Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Strength Training - Growing Muscles While Benefiting Your Health

So you think you have to spend hours each day at the gym pumping iron to reap the benefits of strength training?  Think again... with as little as one hour spent each week you can put your muscles to work and gain substantial benefits for both your short and long term health.

We all seem to lose energy and become more inactive as we age.  Perhaps the loss of our childhood imagination and the exciting thrill in doing just about anything keeps us plopped on our couches more and more as the years go by.  You might not realize this but if you remain physically inactive after the age of 30 you'll lose 3-5% of your muscle mass each decade and the corresponding muscle strength that goes with it[1].  But we don't have to just "grow old" and "waste away" like it's some inevitable destination that we have no control over.  I say we put a stop to that by changing a few simple habits and incorporating some strength training into our weekly routine.  Why don't we take a glance now at why boosting those biceps is so important to our overall health.

Key Health Benefits to Maintaining Physical Strength

1)  Prevention of Sarcopenia - Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, strength, and coordination resulting from the process of aging.  Research has shown that regular resistance training 2-3 times per week can result in a 50% or greater increase in overall strength even in the geriatric population[2].  Resistance training also improves overall strength of younger and middle aged individuals[3] as well as the elderly population for those who participate in as little as two 20 minute sessions per week[4].

2)  Improves Diabetes - Resistance training has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity & improve glucose tolerance along with increasing fat-free muscle mass & reducing adipose (fat) tissue in individuals leading to an improvement in their diabetes[5].

3)  Increases Cardiovascular Health - An improvement in good cholesterol and reduction in high blood pressure[6] has been seen in people who have participated in a weight lifting program.  Strength training has also been shown to improve cardiac output, peak oxygen uptake, and stroke volume in those who had previously underwent open heart surgery[7].

4)  Prevents Bone Loss - High-intensity resistance training programs were shown to significantly increase bone mineral density among postmenopausal women[8] which is an important factor in reducing the overall risk of osteoporosis.

5)  Additional Health Improvements - Resistance training has also been shown to benefit many other health conditions including improving depression[9],  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease[10], increasing mobility in Parkinson's disease[11], reducing rates of metabolic syndrome[12], and even reduces the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms[13].

So now that you've seen the overwhelming evidence on the health benefits of strength training you might be asking yourself - How do I get started?

If you're new to all of this then don't worry it's really not as bad as you think.  I'll give you some simple tips below to make your workout successful!  With this in mind though, it is always best to get your doctor's approval before starting an exercise program.  Now let's get down to it!  Here's 5 tips to perfecting your workout.

5 Tips To A Successful Strength Training Program

1)  Use Proper Technique - Learning and implementing the proper technique when it comes to strength training are key in reducing the risk of injury.  You may want to enlist the help of a personal trainer for your first few sessions to get started on the right path.

2)  Use Multiple Ways To Workout - While having access to a gym is great especially with all the different weight lifting equipment you can also get an effective workout at home.  Try using therapy bands, therapy balls, or even your own body weight to accomplish the job.  Dumbbells work more muscle groups and build your coordination better than machine weights do.  Push ups are also an excellent way to workout a variety of different muscle groups.

3)  Repetition, Repetition, Repetition - You can increase your muscle strength in the short term by doing a single set of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise.  However, a review of 72 studies shows that doing multiple sets of repetitions leads to optimal strength gain over the long term in most individuals[14].

4)  Begin Slowly - You don't have to perform like an olympic weightlifter on day 1 to get to where you want to be.  Make sure you start with smaller amounts of weights and work your way up slowly over time.  Remember if your injured you won't be strength training at all so be smart!

5)  Rest Up - Make sure and give each set of muscle groups at least one day of rest in order to recover properly.  If you want you can work legs one day then switch to arms and shoulders the next day and finish the third day with the chest and back.  Training  2-3 days per week for an average of 20-30 minutes is enough to get the health benefits talked about in the beginning of this article.

Now that you've got a basic understanding of strength and resistance training what are you waiting for?!  Get started today and your body and brain will thank you for years to come.

