Pump You Up

March 11, 2010 at 10:30 am 17 comments

Wanna pump some iron?!

Knowing you’re supposed to strength train and knowing why are two different things. Having strong muscles can help protect your joints and prevent injury!

Did you know you start losing muscle due to age as early as 18?! I’m already 6 7 years behind!

Why does this start so early? Well, think about what happened when you were in your early 20s- if you’re like me, you got a desk job. Even the most active people tend to be fairly sedentary during the day. Decreased activity results in muscle loss (remember hearing “if you don’t use it, you lose it”?).

Why is this a problem?

– Decreased strength

– Reduced aerobic capacity (muscles use oxygen!)

– Lower energy needs (meaning you need to eat less to not gain weight)

– Poor response to stress

The good news is muscle is highly responsive to exercise. Muscle loss can be corrected through progressive resistance training (an exercise in which muscle contracts a few times against a heavy load that is progressively increased with training). By lifting properly, muscle can be gained in fewer than 6 weeks, with as little as 30 minutes 2-3 times per week.

Yup, you read that right. 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week. Not so bad is it? Intensity is actually the most important factor to stimulate muscle growth. So what’s recommended? Lifting 60 to 100% of your one rep max (the most you can lift one time). One way to judge if you are lifting enough is to follow this pattern:

Perform 3 sets: Do 8 repetitions for the first 2 sets. For the 3rd set, lift until your muscles fatigue- if you can do more than 12 reps, increase your weight by 5% during your next training session.

It’s also not the amount you lift, but how you lift. There are 2 phases to lifting a weight: the concentric (or lifting) phase and the eccentric (or lowering) phase. When you lift weights, the increase in strength comes from repairing damage to the muscles. Eccentric exercise is what causes muscle damage (and soreness!). While this may sound like a bad thing, it isn’t- muscle breakdown actually encourages new muscle growth, making your muscles stronger and larger. The ideal way to emphasize the eccentric phase would be to lower more weight than you lift, but that would be impossible. Instead, try lowering a weight 3 times longer than you lift it (i.e. lift for 2 seconds, lower for 6). .

(If you’re like me and have trouble counting, just go really slow on the way down and repeat until you can’t anymore. It helps if you have some good tunes going to distract you ;))

Good news- weight lifting is good for weight loss! Studies have shown people lifting weights a couple times a week need to increase their calorie intake to maintain weight. Why? Strength training increases your metabolism (the process of building muscle actually requires energy (aka calories). Also, being stronger makes people naturally increase their activity throughout the rest of the day. (Aerobic exercise, while important and good for you, does not increase metabolic rate.)

The benefits of strength training don’t stop there- it also improves bone strength. Shockingly, the risk of death from a hip fracture equals the risk of death from breast cancer!!! It’s never too late to start lifting weights: A group of 90 year olds increased their strength 200% in 8 weeks!!

To put all of that as simply as possible: increasing muscle mass is like turning a 4 cylinder engine into a V8- more muscle burns more calories.

And remember, when you have a bigger engine, you need more gasbe sure to eat enough, especially protein!

Remember: Lift enough, and lower slowly!

Happy lifting!


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17 Comments Add your own

  • 1. theprocessofhealing  |  March 11, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Wow! Love love this post!!!! Strength training is SO DARN good for you and so often neglected. thanks for the tips! I’m about to do some strength training so this was right on time 😉

  • 2. Maria  |  March 11, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Great post. I LOVE strength training. I go to Body Pump three times a week and it is so fun and good for me too:)

  • 3. Heather  |  March 11, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Weight lifting is something I rarely do. I really wish I did but it doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

    I need to make it a habit though – any suggestions of how to do that?

    I also don’t belong to a gym… 😦

  • 4. Anna  |  March 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Great tips…I definitely need to work on developing a more consistent strength training schedule…I usually lift really consistenly for two or three weeks, but then I’ll forget all about it for a week! lol.

  • 5. Kelly  |  March 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    You are so right, strength training is SO important and yet- can be so hard to motivate myself to do 🙂
    My biggest problem is that I always want to eat a TON more after I lift. I know lifting burns more calories, but probably not enough for the ice cream and box of Cheerios I eat after haha. I’ve ever tried to get better about healthy protein snacks/meals after but even then, I’m still starving!

  • 6. marathonmaiden  |  March 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    good tips. i tell myself this stuff every time i want to skip a lifting session. which is quite often 🙂

  • 7. kalli@fitandfortysomething  |  March 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    oh i know…..i should start strength training-it is so good for you!

  • 8. Kelly  |  March 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I can’t make myself lift weights on my own…enter body pump! My lifesaver when it comes to weight lifting!

  • 9. The Candid RD  |  March 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I look forward to continue reading yours, great information!

  • 10. Teacherwoman  |  March 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I love strength training. I have really noticed a difference with my running, biking, and swimming now that I do more work with weights!

  • 11. Lisa (bakebikeblog)  |  March 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    What a great post! Now that the weather here is starting to turn cool I am definitely planning on getting to the gym for some strength training 🙂

  • 12. John  |  March 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Different blogger different but great post on strength training and I’m still putting it off. Soon though I will 😦

  • 13. SMITHBITES  |  March 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    oh lord – you’re the accountability person!!! like the others, i know i should be strength training but just haven’t made the commitment to do so . . . me thinks now is the time!

  • 14. Leslie @ Chomp  |  March 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    thanks for this! i lift 3-4 times a week. i hardly do cardio. haha but as i can see from most of the responses, i’m in the minority!

  • 15. RunToTheFinish  |  March 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    oh this was a great post to keep me on my lifting routine and pushing it harder…cause I would love to lose this last couple % BF!

  • 16. Lacey  |  March 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    yeah it’s so easy to forget we lose muscle and then suddenly we’ll wake up when we’re old and be like darrrrn i’m weak 🙂 the time is now, for sure!!!

  • 17. Sophie  |  March 12, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I have been trying to get into strength training more, but besides taking a class I can’t get myself to do it well/right on my own. Do you have a weight lifting routine that you suggest?


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Welcome! This blog is all about food & fitness, and trying to find balance after an injury. Read along as I train for a half-marathon, triathlon, & have FUN while staying healthy!

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