Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Heart Rate Training Zones

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Training

Why do we bother measuring and using heart rate?

It’s effectively a way of looking at the effort we’re making so we know how hard we’re working and, ultimately, how hard we can work. Use of heart rate training zones lets us make efficient use of our training time and gives us a measure of improvement. We generally split training zones by looking at percentage heart rates based on maximum heart rate alone, or maximum and minimum heart rates. The information below shows the convention of heart rate zones, the uses of that particular zone, and the percentage heart rates used to bracket these zones. Heart rate training zones are calculated by taking into consideration your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Within each training zone, subtle physiological effects take place to enhance your fitness.

.

.

Calculating training zones using heart rate

Firstly, we need to find out your estimated Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Your MHR can be established through laboratory tests or estimated by this formula: 220bpm – Age. For a person who is 50 years old, his/her estimated heart rate is 220-50 = 170bpm. This formula, may have a standard deviation of 7-11 beats/min but is used because it is simple to remember. Other formulas would include HRmax = 217 − (0.85 × age) (Miller et al.) and HRmax = 205.8 − (0.685 × age).

As for the RHR, find somewhere nice and quiet, lie down and relax. Position a watch or clock where you can clearly see it whilst lying down. You may simply determine your pulse per 10 seconds and multiply by 6, or use a heart rate monitor and look for the lowest value. After 20 minutes determine your resting pulse rate (beats/min). Use this value as your RHR.

.

Training/Target Heart Rate (THR)

Based on your personal fitness goals, you can bring your heart rate into the different zones aforementioned to achieve your desired results. One of the methods you may use is the ‘Karvonen Method’.

The Karvonen method factors in resting heart rate (HRrest) to calculate target heart rate (THR), using a range of 50–85% intensity:

THR = ((HRmax − HRrest) × % intensity) + HRrest

Example for someone with a HRmax of 180 and a HRrest of 70:

50% intensity: ((180 − 70) × 0.50) + 70 = 125 bpm

85% intensity: ((180 − 70) × 0.85) + 70 = 163 bpm

.

Calculating calories burnt using heart rate

For males, estimate the calories that you burned during your exercise session. This is given by the equation C = (0.6309 x H + 0.09036 x W + 0.2017 x A — 55.0969) x T / 4.184. C is the number of calories that you burned, H is your average heart rate, W is your weight, A is your age and T is the length of your exercise session in minutes.

For females, derive the calories that you burned. This is given by the equation C = (0.4472 x H — 0.05741 x W + 0.074 x A — 20.4022) x T / 4.184. Assume that you’re a 28-year-old female weighing 146 pounds. Your average heart rate during an exercise session that lasted 36 minutes was 138 bpm. You burned C = (0.4472 x 138 — 0.05741 x 146 + 0.074 x 28 — 20.4022) x 36 / 4.184 = 301 calories.

Hence, your training zones are important to ensure that you are actually putting in an optimal effort to achieve your fitness goals and to plan your workouts better.

.

.

.

.

Resources:

Wikipedia (2011) Heart Rate Retrieved from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate#Formula

Brian Mackenzie Heart Rate Training Zones Retrieved from, http://www.brianmac.co.uk/hrm1.htm

Royal Air Force Triathlon Heart-rate Training Zones Retrieved from, http://www.raf.mod.uk/raftriathlon/rafcms/mediafiles/498BDA28_1143_D71E_4627EBDF0F3C498A.pdf

Allan Robinson (2011) How to Estimate Calories Burned by Heart Rate Retrieved from, http://www.livestrong.com/article/78365-estimate-calories-burned-heart-rate/

Advertisements

Overreaching and Overtraining

Posted: May 9, 2011 in Training

Understanding the term “overreaching”.

Distinguishing overtraining from overreaching is important, because overreaching is a very natural process when we train. If you take a look at one of my training programs, you will see that it is based on three weeks with overreaching followed by one recovery week.

When you get to the third week, you will not feel stronger than you were in the first week, but after a recovery week with super compensation, you will be stronger than you were when you entered the program. Using a training program structure like this is what I call ‘controlled overtraining’.

Overtraining doesn’t happen overnight.

Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.

Many people use the term ‘overtraining’ for both overreaching and overtraining and I guess that is why many people diagnose themselves as overtrained.

The problem is that if you are really in an overtraining situation, it can take several months before your performance is back at 100%. If you have overreached in a period, a week or two is normally enough to get you back on track.

This principle is often used in tapering protocols, where training volume is reduced the last two or three weeks before a big event. Overtraining syndrome doesn´t happen over a night or week. It takes 6 to 8 weeks or even longer to develop.

.

Causes of overtraining:

It is possible to categorise certain factors, if permitted to accumulate, which will bring about a state of over-training. They are as follows:

  • Recovery is neglected (mistakes in the build-up of training cycles, inadequate use of general exercise sessions for recovery)
  • Inappropriate increase in frequency of training or extent of loading or density of loading
  • Demands are increased too quickly, so that adaptation cannot be consolidated
  • Too rapid increase of loading after forced breaks (injuries, illness)
  • Too great an extent of loadings of maximum and sub-maximum intensity
  • Too high an intensity of duration loadings in endurance training
  • Excessive and forced technical schooling in complicated courses of movement without adequate recovery
  • Excess of competitions with maximum demands, combined with frequent disturbance of the daily routine and insufficient training
  • Excessive bias of training methods and units

.