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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

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1 Nair, K.S. 1995. “Muscle Protein Turnover: Methodological Issues and the Effect of Aging.” The Journals of Gerontology 50A:107-114.
2 Bautmans I, Van Puyvelde K, Mets T. Sarcopenia and functional decline: pathophysiology, prevention and therapy. Acta Clin Belg. 2009 Jul-Aug;64(4):303-16.
3 Westcott WL, Winett RA, Anderson ES, et al. Effects of regular and slow speed resistance training on muscle strength. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2001 Jun;41(2):154-8.
4 Willoughby DS. Resistance Training and the Older Adult. American College of Sports Medicine. Accessed Dec 7, 2010. Available:
5 Tresierras MA, Balady GJ. Resistance training in the treatment of diabetes and obesity: mechanisms and outcomes. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2009 Mar-Apr;29(2):67-75.
6 Hurley BF, Kokkinos PF. Effects of weight training on risk factors for coronary artery disease. Sports Med. 1987;4(4):231–238.
7 Haennel RG, Quinney HA, Kappagoda CT. Effects of hydraulic circuit training following coronary artery bypass surgery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991;23(2):158–165.
8 Martyn-St James M, Carroll S. High-intensity resistance training and postmenopausal bone loss: a meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2006;17(8):1225-40.
9 Singh NA, Stavrinos TM, Scarbek Y, et al. A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005
10 Panton LB, Golden J, Broeder CE, et al. The effects of resistance training on functional outcomes in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 Apr;91(4):443-9.
11 Dibble LE, Hale TF, Marcus RL, et al. High-intensity resistance training amplifies muscle hypertrophy and functional gains in persons with Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord. 2006 Sep;21(9):1444-52.
12 Lakka TA, Laaksonen DE. Physical activity in prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Feb;32(1):76-88.
13 Hurkmans E, van der Giesen FJ, Vliet Vlieland TP, et al. Dynamic exercise programs (aerobic capacity and/or muscle strength training) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Oct 7;(4):CD006853.
14 Fröhlich M, Emrich E, Schmidtbleicher D. Outcome effects of single-set versus multiple-set training--an advanced replication study. Res Sports Med. 2010 Jul;18(3):157-75.

1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with these listed benefits of strength training!! And it's not even all the benefits.

    Priority number one, technique, is especially important. It's no use to put your body through awkward planes of motion; you can see very common mistakes in "cheated" bicep curls, where the whole body maneuvers itself in order to fully squeeze that bicep. You've essentially transferred work away from the muscle you're trying to work. Another example is with the deadlift; don't round that back!! Your spine should maintain the same curvature as if you were standing up - chest out, butt back, weight in the heels! These are just a couple examples. Just as machines are built to handle specific degrees of freedom, the human body is designed the same way. Bust the ego and back the weight off if technique is poor. With hard work and consistency, you'll be able to handle it, even through a very old age. Enough on technique.

    I have trouble with cholesterol at times, even with a monitored diet; however, strength training six days a week has kept my HDL at 60-70, keeping my LDL, total, and triglycerides in check. With a little more dietary discipline, and edumacation from this here blog, I should be able to get my LDL to satisfactory levels.

    Furthermore, if you think you're too old, think again. I see on a daily basis, people ages 60 to 70+, get stronger, have more strength endurance than me (although I'm not focused on endurance, it is an impressive feat to see!), work their way down to healthy weights...let me rephrase that...healthier COMPOSITIONS. The BMI is a VERY rough guideline. Just because you lose 5 to 10 pounds, don't think that's all good news, especially if you've taken an extreme approach to weight loss. THERE IS NO MAGIC TO WEIGHT LOSS. Diet and exercise goes hand in hand. Been living an unhealthy lifestyle for years? Don't expect to get to tip top shape in 30, 60, 90+ days. Don't think of it as a diet - it is a lifestyle change! It becomes your kung fu - something learned over a long period of time. With strength training, you will increase strength, flexibility, metabolism, and your body will become an efficiently burning fire.

    Women, think you'll bulk up from using heavy weights? It is harder than you think. It is not easy to look like a bodybuilder (who wants to anyway, haha). Even for males, they have to eat five grocery stores a day, consisting of a very calculated diet. They are all about lean, even though their BMI might say they're morbidly obese. They probably also take things with ingredients with letters not found in the human alphabet. There is also lots and lots of gym time. It is a myth that women will bulk up from lifting heavy weights. Again, I see daily, women, young and old, and good looking, that are pumpin' that iron. Girls, get in there!

    Even if you feel a little tired, you'd be surprised what a little mobility warm up would do before a brief bout of exercise. However, get that rest! Also remember that total work output equals calorie expenditure. Walking, for instance, is great, but it's EASY. You have to walk miles before even breaking a sweat, even if you're power walking. Strength training is much more time efficient. In other words, increase the INTENSITY of a physical activity for added efficiency.

    The message here is, make exercise, physical activity, sports, working out, pumping iron, lifting weights, running, sprinting, martial arts, or whatever you want to call it, a part of your life. As Dustin said, your body will thank you for it for many years to come.


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