extension of movements. There is some evidence that performing slow extended movements during exercise may help chronic tendon injuries heal. For example, a new study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery discovered that six weeks of slow eccentric exercise improved strength and reduced pain and tenderness in people with chronic tennis elbow injuries better than conventional treatment (e.g., massage, ultrasound, and heat/ice application). Be sure to be careful when performing slow eccentric movements when lifting relatively heavy loads as the risk of injury increases. Here are some examples of the eccentric movement of several exercises:
- Elbow extension during dumbbell/barbell lat rows
- Elbow extension during front lat pulldowns
- Elbow extension during dumbbell/barbell bicep curls
- Elbow flexion during dumbbell/barbell overhead tricep extensions
- Shoulder extension during dumbbell/barbell chest presses
- Shoulder flexion during dumbbell lateral raises
- Knee flexion during leg extensions
- Knee flexion during leg presses
- Knee extension during leg curls
- Ankle flexion during calf raises