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    Time Out – Strength Training Misconceptions



    Since Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his first Aerobics book in 1968, there has been a strong emphasis on physical fitness in the United States. We’ve experienced the running revolution of the 1970s, the aerobic dance movement of the ‘80s, and the strength-training boom of the ‘90s. Today, most people are aware that exercise is good for their health and is an effective means of preventive medicine.

    It is therefore hard to understand why so few people regularly participate in an exercise program. According to the United States Public Health Service Centers for Disease Control, less than 10 percent of all Americans perform enough physical activity to attain any measurable fitness benefits. Most of those who do exercise consistently are walkers and joggers, leaving less than 5 percent of the general public who do strength training.

    Strength-Training Misconceptions

    There are numerous reasons why people avoid strength training – almost all of them myths. Some don’t do it because they have heard that it may increase their blood pressure. Fortunately, this is not true. Although every adult should have his or her doctor’s approval before starting a strength program, research reveals that properly performed strength exercise is similar to aerobic activity in terms of blood pressure response. 

    That is, systolic pressure increases about 35 to 50 percent during exercise and returns quickly to resting levels after the session.  More important, studies show that several weeks of strength training result in significant reductions in resting blood pressure.

    In a study I conducted and completed this year, 785 men and women who participated in a two-month program of strength and endurance exercise experienced an average 4 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a mm Hg decrease in diastolic blood pressure. Sensible strength training, by itself or in combination with endurance exercise, has beneficial effects on resting blood pressure.

    Fear of increasing body weight is another reason many adults avoid strength exercise. They mistakenly believe that weight training is synonymous with weight gain. It is true that strength training adds muscle, but this is actually the best way to lose fat. 

    In fact, strength exercise has a threefold impact on fat reduction. First, it increases calorie use during each training session. Second, it increases calorie use for several hours following exercise due to the afterburn effect. Third, it increases calorie use all day by adding new muscle tissue. This is because every pound of new muscle uses about 35 calories each day just for tissue maintenance.

    Of course, there are a variety of health-related reasons to do strength exercise. These include increased bone density, improved glucose metabolism, faster gastrointestinal transit, better blood lipid levels, reduced low back pain, and less arthritic discomfort.

    Perhaps the most prevalent misunderstanding about strength training, particularly for those who would like to do it, is the time requirement. Many adults simply do not have time to do the multiple-set workouts they have been told are necessary for strength development. Fortunately, time-efficient, single-set training can be just as productive as time-consuming multiple-set training when performed properly.

    Basic and Brief Strength Exercise

    During the past five years we have made careful pre-and post-training assessments of the 1,132 participants in our basic exercise program. These classes meet two or three days a week, one hour per session, with 25 minutes of strength exercise (11 Nautilus machines) and 25 minutes of aerobic activity (treadmill walking or stationary cycling).

    The basic exercise program is two months long, which seems to be an ideal introductory period for previously sedentary adults. Over 90 percent of the participants rate their exercise class as highly satisfying, and about 80 percent join the YMCA after completing the program. In other words, the eight-week training period is sufficient to turn many inactive women and men into regular exercisers.

    One reason for the positive lifestyle change is the excellent results attained by the program participants. As shown in Table 1, the 383 men lost 6.4 pounds of fat weight and gained 3.7 pounds of lean (muscle) weight for a 10-pound improvement in body composition, and 749 women lost 3.4 pounds of fat weight and gained 1.7 pounds of lean weight for a 5-pound improvement in body composition.  At the same time, the men reduced their average resting blood pressure by 4.5 mm Hg, and the women reduced their average resting blood pressure by 3.1 mm Hg.

    Another finding is that the younger (ages 21-40), middle (41-60), and older (61-80) adults all attained similar improvements in body composition and resting blood pressure. Just as important, those who began the program in the poorest shape (with the highest percentage of body fat) experienced the most fat loss and lean (muscle) gain.  That is, the adults who had the greatest fitness needs made the greatest improvements.

    A practical reason for the success of the basic exercise program is the time-efficient training requirements. The participants did only 25 minutes of strength exercise and 25 minutes of aerobic activity each training session.  Even more helpful for many time-pressured adults, only two workouts a week were necessary for excellent results. As shown in Figure 1, the two-day and three-day exercisers made similar improvements in body composition and resting blood pressure after eight weeks of training.

    In addition to an effective and efficient training program, most beginning exercisers appreciate small classes and attentive instructors. We conduct all of  our classes in a separate exercise area, with six members and two instructors per class. This closely supervised setting facilitates the training process and produces an 85 percent compliance rate among program participants.

    We have found that most adults can make time for a well-designed exercise program that takes a sensible and systematic approach to strength training.  When the proper exercise principles are applied, excellent results can be achieved in just two 25-minute strength workouts per week.

    The Strength-Training Program


    The excellent results attained by the 1,132 research program participants required only 25 minutes of strength exercise, two or three days per week.  The recommended strength-training protocol, based on the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, is as follows:

    Training Frequency

    The standard recommendation of three nonconsecutive days per week is sound, and should be followed whenever possible. However, in a large training study I completed this year, the 416 subjects who strength-trained twice a week achieved almost 90 percent as much strength and muscle gain as the 716 subjects who did strength workouts three days a week. 

    For people who have a hard time getting to the gym three times a week, it is good to know that two strength workouts per week produce nearly as much training benefit.

    Training Sets

    Two separate studies have found that one-set training and three-set training are equally effective for increasing upper-and lower-body strength.  If training time is limited, it is good to know that single-set strength exercise is just as productive as multiple-set workouts.

    Training Resistance

    The exercise resistance should be high enough to produce a high rate of strength development and low enough to pose a low risk of injury.  Empirical evidence clearly indicates that using 75 percent of maximum resistance meets both of these training criteria.

    Training Repetitions

    Research indicates that most people can complete eight to 12 controlled repetitions with 75 percent of their maximum resistance. Generally speaking, if you cannot perform at least eight repetitions the resistance may be too heavy, and if you can complete more than 12 repetitions the resistance may be too light.  Working within the eight to 12 repetition range is recommended for safe and effective muscle development.

    Training Progression

    Every strength-training program needs a protocol for progressing to heavier workloads. While it is important to increase the exercise resistance periodically, it is equally important to do so gradually.  A safe and productive progression is known as the 12 by 5 rule.

    That is, whenever you can complete 12 repetitions of an exercise in good form, you increase the resistance by 5 percent or less. The 12 by 5 procedure adds small but frequent weightload increments to progressively stress the muscular system.

    Training Speed

    Unfortunately, there is little consensus on the best training speed for strength development. Our research indicates, however, that slow movement may be preferred over fast movement, because a slow speed produces less momentum and more muscle tension. 

    At six seconds each, eight to 12 repetitions require about 50 to 70 seconds of continuous muscle effort, which provides an excellent anaerobic stimulus for muscle building.  We have obtained consistently good results training with six-second repetitions, taking two seconds for the harder lifting movement and four seconds for the easier lowering movements.

    Training Range

    Full-range muscle strength is best developed through full-range exercise movements. In other words, the training effect is greatest within the exercised portion of the joint movement range.  Full-range strength reduces injury risk and increases performance potential.  Try to perform each repetition through a full range of movement, but never to a position of discomfort.

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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    Strength Training For Youth Fitness



    Most people are aware that North American boys and girls are experiencing epidemic levels of obesity, and that this problem is in large part associated with physical inactivity. However, the standard recommendations for more aerobic exercise and less high-calorie food intake may not be the best advice for overweight and underactive children.

    Although we are not qualified to discuss youth nutrition/dieting, we have observed that very few boys and girls choose to spend 20 to 30 minutes in continuous endurance exercise regardless of the benefits or incentives to do so. On the other hand, children typically play hard or run fast for 30 to 60 seconds, rest a minute or two, then repeat their performance, alternating brief bouts of vigorous exercise with longer recovery periods.

    Benefits of Strength Exercise for Children

    Ideally, children should have access to exercise programs that meet their physiological needs and match their personal activity patterns. Fortunately, it is possible to provide such an exercise program, and the beneficial effects exceed most people’s expectations. The activity is sensible strength training and the following list presents 10 reasons for boys and girls to perform regular resistance exercise.

    1. Stronger muscles
    2. Stronger bones
    3. Stronger tendons
    4. Stronger ligaments
    5. more muscle
    6. Less fat
    7. Higher metabolism
    8. Greater physical capacity
    9. Greater self-confidence
    10. Lower ijury risk

    Strength training not only offers many advantages over other types of exercise, it fits the youth activity preference alternating brief bouts of high-effort movement with longer periods of rest/recovery. Strength training also provides visual reinforcement to the exerciser, showing how much weight is being lifted and how much progress has been made. 

    One of the best features of strength training is the success experienced by overweight boys and girls. Because weight lifted is positively related to bodyweight, heavier children typically train with heavier weightloads than their lighter peers. Unlike most athletic activities in which extra bodyweight is undesirable (e.g., running, jumping, soccer, basketball), strength training actually favors larger youth and gives them a much needed sense of physical achievement.

    Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that strength training is an inappropriate and unsafe activity for youth. Conceptually, this does not make sense.  If strength training is safe and effective for frail elderly, how much more so for healthy young people who have full movement capacity and plenty of energy. 

    Indeed, there has never been a reported serious injury in any prospective study on youth strength training. To the contrary, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (l993), 50 percent of preadolescent sports injuries could be prevented in large part by youth strength and conditioning programs. We have conducted regular strength training classes for 6 to 12 years old for the past 17 years without an injury.

