Seven benefits of heavy resistance training

PPP_Lyen_Wong

Lyen Wong, training at her personal training studio in Miami

Here are seven benefits of how using heavy resistance can maximize the results from your fitness program.

  1. Training for muscle strength is different than training for muscle size. A six- to 10-week strength-focused mesocycle of heavy resistance and low reps followed by a six- to 10-week hypertrophy (bodybuilder) mesocycle of moderate weight for higher rep ranges can produce significant gains in both size and strength.
  2. Using heavy weights increases intramuscular coordination, the number of type II motor units and the amount of muscle fibers engaged within a specific muscle. Have you ever felt your muscles shaking while lifting heavy weights? This is because you are recruiting and activating the larger type II muscle fibers, which are only stimulated to work when a muscle is challenged with heavy resistance or working to fatigue.
  3. Using maximal loads for compound (multi-joint) movements like the deadlift, squat-to-shoulder press, bent-over row or chest press can improve intermuscular coordination, which is the ability of many muscles to work together to generate and control high levels of force through multiple joints.
  4. Lifting heavy weights elevates levels of anabolic hormones—specifically testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)—which are used to repair muscle fibers damaged during exercise. This helps the muscle fibers to become thicker and capable of generating higher levels of force.
  5. Lifting heavy weights increases production of the hormone IGF-1. This hormone is related to the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating the growth of new neural pathways in the brain along with enhancing communication between existing pathways. In short, lifting heavy could make you smarter by enhancing cognitive function.
  6. Training with heavy weights helps you to improve your self-confidence. Knowing that you can lift heavy stuff gives you the confidence that you can handle common challenges, such as a putting a bag in the overhead bin on an airplane or carrying a heavy piece of furniture while reorganizing a room or helping a friend move.
  7. Strength training with heavy weights improves muscle definition. Muscle definition occurs as the result of muscles remaining in a state of semi-contraction and heavy strength training recruits the larger type II muscle fibers responsible for a muscle’s appearance.

Source: ACE

Read More »

What to look for in a Personal Trainer

PPP-logoOnce you’ve decided to hire a personal trainer, how do you know you’ve found a good one? Great question.

Once you find a good hair stylist, you’re set, but if you get a bad one…ugh. It’s a little bit like that with a trainer. The best way to find a good one is to ask around—word of mouth is a great way to find someone great. However, you should also talk to a few trainers and ask some questions of your own. You may not know anyone who has hired a trainer so word of mouth may not be a viable option.

Here’s how you find a good one.

1) How many questions does the trainer ask that have nothing to do with fitness directly?

A good trainer will want to know about much more than your fitness goals. If you talk to one and they ask you about your attitudes and opinions about exercise, your work schedule, family commitments, your history of stopping and starting exercise, etc., you’ve probably found a great trainer. Why?

Great trainers realize that the workout program they create is the easy part. Any trainer can make a half-way decent workout program for most people. The real measure of fitness success is in your ability to adopt behaviors that become part of you. To make changes that last, a trainer must know the obstacles and opportunities for exercise in your schedule and all of the many non-workout factors that will determine your ability to absorb a fitness routine into your daily life.

2) Does the trainer teach you movement or just exercises?

This one might not be so obvious from your first conversation, but you can either ask directly or listen for how the trainer describes what they do. As my friend and fellow ACE consultant Chris McGrath says, “Exercise is optional; movement is essential.” Everyone moves, even if they don’t exercise. Thus, a good life starts with a foundation of quality movement when you’re doing chores, playing with your kids, walking the dog, putting away groceries and all the various tasks of daily life.

Perhaps more importantly, though, quality movement allows for exercise at an appropriate intensity that will stress your muscles (which is what you want) and not your joints. With the increased popularity of high-intensity training, trainers who don’t want to become good at teaching movement need to look for a different line of work.

How can you tell if a trainer focuses on movement quality? Here’s a big clue: When they describe what they do, they explain that they will first determine what your body is capable of given any current or previous injuries or limitations you may have. Regardless off how they describe it, the trainer you hire should care about how you move your body—both during and outside of the exercise session. Alternatively, you can ask them directly. For example, you could ask, “How will you address any specific joint issues I may have?”

3) Do you get a good workout at the first session?

I hope not. A terrible trainer puts people through hard workouts at the first session. A great trainer needs to get to know the people behind the programs they create—that’s what makes the training personal. Until I see you move and can gauge your response—both physically and mentally—to certain movements, it is impossible for me to create an effective program that will get you the results you want.

