Tag Archives: Strength training

Are Muscles The Key To A Longer Life

If you check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for exercise this year, you’ll notice something different. While the CDC used to simply recommend any type of exercise a few days a week, it now recommends both cardiovascular activities and toning exercises in the form of strength training. Specifically, Americans age 65 and older are encouraged to learn how to build muscle and do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, arms, shoulders, chest, and abdomen) at least twice a week.


Why this change to the government recommendations? Experts now realize just how important toning exercises are to your overall health and longevity. “Every health professional will agree that strength training is essential for health, injury prevention, and prolonging quality of life,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Cody Foss, owner of the Fitness Loft in Newtown, Conn.


Whether you’re a young person just learning how to build muscle or an older person looking for toning exercises to increase your longevity, strength training has benefits for everyone. “The major advantage of strength training is to keep older adults active and moving,” says Glenda Renee Westmoreland, MD, a geriatrician at Wishard Health Services and an associate professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “Strength and resistance training are helpful to reduce functional decline and loss of endurance.”


When it comes to preventing some of the health concerns and accidents that befall the elderly, this advice about learning how to build muscle with toning exercise is especially true. For example, a group of researchers recently looked at 111 studies with over 55,000 total subjects on the topic of falls in the elderly. After examining all this data, what they found was that exercise programs that focused on at least two of these — building strength, balance, flexibility, or endurance — were the best way to prevent future falls in the elderly.


Tips on Toning Exercise


If you are an older individual who is first learning how to build muscle, it’s important to start slowly to avoid overexerting yourself, says Dr. Westmoreland. “The major consideration before embarking on strength training as an older adult is to make sure that from a cardiovascular standpoint you are fit to start,” she says. That means getting the okay from your primary care physician before you begin.


Once you receive clearance from your doctor, walking is a good place to start. Then, as your fitness improves, you can incorporate some light strength training exercises into your routine. “The older adult should do muscle-strengthening exercises that work all the different muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms,” says Westmoreland.


If you’re concerned that strength training means lifting massive weight over your head, you needn’t be. You can do toning exercises that are low-impact but will still build muscle.


For example, tai chi is a very effective strength training exercise that has helped promote longevity in many people. Find a local class to participate in or simply follow a video at home to get the benefits of tai chi.


Other simple toning exercises are actually not that different from stretches. Val Walkowiak, the medical integration coordinator at Loyola Center for Fitness in Chicago, recommends the following exercises to strengthen your core every other day:


Abdominal twist: Sit in an armless chair with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be in the center of your torso and your elbows along your sides. Slowly twist to the right, then to the left. Your shoulders should face to the right and then to the left during the movement, but you should not be swinging your arms from side to side. Do two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Lying abdominal crunch: Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands by your ears. Keep your elbow and shoulder joints aligned during the movement. Slowly curl your upper body upward until your rib cage comes up off the floor. The goal is to create a “C” with your torso by bringing your chest toward your legs. Don’t let your lower back come up off the floor, just your rib cage. Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Pelvic tilts: Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in toward your spine until your abdominal muscles feel tight. Slowly shift your pelvis up toward the ceiling until you feel your lower back press against the floor. Your buttocks should not come off the floor. Return to starting position. This exercise works the lower portion of the abdominal muscles.

Bridges: Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in toward your spine. Slowly lift your torso off the floor until you have formed a bridge with your body. Your upper back, shoulders, and head should remain on the floor. Return your body to the floor and repeat. Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.


If you have osteoporosis, particularly if you have had compression fractures of the vertebrae in your back, you should get your doctor’s okay before doing these floor exercises.


Adding a strenth training component to your fitness routine doesn’t have to be complicated, and the benefits to overall health — including reducing your risk of falling — are more than worth the time you put in.



Last Updated: 01/18/2011

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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Health and Science


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5 Fixes For Flabby Problem Areas


We’ve all got a soft spot that bugs us. One of these moves will firm it up.

Here’s a fact about flab: It results not only from lack of muscle tone but also from excess body fat. “You could do 1,005 crunches, but if you don’t do enough cardio, you’ll just have very toned muscles under a blanket of fat,” says Johanna Subotovsky, learning manager at Equinox Fitness. You need at least 30 minutes of cardio, three times a week. Then try this spot-specific advice.

