Twelve Reasons Every Adult Should Do Strength Exercise

During the past few years more and more studies have shown that sensible strength training produces many health and fitness benefits. Key researchers, such as Dr. William Evans and Dr. Ben Hurley, have provided a wealth of data on the positive physiological responses to basic programs of strength exercise. Based on presently available research, consider the following 12 reasons why every adult should perform regular strength exercise.

Benefit One: Avoid Muscle Loss
Adults who do not strength train lose between 5-7 pounds of muscle every decade (Forbes 1976, Evans and Rosenberg 1992). Although endurance exercise improves our cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent the loss of muscle tissue. Only strength exercise maintains our muscle mass and strength throughout our mid-life years.

Benefit Two: Avoid Metabolic Rate Reduction
Because muscle is very active tissue, muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in our resting metabolism. Information from Keyes et al. (1973) and Evans and Rosenberg (1992) indicates that the average adult experiences a 2-5 percent reduction in metabolic rate every decade of life. Because regular strength exercise prevents muscle loss it also prevents the accompanying decrease in resting metabolic rate.

Benefit Three: Increase Muscle Mass
Because most adults do not perform strength exercise, they need to first replace the muscle tissue that has been lost through inactivity. Fortunately, research (Westcott 1995) shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 3 pounds over an Week training period. This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength exercise, 3 days per week, and represents an excellent return on a time-efflcient investment.

Benefit Four: Increased Metabolic Rate
Research reveals that adding 3 pounds of muscle increases our resting metabolic rate by 7 percent, and our daily calorie requirements by 15 percent (Campbell et al. 1994). At rest, a pound of muscle requires about 35 calories per day for tissue maintenance, and during exercise muscle energy utilization increases dramatically. Adults who replace muscle through sensible strength exercise use more calories all day long, thereby reducing the likelihood of fat accumulation.

Benefit Five: Reduce Body Fat
Campbell and his co-workers (1994) found that strength exercise produced 4 pounds of fat loss after 3 months of training, even though the subjects were eating 15 percent more calories per day. That is, a basic strength training program resulted in 3 pounds more lean weight, 4 pounds less fat weight, and 370 more calories per day food intake.

Benefit Six: Increase Bone Mineral Density
The effects of progressive resistance exercise are similar for muscle tissue and bone tissue. The same training stimulus that increases muscle myoproteins also increases bone osteoproteins and mineral content. Menkes (1993) has demonstrated significant increases in the bone mineral density of the upper femur after 4 months of strength exercise.

Benefit Seven: Improve Glucose Metabolism
Hurley (1994) has reported a 23 percent increase in glucose uptake after 4 months of strength training. Because poor glucose metabolism is associated with adult onset diabetes, improved glucose metabolism is an important benefit of regular strength exercise.

Benefit Eight: Increase speed of Gastrointestinal Transit Time
A study by Koffler (1992) showed a 56 percent increase in gastrointestinal transit time after 3 months of strength training. This is a significant finding due to the fact that delayed gastrointestinal transit time is related to a higher risk of colon cancer.

Benefit Nine: Reduce Resting Blood Pressure
Strength training alone has been shown to significantly reduce resting blood pressure (Harris and Holly 1987). Another study (Westcott 1995) has revealed that strength plus aerobic exercise is also effective for improving blood pressure readings. After 2 months of combined exercise, the program participants dropped their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg.

Benefit Ten: Improved Blood Lipid Levels
Although the effects of strength training on blood lipid levels needs further research, at least 2 studies (Stone et al. 1982, Hurley et al. 1988) have revealed improved blood lipid profiles after several weeks of strength exercise. It is important to note that improvements in blood lipid levels are similar for both endurance and strength exercise (Hurley 1994).

Benefit Eleven: Reduce Low Back Pain
Several years of research on strength training and back pain conducted at the University of Florida Medical School has shown that strong low-back muscles are less likely to be injured low-back muscles. A recent study by Risch (1993) found that low-back patients had significantly less back pain after 10 weeks of specific (full-range) strength exercise for the lumbar spine muscles. Because 80 percent of all Americans experience low back problems, it is advisable for all adults to properly strengthen their low back muscles.

Benefit Twelve: Reduce Arthritic Pain
According to a recent edition of the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter (1994), sensible strength training eases the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is good news, because most men and women who suffer from arthritis pain need strength exercise to develop stronger muscles, bones, and connective tissue.

There are 12 physiological reasons to perform regular strength exercise. On a more basic level, it is important to understand that proper strength training may help us to look better, feel better, and function better. Remember that our skeletal muscles serve as the engine, chassis, and shock absorbers of our bodies. Consequently, strength training is an effective means for increasing our physical capacity, improving our athletic performance, reducing our injury risk, enhancing our personal appearance, and improving our selfconfidence. Everyone can benefit from a sensible program of strength exercise.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to Dr Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., for compiling this weeks research information, and for his continued work in strength and Fitness Research.


Product Spotlight: BODY BY SCIENCE


This week I would like to highlight another excellent book covering evidence based exercise methodolgies. Body By Science, written by Doug Mc Guff and John Little, is one of best books I have ennountered for explaining the theory and reasoning behind Brief, Intense, and Infrequent training. This book is well written, informative, and goes into detail about the science behind the authors recommendations, as well as detailing exactly what to do and how to do it.

