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.
Many people who exercise may still incur injuries or lack stamina even though they are active. For instance, a runner may pull his or her iliotibial band (ITB) when running because of weakened core muscles or a weight lifter may lack the endurance to run up a series of steps without feeling quite winded. Avid bicyclists may lose bone density due to a lack of impact and resistance on the bone tissue. How can those who perform certain exercises (e.g., running, swimming, biking, weight lifting, etc.) reduce their risk of injury while increasing their overall performance? The solution is to perform well-rounded exercise programs which encompass resistance training, cardiovascular training as well as flexibility.
A comprehensive training program is necessary to enable your body to adapt and withstand multiple stimuli in order for it to perform at its peak level. Thus, runners should perform weight training exercises (i.e., overhead dumbbell presses, squats, lunges, leg extensions, etc.) to strengthen upper body and core muscles and to reduce injury risk. Weight lifters should run, bike and/or swim to increase their endurance and cardiorespiratory capacity. Cyclists should perform weightlifting exercises to maintain bone mass. All active people should perform stretching exercises to increase joint, muscle and tendon flexibility. Yoga can benefit any active person. No one particular exercise should predominate your regime. Instead, complimentary exercises are necessary in order to ensure moderation and balance.
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
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.
Correct posture is absolutely essential when executing resistance exercises such as overhead presses, bench presses, squats, etc. Improper form when lifting will undoubtedly detract from an efficient workout that maximally targets the intended muscles. The key to safely and effectively engage your muscles is to assume stability in your body when lifting. In order to do this, you need to practice and adhere to the following fundamentals of posture no matter your body position in space (e.g., standing, sitting, supine):
Note: Most clients have trouble assuming the anterior pelvic tilt posture but it is absolutely essential in order to effectively target muscles such as the hamstrings or gluteals when performing an exercise like the deadlift. To practice, try lying in a supine position (i.e., face up) on a floor and arch and flatten your lower back repetitively for up to 25 reps for 3 sets daily. Be sure to feel your lumbar contact and lift off the floor as you flatten and arch your lower back. Next, practice performing the same maneuver of arching and flattening your lower back while standing sideways to a mirror. Be sure to observe the action while looking at your profile to ensure it is done properly.
- Eyes focused on a reference point in front of your head
- Shoulder blades squeezed
- Chest out
- Abs tucked in
- Lower back arched so that your butt is to the rear (anterior pelvic tilt)
- Knees slightly bent (applies primarily to standing posture)
- Feet at least shoulder width apart
- Bench press: feet should be pressing into the floor at all times!
In addition, be sure to always inhale when performing a pulling action and exhale when executing a pushing action. For example, when performing a bench press, inhale as the weight is lowered to the chest and exhale as you press the weight upward. Another example, when executing a squat, inhale as you bend your knees and exhale when straightening your knees as you press upward.
By following the aforementioned recommendations you will find you will be much more successful in achieving your fitness goals. Remember to always work smarter, not harder!
- Increased fast-twitch muscle fiber density
- Increased fast-twitch muscle fiber size
- Increased lactic acid threshold
- Increased glycolytic enzymes
- Increased ATP, CP, creatine, glycogen content within muscles
- Increased growth hormone and testosterone levels
-INCREASES LEAN BODY MASS (i.e., muscle mass)
-DECREASES FAT MASS
-MAY INCREASE FT FIBER AREA / ST FIBER AREA
