Strength Training

Strength training is a vital, yet mis-understood and mis-applied component in a person's approach to a healthy lifestyle.

The benefits of strength training are numerous:
  • Increased bone mineral density
  • Increased glucose metabolism
  • Reduced gastro travel time
  • lower resting blood pressure
  • improved lipid levels
  • ease arthritic pain
Quotes to pin on your refrigerator:
Without exercise, we lose 1/2 pound of muscle every year after age 25.
At rest, muscle accounts for 25% of calories burned.
Strength loss is equal to 1/2 the rate of strength gain.

Optimal Resistance and Reps
Details will be forth-coming in future posts, but here are a few basic guidelines to get you started. Reps should be performed at 70% - 80% of max strength. Greater than 85% leads to an increased risk of injury, and less than 65% of max leads to a decrease in strength stimulus. By shooting for 8 - 12 reps per set, you will achieve adequate gains with minimal risk of injury. You should be straining for those last couple of reps.

Work large muscle groups first (back, legs, glutes), followed by the smaller muscle groups, to avoid overall fatigue early in your workout.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiorespiratory fitness best describes the health and function of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system as well as the capacity of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood and its ability to transport blood and nutrients with working muscles.

Don't let the following info overwhelm you. You may be ready to start a formal program, but if not, don't get discouraged. The most important thing is to just get started. Increasing your heart rate may be as simple as getting off the couch and going for a 10 minute walk. If you are already walking, it may be time to progress to a light jog. Whatever the case, you need to get your heart rate up and get those muscles working.

The Overload Principle - To train one of the body's systems to a point where it is working harder than it is accustomed. The 4 rules of overload for aerobic training are as follows:
  • Type - Needs to be rythmic, continuous, and involve large muscle groups.
  • Intensity - The optimum target is 60% - 90% of maximum heart rate.
  • Duration - Minimum of 10 minutes and a goal of 20 minutes.
  • Frequency - Must be performed at least 3 days per week.
Components of a Cardio Program - Please follow these guidelines as much as possible and look for future posts for more details.
1. Warm Up - Perform dynamic stretches (not static) which basically mimic the activity you are about to perform, but at a much lower intensity.
2. Primary Activity - based on the Overload Principle above.
3. Cool Down - Ease out of the activity by reducing the intensity for at least 5 minutes.
4. Post Exercise Stretches - Static stretches that target the muscles that were just exercised.

Health Benefits:
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased HDL cholesterol
  • Decreased total cholesterol
  • Decreased body fat stores
  • Increased aerobic work capacity
  • Increased heart function

Flexibility and Stretching

Flexibility - The redheaded stepchild of The Four Pillars of Health. For many of us, this is often the most overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle. We hit the gym, we cut down on the simple sugars and bad fats, and we make sure that we run or bike consistently. But after a while, we start to wonder why our bodies are breaking down. "I'm suposed to be living a healthy lifestyle, yet I am always injured. Is this really that healthy?". Proper stretching before and after a workout, as well as a stand-alone exercise is extremely important for your long-term health. The benefits are numerous and contribute to:
  • Enhanced muscular relaxation
  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved muscular balance
  • Enhanced speed of motion
  • Decrease in injuries
  • Increased performance
As we age, our bodies become less and less flexible. Figure in the added workouts and it's no wonder we start breaking down. Please make sure to incorporate proper stretching pre and post-workout every day, but be careful, excessive flexibility can lead to over-stretched ligaments, which can increase the risk of injury.

Dynamic Pre-Workout Stretching
Promotes dynamic flexibility and decreases potential injury by preparing the tissues for high-speed, volitional-type exercise. Dynamic stretching should consist of controlled rythmic actions meant to mimic a training activity, initially small and gradually increasing to larger ranges of motion. Take extreme caution when performing this kind of stretching as to not over-stretch the muscles.

Static Post-Workout Stretching
A slow, gradual, and controlled elongation through a full range of motion. This is a low-intensity, long duration stretch technique, that should last for 15 - 30 seconds. The latest studies that are coming out are warning against doing this kind of stretching as a warm-up exercise. It can overstretch the tendons and ligaments and lead to injury during the main activity. Static stretching is perfect for your post-workout, when you muscles are warm and elastic, but be careful not to overdo it.

What ever fitness, training, or weight-loss program you attempt in the future, please try to make sure that it follows the above guidelines as much as possible.

Jim Hobbs Certified Personal Trainer -