    You may have heard that strength training is detrimental to bone development in children, but this misconception has never been demonstrated.  On the contrary, strength training has been shown to enhance bone development. In a 10-month study with 9 to 10 year old girls, those who did strength and aerobic exercise increased their bone mineral density by about 6.2 percent, compared to about 1.4 percent for those who did not strength train (Morris et al. 1977).

    You may have also heard that calisthenics exercises are safer for children than strength training. This is also untrue. Most children, and especially those who are under-fit and over-fat, cannot complete a single pull-up, bar-dip or push-up, making these calisthenics maximum-effort exercises that result in failure.  However, when using resistance equipment, the weightload can be adjusted as necessary for each child to perform 10 to 15 controlled repetitions of every exercise.

    Finally, some question whether children can gain strength and enhance muscular development due to low levels of testosterone. However, if this were true, then women and elderly individuals would also be unresponsive to strength training, and this is clearly untrue.  In fact, studies have revealed significant increases in muscle strength and mass in preadolescent boys and girls (Faigenbaum et al. 1993, Morris et al. 1997, Pikosky at al. 2002, Westcott et al. 1995), and these strength training effects are relatively long-lasting (Faigenbaum et al. 1996).

    Youth Strength Training Guidelines

    Although there are certain similarities between optimal strength training protocols for adults and children, we have discovered some notable differences, especially in the area of sets and repetitions.

    Training Sets

    Our best research results were obtained using the DeLorme-Watkins strength training protocol in which the first exercise set is performed for 10 repetitions with 50 percent of the 10 repetition-maximum (10-RM) weightload, the second exercise set is performed for 10 repetitions with 75 percent of the 10-RM weightload, and the final exercise set is performed for as many repetitions as possible with the 10-RM weightload. 

    When 15 repetitions can be completed a higher 10-RM weightload is determined and the training protocol is continued. After eight weeks of training, the 10-year old boys and girls who followed this program increased their overall muscle strength (5 exercises) by 74% compared to a 13-percent strength gain for the matched control subjects (Faigenbaum et al. 1993).

    A follow-up study with the more challenging Berger strength training protocol – 3 sets of 6 repetitions each using the 6-repetition maximum (6-RM) weightload produced less improvement (47 percent strength gain) over the same 8-week training period (Faigenbaum et al. 1996). 

    These comparative results suggested that three high-effort sets of each exercise may not be necessary for strength development in preadolescents.  Due to time constraints, our youth strength studies over the past six years have incorporated one set of each resistance exercise with excellent results and no injuries.

    Training Repetitions

    Because the children in these studies appeared to respond better to higher repetition training, we conducted a more specific repetitions study (Faigenbaum et al. 1999). Half of the children performed one exercise set to muscle fatigue using 6 to 8 repetitions and the other half performed one exercise set to muscle fatigue using 13 to 15 repetitions. 

    The average strength improvement for the lower repetition group was 18 percent compared to 29 percent for the higher repetition group. These results were consistent with our previous studies and supported higher repetition strength training protocols for preadolescents.

    Training Frequency

    With respect to training frequency, we have observed similar strength gains for children who exercise two or three non-consecutive days per week, which is consistent with our research on adult trainees (Westcott and Guy 1996). 

    We recommend beginning with two weekly strength workouts with the option of adding a third training session if so desired by the participating youth.

    Training Progression

    While there are no hard and fast rules for increasing the exercise resistance, we follow a double progressive protocol to reduce the risk of doing too much too soon. For example, we begin with a weightload that the child can perform for 10-13 repetitions. 

    When 15 repetitions can be completed we increase the resistance by as little as possible (typically 1 to 5 pounds), and not more than five percent (e.g., 20 lbs to 21 lbs; 40 lbs to 42 lbs). The child trains with the higher weightload until 15 repetitions can be completed, then again increases the resistance slightly. Gradual progression is the key to successful youth strength training, facilitating safe workouts that are both challenging and reinforcing.

    Training Technique

    Training technique includes movement speed, movement range, correct breathing, and proper posture during the exercise performance. We prefer controlled movement speed, with about two seconds for each lifting movement and about two seconds for each lowering movement. In this manner a set of 15 repetitions can be completed in approximately 60 seconds, which represents an appropriate bout of high-effort, anaerobic exercise.

    We generally recommend full movement range on simple exercises (e.g., biceps curl, triceps extension) and moderate movement range on complex exercises (e.g., leg press, chest press) in which excessively stretched starting positions may be problematic.

    Correct breathing technique requires exhaling during lifting movements (concentric muscle actions) and inhaling during lowering movement (eccentric muscle actions). Proper posture facilitates correct breathing and exercise performance, and is typically characterized by standing or sitting tall, keeping the head up, shoulders square, torso erect, and hips level, as well as avoiding twisting, turning and squirming actions.

    Youth Strength Training Exercises

    Our experience indicates that preadolescents should perform between 6 and 12 strength exercises each training session. The exercise program should address all of the major muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, spinal erectors, abdominals, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, upper trapezius, biceps and triceps.  If children have access to youth-sized resistance machines we recommend the following exercises.

    Youth Exercise Machines Major Muscles Addressed Key Points For Safe And Effective Performance
    Leg extension Quadriceps Knee joints must be aligned with machine axis of rotation.
    Leg curl Hamstrings Knee joints must be aligned with machine axis of rotation.
    Leg press Quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals Knee joints should not be flexed more than 90 degrees, and should not be extended to lockout position.
    Trunk extension Spinal erectors Trunk should be extended about 30 degrees beyond neutral (straight) position.
    Trunk flexion Abdominals Trunk should be flexed about 30 degrees beyond neutral (straight) position.
    Chest cross Pectoralis major Shoulder joints must be aligned with machine axes of rotation.
    Seated row Latissimus dorsi and biceps Chest should contact front pad throughout the exercise.
    Shoulder press Deltoids, triceps and upper trapezius Back should contact seatback throughout the exercise. Hand should be above shoulder level in starting position.
    Arm curl Biceps Elbow joints must be aligned with machine axis of rotation.
    Arm extension Triceps Elbow joints must be aligned with machine axis of rotation.

    Although child-sized resistance equipment is well suited for smaller framed boys and girls, most preadolescents can train safely and productively on adult machines that use linear (pushing or pulling) movements. For example, the following adult resistance machines are appropriate for most boys and girls.

    Adult Exercise Machines Major Muscles Addressed Key Points For Safe And Effective Performance
    Leg press Quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals Knee joint should not be flexed more than 90 degrees, and should not be extended to lockout position. Feet should be placed at bottom of foot pad.
    Bench press Pectoralis major and triceps Hips, back and head should contact bench throughout the exercise. Hands should be above chest level in starting position.
    Pulldown Latissimus dorsi and biceps Torso should remain relatively erect throughout the exercise. Elbow joints should not be fully extended.
    Shoulder press Deltoids, triceps and upper trapezius Back should contact seatback throughout the exercise. Hands should be above shoulder level in starting position.
    Weight-assisted bar dip Pectoralis major and triceps Torso should remain erect throughout the exercise. Elbow joints should not be flexed more than 90 degrees.
    Weight-assisted chin up Latissimus dorsi and biceps Torso should remain erect throughout the exercise. Elbow joints should not be completely extended.

    Resistance machines are particularly useful for overweight children because bodyweight is supported. However, if resistance machines are not available, children can exercise safely and effectively with free-weights (dumbbells rather than barbells) or elastic bands, as long as they comply with the strength training guidelines.

    For gradual progression in dumbbell exercises, one-pound magnetic add-on weights may be used. Consider the following dumbbell exercises as alternatives to machine strength training.

    Free Weight Equipment Major Muscles Addressed Key Points For Safe And Effective Performance
    Dumbbell squat Quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals Hold dumbbells by sides. Squat to just above thighs horizontal position.  Keep torso erect and knees almost over feet.
    Dumbbell bench press Pectoralis major and triceps Hips, back and head should contact bench throughout the exercise. Dumbbells should  always be above chest level.
    Dumbbell bent row Latissimus dorsi and biceps Keep knee on bench and back horizontal throughout the exercise. Keep elbow close to torso during lifting and lowering movements.
    Dumbbell shoulder press Deltoids, triceps, and upper trapezius Use incline bench for back and head support.  Dumbbells should always be above shoulder level.
    Dumbbell biceps curl Biceps Keep torso erect throughout the exercise.  Keep elbows positioned against sides during lifting and lowering movements.
    Trunk extension Spinal erectors Trunk should be extended about 30 degrees beyond neutral (straight) position.
    Trunk flexion Abdominals Trunk should be flexed about 30 degrees beyond neutral (straight) position.

    Supervision

    Without question, the most important aspect of safe and successful youth strength training is qualified adult supervision throughout each exercise session. Proper instruction with appropriate performance feedback and positive reinforcement is essential for children to develop competence and confidence in this activity, as well as to increase participant satisfaction and reduce injury risk.

    The hundreds of boys and girls who have participated in our strength training programs over the past 17 years have had a 90 percent compliance rate and a zero percent injury rate. When properly designed and carefully conducted, strength training may very well be the most safe and physiologically beneficial activity children can do.

    Conclusion

    Keep in mind that muscles are the engines of the body and that good engines are essential for active lifestyles. In the past childhood represented the most active time of a person’s life, but our sedentary society has changed that. Most children are preoccupied with inactive pastimes, and very few do enough resistance exercise to develop strong musculoskeletal systems.

    Fortunately, there is a simple solution. Children should do about 20 minutes of well-designed and carefully supervised strength training (ideally sandwiched between 10 minutes of warm-up and cool-down activities), two or three nonconsecutive days a week. Research confirms that sensible strength training will help children look better, feel better and function better, as well as develop an activity pattern that should serve them well throughout their lives.

