Getting in shape takes more than aerobic exercise. While aerobics are an important component to overall fitness, you also need to incorporate muscle building workouts several times a week to achieve a well balanced exercise program.
The benefits of aerobics are well known. When you exercise aerobically you strengthen your heart muscle as well as your entire cardiovascular system. Muscle building workouts fine tune the body and make it better able to function and burn away fat.
There are two types of muscle building workouts that will either allow you to gain muscle mass or tone your existing muscle. The goal of a low rep, high weight muscle building workout is to increase muscle mass, or plump up the muscle to its greatest volume. Lifting heavy weight causes the muscle fibers to swell and you will notice a significant increase in the mass of muscle under your skin. The goal of high rep, low weight muscle building workouts is to tone the muscle and make it stronger without a significant noticeable change in mass. Women often perform toning workouts in order to sculpt their muscles and make them appear more defined and bodybuilders select programs that allow them to increase mass.
When people begin new muscle building workouts they expect results quickly. This is fine if your body is lean to begin with. But if you have a high ratio of body fat to lean muscle, you will have to do aerobic cardiovascular exercises to burn off fat in combination with muscle building workouts to build muscle in order to see the desired results. Eating a low fat diet composed of lean proteins and low carbohydrates is also helpful in building muscle and reducing fat.
One of the benefits of muscle building workouts, aside from larger and more toned muscles, is an increase in your body?s ability to burn fat. Even when you are not exercising, your muscles continue to burn fat more effectively when you perform a regular fitness program that includes muscle building workouts. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and improves the function of the cardiovascular system which is important in delivering blood to your muscles. But to continuously burn fat you need a combination of both aerobic training and muscle building.
It is a misconception that by working out you are actually building additional muscle tissue. We are born with the highest number of muscle fibers we will ever have and that will never change. What you are trying to change through muscle building workouts is the appearance of the muscle tissue, bulking it up and making the fibers larger and more defined.
This week, my gym is flooded with new faces. It’s that post-New Years craze that sends everyone to the gyms to try and fulfill that elusive but always primary goal of the New Year: lose weight and get into shape. I watched one new member make her way around through the jungle of strength training equipment last night. She moved from machine to machine doing one set here, two sets there, five repetitions here, twenty there. No rhyme or reason to it, no paper and pencil in hand, it just appeared another random attempt at a workout. What if there was a simple, straightforward way of taking a workout and figuring out exactly what should be in it? There is it’s called the 5 Rs principle.
The 5 Rs Principle can help beginning exercisers figure out what exactly goes into an effective workout. Each `R’focuses on an important element of an exercise routine that forces the beginner to look at their workouts in a holistic fashion.
RANGE of motion
Range of motion refers to how the capability of a joint to move through a prescribed set of movements. In order for a beginner to see results, each exercise should be performed from a fully stretched position of the muscle to a fully contracted position. An example: I see a lot of beginners (and people who have been around the gym long enough to know better) load up the EZ-curl bar for preacher curls and perform the exercise only lowering the bar halfway down on the eccentric portion of the exercise. Not only can this cause injury to the bicep muscle, it also doesn’t work the muscle the best way possible and limits the results of the exercise.
You’ll hear the term `range of motion’ often in reference to joint health and mobility. This is no exception in the gym. Your joints are supported by large and small muscles. In order to optimize your joint health, all the muscles surrounding the joints must be worked as well.
When you’re just starting to lift weights, how much weight to use is a huge issue. It’s unfortunate that many personal trainers will tell women to use a lighter weight so that they will “tone up” and not get bulky. This is probably the biggest myth in all of weight lifting? women who lift heavy weights will not get bulky. Don’t believe anyone who tells you this! Choose a weight that allows you to complete the exercise without sacrificing proper form but that is heavy enough that you cannot possibly perform another repetition at the end of your prescribed set of repetitions.
Another huge variable for beginning exercisers is how many repetitions to perform. Performing certain repetitions will indeed produce highly specific results. In general, low repetitions (3-8) produce greater absolute strength, medium repetitions (10-20) produce anaerobic strength endurance, and high repetitions (20-40) produce aerobic strength endurance.
Now, an ideal beginner routine will probably include sets of medium repetitions, just to allow the exerciser to learn to perform the exercise correctly, with proper form and technique and to allow her to experiment with experiencing muscle fatigue at 12-15 repetitions. As she progresses, she can experiment with different set/rep schemes customized to individual goals.
