Press-Republican

February 5, 2013

Strength training not just for bodybuilders

By JOHN VASILE, Fit Bits
Press-Republican

---- — In hopes of losing weight and increasing fitness, many people frequent the gym and jump on their favorite cardio machine. 

Often, though, people fail to realize that resistance training is crucial for body-fat reduction and preventing chronic diseases. A well-balanced workout program involving both cardiovascular and resistance training is necessary for optimizing weight management and good health.

According to the American Sports Medicine Institute, resistance training uses any resistance to the force of muscular contraction, also known as strength training. The overall goal of this type of training is to gradually and progressively overload muscles so strength is produced over time. Examples of upper-body exercises include bench press, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, shoulder presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions. Lower-body exercises include squats, leg press, lunges, calf raises and hip adduction or abduction movements. Core exercises, which are vital for spinal stability, involve crunches, sit-ups, planks and oblique-abdominal movements.

There are many benefits to resistance training besides gaining strength. According to researchers, resistance training lowers cortisol — a stress-induced hormone that retains fat — and increases the release of anti-aging hormones such as growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA and progesterone in females. Participants also have a higher rate of calorie burn for hours after strength training. This occurs because the body undergoes stress that involves muscle breakdown and rebuilding, which requires energy. 

Resistance training is shown to significantly increase both resting metabolic rate and sleep metabolic rate. Along with these changes, studies also point toward a greater reliance on fat as a fuel source. This is one of the ways resistance training can positively affect body composition. This type of exercise reduces body-fat percentage and increases fat-free mass, or lean muscle.

As a result, with a dedicated resistance-training workout program, an individual can build muscle tone. Muscle tone is the result of the creation of fast-twitch muscle fibers acquired from repeated anaerobic activity. Olympic sprinters, for example, possess these types of muscle fibers. In contrast, aerobic-exercise advocates such as marathon runners possess slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Another important effect of resistance training on the body is the strengthening of connective tissue and bone. As repeated stress is placed on the body, these connective tissues will remodel themselves in order to support the additional force and will, in turn, become stronger. Connective tissues include tendons, ligaments and bone. This is especially crucial for aging women with increasing risk of osteoporosis. Strength training should be encouraged for females earlier in life so that their bone density will increase over time. With greater bone density, chances of bone fracture due to osteoporosis will decrease. 

Benefits are not limited to just bone health, however. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training, when combined with aerobic activity and proper nutrition, can reduce chronic-disease risks such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.

When considering a strength-training program, it’s important to check with your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you to participate in a resistance-training exercise regimen. It is imperative to focus on proper form and technique to avoid injury and maximize gains. In 2011, the American College of Sports Medicine released documents on physical activity and health for adults. The report suggested that healthy adults participate in resistance exercise that addresses major muscle groups as well as flexibility, coordination and balance two to three days per week. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is also encouraged for at least 30 minutes per day on at least five days per week.

If you haven’t already done so, consider integrating resistance training into your workout schedule. Remember the best workout regimen is a well-rounded program that includes cardio, strength training and flexibility.

John Vasile, NSCA, holds a bachelor’s degree and is a certified personal trainer at the Wellness Center at PARC, located at 295 New York Road (next to ARC) in Plattsburgh. For more information, call him at 324-2024.

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COLUMNIST'S NOTE

I would just like to thank Ted Santaniello and the Press-Republican for giving me the opportunity to continue the Fit Bits column.

Ted has not only been a good friend, but also my mentor while working together at the Wellness Center at PARC, and I look forward to following in his footsteps with this article.

To the readers, thank you for your continued support through this transition. I am excited to explore many fitness issues while maintaining your interest in the fitness field, just as Ted has done over the years.