    In addition, as children gain strength and confidence, they are more likely to participate in a wide variety of physical activities and sports for enhanced fitness and enjoyment.

    Summary of Youth Strength Training Guidelines

    Sets: Perform one challenging set of each exercise, which may or may not be preceded by one or two warm-up sets.
    Repetitions: Perform 10 to 15 repetitions for each exercise set.
    Frequency: Train two or three non-consecutive days a week.
    Progression: Increase the resistance by five percent or less (typically 1 to 3 pounds) when 15 repetitions can be completed.
    Technique:
    Speed: Use two seconds for lifting movements and two seconds for lowering movements.
    Range: Use full movement range on simple exercises and moderate movement range on complex exercises.
    Breathing: Exhale during lifting movements and inhale during lowering movements.
    Posture: Stand or sit tall with head up, shoulders square, torso erect, and hips level, without twisting, turning or squirming.

    References:

    American College of Sports Medicine. 1993. The prevention of sport injuries of children and adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; Suppl., 25 (8): 1-7.

    Faigenbaum, A., et al. 1993. The effects of a twice-a-week strength training program on children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5:339-346. style=”FONT-SIZE: 8pt”

    Faigenbaum, A., et al. 1996. The effects of strength training and detraining on children. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 10 (2): 109-114 style=”FONT-SIZE: 8pt”

    Faigenbaum A., et al. 1999. The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics. 104 (1): 1-7.

    Morris. F. L., et al. 1997. Prospective ten-month exercise intervention in premenarcheal girls: positive effects on bone and lean mass. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12 (9): 1453-1462.

    Picosky, M., et al. 2002. Effects of resistance training on protein utilization in healthy children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34 (5): 820-827.

    Westcott, W., et al. 1995. School-based conditioning programs for physically unfit children. Strength and Conditioning, 17: 5-9.

    Westcott, W. and Guy, J. 1996. A physical evolution: Sedentary adults see marked improvements in as little as two days a week. IDEA Today, 14 (9): 58-65.

    About the author:

    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., is associate professor of exercise science and physical education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. They have conducted many years of research on children’s strength training and authored two books on this topic – Strength and Power for Young Athletes (Human Kinetics, 2000) and Youth Fitness (American Council on Exercise, 2001). Both serve on the Massachusetts Governor’s Committee for Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation and the National School Fitness Foundation.

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    Better Running Through Strength Training Exercises



    Distance running is a great sport that is enjoyed at a variety of levels by millions of competitive and recreational athletes. Whether you prefer to jog a couple of miles through the neighborhood, or are training to complete a marathon, distance running is a highly effective and efficient means of aerobic conditioning.

    Distance Running Increases The Potential For Injuries

    Unfortunately, distance running is considerably less beneficial for your musculoskeletal system. Injury rates among runners are extremely high. In fact, at the high school level, cross-country runners experience more injuries than athletes in any other sport, including football and gymnastics.

    Why is a non-contact sport like running such a high-risk activity? Actually, running involves an incredible amount of contact, but it is with road surfaces rather than other athletes. Every running stride places about three times the weight of your body on your foot, ankle, knee and hip joints. These landing forces may also stress your lower back structures.

    The repetitive pounding encountered mile after mile produces a degree of microtrauma to the shock-absorbing tissues. Under ideal conditions, these tissues recover completely within a 24-hour period. However, there are numerous factors that may interfere with normal recovery processes, eventually resulting in weakened and injury-prone tissues.

    These factors include longer running sessions, faster running paces, shorter recovery periods between workouts, more downhill running, more hard-surface running, more racing, more general fatigue, and undesirable changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

    Of course, you may wisely take steps to reduce the amount of tissue trauma and decrease your risk of running-related injuries. Such precautions include making very gradual increases in training distances and speeds, taking sufficient recovery periods (particularly between hard training sessions), selecting user-friendly running courses (soft surfaces and level terrain), competing in fewer races, avoiding over-fatigue, and paying careful attention to proper nutrition and sleep.

    However, one of the most effective means for minimizing tissue trauma is to develop stronger muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments and bones. This is the primary reason that every runner should perform regular strength exercise. Consider the results of our four-year strength training project with the Notre Dame High School girls’ cross-country and track teams.

    Notre Dame High School Strength Training Program

    For four consecutive years, 30 distance runners from Notre Dame High School participated in a basic and brief strength training program during the summer and winter months between their cross-country and track seasons. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they performed 30 minutes of strength exercise (12 Nautilus machines) that addressed all of their major muscle groups.

    Each of these years, the cross-country team won both the Massachusetts and New England championships in this sport. More important, during the four years that they did strength training, only one girl experienced an injury that resulted in a missed practice session or meet.

    Strength Training Benefits

    The Notre Dame runners realized that a sensible strength training program provides many benefits for runners. These include the following:

    • Greater muscle strength
    • Greater muscle endurance
    • Greater joint flexibility
    • Better body composition
    • Reduced injury risk
    • Improved self-confidence
    • Improved running economy

    While the first six strength training benefits should be self-explanatory, you may be intrigued by improved running economy. In a 1995 study at the University of New Hampshire, the women cross-country runners who did strength training experienced a significant improvement in their running economy.

    They required 4 percent less oxygen at sub-maximum running speeds (7:30, 7:00, and 6:30 minute mile paces), meaning that they could run more efficiently and race faster than before.

    Runner Concerns

    With so many advantages, why do so few runners regularly perform strength exercise? Consider these four concerns that keep many runners from strength training:

    • Increased bodywei
    • Decreased movement speed
    • Less fluid running form
    • Fatigued muscles

    Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues.

    Increased Bodyweight

    Very few people who perform strength exercise have the genetic potential to develop large muscles. This is especially true for distance runners, who typically have ectomorphic (thin) physiques. Strength training increases their muscle strength and endurance, but rarely results in significant weight gain.

    Decreased Movement Speed

    With respect to running speed, our studies and many others have shown that greater strength results in faster movement speeds. We need only look at sprinters and middle distance runners to realize that strength training has a positive impact on running speed, as essentially all of these athletes perform regular strength exercise.

    Less Fluid Running Form

    Running involves coordinated actions of the legs and the arms, and one cannot function without the other. Your right arm moves in mirror image with your left leg, and your left arm counterbalances your right leg in perfect opposition.

    That is why it is almost impossible to run fast and move your arms slow or to move your arms fast and run slow. By strengthening the upper body muscles, you more effectively share the running effort between your arms and legs, resulting in more fluid running form.

    Fatigued Muscles

    It is true that a strenuous strength training session can cause a considerable amount of muscle fatigue that could adversely affect the quality and quantity of your runs. That is why we recommend brief strength workouts that do not leave you feeling enervated or exhausted. Remember that you are strength training to enhance your running performance, not to become a competitive weightlifter.

    Our program of strength training requires just one set of exercise for each major muscle group, which does not take much time and does not produce much lasting fatigue. You may also choose to strength train only one or two days per week, which should make muscle fatigue even less likely.

    Runners’ Strength Training Program

    The strength training protocol followed by the Notre Dame athletes, and all of our runners, is a comprehensive conditioning program that addresses all of the major muscle groups in the body. We do not attempt to imitate specific running movements or emphasize specific running muscles, because this typically results in an overtrained, imbalanced, and injury-prone musculoskeletal system.

    For example, the calf (gastrocnemius and soleous) muscles are used extensively in running. Due to their involvement in every running stride, many people think that runners should strengthen their calf muscles. Indeed they should, but it is even more important to strengthen their weaker counterpart, the shin (anterior tibial) muscles.

    If you strengthen only the larger and stronger calf muscles they will eventually overpower the smaller and weaker shin muscles, which may lead to shin splints, stress fractures, achilles tendon problems, and other lower leg difficulties.  With this in mind, our runners always conclude their strength workouts with a set of weighted toe raises to strengthen the shin muscles and maintain balance within the lower leg musculature.

    Some people believe that runners should complete numerous sets and many repetitions with light resistance to enhance their endurance capacity. However, this is not our purpose in performing strength training. Remember that running is best for improving cardiovascular endurance, and that strength training is best for increasing musculoskeletal strength.

    Generally, muscle strength is best developed by training with moderate weightloads (about 75 percent of maximum) for 8 to 12 repetitions per set. However, distance runners typically possess a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers, and therefore attain better results by training with about 12 to 16 repetitions per set. You should add 1 to 5 pounds more resistance whenever you complete 16 repetitions in good form.  One set of each exercise is sufficient for strength development.

    There is no reason to train with fast movement speeds, because training fast will not make you faster and training slow will not make you slower. Exercising with controlled movement speeds maximizes muscle tension and minimizes momentum for a better training effect. We recommend six-second repetitions, taking two seconds for each lifting movement and four seconds for each lowering movement.

    Research supports three non-consecutive strength training sessions per week for best results, but fewer workouts can produce significant strength gains. Our recent studies have shown two weekly workouts to be 70 to 85 percent as effective and one weekly workout to be 60 to 75 percent as effective as three-day-per-week strength training.

    Summary of Strength Training Guidelines

    • Exercise all of the major muscle groups
    • Perform 12 to 16 repetitions per set
    • Add one to five pounds whenever 16 repetitions can be completed
    • Perform one set of each exercise
    • Use controlled movement speeds (six seconds per rep)
    • Train one, two or three non-consecutive days per week

    Recommended Strength Exercises For Runners


    You may develop muscle strength with a variety of exercises using free-weights or machines. The following section presents recommended strength exercises for the major muscle groups.

