When I learned that I would be writing a monthly blog for the Fitness Evolution social media pages I threw a question up on my personal Facebook page: What health issues would people like to see addressed in the upcoming issues of the blog?
I received about 20 comments. I have one answer to all the questions...STRENGTH TRAINING.
- How do you manage metabolism over 40?
- How do I get rid of belly fat when I already eat well?
- How do I handle the symptoms of menopause?
- How can I earn more calories from my workouts? You guessed it...
There are many benefits to be gained from strength training:
- You will become stronger, which in turn can make everyday tasks easier.
- It increases bone density and protects existing muscle mass during the aging process.
- It can also create an increase in the awareness of body mechanics, leading to better balance and a decrease in fall risk.
- But the benefit that all people who posted on my Facebook page were looking for? It increases metabolism.
Muscle is “metabolically active" meaning that it requires more calories just to exist than fat does. (The specific amount varies from person to person and is determined by a variety of factors).
In addition, more muscle & strength will lead to an increase in intensity of exercise furthering the calorie burn.
When I use the term strength training with my clients, I mean everything from bodyweight exercises, to medicine balls, stability balls, suspension training straps, machines, dumbbells, and barbells.
What you use is not as important as how you use it.
There are basic principles of strength training that apply to everyone from beginner to experienced weight lifters.
The explanation of Overload, according the American College of Sports Medicine is "to gain strength or endurance, muscles must be loaded beyond the point to which they are normally loaded."
Understanding the idea of "BEYOND which they are normally loaded" is the key to successful strength training. Bottom-line: as you get stronger your resistance must get heavier in order to continue to see results.
Let's look at this from the progression of a squat.
An unconditioned client with excess weight begins a program by squatting with just bodyweight. A set of 10 exhausts them and leaves them feeling as if they could not do another repetition.
As time goes on, they can add reps until they can successfully complete a few sets of 15-20 bodyweight squats.
The next step would be to add dumbbells to the squat, perhaps two 10 lb. dumbbells. The process starts anew ... a set of 10 squats with the dumbbells leave the clients exhausted and not able to complete any more reps. Gradually they become adapted to the additional weight and can do 3 sets of 15 reps.
At this point if the client wants to continue to build muscle, we must again increase the weight. This process continues as long as the client is training. As soon as she becomes adapted the stimulus must change for the body to continue to change.
Many people start a weight loss or wellness journey believing that cardiovascular exercise is the key to losing weight and getting fit and strong.
The truth is that an excess of cardio can burn off existing muscle mass. Your body will also adapt quickly to the demands of the cardio and will require an increase in either the intensity or the time to continue to see results.
By spending more time with weights and other strength modalities you can preserve and even add to the muscle mass and in turn increase intensity of your other exercises.
There is a common misconception that “muscle weighs more than fat" to which I like to say, “a pound of feathers and a pound of rocks each weigh a pound.”
A pound is a pound is a pound.
BUT muscle is much denser than fat and therefore takes up less room in your body.
Another area of concern, usually for women, is that they will get “bulky.”
Getting "bulky" is a full-time commitment requiring very specific lifting plans and diets. The average woman does not get bulky from weight training, they get lean.
There are entire textbooks dedicated to the process of building muscle but if you follow the example of the squatting client above and continue to increase the weight after you adapt to it (i.e. it becomes easy) you will continue to see progress.
You must consistently work to the point of muscle failure, meaning you could not eek out another two reps. This often means putting down the colored hand weights and entering the BIG WEIGHT ROOM...
But that's ok because you will have squatted, pressed and lunged your way in there!
As always, if you have questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email or cell phone.
Megan Leipholtz, Certified Personal Trainer at Buffalo Fitness Evolution
If the idea of starting a strength program is overwhelming, the cost of a single session with any of our personal trainers averages $50-$60 per hour. That is a small price to pay for a personalized strength training program geared to your specific needs and designed so you will not be wasting your time.