To order your copy of Body By Science please click here: Body by Science

Body by Science is not a book of “opinions,” but rather a review of peer-reviewed scientific literature and a discussion of the basic science that accounts for the literature’s findings regarding the role of exercise in human development, performance and longevity. And, for the first time ever, every point and recommendation is supported by the appropriate reference from the medical/scientific literature, all of which are referenced in the book. Body By Science is a book that will serve as the “standard” in the field for accurate, honest, verifiable exercise. A legitimate “must have” for anyone who takes both their time and their fitness goals seriously.


Body by Science challenges everything you thought you knew about exercise and takes you deep inside your body’s inner workings–all the way down to the single cell–to explain what science now knows about the role of exercise in human health. With the help of medical diagrams and step-by-step photos, exercise scientist Doug McGuff, M.D., and weight-training pioneer John Little present a revolutionary new workout protocol that fully leverages the positive effects of high-intensity, low-frequency weight training, while avoiding the negative effects of traditional aerobic-centric exercise.

By using a proper science-based approach to exercise you can be on your way to achieving the following in as little as 12 minutes a week:

  • Build muscle size and strength
  • Optimize cardiovascular health
  • Ramp up your metabolism
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Improve flexibility
  • Manage arthritis and chronic back pain
  • Build bone density
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes, cancer, heart attack, and more.

TAKU’s NOTE: Over the last year or two I have perosonally experimented with this style of training with myself, and my clients. I find it to be both extremely effcient, and highly effective. Many of my clients are experiencing excellent results in both strength and fitness, while participating in only one or two very brief workouts per week. For more information about this type of training visit the BODY BY SCIENCE home page.


This week I offer another brief, intense, efficient strength training program.

It’s called the “DOUBLE EIGHT”.

This workout was created by Dr Wayne Westcott. It is a combination of classic Arthur Jones style H.I.T. training, paired with the equally classic Delorme Watkins protocol.

The Double-Eight Program is based on the subject’s eight-repetition maximum (8RM) weight-load, which is typically completed with approximately 80 percent of maximum weight-load. Each exercise repetition is performed in about six seconds (a two-second lifting phase and a four-second lowering phase), through a relatively full range of joint movement.

Set one. The first set begins with eight repetitions at 50 percent of the 8RM weight-load, Although this is a relatively light warm-up set, it activates the neuromuscular system in preparation for a relatively heavy follow-up set. Due to the low effort required for the first set, lifters rest only 60 seconds before performing the second set.

Set two. The second set is performed with the 8RM weight-load, and lifters perform as many repetitions as possible. Exercisers almost always complete more repetitions with their 8RM weight-load when they first perform a preparatory set with 50 percent of their 8RM weight-load. The time requirement for the light exercise set (50 seconds), recovery period (60 seconds) and heavy exercise set (50 to 60 seconds) is less than three minutes. If lifters complete eight multi-muscle exercises per workout, the total training time (including a one-minute recovery between exercises) is about 30 minutes.

Progression. To enhance performance improvement, exercisers can increase the 8RM weight-load whenever nine repetitions can be completed in good form. To emphasize gradual progression, they generally add only 2.5 to 5 pounds of resistance to the previous weight-load. In many cases, our participants increase their exercise weight-loads every training session.

Frequency. Although brief, the Double-Eight Program is so physically demanding that our participants only perform two workouts per week (typically Mondays and Fridays). This provides ample time for muscle recovery and remodeling, and reduces the risk of overtraining.

Exercises. For our program, we prefer a push-pull routine, pairing opposing muscle groups on successive exercises. Our standard eight-exercise program is presented in Table 1. As you will note, these are all multi-joint exercises that involve several major muscle groups.

Summary and application

The Double-Eight Program is a basic and brief strength-training protocol that features a low-effort preparatory set with 50 percent of the 8RM weight-load, followed by a high-effort stimulus set with the 8RM weight-load. We recommend a 60-second recovery period between the successive sets, as well as between the different exercises. We have had excellent results with this structured and supervised 30-minute high-intensity training program.

Our participants’ favorable response to the Double-Eight Program may be related to the following factors:

l. A limited number of exercises, each of which involve several major muscle groups.

2. An alternating sequence of pushing and pulling exercises.

3. Neuromuscular facilitation of the prime-mover muscles, resulting from the preparatory, low-effort exercise set.

4. A focus on one high-effort set of each exercise.

5. One-one-one training sessions with encouraging instructors.

Table 1. Strength-Training Programs for Advanced Exercisers

Leg press / Squat Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus   maximus 8 reps. with 50% 8 RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weight-load
Dip Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 reps. with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weigh=tload
Chin-up Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps.with 8 RM weight-load
Chest press Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weigh-tload
Seated row Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps.with 8 RM weight=load
OH Press Deltoids, upper trapezius, triceps 8 reps.with 50%8RM weight-load 8 reps. with 8 RM weight=load
Pull-down Latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids,   biceps 8 easy reps with assistance 8 hard reps
Incline Press Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids,   triceps 8 easy reps with assistance 8 hard reps.

Give the DOUBLE EIGHT a try. You’ll be glad you did.