    Leg Muscles

    Although barbell squats are the traditional leg exercise, most runners may do better to avoid placing a heavy barbell across their shoulders. Dumbbell squats are an acceptable alternative, but it may be difficult to hold enough weight to appropriately stress the large leg muscles.

    Our recommendation is leg presses on a well-designed machine that offers a full movement range and good back support. It may be advisable to precede leg presses with leg extensions that target the quadriceps and leg curls that target the hamstrings. One set of each exercise is sufficient, but you may perform an additional set if you desire.

    Upper Body Muscles

    The typical exercises for the upper body are bench presses for the chest muscles, bent rows for the mid-upper back muscles, and overhead presses for the shoulder muscles. These are acceptable exercises, but are much safer when performed with dumbbells rather than barbells.

    For example, because there is no back support in a barbell bent row, the stress to the low-back area is 10 times the weight of the barbell. By using one dumbbell, and placing your other hand on a bench for back support, this exercise can be performed more safely and effectively.

    If you have access to machines, we recommend chest crosses for the chest muscles, pullovers for the mid and upper back muscles, and lateral raises for the shoulder muscles. These machines require rotary movements that better isolate the target muscle groups. If you prefer linear movements that involve more muscle groups, well-designed chest press, seated row, and shoulder press machines provide combined training for the upper body and arm muscles.

    Arm Muscles

    The basic exercise for the biceps muscles is the arm curl, performed with barbells, dumbbells, or machines. Training the triceps involves some form of arm extension, either with free-weights or machines.

    A good means for working the biceps and upper back muscles together is chin-ups with bodyweight or on a weight-assisted chin/dip machine. A good means for working the triceps and chest muscles together is bar dips with bodyweight or on a weight-assisted chin/dip machine.

    Midsection Muscles

    Machines provide the best means for safely and progressively conditioning the muscles of the midsection. In our opinion, the abdominal machine and low-back machine are key exercises for developing a strong and injury resistant midsection. We also recommend the rotary torso machine for strengthening the oblique muscles surrounding the midsection.

    If appropriate machines are not available, the basic trunk curl may be the best alternative for abdominal conditioning. The recommended counterpart for the low-back muscles is a front-lying (face down) back extension. Although both of these exercises are performed with bodyweight resistance they are reasonably effective for strengthening the midsection muscles.

    Neck Muscles

    The neck muscles maintain head position throughout each run. As the head weighs up to 15 pounds, this is an important function. In fact, the first place where many runners fatigue and tighten up is the neck/shoulder area.

    We therefore recommend the 4-way neck machine to strengthen these muscles. If you do not have access to this machine, perhaps the best approach is manual resistance. That is, place your hands in front of your forehead to resist slow neck flexion movements, and place your hands behind your head to resist slow neck extension movements.

    Table 1 presents the recommended strength training exercises for an overall conditioning program that should be beneficial for runners.

    Table 1. – Recommended Strength Training Program: Basic Exercises

    Major Muscle Groups Machine Exercises Free-Weight Exercises
    Quadriceps Leg Extension Machine Dumbbell Half-Squat
    Hamstrings Leg Curl Machine Dumbbell Half-Squat
    Chest Chest Cross Machine Dumbbell Bench Press
    Upper Back Pullover Machine Dumbbell Bent Row
    Shoulders Lateral Raise Machine Dumbbell Overhead Press
    Biceps Biceps Machine Dumbbell Biceps Curl
    Triceps Extension Triceps Machine Dumbbell Triceps
    Low Back Low Back Machine Back Extension (Bodyweight)
    Abdominals Abdominal Machine Trunk Curls (Bodyweight)

    Once you have mastered the basic exercise program, you may want to add some of the exercises presented in Table 2.

    Table 2. – Recommended Strength Training Program: Additional Exercises

    Muscle Groups Machine Exercises Free Weight Exercises
    Quadriceps & Hamstrings Leg Press Machine Dumbbell Lunge
    Chest & Triceps Weight-Assisted Chin/Dip Machine Bar Dip
    Upper Back & Biceps Weight-Assisted Chin/Dip Machine Chin Up
    Internal & External Obliques Rotary Torso Machine Trunk Curls w/Twists
    Neck Flexors & Extensors 4-Way Neck Machine Manual Resistance Neck
    Flexion & Extension
    Calves Calf Machine Dumbbell Heel Raises
    Shins Weight Plate Toe Raises

    Summary

    The main objectives of a strength training program for runners is to decrease injury risk and increase performance potential. For best results the program should be high in exercise intensity and low in training time.

    One good set of 12-16 repetitions for each major muscle group is recommended for a safe, effective and efficient exercise experience. One or two training sessions per week are sufficient, although three weekly workouts produces greater strength gains. Each workout should take no more than 20-30 minutes depending upon the number of exercises performed.

    The key to productive strength training is proper exercise technique, which includes full movement range and controlled movement speeds. When you make every repetition count, a basic and brief training program should increase your strength significantly (40-60 percent) over a two month training period.

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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    Seniors Improve Their Golf Game Through Strength Training



    An estimated 40 million American men and women play golf each year, and many of these participants are seniors. The good news is that golf is a most interesting athletic activity that requires high levels of both mental concentration and physical skill. The bad news is that many golfers, especially those over age fifty, experience a variety of playing related injuries, typically affecting their hips, back, shoulders, elbows and necks.

    Golfer Injuries

    One reason for the numerous golf injuries is the explosive, body-torquing action required to swing the club for a powerful drive.  However, assuming proper swing mechanics, a more likely explanation is the low level of personal fitness and the lack of physical conditioning characteristic of most recreational golfers.

    Not surprisingly, many golfers spend their free-time playing golf. When they can’t enjoy a game, they may go to the driving range, practice putting, watch golf videos, read golf books, or at least talk about golf. There is a misconception that playing or practicing golf provides some conditioning benefits, but this unfortunately is not the case.  Like all sports, you do not get in shape by playing golf; you get in shape to play golf, at least to play golf more safely and successfully.

    Most golfers, although always concerned about time away from the course, are willing to do a few stretching exercises to enhance their joint flexibility. However, golfers have traditionally resisted recommendations to try strength training. Regrettably, the popular consensus among golfers is that strength training is more likely to harm their game then help it. 

    They are concerned that strength exercise will give them large, tight muscles that cannot be smoothly coordinated in skilled golf actions.  Older golfers also fear that strength training will increase both their bodyweight and their blood pressure, as well as adversely affect medical conditions such as low back pain and arthritis.

    Of course, strength training has actually been shown to reduce bodyweight, lower resting blood pressure, alleviate low back pain and ease arthritic pain (Westcott and Guy 1996, Risch 1993, Tufts 1994).  For more information we decided to do some specific research studies examining the effects of strength training on golfers and golf performance.

    Golf Research Studies

    Beginning in the winter of 1995, we conducted four separate studies with a total of 77 golfers (average age 57 years).  Each study was eight weeks in length, and completed during the months of January and February when none of the participants were playing golf. All of the subjects trained three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), and performed one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of 12 Nautilus exercises for the major muscle groups of the body. Table 1 presents this information as well as the practical application of the exercise to the golf swing.

    The results of this brief (25 minute) strength training program were nothing short of remarkable. After just two months of strength exercise, these senior golfers experienced significant improvements in their body composition, blood pressure and muscle strength. As shown in Table 2, the participants replaced four pounds of fat with four pounds of muscle, reduced their resting blood pressure by four mm Hg, and increased their muscle strength by almost 60 percent. 

    Those who did strength training alone enhanced their driving power (club head swing speed) by 2.6 mph, and those who did strength training plus a few stretching exercises enhanced their driving power by 5.2 mph.

    Due to the better golf performance results obtained by those who did both strength and stretching exercises, we recommend a combination training program. In fact, further research with 155 subjects has shown that combining stretching exercises with strength exercises can produce 20 percent greater strength gains as well as enhanced joint flexibility. We therefore recommend a stretching exercise following each Nautilus exercise for the muscles just worked.

    For example, after completing the leg extension exercise perform a 20-second stretch for the front thigh muscles, and after completing the leg curl exercise perform a 20-second stretch for the rear thigh muscles.  Doing a strengthening and stretching exercise for each major muscle group should ensure balanced physical development for greater performance power and better body coordination for increased skill refinement.

    Although many of the golf study participants had prior golf related injuries, there were no physical problems reported during the playing season following their conditioning program.  That is, the golfers who improved their physical fitness reduced their injury risk and actually enjoyed more pain-free playing time than they had experienced in previous years.

    Summary

    The findings from these four studies showed similar and significant benefits to golfers who participate in a brief program of basic strength exercise. The 77 senior golfers who completed two months of sensible strength training added four pounds of muscle, lost four pounds of fat, reduced their resting blood pressure by four mm Hg, and increased their muscle strength by almost 60 percent. 

    Those who did strength training alone improved their driving power by 2.6 mph, and those who also did stretching exercises improved their driving power by 5.2 mph.  All of the program participants were injury free during the following season, even though their improved physical fitness enabled them to play considerably more golf.

    Based on these findings, golfer’s concerns that strength training will add bodyweight, raise resting blood pressure, aggravate arthritis, cause low back problems, reduce flexibility, impair body coordination, and decrease swinging speed seem unfounded. 

    In fact, research clearly shows that a simple program of strength and stretching exercises is most desirable for improving physical fitness, reducing injury risk and enhancing playing ability in senior golfers.
    Table 1. Machines, muscles and movements for improved golf driving performance.

