by Jamie Page, CPT and Fitness Program Manager
During this time of year, a lot of our new and current members have, as a primary goal, to lose weight or to get fit. As a personal trainer and the fitness program manager for Pacific Heights Health Club, I am always looking for ways to help members get the results they’re looking for and create a healthy lifestyle, which, of course, includes working out in a safe and effective manner.
In last week’s article, we reviewed the essential components of a complete fitness program, which are:
- Core Stability
- Strength Training
- Cardiovascular Training
We all know that whatever you do in the club is better than sitting on the couch at home with a bag of potato chips and a can of Diet Coke. When it comes to getting in shape or losing weight, cardio clearly gets the most attention – whether it’s using the treadmill or attending classes like H.I.I.T. and Cardio Core.
But let me just share with you some of the benefits of including a structured strength training program during your visits to the club.
Exercise vs Training
Strength exercises use resistance to cause muscular contractions. This is done to increase muscle size, strength, force and anaerobic capacity. With training, the exercises are performed for the purpose of achieving a long-term performance goal – it’s about the process instead of the workouts themselves.
Training may be the most effective way to get the results that most people use exercise to obtain, especially if that goal is more than just maintenance.
For example, a plan that continually increases your strength and your endurance, and that also controls your diet with the specific purpose of losing weight will work better than just doing the same exercises over and over again, with the same amount of weight on the same days of the week. Your goal is now being prepared for, not simply wished for, and that’s why we have personal training programs.
Looking for more reasons? How about these?
When I ask folks to clarify if they wish to lose weight or lose fat, losing fat is the #1 answer. Strength or weight training increases muscle, which changes our body composition by increasing the percentage of lean body mass to fat. Muscle is also the most metabolically active tissue we have and one of our primary calorie burners. And more muscle means a higher resting metabolic rate, so you’re burning calories even while you’re sitting on the sofa.
A fact of life: Muscle mass diminishes as we age. And if we do nothing….guess what? We’ll increase the percentage of fat in our bodies. The good new is weight training can affect this loss and preserve muscle tissue. At any age, a muscle fiber can be trained to become bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful.
Lifting weights not only strengthens muscles, but it also makes your joints more stable and impact resistant. That means better balance, coordination and less chance of injury or falling. You’ll be able to handle any unexpected or surprise movements with no problem.
Want to prevent osteoporosis? Pick up a couple of dumbbells and do some basic lifts – press them over your head, squat while holding them at the top of a bicep curl, bend over with a flat back and row them towards you. These are just a few examples of all of the ways you can play. It’s been proven that proper resistance training has a direct impact on improving bone strength.
Unlike cardiovascular exercise, which is excellent at building endurance in a muscle, weight training will make a muscle stronger and more powerful. Now the world around you will be getting lighter, instead of heavier. Not to mention that you’ll probably have better posture while you’re doing it. Seriously. Lifting weights will encourage your entire body to stand taller, straighter and in its natural alignment.
And finally, an intangible. I promise you that if you do some type of strength training, whether it be with free weights, resistance bands, cables or even your own body weight, you’re going to feel amazing. You’ll feel more confident and powerful, less fatigued and ready to overcome the challenges of your day. It’s just the way it goes. The impact of lifting goes far beyond the physical benefits. What you’re thinking about while you lift and what’s happening in your mind will have a lasting effect on your spirit, attitude and mental capacity. The mind/body connection is alive and well.
And Then There’s Proper Form
Now that you’re convinced and ready to start strength training, there’s one caveat I have to add. It’s using proper form
To reap all the benefits of strength training to keep us moving and fit, we need to use proper form. Preventing injury is one of the most important reasons to maintain proper form during weight lifting exercises. When the body is misaligned, whether with body weight or heavy weights, it can place your tendons, muscles and joints in positions that can potentially cause strains or tears. Of course, if you have past injuries, diseases or other factors that should be taken into account, proper form with some modifications is even more important to avoid exacerbating or re-injury.
Correct muscle targeting is another important reason to make sure you’re using proper form. With improper form, you not only risk causing injury to the intended muscle that you are trying to work, you may also strain areas in the body that you weren’t even intending to work.
Lastly, proper form also means proper breathing techniques during weight training exercises. This helps to generate more force and reduce the chance of heart problems and drastic changes in blood pressure.
I understand that we do what we’re used to and stick with what we know. We’re creatures of habit. Any physical activity is better than doing nothing at all, and I’ll always encourage you to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments in the club.
However, it’s important to look at what you’re currently doing and shake it up. Change up your routine. It’s the only way to keep our bodies challenged, growing and stronger than they’ve ever been. Need more ideas? Just connect with me or one of the trainers in the club. We’ve got some of the best trainers in San Francisco right here under our awesome skyroof. I promise.
Stay tuned. Next time, I’ll focus on the benefits of workout partners, and more specifically, small group training.