101216 The benefits of resistance training

101216 The benefits of resistance training

A lifestyle of activity provides ongoing lifelong benefits for many people. Amongst these favorable side effects are reductions in high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using our muscles helps in staving off osteopenia and osteoporosis by engendering positive changes in bone mineral density. This, along with a higher level of lean body mass leads to healthier body composition figures, i.e. more lean muscle and lowered adipose or fat tissue in the body.

For those who are finding it difficult to stay at a healthy body weight, strength training may be another method of control. It has been noted that muscle is more metabolically active than fat which means more calories are burned if you have more muscle mass compared to fat tissue.

A greater percentage of lean muscle mass brings with it increased feelings of self esteem, greater self confidence and certainly contributes to a much more positive body image.

Now that a few of the recognized benefits have been listed, it’s time to get started planning your strength training program.

Misguided, but well intentioned, people go out and buy an expensive, supposedly multipurpose machine. Those who do generally find that it doesn’t fit them, is uncomfortable to use, is too big, too cumbersome or worse yet hurts them. Simply put they would have been better off spending their money on a set of free weights, a bench and knowledgeable coach to guide them along for a few months. A small set of weights consisting off a couple hundred pounds, a sturdy bench and coaching sessions would set them back less than the high priced ineffective machine that ultimately will end up in the garage or basement and then in a garage sale.

Free weights provide endless opportunities to exercise. They create greater strength gains because of increased muscle fiber recruitment brought on by having to maintain the movement of the bar in its path instead of allowing the machine do it for you. Using free weights permits full range of movement during the exercise. This motion is unencumbered by the limitations of a machine and makes for unimpeded progress. Using free weights increases the range of motion helps to maintain flexibility in the joints.

Additional benefits of free weight set ups are greater personalized accommodation to individual body structure differences such as height, weight, torso types, limb length and joint mobility. Free weights mandate greater skill development in balance and coordination which are vitally important to leading an active life.

Probably one of the most important reasons to strength train is the fact that it will help to decrease fatigue brought on from daily living activities.

As we age the sense of balance gradually diminishes along with our agility, coordination and overall body awareness. All of which are leading causes that contribute to falls, injury and fractures. A healthy body plays a significant role in preventing injury and if injured then in the rehabilitation of that injury.

Many individuals who participate in sports find the stronger and more physically fit they become, the better their athleticism on the field.

If the choice is made to buy your own weights and get started, then it incumbent upon you to get a medical check up and discuss this exercise option with your doctor before starting out on your own to greater fitness.

Remember to have a spotter for over head, on the back or over the face lifts such as the military press squat or military press exercises. Of course if you decide to perform heavy lifting then a spotter should also be an essential part of your lifting program. Always use correct technique, lift safely, sensibly and smart.

241016 It is never too late to strength train

241016 It is never too late to strength train

There are numerous studies showing that people who do resistance training have significantly improved their muscle strength and performance. These changes show up in as little as two months. This held true even with the frail and over age 80 population. Not only does resistance training improve strength it can also help prevent and treat sarcopenia.

According to an analysis conducted in 2010 by the Aging and Research Reviews, strenuous, intense workouts are the most effective. You can bet they did not use soup cans in these intense workouts. However, if you are seriously out of condition you probably will have to start out gradually. Find a qualified strength trainer, one with good credentials from a nationally recognized association, and get started.

In order to help prevent or treat sarcopenia, strength train regularly and make sure that you are getting enough protein and your system on a daily basis.

A basic strength program stressing the major muscle groups, consisting of three sets of eight repetitions, performed 2 to 3 times a week will show increases in strength and functionality within a short period. These targeted muscle groups should involve the shoulders, arms, upper back, chest, abdominals, lower back, the quads and hamstrings of the legs and the calves.

Begin with a warm-up with some sort of an aerobic exercise to the point where you are breathing heavier, your pulse is going faster and you have a slight sweat. Now it is time to start lifting.

Begin with the weight that you can handle 10 to 12 times. In over the course of a week or so add weight until the last two repetitions of the set are difficult. Rest 2 minutes and repeat the exercise set again. If you’re able to complete three sets of eight repetitions with a specific weight then that weight is to light and more needs to be added to the bar.

On the days that you are not strength training, do some sort of aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes. Keep track of what you’re doing. You are going to notice improvements in your strength level and in your ability to move a lot easier in your daily life.