    Nautilus Exercise Target Muscles Relevance to Golf Swing
    Leg Extension Front Thigh Power Production
    Leg Curl Rear Thigh Power Production
    Leg Press Front Thigh Power Production
    Rear Thigh
    Buttocks
    Low Back Extension Lower Back Force Transfer – Legs to Upper Body
    Abdominal Curl Front Midsection Force Transfer – Legs to Upper Body
    Rotary Torso Sides of Midsection Force Transfer – Legs to Upper Body
    Chest Cross/Press Chest Swing Action
    Super Pullover Upper Back Swing Action
    Lateral Raise Shoulders Swing Action
    Biceps Curl Biceps Club Control
    Triceps Extension Triceps Club Control
    Neck Extension/Flexion Neck Head Stability

    Table 2. Changes experienced by senior golfers following eight weeks of either strength training alone or strength training plus stretching exercises (77 subjects).

    Factors Strength Training Only (N = 52) Strength Training and Stretching (N = 25) All Participants (N = 77)
    Club Head Speed (mph) + 2.6 + 5.2 + 3.4
    Percent Fat (%) – 2.3 – 1.7 – 2.0
    Fat Weight (lbs) – 4.6 – 3.0 – 4.1
    Muscle Weight (lbs) + 3.9 + 4.0 + 3.9
    Mean Blood Pressure (mm Hg) – 4.4 – 4.8 – 4.5
    Muscle Strength (%) + 56 + 56 + 56

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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    Strength Training Changes Lives of 90-Year Old Nursing Home Patients



    The assisted living patients selected to participate in our strength training study were typical of many nursing home residents. They were old, weak and relatively immobile. As a general description, our new research participants were characterized by a dropped head, rounded shoulders and a curved back. Most had low back pain, and spent the majority of their time in a bed, chair or wheelchair.

    Nonetheless, after talking with senior exercise advocate Gary Reinl, the administrators and medical team at the John Knox Village Senior Living Center in Orange City, Florida were convinced that these deliberated individuals had the potential to change their lives for the better through a simple and sensible program of strength exercise.

    Strength Training Program

    In fact, they challenged us to implement a safe, efficient and effective strength training program that would enable these older adults to feel better, function better, and ambulate better. Basically, they were hoping that after 14 weeks of strength training these special seniors would have less low back pain and spend fewer hours in their wheelchairs.

    We accepted the challenge, and introduced a five-machine Nautilus program to the physical therapists and elderly patients who would participate in this innovative research experiment.  All of the subjects were assessed for body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility and functional ability before and after the 14-week training period.

    The participants completed two brief strength training sessions per week, working one-on-one with a physical therapist. Each exercise was performed for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions to the point of moderate muscle fatigue. When 12 repetitions were completed in good form (slow movement speed and full movement range), the weightload was increased by about five percent. 

    Although each strength exercise required less than 90 seconds of physical exertion, the training sessions typically took between 15 to 20 minutes depending upon the participant’s physical ability to transfer on and off the equipment. Table 1 presents the Nautilus exercises, target muscles and desired outcomes of the strength training program.

    Results

    The results of the assisted living patients strength training study surpassed everyone’s expectations. As presented in Table 2, the elderly exercisers achieved significant improvements in body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility and functional ability over the 14-week training period. 

    Specifically, they replaced about four pounds of lean (muscle) weight, reduced about three pounds of fat weight, increased their leg strength by more than 80 percent, increased their upper body strength by almost 40 percent, enhanced their joint flexibility by 30 percent, and improved the functional independence measure (FIM Score) by almost 15 percent.

    Even more impressive than the objective outcomes of the strength training program were the personal observations by the medical professionals and administrative directors. Dr. Pradeep Mathur, John Knox Village Medical Director, reported that the exercise participants exhibited better physical and mental fitness, more endurance, and less low back pain.

    Gary Brcka, Assisted Living Administrator, cited examples of how the strength training program helped patients.  In one case, an 87-year-old woman with compression fractures in her lower spine wore a back brace to reduce pressure and pain.  After completing the exercise program, she discontinued wearing the back brace claiming that she no longer needed it.

    Carol Sullivan, John Knox Village Director of Nursing, noted that with more muscle strength some patients spent less time in wheelchairs, and one patient no longer needed to use a wheelchair.

    Donna Califano, PTA and On-Site Program Director, reported that the patients enjoyed doing the strength exercises because they felt they were really working and seeing progress as their weightloads increased.

    Perhaps the most remarkable lifestyle change was experienced by Esther Duvall, an 84 year old assisted living patient who claimed to hurt all the time.  After completing the strength training program, her functional capacity and walking ability improved so much that she actually left the nursing home and rejoined her husband in the independent living campus.

    Fitness, Function and Finance


    As the exercise participants increased their physical fitness, they concurrently improved their functional abilities. That is, they were able to perform various activities associated with daily living that they were unable to do before the strength training program. These restored abilities included walking, washing, dressing, brushing, combing and other activities characteristic of personal independence.

    Of course, this is beneficial to both the participants and the providers. It is estimated that every point increase in a patient’s FIM Score reduces the cost of care by 50 cents a day. An 11-point FIM Score gain therefore represents a cost of care reduction of $5.50 per day. 

    Multiplying this by the 19 subjects in our study, we have a daily cost of care reduction of about $105. On a yearly basis, this represents almost $40,000, which is about 2.5 times the cost of the Nautilus machines.

    Conclusion

    Based on the results of our 14-week strength training study with frail nursing home residents, we conclude that performing one set of 8 to 12 repetitions on five selected Nautilus machines is a safe, efficient and effective means for enabling elderly exercisers to attain:

    • Improved body composition
    • Increased muscle strength
    • Enhanced joint flexibility
    • Increased functional ability

    Our findings further indicate that senior living facilities that provide well-designed and properly supervised strength training programs may expect:

    • Increased patient independence
    • Improved cooperation between patients and care givers
    • Reduced health care costs
    • Enhanced potential for attracting new residents and professional staff

    Table 1. Nautilus machines, target muscles and desired outcomes of the strength training program.

    Nautilus Exercise Target Muscles Desired Outcome of the Training Program
    Neck Machine Neck Extensors, Neck Flexors Able to hold head erect for enhanced breathing, swallowing, speaking, seeing, and comfort
    Low Back Machine Spinal Erectors Able to hold torso erect for better posture, physiological function, ambulation, and comfort.
    Compound Row Machine Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Biceps Able to hold shoulders square for better posture, physiological function and comfort.
    Triceps Press Machine Triceps, Pectoralis Major, Deltoids Able to push against chair arms to assist legs in rising from and lowering to wheelchairs or chairs.
    Leg Press Machine Quadriceps ,Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus Able to lift body up from and down to wheelchairs or chairs. Able to walk without losing balance or falling.

    Table 2. Changes in body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility and functional ability for elderly exercisers following 14 weeks of strength training (N=19).

    Parameter Pre-Training Post-Training Percent Change Difference
    Bodyweight 130.2 lbs 131.2 lbs + 1.0 lbs 0.8 %
    Percent Fat 22.7 % 20.5 % – 2.2 %* 9.7 %
    Fat Weight 29.7 lbs 26.8 lbs – 2.9 lbs* 9.8 %
    Lean Weight 100.5 lbs 104.3 lbs + 3.8 lbs* 3.8 %
    Leg Press 58.1 lbs 105.3 lbs + 47.2 lbs* 81.2 %
    Triceps Press 37.9 lbs 52.6 lbs + 14.7 lbs* 38.8 %
    Shoulder Flexibility 100.0 deg 109.4 deg + 9.4 deg* 9.4 %
    Hip Flexibility 29.0 deg 44.3 deg + 15.3 deg* 52.8 %
    FIM Score 77.5 pts 88.5 pts + 11.0 pts* 14.2 %

    * Statistically significant difference (p<0.05)

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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    Where Does The Pain Come From?



    Acute and chronic pain are ailments suffered by many each day. Pain can be debilitating and destructive to human lives. Therefore, an understanding where pain comes from is the first step in the healing and prevention process.

    Where Does The Pain Come From?

    There exists small pain nerve endings in all tissues around the body. However, certain tissues seem to be consistent causes of more chronic pain situations. For example, most people do not have primary chronic skin or muscle pain.

    However, these tissues can be a source of pain, as most of us know, from sunburn or a pulled muscle. These conditions do not typically become chronic sources of pain. Many people suffer from chronic spinal pain syndromes, including neck pain, middle back pain, low back pain, and arm and leg pain scenarios. Many of the arm and leg pain situations are referred pain syndromes primarily caused by spinal dysfunctions.

    There are a couple of specific spinal tissues that are the most common sources of chronic pain, as described by the current scientific literature (and by this authors clinical experience). These tissues include the intervertebral discs (the pads of the spine that separate the bones), and the joint ligaments (the joints are the structures that allow motion and function much like a knuckle of the hand).

    Different Types Of Injuries

    There is a basic yet important difference between skin and muscle, and discs and joint ligaments. Skin and muscle have a rich vascular supply. When skin and muscle are injured, they bleed a lot, and heal quickly typically without residual. Discs have no blood supply after age 20, and joint ligaments have a poor blood supply. This means that when these tissues are injured, they bleed poorly or don’t bleed at all, and their healing is slow and inadequate.

    These discs and ligaments heal with a cheap grade of the original tissue called scar tissue, and scar tissue is weaker, stiffer, and more sensitive than the original tissue. The more scar tissue that exists, the greater the chance of having chronic pain syndromes and tissues that transmit pain with little aggravations, such as movement of the barometric pressure (bad weather).

    The discs and joint ligaments of the spine are injured from two causes:

    – Acute injuries such as sports, lifting something too heavy, auto accidents, and slips and falls.