Bra bulge

To get rid of the little roll that spills over your bra strap in the back, try bent-over rows.

  • Stand next to a chair with a dumbbell in right hand. Place left knee and hand on seat and extend right arm toward floor. Bending elbow out to side, slowly bring weight up to chest.
  • Do two sets of 15 reps on each side.

Inner- and outer- thigh mushiness

The hips and thighs are the first place most women tend to store fat and the last place they lose it. In addition to lots of cardio, try the four-way lunge.

  • With hands on hips, step forward with right foot and lunge (don’t let knee go past toes); return to start. Lunge backward; return to start. Lunge right (keeping left leg straight); go back to start. Then with left foot, lunge to left side. Repeat, leading with opposite foot.
  • Do two sets of 15 reps on each side.

Underarm flab

Triceps respond fast to exercise and fat loss, which means that you could see a change here in just a few weeks with chair dips.

  • Place your hands on the edge of the seat of a chair and walk your feet out. Slowly lower butt toward floor, bending elbows to about a 90-degree angle; press back up.
  • Do two sets of 15 reps.

Armpit overhang

The flesh that peeks out over the top of a strapless gown can be tightened with push-ups. But the issue may be the dress, not you.

  • “It’s all about the cut,” says stylist Cristina Ehrlich, who’s worked with Penélope Cruz. “Look for a dress where the top is high enough that it doesn’t dig into your armpit skin. It should come up and over the area.”

Belly pooch

Along with plenty of cardio, you can flatten your lower abs with planks.

  • Get in a raised push-up position, except with forearms on the floor; hold the pose with back flat and belly in for 30 to 90 seconds. For more definition, try the bicycle.
  • Lie on floor, knees bent, hands behind head. Lift shoulder blades and twist right elbow to left knee; then twist left elbow toward right knee. Do two sets of 15 reps.




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Tools To emPOWER You – Part II – The Human Swiss Army Knife

Think of Working Out Like A Swiss Army Knife

Screwdriver (the gizmo, not the drink)

The Figurative: A screwdriver is a tool for driving screws or bolts with the intent of stabilizing two or more items or an entire structure.

The Abstract: Think of the weights you use, whether dumbbells or your own body weight, as the screwdriver.  Every rep equates to a turn of the screwdriver, strengthening the muscle at use.  Squat one (tight), curl two (tighter), lift three (tightest)…catch my drift?


The Figurative:  A blade is a tool with an edge that is designed to cut, chop, or slice.

The Abstract:  Defining muscle cannot be accomplished by only strength training….but it sure helps.  Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.  As we age, muscle mass decreases, thus weight training continues to be of importance throughout our lives.  A complete fitness plan is imperative by strengthening muscles, sustaining cardiovascular function, improving flexibility, and maintaining a healthy diet.


The Figurative:  A saw is a tool that uses a hard blade to cut through materials.

The Abstract:  Dissect your plan.  You have a goal in mind – lose XX pounds, run a mile under ten minutes, eat five fruits and vegetables per day.  But, how do you plan on achieving that objective?  Slice it down into smaller pieces in order to make it real.  What will you do today, tomorrow, and the next day reach your aspiration.  Baby steps equals success.


The Figurative:  Tweezers are tools used for picking up objects too small to be easily handled with the human hands.

The Abstract:  Once you’ve established your plan and have put it to use, examine and modify what is working and what is not.  Eliminate what is hampering your success, and augment that which is.


The Figurative:  Pliers are a hand tool used to hold objects firmly, for bending, or physical compression.

The Abstract:  Stretching is important for avoiding injuries.  After every workout you should spend at least five minutes stretching while the muscles are warm.  It also provides better mobility, improved posture, decreased muscle strain, and athletic performance.

Welcoming all “abstracted” tool stories here!  Corkscrews, sanders, blow torches, and more!