An important note is that in order to achieve the results desired from performing a certain number of repetitions is that muscular failure must be achieved within the repetition ranges above. Muscular failure means that you can’t possibly push out one more repetition no matter how hard you’re trying to do it.
In general, your body needs between two to four minutes of rest between sets to prepare itself to perform another set at maximum capacity. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC) are used by your muscle cells to contract during a weight lifting exercise. Your body needs time to regenerate these two compounds before it is ready to go again.
Unless you’re trying to develop all-out absolute strength by performing low repetitions with very heavy weight, you’re probably not going to need to wait that long between sets. Most beginners will be working within a medium repetition range and therefore do not need to wait that long between sets. One to two minutes is fine.
You will not see faster or better results by working the same muscle groups day after day. As important as hard work is, recovery between workouts is even more important. Beginners should work the same muscle groups no more than two times per week, with at least forty- eight hours break between sessions. As an exerciser becomes more advanced, she will probably cut back to working each muscle group once every seven days or so.
The bench press is an exercise in which the lifter lies on his/her back on a weight bench, lowering the bar directly above the chest. It is intended for the development of the chest, or pectoral muscles , frontal shoulders, serratus, but a variation exists for the triceps. In weight lifting , however, where the focus is to achieve a single very heavy repetition, the force for a bench exercise is exerted by both the pectoral and tricep muscles.
The world record for the heaviest benchraising at 1005 lb (456.8 kg) was set by Gene Rychlak under International Powerlifting Association rules in November 2004. It must be noted that the different lifts federations and gyms have subtly different rules on technique, the equipment that is allowed and whether performance enhancing drugs are tested for.
The heaviest “raw” benchraising (without equipment such as denim shirts) is 713 lbs (324kg) by Scott Mendelson. Many people regard this as a greater achievement than Rychlak?s 1005 lb press. Classic bench presses may not be suitable for every athlete, if you experience a lack of development, switch to other exercises, i.e. dips, butterfly or other exercises involving dumbells.
Perform your bench presses carefully and slowly. Do not use the momentum of the downward movement of the barbell to let it bounce off your chest and push it explosively back upwards. At least, you bereave yourself of the negative and power building phase of the exercise. This exercise should always be performed with a spotter to catch the bar in case it is dropped on the chest.
Varying width grips can be used to shift stress between pectorals and triceps, and between the inner and outer pectorals. It can also be performed with dumbbells to incorporate greater use of the stabilizer muscles. Each variation is intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways.
What are you trying to get out of your exercise program? Are you trying to lose weight? Are you trying to put on muscle mass? Are you training for a sport or an athletic contest of some kind?
Okay, now that youve answered the question of why you are exercising to begin with, you are now ready to ask yourself what type of exercise program you will need to get involved with in order to accomplish that goal.
If you answered aerobics, weight training, yoga, flexibility exercises, martial arts, or pretty much any other form of exercise that you can imagine, then congratulations are in order! Youve just answered the question, What the heck is an exercise modality?
Simply put, an exercise modality is a system or form of exercise that is designed to elicit a very specific response from the body of the individual who is engaging in the exercise. In the case of aerobics, most people are trying to get their body to shed excess bodyfat and to increase their level of cardiovascular endurance. Weight or resistance training exercisers are usually trying to grow or tone their muscles to make them stronger, bigger, or more attractive. People who practice Yoga are usually after a stronger mind/body connection in order to gain more energy or awareness.
The possibilities are endless. There are so many exercise modalities out there that even trying to name them all would be a waste of time. Even as this article is written, and even as you the reader take in its information, someone somewhere is probably coming up with a new exercise modality.
So why even try to learn them? Why should you care about exercise modalities? Simply put, because you need to practice them!
No, that doesnt mean that you have to be able to run a marathon, bench press 400 lbs, balance on your pinky toe, and dance a jig all at the same time
The point is not that you have to become proficient in any specific exercise modality. You do need to learn about different types of training, though. No matter how effective your present exercise program is, one of two things is either already happening, or is going to happen eventually:
1) Your body is adapting to the stimulus provided by your chosen exercise modality, and you are not seeing the same results from it that you saw in the beginning.
2) The exercise modality that you have chosen is lacking in one or more of the measurements of good health: strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, agility, balance, tensile strength of bones, tendons, and ligaments, basic survival skills such as starting and limit strength, swimming capabilities, or a heightened level of neuromuscular coordination.