Other factors that can reduce performance:

  • Life Style:
    • Inadequate sleep, irregular routine by day
    • Use of alcohol and nicotine
    • Excess of caffeine
    • Bad living conditions (noise, overcrowding, inadequate light, etc.)
    • Over stimulating company
    • Lack of free time or inability to make good use of free time (no relaxation)
    • Nutritional deficiencies (lack of vitamins)
    • Rush and hurry
    • Frequent necessity to adjust body-weight
    • Taking on more stresses when already at capacity
  • Environment:
    • Over burdening with family duties
    • Tensions within family (parents, husband, wife)
    • Difficulties in personal relationships
    • Dissatisfaction with career, studies, school
    • Bad assessment and marks in school, in studies, etc.
    • Conflict of attitudes to sport (family, superiors)
    • Excess of stimuli (TV, cinema)
    • Increased burden in one area of environment (e.g. final exams, A levels)
  • Health Upsets:
    • Feverish colds, stomach or intestinal upsets
    • Chronic illnesses
    • After effect of infectious illness

.

Common signs and symptoms of overtraining:

Physical Signs & Symptoms

  • Elevated resting pulse / heart rate
  • Frequent minor infections
  • Increased susceptibility to colds and flu’s
  • Increases in minor injuries
  • Chronic muscle soreness or joint pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Insatiable thirst or dehydration
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Decreased performance
  • Delayed recovery from exercise

Psychological Signs & Symptoms

  • Fatigued, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Apathy or no motivation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to relax
  • Twitchy, fidgety or jittery
.
Treatment/Prevention of overtraining:
  • Taking a break from training to allow time for recovery.
  • Reducing the volume and/or the intensity of the training.
  • Suitable periodization of training.
  • Splitting the training program so that different sets of muscles are worked on different days.
  • Increase sleep time.
  • Deep-tissue or sports massage of the affected muscles.
  • Avoid incorrect exercise selection (overuse of certain muscles or joints).
  • Avoid excessive use of eccentric muscle actions.
  • Take into account the cumulative training stresses from other forms of exercise (i.e., cardiovascular training, sport-specific training, etc.)
  • Ensuring that calorie intake at least matches expenditure.
  • Ensuring total calories are from a suitable macronutrient ratio.
  • Addressing vitamin deficiencies with nutritional supplements.
.
References:
Elizabeth Quinn “Can You Overtrain with Weights?” Retrieved from, http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/strengthtraining/a/overtrainweight.htm
Wikipedia “Overtraining” Retrieved from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining

.
Question: Should You Exercise on an Empty Stomach?
If I exercise on an empty stomach in the morning, will I burn more fat?
.
Answer: The theory behind this is that your blood sugar levels are low when you’re in a fasted state (after going all night without eating) which targets more fat burning.

The problem is that just because you’re using more fat as fuel doesn’t mean you’re actually burning more fat off your body. Burning fat is more about overall calorie expenditure, not just about the type of energy your body is using for your workout. Another problem is that you may not be able to workout as long or as hard if you’re hungry, which means you may end up burning fewer calories than if you’d eaten something and worked harder.

There are other benefits to eating before your workout:

  • It can boost recovery and strength gains
  • It can help you sustain longer, more intense workouts
  • It can help you avoid low blood sugar, which can make you feel dizzy or nauseous
  • It can make your workouts more enjoyable (since you’re not thinking about eating the whole time)

The bottom line is, we each have to find a system that works for us. You may be fine doing cardio without a meal in the morning, but strength training may require more fuel to really challenge your muscles. The best answer to this is to do what works for you. Don’t go hungry just because you think you’re burning more fat…after all, if you cut it short or lower the intensity because of low energy, how much fat are you burning anyway?

A study published in 1999 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise had a group of people ride an exercise bike on two mornings: on one day after a small breakfast, and the other after eating nothing. The researchers found that when the subjects ate nothing, they became fatigued faster and stopped exercising about 30 minutes earlier.

Dr. David Prince, an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, said that when you exercise on an empty tank, your body burns through stored carbohydrates first, then protein, before it finally moves on to fat. In the meantime, he said, “you lower your blood sugar, causing ravenous hunger that in most people would lead them to eat much more than they would otherwise.”

If you do eat before a workout, make sure you give your body time to digest. The larger the meal, the more time you’ll need. But, if you choose a light snack (100-200 calories) and stick with higher carb fare, you can probably exercise after about 30-60 minutes. Pre-workout snack ideas:

  • Banana (or other type of fruit)
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Energy bar or gel
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Sports drink

 

THE BOTTOM LINE: Exercising on an empty stomach burns a higher percentage of fat but shortens your workout and makes them less intense due to fatigue, resulting in a lower total caloric expenditure necessary for weight loss.

 

 

 

Source:

Kirwan J, O’Gorman D, Evans W. A moderate glycemic meal before endurance exercise can enhance performance. 1998. J Appl Physiol 84: 53-59.

