I hope everyone is doing well so far this week? Enjoying your programmes and feeling like it’s making a difference?
Let’s get straight to the second part of our “strong body” motivation!
Light or heavy weights for strength gains?
Most experts believe that heavier weights are important, particularly as we get older. Resistance training should be progressively more challenging and weights progressively heavier in order to stimulate muscle response and growth.
However, it’s been suggested that light and heavy weights have similar benefits. Common sense should come into play: Heavy weights too early could cause injury and have a detrimental impact, but weights that are too light and not progressive will not facilitate strength gains in the long term. Anything is better than nothing and you need to start somewhere. So get lifting.
Monitor your muscles
How much of your body is fat rather than muscle is usually described in terms of your body fat percentage. The higher the figure, the more work you need to do to bring your lean body mass (everything that’s not fat) into check. But how do you measure it? Most accurate muscle monitoring takes place in human performance laboratories where experts use skinfold callipers, scans or bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) to check your fat to muscle ratio.
BIA works by sending an electric current that travels through your body when you step barefoot on to the device’s metal footpads. That small current — far too gentle to cause harm — passes up one leg, through your abdomen and down your other leg, hitting a resistance, or impedance, when presented with fatty tissue.
The impedance is measured, put through an inbuilt equation and presented as your body’s percentage of muscle versus fat. Accuracy varies. A US Consumer Reports study recently suggested that the best body composition scales are accurate up to 80 per cent of the time, but they can be a useful guide and a powerful motivational tool.
Which muscles matter?
So here’s the crunch: the muscles we overwork at the gym because they look good on the beach are not necessarily the muscles that matter in terms of our health and fitness. Indeed, trainers say the “mirror” muscles are overworked at the expense of the musculature that upholds our posture and maintains our movement ability. The six-pack is a case in point. Among men and women, the core muscles have become a fixation in the gym, but people tend to obsess about only the muscles at the front of the abdomen — those on show in their stomach and waist — to the detriment of their gluteal and mid-back muscles.
For men, the current fixation with developing the inguinal crease, the V-shaped twin ligaments that extend below a six-pack, has minimal functional effect unless the entire mid-section, legs and back muscles are worked as well. Likewise, the pectoral muscles in the chest are a big deal for men, but at the expense of the back and shoulder muscles.
Too much pec work can result in a classic forward-stooping posture & for women, concentrating on just the fronts of the arms is also common and causes an imbalance with the triceps at the backs of the arms. The message is to place muscular balance before vanity, and that the muscles you can’t see are often more important than the ones you can.
Don’t forget your “support” muscles
Joint niggles and injuries that blight the middle years can largely be avoided by strengthening the muscles that support the most vulnerable body parts.
Building up the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thighs is probably the most important step for protecting and building up the knee. Squats are helpful and you can progress to weighted squats and even jumping squats as you become more proficient.
Lunges are also recommended for knee protection — just make sure you don’t push your knee farther than your front toe, and keep the weight on the back leg.
For the desk bound, working the muscles that remain underused as you sit down all day is essential to prevent injury. Daily press-ups are great for strengthening the shoulder muscles, and Pilates and yoga are excellent for keeping the back muscles in good shape.
So there we have it, resistance work in the gym is doing us good and you are all making great progress. Keep up the good work team.