As you can see, simply being able to run through a circuit of weight machines at the gym and then jumping into an aerobics class is not sufficient for a level of health and fitness that is both complete, as well as sustainable over the long-term.
Despite what you may think, there will never be a time in your life when it is appropriate or healthy for you to back off and give up on exercise or proper nutrition. From today until the day when you leave this Earth, you will need the high quality of life that is provided by the proper level of health and fitness.
In order to ensure that your health and fitness program does not allow your body to adapt to a certain stimulus, as well as to ensure that your program includes activity in each of the measurable levels of health and fitness, you must practice different exercise modalities on a regular basis.
Dont scoff at Pilates because you think it is for wimps. Those of you in the aerobics room dont look at the weight lifters as if they are a bunch of cavemen who know nothing about true fitness. Those of you in the Yoga frame of mind, open up your mind to the fact that Yoga alone is not going to maintain your level of health and your quality of life from now until the end. Martial artists step out of the Dojo and pick up some dumbbells or balance on an exercise ball once in awhile.
There is no single exercise modality that is perfect for everyone, all the time. Yes, there are certain modalities that work better for certain people, but that doesnt mean that you should never check out new activities and experiences.
Close-mindedness has never resulted in positive results in the entire history of our planet. Its not going to start now. Open your mind to new possibilities and you will open yourself to new experiences and a higher quality of life itself.
Who knows? You might even enjoy it!
Everybody knows exercise is a significant part of staying healthy. As anyone with arthritis can tell you, though, when your joints say no to play, exercise goes from pleasurable and stimulating activity into a trial of how much pain you can tolerate.
The tendency when suffering from arthritis is to keep your joints as motionless as possible. The problem is that this leads to weakening of the muscles and tendons and a stiffening of joints, which makes the pain worse over time. It is a self-feeding cycle difficult to break out of.
One solution comes in the form of The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program, a warm water exercise program designed by the Arthritis Foundation. Why warm water exercise? The warmth offered by hot water allows muscles to relax and intensifies circulation of blood to the joints. In fact, ever since the discovery of the first hot springs, humans have used the miracle of warm water baths to fight aching joints.
Besides reducing the pain in your joints, exercising in water permits body weight to be supported. This makes exercising in water easier, safer and more relaxing. Not only that, but the resistance that water provides as your body moves in it helps strengthen muscles
These days, what with spas, health clubs and backyard hot tubs, just about anyone has access to a pool of hot water to relax in. Not only does this bring some immediate relief of arthritis symptoms, but it also provides us with a great environment in which we can exercise.
You should consult your doctor before beginning water exercise. Water exercise is completely safe for most people, with a few exceptions. If youve have suffered serious joint damage or replacement surgery you may be among them. Your doctor will know whats right for you. Also be aware of temperature. Water between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for exercise. Anything over 100 degrees may be relaxing, but can lead to overheating. After youve gotten the doctor go ahead, its time to get started.
The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program exercises can be found in the free brochure “Water Exercise: Pools, Spas and Arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation. Classes are also offered at local pools nationwidecontact your local Arthritis Foundation office for information. The classes are lead by a trained instructor, usually last between 45 minutes to an hour and are scheduled 2 to 3 times a week.
With a doctors guidance, whether at a local pool or at home, a water exercise program is a fun and effective way to combat arthritis and keep joints and muscles healthy.
Many people in this day and age know that the key to a long life is to eat healthy and perform regular exercise. This fact has made gym memberships and home health equipment surge in the last decade. Many people choose the latter due to the fact of ease of use in their own home and not having to deal with gym rats.
There are hundreds of types of exercise equipment on the market, but the most popular are treadmills and exercise bikes. The major problem most people find with at home exercise equipment is overcoming boredom. The only thing that seems to work on boredom on a treadmill is a TV or watching an exercise program.
The same is true on an exercise bike, but some bikes allow you to plug into a TV or video game so that you may visually pedal thru a course. Recumbent bikes allow your hands to be free so that you may use the phone, magazine or book.
Safety on a Treadmill or Bike
If safety is a major concern due to age or injury, obviously the exercise bike is the safest for either. Not only while on a treadmill do you have to worry about a misstep, but also if you have children they can endanger the user or themselves. If a ball or any other item is placed under the deck and belt the treadmill can abruptly stop, or little fingers and hands can be hurt by putting them in places they dont belong.