Strength Training

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Training

Pumped any iron lately? If not, you may want to consider it. Resistance exercise is a great way to round out your aerobic workout and help you stay strong. Besides for strength, strength training is highly advised during weight loss as it helps to retain the muscle mass while having less fat, giving you a nice and toned physique. As for females, you should not avoid strength training as well because of the myth that you will look muscular and bulky. Females do not have testosterone, which helps to build muscle faster. Strength training for females would also have the stated benefits as shown below.

What is resistance exercise?

Resistance exercise is any exercise where muscles contract against an external resistance with the objective of increasing strength, tone, mass, and/or muscular endurance. The resistance can come from dumbbells, weight machines, elastic tubing or bands, cinder blocks, cans of soup, your own body weight (for example, push-ups), or any other object that forces your muscles to contract. Results occur when you train consistently over time.

What are types of resistance exercise?

There are several types or styles of resistance exercise. Power lifting (a weight-lifting competition in which participants compete in the squat, dead lift, and bench press), Olympic weight lifting (the type you see on TV where athletes lift the weight overhead), strength training (lifting weights to get stronger), and weight lifting (the sport of lifting heavy weight, typically fewer than six repetitions). Weight lifting should not be confused with “weight training,” which is the general lifting that you do at the gym. I’ll discuss the basic principles of all resistance exercise in this article.

What is Progressive Overload?

One of the fundamentals of resistance exercise is the principle of progressive overload. Progressive overload means that you increase the workload gradually over time as your muscles accommodate to the resistance with the objective of gaining strength and/or mass. For example, suppose that you’ve been lifting biceps curls for two weeks with 12 pounds, 10 repetitions, and then at week three, 12 pounds is easy and you can lift more. According to the principle of progressive overload, at this point, you would increase the weight if strength improvement is your goal. Your strength will remain the same if you keep the weight the same.

What are sets and repetitions (reps)?

Sets and reps are the terms used to describe the number of times you perform an exercise. A rep is the number of times you perform a specific exercise, and a set is the number of cycles of reps that you complete. For example, suppose you complete 15 reps of a bench press. You would say you’ve completed “one set of 15 reps.” A set can be any number of reps, so if you complete 10 reps of a bench press, you would say you’ve completed “one set of 10 reps,” and if you complete just five reps, then that would be “one set of five reps.”

How many sets should I do?

Research is clear that beginners can develop as much strength performing one set per exercise as they can performing three sets. This is because beginners typically start off with a low level of strength which leaves room for improvement (called an “adaptive window”). Muscles respond quickly to resistance exercise in untrained individuals because the adaptive window is large. This is great news because the motivation to continue working out is reinforced by immediate and significant improvement. However, after three to four months, strength gains will level off and then multiple sets (three to five per exercise) are necessary if more improvement is desired.

How do I go about lifting for strength?

Muscular strength is gained when you lift heavy. For strength and mass development, keep the resistance heavy enough so that you cannot lift more than eight reps, and then follow the progressive overload principle and increase the weight when you can lift more then eight. Expect your reps to drop whenever you increase the weight. For example, suppose you’ve been doing 10 reps of bench presses with 175 pounds and you increase the weight to 190 pounds. Because the weight is heavier, you will lift fewer reps, but as your muscles accommodate, you will again be able to lift more reps. When strength is your priority, you can experiment with heavy days. Heavy days are when you lift as much as you can one time. This is called a one-repetition maximum (a 10-rep maximum would be the weight you can lift 10 times to fatigue). Heavy days are challenging, so I don’t recommend them more than once a week so that your muscles have time to recover and grow.

Lifting for strength, tone, and endurance (general conditioning)

Keeping the reps in the eight-to-12 range emphasizes a combination of strength, tone, and endurance. This is a realistic quantity of training for most individuals. The recommendation in the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand, “Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults,” is for beginners to lift eight to 12 reps, and for the range to widen to one to 12 reps for intermediate and advanced training. Although research supports the 8 to 12 reps recommendation, I believe it’s prudent for beginners to start with 12-15 reps to reduce the risk of injury, and then the weight can be increased after a few weeks when the muscles have accommodated. Keep in mind that strength, tone, and some mass still accrue by training with reps in the 12-15 range, and so you don’t have to lift heavier than that if you prefer not to.

How many days should I lift?

Beginners, because of their wide adaptive window, will accrue significant benefits with two to three days of training. Advanced lifters need at least three days per week, and typically more for significant gains because they are already so strong (more benefit takes more effort). It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders and other strength athletes to train four to five days per week.

How do I know how much weight to lift?

Trial and error is the way to determine how much weight to lift. Select a weight that looks close to what you think you can lift based on your goals. If general conditioning is your goal, then select a weight you think you can lift eight to 12 reps (or 12-15 reps for beginners). If you can lift it 25 times with ease, then it’s too light, and if you can lift it only four times, then it’s too heavy. There are no formulas to calculate this. Simply decide what your goal is so you know how many reps to lift, take a guess by looking at the weights, and then give it a try. You’ll get good at this quickly.

When do I increase the weight?