081016 Studies that have benefited strength athletes

081016 Studies that have benefited strength athletes

As far back as 1985, scientists were examining the force-velocity curve and its effect on maximizing muscle power output.

In one such study scientists in Finland examined the neural activation relationship between isometric force and relaxation time of the human muscle fiber characteristics in eleven males who were accustomed to strength training.

Beginning with a baseline test these eleven males started the training protocol. The intensities varied from 70 to 120% 1RM of the leg extension. I know I can hear you all saying “what a useless exercise”, but for scientific purposes, it has its place, so bear with me on this.

The first twelve weeks of intense training

The fast twitch fibers became larger during this period and the athlete’s strength grew by 26.8% over their tested 1RM. This strength increase, correlated with higher electromyography[1] readings indicating greater neural input into the active muscle fibers.

The second twelve weeks of detraining

There were no hypertrophic changes to the muscle fibers during this phase of the experiment. However, there was a slight tapering effect noticed for a short time after beginning the detraining portion of the study. This was short lived and the usual after effects of detraining soon became apparent.

It was found during the time span that maximal strength declined greatly as did the EMG readings. In retrospect, this should have been expected because the cross-sectional area of the muscle fibers decreased during the twelve weeks of detraining.

The scientists concluded that strength improvements may be attributed to neural factors during high intense training. Even though a certain amount of hypertrophy took place the conclusions were this greater muscle mass may have limitations in the long run for highly trained athletes.

[1]Electromyography (EMG) is a test that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles

040716 A better you, by you

040716 A better you, by you


This group of exercises was designed specifically for the traveler, or for those who cannot get to the gym every day to work out. Some are pretty easy but they rapidly become more difficult depending on the particular one a person may choose from the list of options available. A length of surgical tubing or a jump stretch band enhances the difficulty of these exercises.


These exercises have been used on the road by the author and by the students in his strength training classes as an introduction into bodyweight exercises. They are enjoyable and challenging to do. Simply changing the rest time in between each movement offers an unending scale of difficulty while at the same time helping to increase the aerobic capabilities of the series.

Many are ideal for the busy Mom with a small child used as added resistance. For example, the calf raises, push ups and squats provide a fun way for a Mom and her child to have fun and for her to model the healthy lifestyle by exercising together. As a precaution the child obviously has to be held carefully so as not to fall and get hurt.

This series of exercises will encompass these major muscle groups: Chest, arms, shoulders, abdominals, back, and legs. Pick one or two different exercises out of each group and do ten to twenty repetitions for each one unless stated otherwise.

Gradually decrease the time it takes to do the exercises so your pulse rate is kept high, but keep good form throughout the session on all the movements.

It is also recommended that you keep a logbook as it will help guide you along in your quest for better health by showing you where you started and where you are at now. It provides incentive and encouragement.

Warm up

Rope skipping three to five minutes of single hit hops. Do these as rapidly as possible while maintaining control-added difficulty is gained by double spins on one hop multiple times in succession

Neck three to ten times each direction for all the neck warm-ups

Move your neck in circles

Move your neck up and down on your chest

Move it from side to side

Move it around in both clock wise and counter clock wise directions, analog, not digital

Limb rotations; dynamically move them around in circles-begin slowly but add speed as you continue to warm up. Ten to fifteen each limb

Cat and camel for the low back

Bodyweight squat; full range of motion rapidly performed ,but without a bounce at the bottom-maintain the solid back brace position for ten to twenty repetitions.


Push up and down the stairs-five to ten repetitions at each step both up and down, add a clap between the up and down portions (Description: start in an incline pushup position at the top of the stairs or at least six to seven steps up from the bottom. Drop down a stair after each five to ten push ups. Continue down each stair until you reach the bottom and are in a regular push up stance on the floor. Now place your feet on the lowest stair step. Work your way back up to the top or six or seven steps up by doing a clap in between each repetition. Added difficulty may be gained by doing these on a medicine ball at each step of the way-a play on words so to speak.

Off set push-ups; one hand under the shoulder the other one to three hands out from the shoulder.

Added difficulty; with a ball under either hand, especially the farthest out hand perform the push up

Added difficulty; extend your offset arm farther to the front of your head beginning with one to two hands offset to the side and in front and execute the push up

Pike push ups; maintain straight legs throughout the series. Begin in the normal stretched out starting point, after each push up move your hands back toward you feet one hand space. Continue until you are in a pike position.