With treadmills you also have to remember that you are putting much more stress on your joints. With an upright exercise bike users may stress your back while trying to reach handle bars. Recumbent bikes are said to sometimes improve existing back pain by forcing proper posture and giving you support while exercising. Exercising on a bike compared to a treadmill will reduce joint stress and injury.
On average a treadmill will burn more calories per hour than an exercise bike. NordicTrack conducted a study using different types of exercise equipment and they found that all at the same intensity the treadmill and ski machine burned more calories per hour than any other piece of equipment.
If you are interested in losing weight, a treadmill is the way to go! If you are a healthy individual with no joint problems or health problems you can expect to lose about 750 calories per hour on a treadmill compared to 550 calories on a bike. The key to losing weight is thru vigorous activity which a treadmill can allow.
Both exercise bikes and treadmills are wonderful options for anyone interested in losing weight or improving health. The major decision is what you are truly interested in achieving, and if you feel that you will be able to stick with your program long term. Long term success is determined by long term usage, so pick wisely, or even better choose both if your wallet can afford the investment.
The Front Squat:
As you may have already discovered, the squat is at the top of the heap (along with deadlifts) as one of the most effective overall exercises for stimulating body composition changes (muscle gain and fat loss). This is because exercises like squats and deadlifts use more muscle groups under a heavy load than almost any other weight bearing exercises known to man. Hence, these exercises stimulate the greatest hormonal responses (growth hormone, testosterone, etc.) of all exercises. In fact, university research studies have even proven that inclusion of squats into a training program increases upper body development, in addition to lower body development, even though upper body specific joint movements are not performed during the squat. Whether your goal is gaining muscle mass, losing body fat, building a strong and functional body, or improving athletic performance, the basic squat and deadlift (and their variations) are the ultimate solution. If you dont believe me that squats and deadlifts are THE basis for a lean and powerful body, then go ahead and join all of the other overweight people pumping away mindlessly for hours on boring cardio equipment. You wont find long boring cardio in any of my programs!
Squats can be done with any free weighted objects such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even just body weight. Squats should only be done with free weights NEVER with a Smith machine or any other squat machines! Machines do not allow your body to follow natural, biomechanically-correct movement paths. You also perform less work because the machine stabilizes the weight for you. Therefore, you get weaker results!
The type of squat that people are most familiar with is the barbell back squat where the bar is resting on the trapezius muscles of the upper back. Many professional strength coaches believe that front squats (where the bar rests on the shoulders in front of the head) and overhead squats (where the bar is locked out in a snatch grip overhead throughout the squat) are more functional to athletic performance than back squats with less risk of lower back injury. I feel that a combination of all three (not necessarily during the same phase of your workouts) will yield the best results for overall muscular development, body fat loss, and athletic performance.
Front squats are moderately more difficult than back squats, while overhead squats are considerably more difficult than either back squats or front squats. Ill cover overhead squats in a future article. If you are only accustomed to performing back squats, it will take you a few sessions to become comfortable with front squats, so start out light. After a couple sessions of practice, you will start to feel the groove and be able to increase the poundage.
To perform front squats:
The front squat recruits the abdominals to a much higher degree for stability due to the more upright position compared with back squats. It is mostly a lower body exercise, but is great for functionally incorporating core strength and stability into the squatting movement. It can also be slightly difficult to learn how to properly rest the bar on your shoulders. There are two ways to rest the bar on the front of the shoulders. In the first method, you step under the bar and cross your forearms into an X position while resting the bar on the dimple that is created by the shoulder muscle near the bone, keeping your elbows up high so that your upper arms are parallel to the ground. You then hold the bar in place by pressing the thumb side of your fists against the bar for support.
Alternatively, you can hold the bar by placing your palms face up and the bar resting on your fingers against your shoulders. For both methods, your elbows must stay up high to prevent the weight from falling. Your upper arms should stay parallel to the ground throughout the squat. Find out which bar support method is more comfortable for you. Then, initiate the squat from your hips by sitting back and down, keeping the weight on your heels as opposed to the balls of your feet. Squat down to a position where your thighs are approximately parallel to the ground, then press back up to the starting position. Keeping your weight more towards your heels is the key factor in squatting to protect your knees from injury and develop strong injury-resistant knee joints. Keep in mind squats done correctly actually strengthen the knees; squats done incorrectly can damage the knees.
Practice first with an un-weighted bar or a relatively light weight to learn the movement. Most people are surprised how hard this exercise works your abs once you learn the correct form. This is due to the more upright posture compared with back squats. To see photos of proper form on the front squat, visit the link below.