You should increase the intensity by not more than 10% per week either for the weight lifted or the repetitions. If you feel that you are still unable to cope with this new intensity, continue on with the previous intensity. Do get a friend or a personal trainer as your spotter especially during free weights as to ensure safety.

Free weights vs. machines

Dumbbells and barbells are free weights. They are “free,” or untethered, unlike a weight machine where the weight stack is connected by cables to cams and pulleys and only move in one direction. There are advantages to both styles of lifting.

Weight machines:

1. Weight machines are easy to learn and use.

2. There are some exercises you can do with a machine that you can’t do with a dumbbell. For instance, cable rows would be difficult to replicate with free weights. You could do bent over dumbbell rows, but they won’t be quite the same. For my money, cable rows feel smoother than any exercise in the gym!

Free weights:

1. Free-weight training requires balance and coordination, and so if you are involved in a sport that requires balance, or you just need balance training, then free-weight training might be more effective.

2. Free-weight training may recruit more muscles than a machine because you have to stabilize your body when you lift a dumbbell, whereas the weight machine supports you. For example, a biceps curls is going to feel more natural and use more muscles in your torso (to support the weight) than if you did a seated biceps curl in a machine where the machine does some of the work and you can lean against it for leverage.

3. There are a variety of exercises that you can do with dumbbells that you can’t do with machines. Lunges, step-ups, and many upper body exercises can be performed with free weights if you’re creative.

4. There is no evidence to suggest that either method is superior to the other. My suggestion is to combine free weights and dumbbells to get the best of each. The ACSM weight training position stands states the following: “For novice to intermediate training, it is recommended that the resistance training program include free-weight and machine exercises. For advanced strength training, it is recommended that emphasis be placed on free-weight exercises, with machine exercises used to complement the program needs.”

How important is the order of exercises in a workout?

Research shows that the order of exercises can significantly affect strength development, and so it is standard practice to set up a resistance-training routine to work large muscle groups before smaller ones. The reason is that a small muscle group that fatigues first will be the weakest link in the chain and prevent large muscle groups from working to full capacity. For example, if you isolate and fatigue your biceps muscles with curls, and then try to do lat pull-downs (which use biceps, shoulders and back), you won’t be able to do as much work for your shoulders and back because your biceps will already be fatigued. In the starter programs below, you will see examples of working large to small muscle groups.

What about proper lifting technique?

When you are lifting, always ensure that you perform the exercises in a slow and controlled manner without the use of momentum. When exerting force, always exhale to prevent a build up of air pressure in your body. If you are unsure, you can always get a personal trainer to help!

How long should I rest between sets and workouts?

The amount of time you rest between sets can significantly affect your results. Rest up to three minutes between sets if pure strength development is your priority, and one to two minutes if muscular endurance and tone is your priority. Three minutes permits the muscles to recover from fatigue so that you can generate enough energy to perform another maximal lift on the next set. The standard advice is to rest two days between workouts. This makes sense if you push hard, since the muscles need time to recover and grow. In fact, it can take up to five days for muscles to fully recover from a tough workout, and if you push too hard, you might experience symptoms of overtraining (fatigue, loss of strength, inability to lift 100%, chronic soreness, and persistent injuries). It’s okay to lift two days in a row. Experienced lifters do it all the time by splitting their workout so that they work one muscle group per day. For example, they might work their upper body on one day, and legs on another, or back muscles on one day, and chest muscles on the next. Experiment with different splits until you find what works best for you.

What are the benefits of weight lifting? Is it ever too late to start?

New benefits of resistance exercise seem to be discovered all the time. Research to date shows that resistance exercise is associated with improvements in all of the following:

  • muscular strength and endurance
  • functional capacity and ability (falling, climbing stairs)
  • blood pressure
  • osteoporosis
  • sarcopenia (loss of muscle as we age)
  • low back pain
  • insulin resistance and glucose metabolism
  • resting metabolic rate
  • body fat
  • psychological well-being

Is it ever too late?

It’s never too late to start a resistance-exercise program. In a classic study in a Boston nursing home, 100 residents ranging from 72 to 98 years of age performed resistance exercise three times a week for 10 weeks. Muscle strength increased 113%, walking speed increased by almost 12%, and thigh-muscle area increased 2.7%!

 

References:

Richard Weil Weight Lifting (Resistance Training) Types, Programs, Tips and  Benefits on MedicineNet.com retrieved 21st January 2011 from, http://www.medicinenet.com/weight_lifting/article.htm

Pumped any iron lately? If not, you may want to consider it. Resistance exercise is a great way to round out your aerobic workout and help you stay strong. Besides for strength, strength training is highly advised during weight loss as it helps to retain the muscle mass while having less fat, giving you a nice and toned physique. I’ll discuss the ins and outs of resistance exercise in this article and then suggest two basic training plans to get you started.

What is resistance exercise?

Resistance exercise is any exercise where muscles contract against an external resistance with the objective of increasing strength, tone, mass, and/or muscular endurance. The resistance can come from dumbbells, weight machines, elastic tubing or bands, cinder blocks, cans of soup, your own body weight (for example, push-ups), or any other object that forces your muscles to contract. Results occur when you train consistently over time.

