Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 |
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Mahalo for all of the information in your column. I’ve been good about doing cardio, but I know that lifting weights is important too. Can you please give me some basic tips for strength training? There are so many different opinions out there and I’m just not sure what’s right anymore.
– Judy B, Kapa‘a
Training your muscles with resistance is one of the most productive methods for rapidly and radically transforming your physical structure and physiological strength. My Top Ten Training Tricks will help you to maximize the safety and effectiveness of any program that you choose to choose. Let’s start with the first five:
Warm Before Work
Even on your “non-cardio” days, your muscles must be warmed up before you can safely, and most effectively, perform strength training exercises. No matter what, always perform at least a few minutes of sustained whole-body exercise before targeting specific muscles with free weights, resistance machines, or intense calisthenics. Even if you are really tight on time, it is always better to shorten your workout than to shorten your warm-up. Play it safe and start up slowly.
Flex Before Flexibility
Most people think that stretching is a good activity for warming up; however, if you stretch before exercise, you’ll be sorry. Stretching should always be done at the end of your workout, after the blood is pumping and muscles, tendons, and ligaments are warm. You can either stretch each muscle individually, in between exercises, or stretch your entire body at the end. Never stretch a cold, non-pliable muscle; this may actually pose more risk of injury than not stretching at all.
Exhale on Exertion
Never hold your breath during exercise. This is probably the most important safety principle. Holding your breath, with your mouth or throat/glottis closed, can temporarily double or triple your blood pressure. Yikes! As a general rule, breathe out when you feel like you’re exerting pressure (lifting weight and raising resistance); think “blow it up!” Then, breathe normally, in and out, as you release pressure (lowering weight and resisting resistance). If in doubt, breathe out.
Rest is Best
Your body responds to training during rest. Intense training breaks your body apart. Rest allows your body to mend itself back together into a brand new, better you: stronger, faster, leaner, shapelier, and healthier. At the most, you should work a muscle group no more frequently than every few days, and sometimes only once per week when training intensely.
For many people, strength training exercises need to be grouped so that similar muscles are worked on similar days. Not all muscle groups can be isolated, and those that work in tandem have no choice but to contract together. It makes sense that muscles that work together should be worked out together, right? It’s working out the way your body works. Moreover, arranging your workouts according to muscles and their movements assures adequate rest between workouts.
Group 1: Upper Body Push
Group 2: Lower Body Legs
Group 3: Upper Body Pull
Also, on most occasions, exercises should be completed in order from largest to smallest muscles. This allows for most of your energy to be directed toward the larger muscles first, when you have the most energy. It also prevents the smaller muscles (and weakest links) from becoming prematurely fatigued, which decreases the effectiveness of the entire routine.
And what about training abs? Regardless of what you may have seen or heard, my advice is that you always work the abdominal muscles at the end of your workout, since they stabilize the torso while performing other exercises. Even more importantly, lower back muscles should always be worked after the abdominals. Otherwise, if your lower back muscles are prematurely fatigued, and then you work your abs with crunches and twists, the potential of lower back injury increases substantially.
The Spice of Life
With regard to exercise, your body and brain become very familiar, and very bored, very easily. To keep your brain motivated and your body progressing, it is essential you continually tweak your workouts. One of the best things you can do to continually realize results is to not do what you’ve just done.
Did you do push-ups last time? Then do chest press this time. Did you do dumbbell curls this week? Then do machine curls next week. If you continually rotate your muscles’ many motions, your body will get more results from less exercise. Add variety frequently. Physiological and psychological staleness is the beginning of the end, so be sure to add in that specific spice of life — and in good measure.
Stay tuned for the next five next time.
Doug Jones earned his Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland and has served professionals and personalities as a concierge fitness trainer for decades. As a resident of Kaua`i and Connecticut, he has helped millions of people learn the secrets of fitness and fat loss, both online and in person. To submit your questions, or for more information, please visit: www.DougJonesFitness.com
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