    – Chronic poor postures coupled with lack of spinal hygiene.

    In most cases the problems with spines of most people arise from combinations of acute injuries and chronic poor posture plus lack of spinal exercise and flexibility. This damage to the spine that accumulates over time results in higher chances of chronic pain situations. Pain nerve endings in the discs and joint ligaments will now send messages to the spinal cord and brain for the perception of pain.

    Treatment


    Treatment, either at home or with a health care provider, should focus on the reduction of scar tissue, spinal flexibility exercises and rehabilitation, and prevention of further injury and aggravation through better posture awareness and better spinal habits at work, school, home, and in sports. A combination of health care provider treatment, flexibility, and further injury prevention will conservatively handle most problems without drugs or surgery, and significantly reduce human suffering.

    The news unfortunately can be worse. Incoming pain information from peripheral tissues comes into the spinal cord and goes up to the brain in a particular spinal cord pathway. However, this pathway communicates with a variety of different structures as it ascends to the brain. As spinal joint function decreases, the flexibility of each joint and the small muscles of the spine also decrease.

    In the discs and joint ligaments of the spine exists another type of nerve receptor called a mechanoreceptor. In muscles, the receptor is called a muscle spindle. The mechanoreceptor functions as a motion detector. If you move a joint and stretch the tissues, you fire off these motion detectors called mechanoreceptors.

    The mechanoreceptor can be considered a “good guy”, as it provides necessary information to allow for proper brain function. Bear in mind that the brain is the center that inhibits pain and promotes health. Therefore, as spinal joint flexibility decreases, and scar tissue formation increases, you decrease the amount of motion detector information to the brain.

    It is well established in the current medical literature that an increase in pain traffic and a decrease in mechanoreceptor traffic can result in a host of neurological and visceral problems, resulting in a decrease in the health of that person. Therefore, pain is only a symptom of many other detrimental activities that may be happening in the nervous system.

    For example, a child usually does not come to a chiropractor’s office complaining of chronic musculoskeletal aches and pains. However, it is very common to have a child present to a chiropractor’s office with complaints of ear infections, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, asthma, allergies, cognitive/learning disabilities, autism, and Tourette’s syndrome.

    These conditions and symptoms could have a contribution from poor spinal flexibility and function. All of us have been children, and we all have observed children, and we realize their day to day activities put tremendous stresses into their spine. This can result in a loss of spinal function, which results in a loss of mechanoreceptor/muscle spindle/motion detector traffic to the brain. This is very similar to poor programming of a computer.

    If the computer is programmed poorly, the computer functions poorly. The same situations exist for the human brain. If the brain does not receive appropriate amounts of motion detector/mechanoreceptor traffic, it cannot possibly function at peak performance. Chiropractic treatment is focused on improving the function and flexibility of the discs, muscles, and spinal joints, which improves motion.

    Improved motion stimulates mechanoreceptors and muscle spindles, firing up areas in the brain that improve function, promote healing, and inhibit pain. At my office I also teach patients spinal specific flexibility exercises, good posture habits at work, home, school, and with sports, and good spinal hygiene when it comes to lifting and bending, and proper dietary habits which can also help all of the conditions mentioned here.

    These instructions are designed to speed up the healing response, reduce treatment time, and prevent further problems while also improving overall health and longevity.

    About the author:
    If you or someone you know suffers from pain, and would like more information, call me at (781) 933-3332
    Please share this information with your physicians, health care practitioners, family and friends.
    Created by: Dr. Scott Fuller, D.C., C.C.S.T.
    Fuller Chiropractic
    576 Main Street
    Woburn, MA 01801

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    Why Supplement? – Because You Care About Quality of Life…



    Most people frown upon the very mention of supplementation, but this article is meant to change this perspective and show that we do need it to be healthy and fit.

    Benefits Of Supplementation

    Here are some of the benefits of supplementation:

    Supplementation Helps to Correct Nutrient Deficiencies

    • Modern diets are devoid of adequate daily nutritional requirements.
    • Nutrient deficiencies make us prone to infections, obesity and disease.
    • Supplementation helps to overcome the negative effects of poor eating habits.

    Supplementation Helps to Replenish What’s Missing in Food

    • Depleted soils, pesticides and refining processes lower nutrient content in food.
    • Processing, transporting and storing foods reduces nutrient content even further.
    • Supplementing with high quality plant enzymes, whole food vitamins and chelated minerals can help to replace the vital nutrients your body needs.

    Supplementation Helps to Combat Environmental Stress

    • Inadequate chemical disposal and environmental waste increase health stress.
    • Chemically treated food can lead to disease and premature aging.
    • Increased electromagnetic fields (e.g. microwaves, cellular phones, computers, etc.) can weaken the immune system.
    • Supplementation with antioxidants gives you the ammunition to fight back.

    Supplementation Helps to Fulfill 21st Century Lifestyle Nutritional Needs

    • The rigors of stress compromise bodily function and can deplete vital nutrients.
    • The use of oral contraceptives, heavy exercise, alcohol consumption, certain drugs, pregnancy and lactation, and other activities in today’s busy lifestyles increase the level of stress.
    • Supplementation can help to overcome nutrient depletion from lifestyle stress.

    Supplementation Helps to Decrease Risk of Disease and Reduce Health Costs

    • Degenerative diseases comprise the top four causes of death in America.
    • Americans averaged more than $3,000 per person on health care in 1993.
    • Supplementation can help to overcome nutrient depletion from lifestyle stress, decrease the risk of chronic disease, and significantly reduce health costs.

    The most commonly asked nutrition question is “Do I really need to use a supplement?” The answer is conclusively “Yes.” Nutritional supplementation can improve your health as well as your nutritional status.

    The health risk of supplements is absolutely minimal when compared to the risks of prescription drugs. In the last 50 years there has been just one recorded death (a massive overdose) due to nutritional supplements. In contrast, approximately 125,000 people die every year from prescription drugs. Prescription drugs are, of course, often necessary to battle disease once it attacks, but proper nutrition, including supplementation, is necessary to help prevent those same diseases from attacking.

    The five primary reasons to supplement are:

    1. To correct nutrient deficiencies and/or make up for poor dietary choices.
    2. To replenish what is missing in your foods (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, flora, and antioxidants).
    3. To provide your body with the nutrition necessary to combat today’s environmental stresses.
    4. To meet the higher nutritional needs of today’s lifestyle.
    5. To decrease your risk of chronic disease and reduce health care costs.

    1. Supplementation can correct nutrient deficiencies and help make up for poor dietary choices.

    Many people think that nutritional deficiencies are only found in third world countries where children are starving. The reality is that over 90% of Americans are deficient in some vitamin or mineral, yet more than 33% of the population is obese.

    We are an overfed and undernourished society. The nutrient deficiencies created by our “modern” diet cause the body to be more prone to viruses, disease, infections, obesity, allergies, headaches, stress, strokes, fatigue, ulcers, bowel and colon problems, tumors, cancer, kidney failure, heartburn, a weak immune system, arthritis, blood pressure problems, heart attacks, and growth and circulation problems to name a few.
    Today’s “modern” diet does not provide enough of the nutrients we need.

    Only 9% of the population consumes the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The 1997 World Health Report stated that our “modern” diet is too high in fat, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, and doesn’t provide enough vitamins, minerals or fiber to meet our nutritional needs. “World-wide, the adoption of this diet has been accompanied by a major increase in coronary heart disease, stroke, various cancers, diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

    Our “modern” diet is leaving our bodies devoid of vital nutrients, making us more susceptible to all types of diseases. Nutritional supplementation is essential to correct nutrient deficiencies and to overcome the effect of poor dietary choices.

    2. Supplementation can help replenish what’s missing in your foods.

    Today’s food supply no longer supplies your body with enough of the key nutrients required for optimum health. Depleted soils, modern growing techniques, preservatives, as well as the cooking and refining processes, all result in lower nutrient content in the foods.

    Soil depletion and modern growing techniques have depleted the mineral content of our foods. For example, USDA tests showed spinach in 1948 with 158 milligrams of iron per 100 grams. The iron content of raw spinach today is 2.7 milligrams per 100 grams. The nutrient content of food is reduced even further during processing, transport and storage. The refining process removes 70 to 75% of the minerals from our grains. Cooking food reduces its nutritional value by destroying 20 to 50% of vitamins, all of the enzymes, some amino acids, and “leaches” the minerals.

    By supplementing with high quality plant enzymes, whole food vitamins and chelated minerals, you can start to replace what is missing in your food.

    3. Supplementation can help provide your body with the nutrition necessary to combat environmental stresses.

    With today’s polluted environment and high-stress lifestyles, there are more reasons than ever for taking nutritional supplements. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 60,000 chemicals have been buried or dumped throughout the U.S. over the last hundred years, and there are over 3000 different carcinogenic chemicals found in our foods.

    These chemicals enter your body and begin to attack your tissues and cells, which can lead to disease and premature aging. In addition to the effects of these carcinogenic chemicals, smog, pollution and depletion of the ozone layer create free radicals, which constantly bombard us and attack our cells. Even common items such as cell phones, televisions, and computers create free radicals.

    Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that “attack” healthy cells, weakening the cell membranes and leading to disease and degeneration. Over 85 diseases, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts and emphysema, have been linked to free radical damage. Free radicals and other environmental stresses are greater today than they ever have been.

    Our bodies do not make enough antioxidants to combat the damaging effects of today’s world, so it is essential to supply the body with the extra support it needs. Supplementing with antioxidants gives your body the ammunition it needs to fight back against free radicals, repair damaged cells and tissues, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, increase immune function and decrease infection.