For added difficulty on all but the offset push ups, hold your hands close to one another, touching together

Abdominals/lower back

The big three; Dr. Stuart McGill’s adapted from Ultimate back fitness and performance available at http://www.backfitpro.com

Curl ups

Side bridges

Arm and leg extensions

360’s; hold each position for three to five seconds for five to ten repetitions for two to three sets. Do multiple sets ONLY if the form is perfect for each repetition. These are also referred to as ‘Planks” in some training literature.
Upper back/biceps/forearms and grip

Chin up with the rope; hold onto the rope doubled up and held with both hands on the single double rope. Progress to holding onto a single rope end in each hand as you do a chin up.

Added difficulty

Adding external weight

Legs held to the front at a ninety degree angle to the upper torso

Swinging side to side or front to rear on the rope as you do a chin up.

One leg bench squat; move the forward leg both in and out from the bench for added difficulty and avoidance of boredom.

One leg wall squats; added difficulty by standing on a balance pad and leaning against a stability ball or standing on the toes.

Toe squats with hands held over the head add an extra measure of difficulty for all the squats, as will doing these on a balance pad or a big pillow with the feet touching one another.

Hamstring strength; hook feet under a couch bottom, and then lean forward. Try to go farther each time until you are able to go all the way down and then rise back up again without assistance.

Calves sets of twenty-five to one hundred repetitions per set. Begin by first standing up right, other variations are done bent over the kitchen cabinet in a donkey calf raise, on stair steps, on one foot, during a lunge, wall squat, ball squat, or squat

Lower back/abdominals

Walk outs; begin in the regular push up position with the arms held straight, move your buttocks go up and down. Gradually, while still keeping your arms straight, move the rest of your lower body farther and farther away from the top of your head. Maintain the solid and controlled body position at all times. These are not meant to be ballistic movements.

Added difficulty

Place your straight arms on a couch or chair that is secure against a wall and gradually move your feet backwards. This drastically increases the difficulty of the exercise and should only be done by those without back or shoulder problems.

Back extensions from the floor; hold for increasing lengths of time to build lower back endurance. DO NOT raise your legs at the same time as your back is raised upward.

Cool down

Static stretch

Walk around to finalize the cool down process

Get on with your day

200616 A beginning resistance training routine

200616 A beginning resistance training routine

A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to twelve repetitions at your workout weight for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions.

Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.

The decision to do them all at one time will be a personal matter, one that takes into consideration the time you have to exercise. The full body workouts are good at helping to improve your general physical conditioning. This schedule would be done on alternate days so you have a recovery period inter spaced between workouts.

If you make the decision not to do them all in one session then consider doing the upper and lower body exercises on different days. Following this exercise schedule allows you to exercise five days in a row with the weekend off for active recovery activities.

These are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program regardless of how you decide to do them.

  1. Military presses
  2. Chin ups or pull downs
  3. Bench presses
  4. Barbell rows
  5. Squats
  6. Dead lifts
  7. Curl ups or full range sit ups
  8. Back extensions
  9. Laterals
  1. Calf raises

Using the big ten exercises in your training program.

Start out with one set of eight to twelve repetitions and after a week or two add an additional set. Several weeks later add one to two more sets until you reach four to five sets of each exercise. Begin with sets of eight and as you get stronger and can tolerate the stress of lifting gradually add more reps until you’re at twelve repetitions for four to five sets.

After three to four weeks have elapsed on this schedule begin to dramatically increase or decrease the repetitions on one of the days each week. This will shake up your body and make it realize that every day will not be the same. This is how growth takes place.

Once at the five sets of twelve it will be time to drastically change your entire program. But that is not what this article is about so I won’t address it now. Suffice it to say this will be the time in your program that new exercises, new reps and set schemes and different work to rest ratios will be needed to up the intensity necessary to continue your steady progress towards greater physical fitness.

After the exercises have been completed it’s time to start the cool down phase of the session. This period allows your body to readjust back to its normal temperature, pulse and breathing rates.

Midway through this cool down process do one or two static stretches for the various areas you’ve just worked out. Avoid, if possible, doing the same stretches each time by selecting a different one from any of the vast movements that are available.

Several of my favorite books are the Stretching Handbook by Brad Walker, Stretching by Bob Anderson, The Whartons’ Stretch Book by Jim and Phil Wharton, Stretching for Athletics by Pat Croce and Sport Stretch by Michael J. Alter.

