Do you even lift, bro?
Strength training plays a key role in overall fitness. It builds muscle, burns fat and boosts your metabolism. It improves your endurance. It strengthens your bones, which can help prevent osteoporosis. It protects your body from injury. It improves mood and cognitive function. Strength training can also prevent a variety of chronic illnesses. Strength training is important in weight loss because it helps retain lean body mass while losing body fat. In addition, pound per pound, muscle burns 3x the amount of calories as fat.
Women: A lot of women don’t strength train, or only do high reps of low weights out of fear of getting bulky. Strength training will not make you look bulky; it will make you look sexy and toned.This is because testosterone is one of the main hormones that is used in muscle building. Women have much less testosterone than men do. If you are close to a healthy weight, then building muscle is a great way to get leaner without having to lose weight. The metabolism boost from muscle will even allow you to eat more. Who doesn’t love the idea of getting leaner and getting to eat more?
A Brief Lesson in Anatomy and Physiology
The musculoskeletal system gives us form, support, stability, and movement to our body. It is made up of bone, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligamants, joints and other connective tissue. There are about 642 skeletal muscles in the human body (there are also cardiac and smooth muscles) which are attached to bones by tendons.
Skeletal muscles are striated muscles which work under the somatic (voluntary) nervous system. Skeletal muscles can be divided into: slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers can be further divided intoType IIa and Type IIx fibers.
Type I: The slow muscles have more mitochondria and a high concentration of myoglobin. This allows them to use oxygen more efficiently to generate more fuel for extended muscle use over a long time. Slow twitch fibers are used in lower intensity endurance workouts such as distance running.
Type II: Fast twitch fibers do not metabolize oxygen well and rely on anaerobic metabolism. The muscle contractions use the same amount of force as slow twitch fibers, but they are able to twitch much more rapidly. This is the kind of muscle exercised during strength training.
- Type IIa uses both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, so it has some endurance properties.
- Type IIx uses only anaerobic metabolism and while it has the highest firing speed, it is the quickest to fatigue.
Our distribution of muscle fibers plays a key role in determining which types of physical activity we will excel in. This is for the most part genetically determined; however evidence suggests that muscle fibers can be converted based on training to a limited extent). While there is a high degree of variation, the average person has about 50% type I fibers, 25% type IIa fibers and 25% type IIx fibers. For example, olympic marathon runners will often have over 90% type I fibers.
Muscular Hypertrophy: Our muscles are constantly being broken down and built back up. When we stress our muscles more intensely than it is used to, it compensates by increasing strength and size to prevent this from happening again. The increase in strength and size of a muscle is a process known as hypertrophy. There are two subtypes of chronic hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic and myofibril. There also is transient hypertrophy which is the increase in fluid in the surrounding area in the hours following exercise.
- Myofibril hypertrophy is the strengthening of the myofibril of the cell. When you stimulate your muscles more than it is used to, it perceives this as an injury. Your body overcompensates for this during the recovery process by increasing the volume and density of the myofibrils to prevent future injury.
- Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in sarcoplasm in the muscle cells. Sarcoplasm is the fluid and energy stores surrounding the myofibril; which includes glycogen and ATP. Your body overcompensates for the unusually high stimulation of muscles by increasing sarcoplasm to increase energy stores and prevent future fatigue.
To initiate hypertrophy, you have to stress your muscles more than they are used to. You have to keep pushing your limits if you want to keep getting stronger (i.e. lift heavy shit).
If you aren’t familiar with strength training, I would recommend using a trainer or taking a class. This will help you learn proper technique and a basic exercise routine. You can also use classes to add variety. Try a kettle bell class, TRX, yoga or anything else you can find.
If you are lifting, you will want to use a weight that you can just barely do about 10 repetitions of. Once that becomes easy for you, move up to the next level. This will also apply to weight machines.
You want to work all muscle groups. Make sure you are working your upper body, lower body and core.
It is important to give your body adequate recovery following your workout. It is best to not work out the same muscle group for 2-3 days. It is also important to eat well, drink plenty water and get enough sleep.
The recommended protein intake for an average American is .36 g/ lb of body weight. However, it is recommended to have about .6 g/lb. of body weight if you are physically active. E.g. if you are active and 150 lbs, you should have 90 g of protein.
You may find yourself wake-up the morning after your workout feeling weak and sore. The soreness peaks a day or two after exercise and is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Almost everyone gets sore when they first start training. This is because your body is not used to that type of exercise or the level of intensity. When you first start training, it is a like a shock to the system. Make sure you allow your body to recover and wait until symptoms go away before you resume training. As you continue to train, you will get sore less and less often.