During the first session, a quality trainer might teach you movement skills or exercise technique, or address specific issues you may have, but they cannot possibly have a full workout ready to go until they spend some time with you in person. Hard workouts are easy to find and trainers that can deliver hard workouts are a dime a dozen. Any trainer who boasts of making clients sore for days is to be unequivocally avoided—they don’t know exercise, they only know intensity.

Wrap-up

Ask around, or ask the trainer you are considering these questions. Better yet, why not do both? A trainer-client relationship is a very personal one and you want to know that you are wisely investing your body, your time and your money into working with a competent, caring professional, one who helps you find the right starting point to fitness and helps you progress at the right pace to keep you engaged mentally and appropriately challenged physically.

Source

Read More »

Four myths about women and weight training

lyen-wong-jump

Lyen Wong

Strength training is an important part of improving your overall fitness, and for women, it can mean much more. In addition to numerous health benefits, adding weights to your routine can become a form of personal development that builds strength in all areas of life. It seems as if there’s a lot of information about exercise for women that is based on unfounded myths and even some outright lies instead of fact or scientific evidence.

Myth 1: Women should not lift any weight heavier than 3 pounds.

This myth has resulted in many women avoiding resistance training due to an irrational fear of becoming overly muscular. The reality is that women have the ability to lift a tremendous amount of weight, but do not increase lean muscle mass at the same rate as men.

Due to the physiology of the female body, compared to men women produce much less testosterone. That means that adding two days of resistance training to a weekly exercise regimen can increase lean muscle mass, but it won’t add pounds of “bulky” muscle. Strength training can cause women to produce more somatotropin (otherwise known as human growth hormone), but when you consider that growth hormone helps metabolize fat and is considered an important part of reducing the effects of the biological aging process, this is not a bad thing.

Myth 2: Women should avoid using weights because it will make them big and bulky.

In more than 15 years of working in the fitness industry, I have heard this repeated many, many times as the primary reason why women are not interested in exercising with heavy weights. There are numerous media images of female bodybuilders or actresses with highly muscular physiques. It should be noted that it can take years of training, proper nutrition and “supplementation” to achieve the muscle-bound appearance of a Xena: Warrior Princess.

It can take lifting weights five or six days a week, plus a lot of eating, for women to increase their levels of lean muscle. Simply adding an extra day of strength training or grabbing the heavier dumbbells will not automatically cause a woman to become a muscle-bound she-hulk.

Myth 3: Aerobic exercise is the most effective way to burn fat.

During low-intensity physical activity, fat is the primary macronutrient utilized to fuel muscle activity, so the idea of exercising in the “fat-burning” zone is based on science. But keep in mind that you’re in the so-called fat-burning zone right now while you’re reading this. Traditional aerobic exercise like running, cycling or using common health club machines can be effective for expending energy and the body will metabolize more fat for energy at lower intensities. However, exercising at a higher intensity or performing short, high-intensity work intervals can lead to a greater total amount of calories being expended during a workout.

The body burns 5 calories of energy for every liter of oxygen consumed. During most traditional aerobic training, the legs are the primary muscles being engaged. Performing a full-body, strength-training circuit with exercises for both the upper and lower body can involve a tremendous amount of muscle tissue, which results in more calories being burned during a workout. When more total calories are burned from strength training, a greater amount of calories are metabolized from fat when compared to only exercising in the “fat burning” zone. Aerobic training can be an efficient way to burn calories, but it often doesn’t provide enough stimulus to increase levels of lean muscle, which are metabolically more efficient because they burn calories even when the body is at rest. In addition, circuit training with heavy resistance can increase the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time after exercise and you continue to burn calories hours after the end of your workout.

Myth 4: A combination of light weights and high repetitions is the best way to tone up.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Light weights can be useful for improving the strength-endurance of muscle tissue. However, neither light weight nor aerobic endurance training is effective for stimulating the muscle fibers responsible for growth and definition. The most effective way to create muscle growth and definition is to activate type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers using heavy weight or explosive movements.

There are different types of muscle fibers in the body: slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow-twitch fibers produce energy using oxygen and are used to sustain long periods of muscle work, such as maintaining good posture or performing endurance training. Fast-twitch fibers are capable of producing more force in a shorter period of time because they produce energy anaerobically. When it comes to muscle definition, a common goal for exercise, the fast-twitch fibers are responsible for that response. Light weights can be used to train for definition if (and only if) the muscle is worked to fatigue (meaning you can’t perform another single repetition). Lifting 5 pounds for 12 reps is not enough to stimulate the fast-twitch fibers if you are capable of doing a 13th repetition.

Source

Read More »