Gym-goers seem to come in two major varieties. Those who love to lift weights or strength train, and those who love to do “cardio”.
There are many who do both activities but for the most part, they fall into one of the above-mentioned camps. They begrudgingly partake in the other activity because they heard somewhere it was important or because they know it helps even though they do not really like it.
Most of us know that strength training is an important part of a total fitness program but many are still not sure what it may or may not do for them. Is it that important for me to do those stupid weights if I am doing my cardio religiously?
It is not just important; it is the most important type of exercise you can do. Strength is the foundation of function. Without strength, we are unable to perform the most basic tasks of daily life. A properly constructed strength training routine can give you most if not all of the benefits of all other aspects of a total fitness plan combined. When done correctly, strength training can improve posture, increase flexibility, increase bone density, improve cardio-vascular capacity as well as enhance our sports performance, make us more resistant to injury and of course make us look better (clothed or otherwise). If you think walking on the treadmill can do all that, you are sadly mistaken.
For those who already have embraced the benefits of strength training, keep up the good work! For the rest of you, here are answers to some of the questions most frequently asked of trainers.
Q: How will strength training change my appearance?
A: Strength training affects body composition in two ways. First, strength training increases muscle tissue by enlarging individual muscle fibers. Second, strength training decreases body fat by burning extra calories both during the exercises session and during rest. This occurs because more muscle tissue means that more energy is burned in the process of tissue maintenance and repair. The result of more muscle and less fat is a more firm, fit, and trim appearance.
Q: How much muscle will I gain?
A: Although the amount of muscle tissue gained varies among individuals, the average beginner adds 1-3 pounds of muscle after 8 weeks of regular strength training. Do not try to compare yourself with others, however, because everyone develops muscular strength at a different rate due to inherent physiological and biomechanical factors.
Q: How much fat will I lose?
A: Your diet is the most important factor in losing weight. Over fat people who follow a balanced diet typically, lose 10-12 pounds of fat after 8 weeks of regular strength training.
Q: What should I eat?
A: This answer could be a whole article in and of itself. However, this is not a nutrition article so I will stick to the basics. You should eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats and “friendly” fat sources such as raw nuts and seeds, flax oil and cold-water fish. The calories should be enough to support your current goals, which may include losing fat, gaining muscle or maintaining your current weight.
Q: Do I need extra protein, vitamins or minerals?
A: Again, this is not a nutrition article. For the most part supplements are, supplemental. They should be added and experimented with only after one has worked out all the kinks of their basic exercise and nutrition plan. Unless your doctor prescribes particular nutritional supplements, you probably do not require extra protein vitamins or minerals. a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats and “friendly” fat sources such as raw nuts and seeds, flax oil and cold-water fish normally provides more then enough nutrients for an exercising individual. If you have difficulty eating a balanced diet, you may benefit from a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.
Q: Do I need extra sleep?
A: Sleep requirements vary considerably from individual to individual. However, a person involved in regular strength training should not wake up feeling tired. Most exercising adults should obtain 7-8 hours sleep per night, and exercising children should obtain 8-9 hours sleep per night.
Q: How fast will I progress?
A: Research indicates that beginners typically increase their strength performance by about 50 percent during the first few weeks of training. Although part of this improvement is due to learning factors, adults often add 1-3 pounds of new muscle tissue during their first two months of strength training. This results in greater strength, more energy utilization and a more firm and fit appearance that should be obvious to you and others after 4-8 weeks of training.
Q: Does my age make a difference in how fast I progress?
A: Age does not reduce the training effects, but the results come more slowly in older individuals. Regardless of your age, you can improve your muscle strength through proper strength training.
Q: Does my sex make a difference in how fast I progress?
A: Males and females respond in the same manner to sensible strength training. Although due to genetic and hormonal differences men are generally larger and stronger then women, the rate of strength gain is essentially the same.
Q: Does equipment make a difference in how fast I progress?
A: Although equipment can make a difference in strength development, how the equipment is utilized is much more important. Free weights, cable based equipment and Nautilus machines are all effective when used properly. Proper muscular over load, progressive resistance, stress intensification and personal motivation are the keys to strength improvement regardless of the equipment used.
Q: Does supervision make a difference in how fast I progress?
A: Supervision can make a big difference in both the process and the product of your strength training. Most people perform much better with instructors who have a sound knowledge of strength fitness, good teaching skills, and high levels of enthusiasm. Make every effort to find a strength-training instructor / Personal trainer who exhibits these qualities.
As you continue with your current strength-training program or begin to experiment with strength training for the first time, you may find additional questions come up as you become more knowledgeable and skilled. To help you find answers to more technical questions or learn more about advanced overload techniques check out other articles in our strength library.
Weather you may decide to get seriously involved in advanced strength training or may just work out regularly for fitness; either way we hope that strength training becomes an enjoyable part of your life.
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