-INCREASES MUSCLE FIBER SIZE (i.e., hypertrophy)
-MAY INCREASE MUSCLE FIBER NUMBER (i.e., hyperplasia)
-INCREASES GH RELEASE
-INCREASES INSULIN SENSITIVITY / GLUCOSE UPTAKE
-INCREASES BONE MINERAL DENSITY
-INCREASES BONE STRENGTH
-INCREASED BONE MASS
-INCREASES NEUROMUSCULAR CONTRACTION SPEED
-INCREASES MOTOR UNIT RECRUITMENT / SYNCHRONIZATION / FIRING RATE
-IMPROVES BALANCE / AGILITY / GATE
-INCREASES FLEXIBILITY (ROM)
-INCREASES BIOMECHANICAL EFFICIENCY
-DECREASES REACTION DURATION
-DECREASES RECOVERY DURATION
-INCREASES RESISTANCE TO FATIGUE
-INCREASES ADAPTATIONS (e.g., specificity, overload)
-INCREASES CAPILLARIES (increases vascularization)
-DECREASES CAPILLARY DENSITY (due to increased muscle mass)
-DECREASES MYOGLOBIN DENSITY
-INCREASES VENTRICULAR WALL THICKNESS
-MAY DECREASE RESTING BLOOD PRESSURE
-INCREASES HEART CONTRACTILITY
-INCREASES STROKE VOLUME
-INCREASES MYOCARDIAL EFFICIENCY
-INCREASES MAXIMAL OXYGEN UPTAKE RATE (esp. circuit training)
-INCREASES OXYGEN SATURATION
-INCREASES METABOLIC RATE
-INCREASES FFA MOBILIZATION
-INCREASES ENERGY EFFICIENCY (e.g., ATP, glycogen)
-INCREASES FUEL SUBSTRATES (e.g., ATP, CP, glycogen)
-INCREASES ENERGY STORAGE CAPACITY (e.g., glycogen, protein, triglycerides)
-INCREASES ANAEROBIC ENZYME ACTIVITY (e.g., phosphogen, glycolytic systems)
-INCREASES MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS
-INCREASES LACTIC ACID TOLERANCE
-DECREASES LACTIC ACID RELEASE
-INCREASES FAT / CARB BREAKDOWN
-DECREASES MITOCHONDRIAL DENSITY (due to increased muscle mass)
-IMPROVES CONCENTRATION / FOCUS
-IMPROVES SLEEP QUALITY
-INCREASES MENTAL RELAXATION
-DECREASES MENTAL DECLINE
CHRONIC DISEASE RISK:
-DECREASES TYPE-2 DIABETES RISK
-DECREASES HEART DISEASE RISK
-DECREASES CANCER RISK (e.g., colon, breast)
-DECREASES ARTERIOSCLEROSIS RISK
-DECREASES OBESITY RISK
-DECREASES STROKE RISK
-DECREASES OSTEOARHRITIS RISK
-DECREASES GALLBLADDER DISEASE RISK
-DECREASES ALZHEIMERS DISEASE RISK
QUALITY OF LIFE:
-DECREASES LOWER BACK PAIN RISK
-DECREASES RISK OF FALLS
-DECREASES FRACTURE RISK
-DECREASES DIGESTION DURATION
-DECREASES ARTHRITIC PAIN
-DECREASES JOINT PAIN
-DECREASES CHRONIC PAIN
-DECREASES MUSCLE WEAKNESS
-DECREASES MUSCULAR IMBALANCES
-INCREASES JOINT LUBRICATION
-IMPROVES ABILITY TO PERFORM ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING
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.
The answer to this question largely depends on your anaerobic fitness goal (i.e., weight training goal). There are essentially four goals when it comes to weight training:
Whichever goal you choose will determine how much rest or recovery you should take between exercise sets. Each of these goals is unique with regard to the following parameters involved:
- Maintain physique (endurance training)
- Gain muscle mass (mass training)
- Increase strength (strength training)
- Increase power (power training)
Let's take a closer look at the recommended parameters for each fitness training goal:
- Load intensity (i.e., percentage of one-rep max)
- Number of reps (e.g., eight to twelve reps)
- Movement speed (e.g., slow, moderate, fast)
- Endurance training
- Load: < 67% 1-RM
- Reps: > 12 reps
- Speed: Moderate
- Rest: 30 s
- Load: 67 - 80% 1-RM
- Reps: 8 - 12 reps
- Speed: Slow
- Rest: 30 - 90 s
- Load: 80 - 85% 1-RM
- Reps: 6 - 8 reps
- Speed: Moderate
- Rest: 2 - 5 mins
Rest periods may vary from 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on your fitness goal regardless of your weight training experience level. Generally, the lighter the weight lifted, the less the rest period and the heavier the weight lifted, the more the rest period. During resistance training the muscles fill up with blood as the body delivers nutrients and removes waste products. Active rest, in which the muscles continue to contract and relax while under low resistance, will allow this process to be more efficient and therefore enhance recovery. Thus, it's better to continue moving (e.g., standing and shifting your bodyweight from one foot to the other) between sets rather than just to sit still and allow blood pooling to occur.
- Load: < 45% or > 85% 1-RM
- Reps: > 30 reps or < 6 reps
- Speed: Fast or slow
- Rest: 2 - 5 mins