After you have cooled down then it’s time to replenish your muscles with fuel. Eat a protein and high glycemic carbohydrate snack to help get your muscles back into the positive growing zone.


Start out by learning how to do the exercises correctly, be consistent in your exercise sessions, maintain the intensity, stick with the basics and eat well.

There you have it; a full schedule to get you into shape safely and effectively. But don’t get in a hurry to leave the gym just yet because you still have to cool down

251013 An introduction into strength and power training for all ages-part 2

An introduction into strength and power training for all ages-part 2

If you’ve never lifted weights before or done any type of resistance training the biggest barrier to starting may be knowing where to begin. This may be your situation, if so all you need to start is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing. Adding to this, a solidly built chair, a few dumbbells and if you’re able to skip rope, a skip rope. This is all you need to get started. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it?

Since the health benefits of strength training are founded on its ability to protect against the onslaught of frailty, while at the same time making everyday tasks easier and more manageable it is essential that you begin sooner rather than later. The longer you wait the more your muscle tissue, bone density, and strength dwindle. If you don’t do something about your strength and power abilities you will soon find it difficult to walk upstairs, get up from a chair, carry groceries, and fend for yourself as an independent person.

Not only will you find it difficult to do the aforementioned tasks but also lacking strength leads to falls and that can mean incapacitating fractures. This in turn further compromises your ability to lead an active life. Strength training has a wealth of research backing its ability to effectively slow down and possibly reverse these life altering events.

Even if you are in your 70s, 80s, 90s and above, research has shown a dramatic increase in strength, power, agility, and mobility within 10 weeks of lifting weights 2 to 3 times a week. Now you have to admit that this is not a tremendous time commitment, especially considering the benefits to your health.

260813 Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

The research over the past several years continues to support the benefits of aerobic exercise. Not only is it good for your cardiovascular system but it helps ease fatigue symptoms in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, in the elderly, and the long-term sedentary person. However, this does not mean that people in these categories should just immediately go out and try to run a marathon. Before you even start, check with your doctor and review your history of activity, any type of joint problems, cardiovascular conditions, or other conditions that may cause you problems if you exercise

If you have not exercised consistently in the past or in the recent past, start out slowly and build up gradually your ability to tolerate the physical activity. Even though exercise will help most people, those with chronic fatigue syndrome should start out very slowly because it can aggravate the symptoms in some.

Older, sedentary, people must also start building a foundation of activity by increasing their levels of exertion on a smaller progressive scale. This will go a long way to avoiding injuries.

One of the easiest ways to get started on a physical activity program is to start walking. Begin with a slow pace of eighty steps per minute for about half as far as you think you can go every day. Increase this distance until you are walking a mile or so each day all the while being cognizant of the traffic and the phenomenal ability of some idiot drivers who are not paying attention to come dangerously close to you. (Oops, that just slipped in)

Some of the more recent studies have shown that brisk walking, one hundred steps per minute, five times a week for at least half an hour results in almost the same health benefits as exercise that is much more vigorous.

Another advantage of taking a brisk walk is that those who take these walks lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, Osteoporosis and potentially other diseases. It has also been found that mental health issues seem to occur less frequently.

Gradually you will notice your ability to go longer increases until you are walking thirty to sixty minutes a day. Once you are able to do this, you might want to start including biking or some sort of an exercise class.

One of these new activities could include resistance training. You do not need to go to a gym to resistance train but the advantage of doing so and hooking up with a certified strength specialist is that you will learn how to do the exercises correctly and in most cases avoid injury. Old style bodyweight calisthenics can be effective in increasing your muscle mass, strength, and power output.

Power output is important because it develops the strength necessary to rapidly catch your balance if you begin to fall. If you do not have the strength, you will not have the power to protect yourself.

Do not be fooled by the advertisements saying that you can use light hand weights to get strong because it will not happen. You have to challenge your muscles and unless your condition is such that you cannot move heavier weights these small hand weights are not going to suffice.

290713 The limited definition of physically fit

The limited definition of physically fit

The term physically fit has many different definitions. To some it means being able to walk or run long distances, to others it may mean being physically strong, while others include being flexible, coordinated, and agile in their definition.

For those who tend to lean towards doing aerobic activities, the term fitness implies cardiovascular fitness. This then means how effectively your heart and lungs are supplying oxygen to your muscles and internal organs.