    4. Supplementation can help meet the higher nutritional needs of today’s lifestyle.

    External stress and the demands of life can seem unending. They affect virtually everyone in today’s fast-paced society, and as a result, the body’s vital functions are often compromised. Stress depletes crucial nutrients and creates a higher demand for specific vitamins and minerals. Unless these nutrients are replenished, a host of stress-related symptoms and diseases can arise.

    Besides stress, all of the following increase your nutrient requirements: oral contraceptive use, heavy exercise, use of cell phones and computers, alcohol consumption, exposure to radiation, some degenerative diseases, certain drugs, cardiac failure, pregnancy and lactation. These increased needs are not easily met by food, especially considering the low nutrient content of today’s food supply. The increased nutritional needs of today’s lifestyle can only be met through proper supplementation.

    5. Supplementation can help decrease your risk of chronic disease and reduce health care costs.

    The top four killers in America are not drunk drivers, violent killings, AIDS, or illegal drugs. Number one is the non-contagious degeneration of the heart called cardiovascular disease. Other non-contagious diseases are numbers 2, 3, and 4. The war on these diseases has cost billions of dollars and years of research, and yet the death rates continue to increase, instead of decrease.

    Chronic Diseases

    The chronic disease statistics reported in The World Health Report are incredible:

    • Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA.
    • Sudden blood clots in arteries (strokes) occur in about 500,000 people a year in the U.S. and for about 150,000 of those people, the stroke is fatal. About 2 million American’s daily lives are affected by stroke-related disabilities.
    • 58 million people in the US have hypertension – a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.
    • Nearly a million cancer cases are found each year in people in the U.S.
    • Approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes, the severest forms of which cause kidney damage, limb damage, and other cardiovascular damage.
    • 1.5 million broken bones a year have been identified as partially caused by weak and brittle bones due to osteoporosis. It is estimated that 20 million Americans over the age of 45 are affected by osteoporosis.
    • 34 million Americans are obese. Obesity is associated with a higher mortality rate, and is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

    Even more astounding than the chronic disease statistics is the amount of money spent on health care for preventable diseases. Americans spent over $3,000 per person in 1993 for health care. Japan and Sweden spent less than half that amount and yet their life expectancy and infant mortality rates are respectively first, second or third; America’s is 16th and 17th. Reviewing this data reveals a distinct trend – the countries with greater use and history of natural medicine rank much higher than the U.S.

    Economists estimate that by increasing our intake of vitamins and minerals, we would reduce health care costs by 25% for cardiovascular disease, 16-30% for a variety of cancers, and 50% for cataracts. The simplest and most effective way to increase nutrient intake and reduce health care costs is through supplementation. This fact is strongly supported by scientific research studies.

    Why Supplement?

    Once you examine the facts, the question is no longer “why supplement?” but rather “why wouldn’t you supplement?”. Whether you need to correct a deficiency, want to improve your health and nutritional status, want to make up for poor diet and a stressful lifestyle, or you want to reduce your risk of disease, supplementation is crucial.

    Nutritional supplementation can provide nutrient enrichment, improve digestion and help with detoxification. People feel healthier and more energetic when they take supplements. Supplements can help increase overall fitness and well-being, improve the quality of your life, protect against premature aging and support the immune system. If you care about your health, the choice is clear – supplementation is essential!

    Reference: Infinity2, inc.

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    Strength Exercise Program To Fight Cellulite

    fight cellulite with strength training

    Let’s look at a few examples of changes that we can reverse and changes that we can only cover up.  Concerning the pervasive problem of cellulite, which affects millions of women after the teen years, aging-related changes in the collagen proteins, connective tissue and skin are very difficult to prevent or resolve.

    Yes, there are any number of pills, potions, creams, wraps and assorted devices for erasing the wrinkles and leveling the lumps. And yes, they all provide some temporary improvement in terms of a smoother skin appearance.  However, they have no permanent effect, and they do not even address the major problems that are largely responsible for the unattractive hips and thighs.

    What Is Causing Your Cellulite?

    There are essentially two equally troublesome factors that cause the so-called cellulite look of large hips and thighs with cottage-cheese contours. These are simply too little muscle and too much fat. As shown in the illustration, every decade of adult life the average American woman loses about five pounds of muscle, and adds approximately 15 pounds of fat.

    The muscle loss results from lack of use against sufficient resistance, which is the only way to prevent atrophy in this type of tissue. Walking, jogging, stepping, and other aerobic activities promote cardiovascular fitness, but they cannot maintain your muscle mass. Even worse, the muscle loss results in a lower resting metabolism that is the underlying cause of the fat gain.

    Here Is How It Works

    Over a 10-year period you lose five pounds of muscle, which results in a five percent reduction in your resting metabolic rate. You have gone from an eight-cylinder engine to a six-cylinder engine and you don’t burn as much gas. That is, some of the calories that were previously used to maintain your muscle tissue now go into fat storage and you experience creeping fat accumulation.

    Where do you lose muscle? – Where you don’t use it, right! Yes. For those women who sit most of the day, much of their muscle loss is from the chair-supported hip and thigh muscles. Less muscle in this region means a thinner and softer foundation under the overlying fat layer.

    Where do you add fat? – Where you have fat cells, right!  Yes, and most women store most of their fat in the hip and thigh area, giving them the standard female pear shape rather than the typical male apple shape.

    So what do we have? – Too little muscle providing too little support for too much fat.  This, not the connective tissue changes, represents the real health, fitness and appearance problems associated with cellulite.

    Good news! – These are changeable conditions that can be remedied safely, effectively and efficiently through brief exercise sessions and basic dietary adjustments.

    Exercise Program Results

    Here are the results for 79 women of all ages who performed three 40-minute exercise sessions a week for just eight weeks.

    Those who did 20 minutes of specific strength training and 20 minutes of general endurance exercise replaced 1.7 pounds of muscle and reduced 3.2 pounds of fat for a 4.9-pound improvement in their body composition and physical appearance.Even more impressive, the women who also followed some sensible nutrition guidelines replaced 1.2 pounds of muscle and reduced 9.1 pounds of fat for a 10.3-pound improvement in their body composition and shape (almost two inches off their hip measurement).

    In addition to the excellent assessment results, all of the women reported less cellulite. More than 70 percent observed much less cellulite and the other 30 percent noted some improvement in their cellulite situation.

    To verify the importance of adding muscle as well as losing fat, we used ultrasound technology to measure tissue changes in the participants’ thighs. Over the two-month training period the women increased their thigh muscle thickness by 1.9 mm and decreased their thigh fat layer by exactly the same amount, resulting in more fit, firm, toned and shapely legs.

    Exercise Program Components

    The 40-minute exercise sessions consisted of three key components. The most important component was 20 minutes of high-effort strength training. Our participants performed the following 10 weightstack exercises, five for the legs and five for the upper body.

    Weightstack Exercise Target Muscle Groups
    Leg Curl Hamstrings
    Leg Extension Quadriceps
    Hip Adduction Hip Adductors
    Hip Abduction Hip Abductors
    Leg Press Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals
    Abdominal Curl Rectus Abdominis
    Low Back Extension Erector Spinae
    Chest Press Pectoralis Major, Triceps
    Seated Row Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
    Shoulder Press Deltoids, Triceps

    They did one set of each exercise, using a weightload that fatigued the target muscles in 10 to 15 controlled repetitions. At six seconds per repetition (two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering), this required about 60 to 90 seconds of continuous muscle tension.

    To enhance the strength-building benefit, the women performed a 20-second stretch after each exercise for the muscles that were just worked. Our research has revealed 20 percent greater strength gains when strength and stretching exercises are performed together.

    Our third program component was aerobic activity for cardiovascular conditioning and increased energy expenditure. The participants did 20 minutes on the treadmill, stationary cycle or step machine following their strength training workout. They trained at a moderate effort level, about 75 percent of maximum heart rate.

    Nutrition Program Components

    Strength training and aerobic activity both burn lots of calories during the exercise performance (7 to 14 calories per minute). Because strength training uses the anaerobic energy system, you burn up to 25 percent as many additional calories during the post-exercise period as you do during your workout, which is a real bonus. 

    Strength exercise also replaces muscle tissue, which increases your metabolic rate 24 hours a day for even more calorie utilization.

    While all of these exercise factors facilitate, fat reduction, participants who adjusted their caloric intake experienced three times as much fat loss (9.1 lbs. Vs 3.2 lbs.). We therefore recommend a basic and balanced nutrition plan that complements the comprehensive exercise program.

    Our dietary guidelines are based on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid that includes the following food groups and daily serving recommendations:  grains (6-11 servings); vegetables (3-5 servings); fruits (2-4 servings); dairy (2-4 servings); meats (2-3 servings); and fats (sparingly). 

    Our nutrition experts simply modified the number of recommended servings across the board, based on the individual’s daily caloric intake.  Our participants selected one of three daily dietary plans (1,600 calories, 2,200 calories, or 2,800 calories), and ate in accordance with the following serving suggestions.

    Daily Caloric Intake Grains Vegetables Fruits Dairy Meats
    1,600 cal. 6 3 2 3 5 oz.
    2,200 cal. 9 4 3 3 6 oz.
    2,800 cal. 11 5 4 3 7 oz.

    We also developed a menu planner to provide sample meals, complete with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Here is one example of the 12 daily menu planners which our participants followed as closely as possible.