What are types of resistance exercise?

There are several types or styles of resistance exercise. Power lifting (a weight-lifting competition in which participants compete in the squat, dead lift, and bench press), Olympic weight lifting (the type you see on TV where athletes lift the weight overhead), strength training (lifting weights to get stronger), and weight lifting (the sport of lifting heavy weight, typically fewer than six repetitions). Weight lifting should not be confused with “weight training,” which is the general lifting that you do at the gym. I’ll discuss the basic principles of all resistance exercise in this article.

What is progressive overload?

One of the fundamentals of resistance exercise is the principle of progressive overload. Progressive overload means that you increase the workload gradually over time as your muscles accommodate to the resistance with the objective of gaining strength and/or mass. For example, suppose that you’ve been lifting biceps curls for two weeks with 12 pounds, 10 repetitions, and then at week three, 12 pounds is easy and you can lift more. According to the principle of progressive overload, at this point, you would increase the weight if strength improvement is your goal. Your strength will remain the same if you keep the weight the same.

What are sets and repetitions (reps)?

Sets and reps are the terms used to describe the number of times you perform an exercise. A rep is the number of times you perform a specific exercise, and a set is the number of cycles of reps that you complete. For example, suppose you complete 15 reps of a bench press. You would say you’ve completed “one set of 15 reps.” A set can be any number of reps, so if you complete 10 reps of a bench press, you would say you’ve completed “one set of 10 reps,” and if you complete just five reps, then that would be “one set of five reps.”

How many sets should I do?

Research is clear that beginners can develop as much strength performing one set per exercise as they can performing three sets. This is because beginners typically start off with a low level of strength which leaves room for improvement (called an “adaptive window”). Muscles respond quickly to resistance exercise in untrained individuals because the adaptive window is large. This is great news because the motivation to continue working out is reinforced by immediate and significant improvement. However, after three to four months, strength gains will level off and then multiple sets (three to five per exercise) are necessary if more improvement is desired.

How do I go about lifting for strength?

Muscular strength is gained when you lift heavy. For pure strength development, keep the resistance heavy enough so that you cannot lift more than eight reps, and then follow the progressive overload principle and increase the weight when you can lift more then eight. Expect your reps to drop whenever you increase the weight. For example, suppose you’ve been doing 10 reps of bench presses with 175 pounds and you increase the weight to 190 pounds. Because the weight is heavier, you will lift fewer reps, but as your muscles accommodate, you will again be able to lift more reps. When strength is your priority, you can experiment with heavy days. Heavy days are when you lift as much as you can one time. This is called a one-repetition maximum (a 10-rep maximum would be the weight you can lift 10 times to fatigue). Heavy days are challenging, so I don’t recommend them more than once a week so that your muscles have time to recover and grow.

Lifting for strength, tone, and endurance (general conditioning)

Keeping the reps in the eight-to-12 range emphasizes a combination of strength, tone, and endurance. This is a realistic quantity of training for most individuals. The recommendation in the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand, “Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults,” is for beginners to lift eight to 12 reps, and for the range to widen to one to 12 reps for intermediate and advanced training. Although research supports the 8 to 12 reps recommendation, I believe it’s prudent for beginners to start with 12-15 reps to reduce the risk of injury, and then the weight can be increased after a few weeks when the muscles have accommodated. Keep in mind that strength, tone, and some mass still accrue by training with reps in the 12-15 range, and so you don’t have to lift heavier than that if you prefer not to.

How many days should I lift?

Beginners, because of their wide adaptive window, will accrue significant benefits with two to three days of training. Advanced lifters need at least three days per week, and typically more for significant gains because they are already so strong (more benefit takes more effort). It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders and other strength athletes to train four to five days per week.

How do I know how much weight to lift?

Trial and error is the way to determine how much weight to lift. Select a weight that looks close to what you think you can lift based on your goals. If general conditioning is your goal, then select a weight you think you can lift eight to 12 reps (or 12-15 reps for beginners). If you can lift it 25 times with ease, then it’s too light, and if you can lift it only four times, then it’s too heavy. There are no formulas to calculate this. Simply decide what your goal is so you know how many reps to lift, take a guess by looking at the weights, and then give it a try. You’ll get good at this quickly.

When do I increase the weights?

You should increase the intensity by not more than 10% per week either for the weight lifted or the repetitions. If you feel that you are still unable to cope with this new intensity, continue on with the previous intensity. Do get a friend or a personal trainer as your spotter especially during free weights as to ensure safety.

Free weights vs. machines

Dumbbells and barbells are free weights. They are “free,” or untethered, unlike a weight machine where the weight stack is connected by cables to cams and pulleys and only move in one direction. There are advantages to both styles of lifting.

Weight machines:

1. Weight machines are easy to learn and use.

2. There are some exercises you can do with a machine that you can’t do with a dumbbell. For instance, cable rows would be difficult to replicate with free weights. You could do bent over dumbbell rows, but they won’t be quite the same. For my money, cable rows feel smoother than any exercise in the gym!

Free weights:

1. Free-weight training requires balance and coordination, and so if you are involved in a sport that requires balance, or you just need balance training, then free-weight training might be more effective.