Even for a hard-core lifter, being physically fit should include being somewhat aerobically capable and by that I mean being able to go through a heavy workout and not have to be supported by your partners when you walk from the bench to the squat rack. The more aerobically fit you are the longer you going to be able to exercise without becoming so winded you have to stop.

One of the biggest benefits of being aerobically fit is it reduces your risk of major diseases of the heart such as stroke and other myocardial problems. It also enhances your ability to take in and use oxygen by making a stronger, more elastic pair of lungs.

Evaluation of the cardiovascular fitness of an individual is most often performed on a treadmill, with monitors measuring the heart rate both during and after the treadmill exercise.

There are numerous self-tests one can use to determine their aerobic physical fitness. One of the easiest is to see how fast you can walk a mile without getting winded. You should be able to do this in no more than about 18 minutes if you are a moderately fit woman between 30 or 40 years of age. For the men this test should take about 17 and a half minutes.

For those of you who are older than 40 years of age, you are allowed an extra 30 seconds for each additional decade of life.

Whatever your situation may be there is no substitute for exercise in helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

260713 Blood pressure, daily walking and the connection with being overweight

Blood pressure, daily walking and the connection with being overweight

If you are overweight, then daily walking may not dramatically decrease your blood pressure. The healthy benefits that walking has on the blood vessels of a normal weight person may be lost on the overweight individual.

In general terms this means that your arteries are not widening and the blood flow is not improved with walking, thus your blood pressure may not change to more optimum numbers.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern conducted a study that analyzed over 35,000 Caucasian men and women. Each person in the study had regular checkups that included measurements of their Body Mass Index (BMI) and readings of their systolic blood pressure each visit. Additionally these participants exercised at each visit so their fitness levels could be assessed. The results may give anyone who is overweight a reason to reassess their situation.

The results were published in the American heart journal and they revealed that a normal weight person had an average of 12 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure than one who was obese. The blood pressure of the fittest was only 6 mmHg lower than for those who were least fit. Still, that wasn’t all they found.

After analyzing the blood pressure, BMI, and fitness data of the participants, they found that physical fitness was an important element in lowering blood pressure in those of a normal weight person. However, it was not as effective of a component in those who were overweight. Interestingly enough, many in this overweight group were physically fit yet their blood pressure was still high.

The take-home message here certainly indicates that diet alone may not help lower your blood pressure. The combination of losing weight, by engaging in regular exercise, and calorie counting will need to be in place before you begin to notice the beneficial effects of exercise on lowering your blood pressure.

080713 More benefits of exercise

More benefits of exercise

Exercise has been cited as being beneficial for avoiding, lessening, and mitigating a vast array of diseases in the past. Now, new research is confirming even more of these exercise related benefits for those who choose to follow this path to better health.

According to a recent report from Duke University, working out directly affects your heart. You may reduce your risk of developing heart disease up to 25% by doing 750 minutes of high intense minutes each week. By doing 300 minutes of intense exercise you lower your risk of heart disease by 20% and exercising 150 minutes per week lowers the risk by 14%.

Despite scientific research and the medical expert’s advising exercise to manage the pain of arthritis, up to 90% of those with arthritis fail to meet even the standards of 150 minutes of exercise per week. Of this 90%, nearly half get no exercise at all. They are inactive.

Boost your memory with movement.

Aerobic exercise pushes the rate of circulation up and this helps to increase the flow of oxygen rich blood into your brain. A study of almost 300 older people found that of those who walked at least 72 blocks, about 4 miles and 880.0 yards, each week had more gray matter in their brain than those who did not walk or exercise each week. Those who were walking each day cut their risk in half of developing memory problems.

Achieve a calmer state of mind with exercise

Regular aerobic exercise tends to reduce an individual’s level of stress hormones, and decreases the amount of fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure when under duress. Some of the recommended ways of aerobically exercising are walking, running, swimming, biking, or any other activity that keeps your heart rate up and within the target range for up to 20-30 minutes a day.

Equally effective is resistance circuit training. This method involves doing a series of exercises without stopping for 3-6 times around a circuit-thus the name circuit training. It is most effective with the large muscle groups such as legs, chest, and back. As an example, when doing an intense lower body circuit, the series could look like this: do each exercise for 1 minute. Do this 3-6 times, if you are able.

• Skip rope
• Squats
• Skip rope
• Calve raises
• Skip rope
• Dead lifts
• Skip rope

Obviously, before beginning any of these exercise suggestions consult with your doctor.