    Food Selections 1,600 Cal/Day
    Portions/Cal.
    2,200 Cal/Day
    Portions/Cal.
    2,800 Cal/Day
    Portions/Cal.
    Breakfast
    Fat-free vanilla yogurt 8 oz./206 8 oz./206 8 oz./206
    Peach 1 /40 1 /40 1 /40
    Granola cereal 1 oz./129 2 oz./257 3 oz./386
    Orange juice 6 oz./86
    Lunch
    Wheat bread 2 slices/130 2 slices/130 2 slices/130
    Chicken 2 oz./112 3 oz./168 3 oz./168
    Skim milk 8 oz./86 8 oz./86 8 oz./86
    Mixed vegetables 1/2 cup/54 1 cup/107 1 1/2 cups/161
    Mayo 1 Tbsp. /100
    Snacks
    English muffin 1/133 1/133 1/133
    Butter 1 Tbsp./102 1 Tbsp./102 1 Tbsp./102
    Dinner
    Skim milk 8 oz./86 8 oz./86 8 oz./86
    Roast turkey 3 oz./161 3 oz./161 4 oz./215
    Bread stuffing 1/2 cup/178 1 cup/376 1 cup/376
    Green beans 1/2 cup/19 1 cup/38 1 1/2 cups/57
    Corn 1/2 cup/66 1 cup/132 1 1/2 cup/198
    Snack
    Fruit cocktail 1/2 cup/54 1 cup/108 1 cup/108
    Fat-free crackers 8 /80 16    /160

    In addition, we requested all of our program participants to drink at least eight cups of water throughout the day. Key times for drinking water are before, during and after meals, as well as before, during and after exercise sessions.

    Although most people feel they know how to eat and how much to eat, our experience indicates that they typically error on the over consumption side. Our best performers are always those who honestly follow the menu planner and those who actually take a few extra minutes at mealtime to measure their serving sizes.

    For example, Kathy achieved the best results in two successive cellulite reduction programs, losing 25 pounds in her first session and almost 20 more pounds in her second session. One reason for Kathy’s impressive improvement was that she never missed a workout.

    Perhaps equally influential, Kathy followed the menu planner almost perfectly, always weighing/measuring her food servings.

    Summary

    Cellulite is the name given to excess fat that is clumped together in uneven bundles beneath the skin, presenting a rippled and dimpled appearance, typically on women’s thighs and hips. The major causes of cellulite are too little muscle (women average 5 pounds less muscle each decade) and too much fat (women average 15 pounds more fat each decade).

    Our approach to the cellulite problem is to replace muscle through specific strength exercises, and to reduce fat through a synergistic combination of strength, endurance and stretching exercise coupled with a sensible nutrition plan. 

    Our 40-minute per day, three day per week exercise program has produced excellent results, especially for those women who also adhered to the dietary guidelines. On average, these program participants replaced 1.2 pounds of muscle, reduced 9.1 pounds of fat, and removed 1.8 inches off their hips in just eight weeks. All have been pleased with the program, and more than 70 percent have reported much less cellulite and much better physical appearance.

    While some of the over-the-counter cellulite reduction products may provide temporary improvement by smoothing the skin, real change requires more firm muscle and less soft fat.  These are the two essential requirements for firm, fit, toned, attractive and shapely legs.


    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., CSCS is fitness research director, and Rita LaRosa Loud is associate fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA.  They are the authors of the newly released book No More Cellulite:  A Proven 8-Week Program for a Firmer, Fitter Body (Perigee 2003).

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    Body Composition – The Most Important Fitness Component



    When you think of physical fitness, perhaps your mind reflects back on the fitness tests you performed in elementary and secondary school. If so, you may recall a running test to assess your aerobic capacity, a pull-up or push-up test to measure your muscle strength, a sit-up or squat jump test to estimate your muscle endurance, and a sit and reach test to determine your joint flexibility. 

    Although aerobic capacity, muscle strength, muscle endurance and joint flexibility are important components of overall physical fitness, they pale in comparison to the role of body composition.

    What Is Body Composition?

    Body composition is not something you do, like 10 push-ups or 50 sit-ups. Body composition is something you are, but it has a lot to do with what you do. Basically, Your body is composed of two types of tissues known as fat weight and lean weight

    Fat weight is the fat stored in fat cells throughout the body. Lean weight includes all other tissues, such as organs, bones, blood, skin, and muscle.  Approximately half of our lean weight is muscle which, along with fat, is most likely to change during our adult years.

    As we age, we typically lose about five pounds of muscle and add about 15 pounds of fat every decade of life. While this represents a 10-pound change in bodyweight, it is actually a 20-pound change in body composition. The muscle loss adversely affects our physical function and personal appearance. 

    Perhaps more importantly, it results in a reduced metabolic rate that facilitates fat gain. This is because every pound of muscle loss reduces our resting metabolism by at least 35 calories per day. Assuming we eat approximately the same amount of food, calories that were previously used for muscle maintenance are now placed into fat storage, resulting in creeping obesity.

    Body Deterioration And Health Risks

    Excess body fat is a major health risk associated with many medical problems including low back pain, type II diabetes, various forms of cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Most people understand this, and half of all Americans are presently on low calorie diet plans to reduce unwanted fat. 

    Unfortunately, dieting alone has a dismal record of success, with over 90 percent of dieters regaining all of this fat weight within one year.  Even worse, about one-quarter of the weight lost through dieting is muscle, further reducing this vital tissue and resting metabolic rate.  No wonder a return to normal and necessary eating behavior results in fat regain.

    Because the deterioration in body composition is a two-fold problem (too little muscle and too much fat), restoration of desirable body composition requires a dual solution (muscle replacement and fat reduction). Obviously, regular exercise is essential for replacing muscle tissue. 

    However, only strength training is effective for this purpose. Endurance exercise is ideal for improving cardiovascular fitness, but it neither builds muscle nor prevents the loss of muscle during our adult years.

    Improving Your Body Composition

    So step one in attaining a more desirable body composition is a basic program of strength exercise. Our research reveals excellent results from two or three weekly training sessions of 25 minutes each. This is all the time it takes to complete one set of 12 different exercises that address all of your major muscle groups. 

    Each set is performed at a slow movement speed through a full movement range with a weightload that permits between eight and 12 repetitions. When you can do 12 good repetitions the resistance should be increased by one to five pounds.

    Combining this simple strength training protocol with 25 minutes of endurance exercise (treadmill walking, stationary cycling, etc.) is an excellent approach for enhancing body composition. In one of our studies, almost 300 men and women performed this combination exercise program for a period of eight weeks.

    On average the participants added three pounds of muscle and lost nine pounds of fat, for a six-pound reduction in bodyweight and a 12-pound improvement in body composition. These beneficial changes were accomplished without strict dietary intervention, but everyone received heart-healthy eating guidelines and sample menu plans.

    In all probability, the three-pronged approach is best for permanent weight management and optimal body composition. The most important component is strength training (two 25-minute sessions per week are sufficient) to replace muscle, raise resting metabolic rate, and improve physical function. 

    The second component is endurance exercise (three 25-minute sessions per week are recommended) to reduce fat stores and increase cardiovascular fitness. The third component is a commitment to better eating habits and sound nutrition, which typically requires more food rather than less. 

    This is because the recommended foods (grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products) generally have fewer calories per serving than the less-nutritious foods that they replace (popular fast foods, fried foods, fat foods, and snack foods).

    The results of our summer research study support the three-piece plan for a variety of personal benefits besides better body composition.  In addition to adding muscle and losing fat, the 87 participants in our Keeping Fit Program achieved significant increases in their muscle strength, performance power, and static balance, and attained significant decreases in their waist girth and hip girth. They also realized a one-third inch increase in height due to improved posture resulting from stronger lower back, upper back, and neck muscles.

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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    12 Reasons Every Adult Should Strength Train



    During the past few years, more and more studies have shown that sensible strength training produces many health and fitness benefits. Key researchers have provided a wealth of data on the positive physiological responses to basic programs of strength exercise.

    Reasons To Strength Train

    Consider these 12 reasons to strength train:

    1. Avoid Muscle Loss

    Adults who do not strength train lose between 5 and 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.

    2. 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 to 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.

    3. 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 eight-week training period.  This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength exercise, three days per week.

    4. Increase 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 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.

    5. Reduce Body Fat

    Campbell and his co-workers (1994) found that strength exercise produced 4 pounds of fat loss after three 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 muscle, 4 pounds less fat, and 370 more calories per day food intake.

    6. 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 collagen proteins and mineral content. Menkes (1993) has demonstrated significant increases in the bone mineral density of the upper femur after four months of strength exercise.

    7. Improve Glucose Metabolism

    Hurley (1994) has reported a 23 percent increase in glucose uptake after four 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.

    8. Increase Gastrointestinal Transit Time


    A study by Koffler (1992) showed a 56 percent increase in gastrointestinal transit (transit time is faster) after three months of strength training. This is significant due to the fact that delayed gastrointestinal transit time is related to a higher risk of colon cancer.

    9. Reduce Resting Blood Pressure

    Strength training alone has been shown to reduce resting blood pressure significantly (Harris and Holly 1987).  Our study (Westcott 1995) has revealed that combining strength and aerobic exercise is an even more effective means of improving blood pressure readings. 

    After two months of combined exercise, our program participants dropped their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg.

    10. Improve Blood Lipid Levels

    Although the effect of strength training on blood lipid levels needs further research, at least two 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).

    11. Reduce Low Back Pain

    Years of research on strength training and back pain conducted at the University of Florida Medical School have shown that strong low-back muscles are less likely to be injured than weaker 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 Americans experience low-back problems, it is advisable for all adults to strengthen their low-back muscles properly.

    12. 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.

    Summary – Why You Should Strength Train

    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 of increasing our physical capacity, improving our athletic performance, reducing our injury risk, and improving our self-confidence.

    About the author:
    Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

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