Saturday, March 27, 2010

Muscle Training 101

Ever wanted to know about muscular strength training? Well enough relying on Muscle & Fiction, 'cause here's everything you'll ever need to know:

1. Always wear a weight belt and gloves when participating in strength training unless advised otherwise by your trainer. The weight that you are lifting may not seem heavy to you. However, if the weight is heavy enough to effect change in your muscles, it is also heavy enough to hurt your lower back. Several studies have been published recently regarding the effectiveness of weight belts in preventing injury. Although these studies argue that weight belts may be ineffective in preventing injury, our insurance company believes otherwise.
2. Anytime the weight is lifted above the waist, the feet need to be in split stance. This distributes the weight, so that the lower back is not put through undue stress.
3. When doing exercises in a supine position, the feet should always be elevated. This forces the lumbar spine into imprint, reducing the risk of a pinched disk in L3-L5.
4. Always exhale when exerting force (whether this is pulling, pushing or lifting). Holding your breath while exerting force results in an increase in intra-thoracic pressure (known as the Vasalva Maneuver) . This causes a dramatic increase in blood pressure and can result in what we refer to as the three ‘H’s: hemorrhoids, hernias and high blood pressure.
5. The eccentric (or lengthening) phase of the exercise is always three times as slow as the concentric (or shortening) phase of the exercise. In a bicep curl exercise the concentric phase is the raising of the weight and the eccentric phase of the exercise is the lowering phase. You are actually three times as strong as the muscle lengthens than you are when the muscle shortens. This is due to the friction that occurs when the muscle rubs together as it tightens up. Most exercises are what we would call one to three ratios (expresses as 1/3 or one count up and three counts down).
6. Muscle training should always take place starting a workout with the larger muscle groups and working your way to the smaller groups. That is because the smaller muscles are all stabilizing or secondary movers of the larger muscles (i.e., in order to move the chest, we have to use the shoulders and triceps). If you fatigue the smaller muscles first, the larger muscles will never get a good workout. Upper body muscle workouts will proceed from chest and back, to triceps and biceps and finally shoulders.
7. Muscles are always worked in an agonist/antagonist fashion. That means if you work the muscle on one side of the body, the other side of the body must be worked next in order to maintain balance. While working the chest, the back is stretched. While working the biceps, the triceps are stretched. This holds true for most of the muscle groups throughout the body.
8. Exercises should be done with a minute between sets. That is because it takes the body approximately sixty seconds to replenish the energy supply in the muscle. If you wait longer than a minute, your body does not understand that it needs to increase the muscle’s energy storage capacity.
9. Muscles need to be worked until they fail (or are unable to complete the last few repetitions). This is perhaps the biggest reason why people do not see changes in their body when strength training. They do not push themselves enough. This is called the “Overload Principle”. If you never push yourself to the point of failure, your body never gets the message that it needs to change in order to accomplish the tasks you are asking of it.
10. You need to take a 48 hour rest and recovery period before working the same muscle group again. This period of time allows your muscles to rebuild themselves. For a brief period of time (averaging between 36-48 hours), the body becomes briefly stronger, This is known as supercompensation. Ideally we want to stimulate the muscles again during this period of supercompensation. However, overworking your muscles does exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. It continually tears down the muscles and builds more muscle endurance( a la BodyPump). This does not allow the muscle to hypertrophy .
11. If engaging in a moderate workout, men should attempt but not be able to achieve, three sets of 12, 10 and 8 repetitions. Because women respond better to slightly higher repetions, they should attempt, but not be able to complete three sets of 15, 12 and 10 repetitions.
12. Some programs have higher numbers of sets. The ‘Body for Life’ program incorporates four sets of 12, 10, 8 and 6 repetitions followed by a post fatigue set of 12 repetitions with lighter weight. This is immediately followed by a superset. The superset is an exercise targeting the same muscle group, but in a different way. There is no break between the post fatigue set and the superset. This is to totally fatigue the muscle. This type of program is not recommended for beginning athletes.

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