2. Free-weight training may recruit more muscles than a machine because you have to stabilize your body when you lift a dumbbell, whereas the weight machine supports you. For example, a biceps curls is going to feel more natural and use more muscles in your torso (to support the weight) than if you did a seated biceps curl in a machine where the machine does some of the work and you can lean against it for leverage.

3. There are a variety of exercises that you can do with dumbbells that you can’t do with machines. Lunges, step-ups, and many upper body exercises can be performed with free weights if you’re creative.

4. There is no evidence to suggest that either method is superior to the other. My suggestion is to combine free weights and dumbbells to get the best of each. The ACSM weight training position stands states the following: “For novice to intermediate training, it is recommended that the resistance training program include free-weight and machine exercises. For advanced strength training, it is recommended that emphasis be placed on free-weight exercises, with machine exercises used to complement the program needs.”

 

How important is the order in which I perform my exercises?

Research shows that the order of exercises can significantly affect strength development, and so it is standard practice to set up a resistance-training routine to work large muscle groups before smaller ones. The reason is that a small muscle group that fatigues first will be the weakest link in the chain and prevent large muscle groups from working to full capacity. For example, if you isolate and fatigue your biceps muscles with curls, and then try to do lat pull-downs (which use biceps, shoulders and back), you won’t be able to do as much work for your shoulders and back because your biceps will already be fatigued. In the starter programs below, you will see examples of working large to small muscle groups.

What about proper weight-lifting techniques?

When you are lifting, always ensure that you perform the exercises in a slow and controlled manner without the use of momentum. When exerting force, always exhale to prevent a build up of air pressure in your body. If you are unsure, you can always get a personal trainer to help!

How long should I rest between sets and between days?

The amount of time you rest between sets can significantly affect your results. Rest up to three minutes between sets if pure strength development is your priority, and one to two minutes if muscular endurance and tone is your priority. Three minutes permits the muscles to recover from fatigue so that you can generate enough energy to perform another maximal lift on the next set. The standard advice is to rest two days between workouts. This makes sense if you push hard, since the muscles need time to recover and grow. In fact, it can take up to five days for muscles to fully recover from a tough workout, and if you push too hard, you might experience symptoms of overtraining (fatigue, loss of strength, inability to lift 100%, chronic soreness, and persistent injuries). It’s okay to lift two days in a row. Experienced lifters do it all the time by splitting their workout so that they work one muscle group per day. For example, they might work their upper body on one day, and legs on another, or back muscles on one day, and chest muscles on the next. Experiment with different splits until you find what works best for you.

What are the benefits of weight lifting? Is it ever too late to start?

New benefits of resistance exercise seem to be discovered all the time. Research to date shows that resistance exercise is associated with improvements in all of the following:

  • muscular strength and endurance
  • functional capacity and ability (falling, climbing stairs)
  • blood pressure
  • osteoporosis
  • sarcopenia (loss of muscle as we age)
  • low back pain
  • insulin resistance and glucose metabolism
  • resting metabolic rate
  • body fat
  • psychological well-being

Is it ever too late?

It’s never too late to start a resistance-exercise program. In a classic study in a Boston nursing home, 100 residents ranging from 72 to 98 years of age performed resistance exercise three times a week for 10 weeks. Muscle strength increased 113%, walking speed increased by almost 12%, and thigh-muscle area increased 2.7%!

Warming up and cooling down

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Training

Most athletes perform some type of regular warm up and cool down during training. Stretching is not warming up! It is, however, a very important part of warming up. Warming up is quite literally the process of “warming up” (i.e., raising your core body temperature). A proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by one or two degrees CelsiusA proper warm up can increase the blood flow to the working muscle which results in decreased muscle stiffness, less risk of injury and improved performance. Additional benefits of warming up include physiological and psychological preparation.

 

Benefits of a Proper Warm Up:

  • Increased Muscle Temperature – The temperature increases within muscles that are used during a warm up routine. A warmed muscle both contracts more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. In this way both speed and strength can be enhanced. Also, the probability of overstretching a muscle and causing injury is far less.
  • Increased Body Temperature – This improves muscle elasticity, also reducing the risk of strains and pulls.
  • Blood Vessels Dilate – This reduces the resistance to blood flow and lower stress on the heart.
  • Improve Efficient Cooling – By activating the heat-dissipation mechanisms in the body (efficient sweating) an athlete can cool efficiently and help prevent overheating early in the event or race.
  • Increased Blood Temperature – The temperature of blood increases as it travels through the muscles, and as blood temperature rises, the amount of oxygen it can hold becomes reduced. This means a slightly greater volume of oxygen is made available to the working muscles, enhancing endurance and performance.
  • Improved Range of Motion – The range of motion around a joint is increase thus having more flexibility.
  • Hormonal Changes – Your body increases its production of various hormones responsible for regulating energy production. During warm up this balance of hormones makes more carbohydrates and fatty acids available for energy production.
  • Mental Preparation – The warm up is also a good time to mentally prepare for an event by clearing the mind, increasing focus, reviewing skills and strategy.