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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Health and Science


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How to Exercise in 30 Minutes or Less

Leonard Bernstein



World renowned composer and director Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” How true! Fitness is no exception — without a plan, it is all too easy to let your exercise program slip right through the cracks. But if you can squeeze just 30 minutes out of your day, you can fit in a great workout. Here are some tips to turn your plan into a “great thing” for your body:

  • Schedule it. Don’t wait for extra time to show up in your day—because it won’t. Mark off 30 minutes for exercise, just as you would schedule a doctor’s appointment, and then make it a priority.
  • Don’t worry about the “right time” to exercise. It matters little if it’s morning, noon or night. Choosing a time that works within your schedule will help you establish a permanent routine and keep other obligations from undermining your plan.
  • Recruit a workout buddy. For many people, an exercise partner is the glue that helps you stick to your commitment. Choose someone with compatible fitness level and goals so that you can each progress comfortably together and feel successful.
  • Start slowly. If you are not accustomed to exercise, don’t try to do too much, too soon. Walking is a great way to begin an exercise program. It’s simple—you already know how to do it! It requires no special equipment other than a good pair of walking shoes, and best of all, you can do it anywhere.
  • Make working out fun. Consistency is a key ingredient for any successful fitness regime, so seek out activities that you like doing. It doesn’t matter what the latest craze is that’s “guaranteed” to burn thousands of calories per workout. If you don’t enjoy doing it, you will never keep it up. Choose activities that add joy, not dread, to your day.
  • Mix it up. You need cardio, strength training and flexibility-based activities for a well-rounded exercise program. Rather than walking the same route every day, mix things up by doing some strength training a couple of days per week. Try this awesome 30 minute strength training program that requires no equipment.
  • Break it up when you must. On some busy days, 30 minutes straight is just not happening. On those days, three sessions of 10 minutes of exercise is better than writing it off completely. Do some body squats at your desk, take 10 to run the stairs, or find a quiet place to stretch. You will feel better and be more productive when you get back to your daily tasks.
  • When (not if) you have to miss a day, you are not a failure. You cannot fail unless you quit. Redouble your efforts for the next day, and keep your good habit going. Don’t let a missed day turn into a missed week and a missed opportunity for success.

Source:  By Leigh Crews


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Muscle Building Quiz

Myth or Fact:

weight training

For a muscle to get stronger, it has to get bigger.

Myth:  The amount of force a muscle can generate depends not just on the size of the muscle fibers but also on the number of fibers that can be activated and used. Each time you challenge your muscles to do more than they usually do, they learn to use more of your existing muscle fibers. Muscle fibers won’t start getting bigger until after you reach the point where you’re activating most of them–and you can gain a lot of strength before you get to that point.

The best way to tone your muscles without bulking up is to perform many repetitions with lighter weights.

Myth:  There is no such thing as “toning” a muscle. You can strengthen a muscle by “overloading” it during strength training, and you can build its endurance with cardio exercise. Simply moving a muscle against resistance 25 or 50 times without fatiguing it doesn’t accomplish either goal.

If you do circuit training, then you don’t need to do cardio separately.

Myth:  Circuit training involves moving quickly from one strength exercise to the next, with very little rest in between, to keep your heart rate elevated. But circuit training alone can’t be your sole means of “cardio,” which requires you to use large muscles in a rhythmic movement for an extended period of time. Strength training doesn’t provide all of the same benefits as cardio, even if your heart rate is up.

Aerobic In The City

Doing cardio exercise can prevent you from building muscle mass.

Fact: Doing too much cardio exercise can make it harder to build muscle mass, but the right amount of the right kind of cardio can help your efforts. Moderate to high intensity cardio exercise that goes on for more than 45-60 minutes can force your body to break down more muscle tissue to get fuel for your exercise. So, doing over 45 minutes of cardio and strength training during the same workout session can potentially cancel out the benefits of your strength training. However, it’s fine to combine strength training with short (15-20 minute) bouts of very high intensity cardio, especially high intensity interval training, which can help enhance your muscle building efforts. Save your longer cardio sessions for days when you don’t do strength training.

It’s better to squeeze out one more repetition, even with bad form, to really fatigue your muscles.

Myth: Bad form is never a good idea. The only thing this will accomplish is increasing your risk of injury. Your goal should be to stop after the last repetition you can do in good form–that means without using

momentum or body contortions to move the weight. A little muscle trembling or shakiness is OK, but don’t go beyond that.

Collage of several of Gray's muscle pictures, ...

It’s best to start your workout with exercises for larger muscles and then work on your smaller muscles.

Fact: If you work out the smaller muscles first, they’ll be too tired to help out when you’re lifting heavier weights to train your larger muscles. So do the “heavy lifting” first, and finish off with the smaller muscles.

