Pump You Up
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 gas– be sure to eat enough, especially protein!
Remember: Lift enough, and lower slowly!