 

A warm up should consist of the following sequentially:

Pulse raiser:

The pulse raiser is the first part of a warm-up and can be any activity which can be used to gradually increase the heart rate. Jogging is a good example because it requires no equipment at all and can begin at a very slow speed and gradually increase. Other good choices are cycling and skipping. Do bear in mind that it is always a good idea to perform a warm-up which is most similar in terms of movement patterns to the sport you are preparing for.

Active stretching of muscles:

Stretches are an important part of any warm-up programme. They should be performed after the pulse raiser as by then the muscles are warmer and so more elastic, reducing the likelihood of injury.

There is debate surrounding the best method of stretching, but the general consensus now is that dynamic stretching (sometimes called active stretching) is most appropriate. Dynamic stretching is the use of movement to stretch muscles before a workout or athletic competition. It relies on controlled leg and arm swings rather than momentum that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion to engage the muscles, rather than holding a stretch at a standstill.

Sports specific drills

It is important to rehearse common movement patterns and skills which will be used in the workout or training. This will not only help to improve performance through ensuring the muscles are prepared for the task in hand, but will also help to improve co-ordination, reaction times and accuracy.

 

Cooling down

This is also often overlooked in favour of a drink in the bar but can help avoid injuries and boost performance. The aim of the cool down is to:

  • Gradually lower heart rate.
  • Circulate blood and oxygen to muscles, restoring them to the condition they were in before exercise.
  • Reduce the risk of blood pooling by maintaining muscle action and heart rate to pump blood back to the heart.
  • Remove waste products such as lactic acid.
  • Reduce the risk of muscle soreness.

The cool down should consist of a gentle jog, decreasing in speed down to a walk followed by light static stretching. Static stretches are more appropriate to the cool down as they help muscles to relax, realign muscle fibres and re-establish their normal range of movement. Remember to stretch all muscle groups used in the sport. Static stretching  involves gradually easing into the stretch position and holding the position. The amount of time a static stretch is held depends on your objectives. If it is part of your cool down then stretches should be held for 10 seconds, if it is to improve your range of mobility then hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Often in static stretching, you are advised to move further into the stretch position as the stretch sensation subsides.

 

Sports Massage

Sports massage can be used as part of either a warm-up or a cool down. During a warm-up a short massage can help to warm and stretch the muscles and get the blood pumping, ready for exercise. It can also help to prepare you mentally.

A post-exercise massage helps to remove waste products such as lactic acid which build up during exercise, and prevent blood pooling. It will aso help stretch the muscles and return them to their pre-exercise state!
//

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Posted: December 18, 2010 in Training

You just got back from the gym and you feel great! During today’s workout you were able to push yourself a little harder than normal and you are feeling totally pumped, looking forward to that next training session. Later that night your muscles feel fatigued and tired and you know you are going to get a good night’s sleep. When you wake, you feel as though you have magically aged twenty years and your muscles and body ache like mad! Joints and muscles are stiff and the last thing you want to do is return back to the gym for more. The next day, you wake up in worse shape than the day before and simple tasks such as walking up stairs, brushing your hair, or getting up from your seat seem like parts of a triathlon event. What’s going on with your body? You felt great leaving the gym after your workout, did you catch some disease in the locker room that is eating away at your body, or even worse, are little men sneaking into your room at night and beating you with a baseball bat? Before you start to panic, relax, more than likely you are suffering the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes a phenomenon of muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that is felt 12-48 hours after exercise, particularly at the beginning of a new an exercise program, after a change in sports activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of exercise.

 

This muscle pain is a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater fitness improvements. Have a look at the picture below to understand the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) better.

However, appropriate stimuli (training intensity) is essential to optimal gains from training. How? Have a look below!

This soreness we feel would be during the compensation (recovery) phase we recover from the previous workout. This sort of muscle pain is not quite the same as the muscle pain or fatigue you experience during exercise. This delayed pain is also very different than the acute, sudden pain of and injury such as muscle strains and sprains, which is marked by an abrupt, specific and sudden pain that occurs during activity and often causes swelling or bruising.

 

Causes of DOMS:

Delayed onset muscle soreness is thought to be a result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. The amount of tearing (and soreness) depends on how hard and how long you exercise and what type of exercise you do. Any movement you aren’t used to can lead to DOMS, but eccentric muscle contractions (movements that cause muscle to forcefully contract while it lengthens) seem to cause the most soreness.

Examples of eccentric muscle contractions include going down stairs, running downhill and the lowering process of weights In addition to small muscle tears there can be associated swelling in a muscle which may contribute to soreness.

 

I don’t like the DOMS, how do I treat/prevent it?

There is no one simple way to treat delayed onset muscle soreness. In fact, there has been an ongoing debate about both the cause and treatment of DOMS. In the past, gentle stretching was one of the recommended ways to reduce exercise related muscle soreness, but a study by Australian researchers published in 2007 found that stretching is not effective in avoiding muscle soreness.

So does anything work to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness? Nothing is proven 100 percent effective, but some people have found the following advice helpful, but it’s best for an individual to try a few things to see what works for them.