The best way to improve functional fitness (your ability to do things in everyday life) is to use free weights.

Myth: This is a trick question! While using free weights can be more challenging and better mimic real-life

movements, just any free weight exercise won’t do if your goal is to maximize functional fitness. Many strength training exercises (with machines or free weights) tend to train a single muscle group, while many real-life movements involve multiple muscle groups and joints moving at the same time. The best way to improve your functional fitness is to duplicate those movement patterns during your training, using added resistance and/or multiple repetitions, regardless of where that resistance comes from (be it bands, dumbbells, body weight, machines or a combination). A mix of many different exercises is usually the best idea.

Using machines allows you to lift more weight and target the larger muscles involved in a particular movement–but the machine supports you so that you don’t have to use your smaller supporting muscles. On the other hand, free weights can add to your strength training program because you also have to use your smaller muscles to maintain balance and stability without the help or support of a machine.

Lifting wFree weightseights is the best way to make your muscles more visible and get that “buff” look.

Myth: Looking “buff” (having muscle definition) actually has more to do with how much body fat is sitting on top of your muscles than the size or shape of the muscles themselves. Most people (men and women alike) don’t have the ideal body chemistry or genetics to build really large muscles or to drop their body fat to the very low levels seen in cover models and body builders. But almost everyone can lose much of their excess body fat and look more fit and conditioned. Lifting weights is an important part of the formula, but losing body fat by monitoring your calorie intake and increasing cardio exercise and regular daily activity is crucial.

Special techniques like drop sets and supersets are good training methods for regular people interested in basic fitness.

Fact: Both drop sets and supersets are handy for average exercisers and body builders alike. You’ll like both of these techniques if you want to do more than one exercise for each muscle group; minimize the downtime in your workout; and/or boost your calorie burn.

To perform drop sets, do 10-12 reps with the highest weight you can handle, and then immediately drop the weight by 20% or so and try to

do as many more repetitions as you can without resting. This technique is a great way to make sure that you’re working a muscle to fatigue in one set.

For supersets do a set of exercises for one muscle and immediately do a set for the opposing muscle without resting–for example biceps then triceps, or chest then back. This is a good way to get more exercises done in the same amount of time.

Eating extra protein is crucial to building large muscles because that’s what makes up muscle.

Myth: Eating protein does not build muscles–strength training does. Bodybuilders and athletes do need more protein than more sedentary individuals but usually not more than the maximum amount recommended for all adults. With proper timing of meals and snacks, a diet that provides 30-35% of total calories from protein should be adequate for muscle building.

You should increase the amount of weight you lift every time you workout.

Myth: Progressively overloading your muscles is the key to effective strength training. But increasing the weight you use too rapidly can lead to burnout, chronic soreness, and overuse injuries. A better approach for most people is to increase the weight (by about 10%) when you can reliably do the higher number of reps each time in good form.

Chapultepec Zoo

Doing2-3 sets of one exercise for each muscle group is the best approach for building strength.

Myth: To maximize muscle performance, it’s important to work muscles from various angles and in various movement patterns during strength training. Your muscles respond to exercise by getting better at exactly what you make them do. If all you do is bench presses, you’ll get better at bench presses, but not necessarily at other motion patterns or angles.

When you think of your muscles in terms of body areas, like your “chest” or “back” or “shoulders,” it’s important to remember that there are almost always multiple muscles involved in each area. Your back, for example, includes your trapezius, rhomboids, lattisimus dorsi, and spinatus muscles. While they often work together, different exercises will emphasize each of them. A good back workout would include lat pulldowns, seated rows, reverse flys, shrugs, and back extensions. You don’t have to do them all each time you workout, but if time is short, you may be better off doing one set of each of three different exercises than three sets of the same exercise.



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Will 100 Sit Ups A Day Help?

Best Pacific Military Police Warrior [Image 14...


Ease Up on the Crunches

Doing hundreds of crunches a night is NOT going to reduce visceral fat and flatten your belly bulge. For the one millionth time, you can’t spot-reduce to achieve results! Plus, this deadly kind of fat lives deep within your gut, so the best strategy for making it go away is to eat healthy and exercise. You can, of course, include some sit-ups in your workout routine to tone your core muscles, but remember that they won’t do the trick alone! You must do cardio and strength training to lose weight and see results.

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