  • Use Active Recovery. This strategy does have support in the research. Performing easy low-impact aerobic exercise increasing blood flow and is linked with diminished muscle soreness. After an intense workout or competition, use this technique as a part of your cool down.
  • Rest and Recover. If you simply wait it out and have enough rest, soreness will go away in 3 to 7 days with no special treatment.
  • Proper Nutrition. Having increased protein intake can help in the process of recovery.
  • Try a Sports Massage. Some research has found that sports massage may help reduce reported muscle soreness and reduce swelling, although it had no effects on muscle function.
  • Try an Ice Bath or Contrast Water Bath. Although no clear evidence proves they are effective, many pro athletes use them and claim they work to reduce soreness.
  • Perform Gentle Stretching. Although research doesn’t find stretching alone reduces muscle pain of soreness, many people find it simply feels good.
  • Warm Up completely before your next exercise session. There is some research that supports that a warm-up performed immediately prior to unaccustomed eccentric exercise produces small reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness (but cool-down performed after exercise does not).
  • Progress Slowly. The most important prevention method is to gradually increase your exercise time and intensity. See the 10 percent rule if you need some exercise progression guidelines.
  • Follow the Ten Percent Rule. When beginning a new activity start gradually and build up your time and intensity no more than ten percent per week.
  • Hire a Personal Trainer if you aren’t sure how to start a workout program that is safe and effective.

 

Some people like the feeling of muscle soreness but some don’t. But most don’t understand why they have the soreness. Hope this post builds your understanding of that previously described my-muscles-are-sore-but-I-don’t-know-why feeling. Which of these recovery methods have you used to alleviate the symptoms of DOMS and which ones work best? Share it with us below!

7 execises you could be doing wrongly.

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Training

This time around we’re talking about poor exercise form and the common mistakes that almost everyone makes when working out. Exercises done in improper form may lead to serious injuries. Over the years I’ve seen the same exercises repeatedly performed incorrectly by a great many people. This is largely due to misunderstanding what the exercise is trying to accomplish which prevents people from feeling the movement properly. And since a lot of us “learn” new exercises from friends in the gym, the quality of what you learn is only as good as the person teaching you.

These would be some of the common exercises you could be doing wrongly. How many apply to you?

1.

You are doing this exercise with the bar behind your head. The lateral pull down behind the head is done by pulling a weighted bar down behind your head and neck. Unless you have very mobile shoulder joints, you could be damaging the alignment of your spine when you pull the bar down or you could be putting undue strain on your shoulders, which can easily lead to injury.

Safe Alternative: Instead of pulling the bar down behind your head, try leaning back a few degrees and pulling the bar down to your breastbone by pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Contract your abdominal muscles to control your movements.

2.

Your back is rounded when doing deadlifts. Deadlifts are the antidote to the cubicle hunch, as they strengthen the muscles along your posterior chain. But allowing your back to round under the weight you’re holding can strain your lumbar and glutes.

Safer alternative: Keep your spine in a neutral position and do not over arch your back.

 

 

3.

Doing dumbbell lateral raises with your elbows above shoulder level. This exercise is great for strengthening and adding some shape to the side of the shoulders when done correctly, but unfortunately it’s mostly performed wrong. Doing this exercise with the elbows above the shoulder would place a lot of undue stress on the shoulder joint and could cause injury. Another good pointer is that your arms should have a 15 degree angle from the side as our arms are inserted into our shoulder joint at about 15 degrees, but this varies from people to people.

 

 

4.

Doing a shoulder press behind the neck. Likewise to the lateral pulldown behind the neck, you could be putting undue strain on your shoulders, which can easily lead to injury.

Safer alternative: Do the shoulder presses in front of you instead.

 

 

 

 

5.

Doing planks while your body is not in a straight line. I’ve seen a lot of people performing the plank, on their elbows and toes, with a “banana”, sunken back. This places tremendous strain on the lower back, stretches out the abs and doesn’t work the intended muscles at all. There are also people who lift the hips too high to record a better timing, thereby defeating the purpose of training the abs.

More effective alternative: Keep in mind to have your body in a straight line. Use the mirror if you have to. That’s why there are so many mirrors in the gym.

6. Doing sit-ups with your back straightened or barely contracting your abdominal muscles at all. Keeping your back straight would place a lot of stress on the back. Crunches and sit-ups are the only exercises that would need you to have a rounded back instead of a neutral one. I see a lot of people pulling their heads back and fourth looking like bobble-heads, and doing hardly anything for their abdominals. Well, probably they’re training their neck muscles?

Safer alternative: Keep your back rounded and hold the back of your ears instead of the back of the head.

7.

Running/walking on the treadill while holding on to the handle. This is one of the most common I’ve seen. Holding on to the treadmill just makes the task easier. It’s like switching on the air-conditioner but covering yourself with a blanket. The purpose is defeated. If the speed or inclination is overwhelming, simply decrease it!

 

 

 

Problems Created by Holding Onto the Treadmill

1. Turns walking into “make-believe walking” and running into “fake-running”

2. Ruins posture and body alignment

3. Reduces calories burned

4. Reduces effects of incline

5. Doesn’t build balance

    More effective alternative: Let it go, let it go!