Many times through the years, muscular strength training has been discussed in this column. One of the major reasons that this topic continues to surface is that it is one of the five components of physical fitness.
Consequently, it is critical to ensure the body’s health and fitness progression. While the heart, lungs and circulatory system must be in good working order to survive (i.e. cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory endurance is also one of the five components of physical fitness), without adequate muscular strength, the body may not function efficiently and safely.
Living life is all about function. This means the mind and body functioning well enough so that we are able to perform the required tasks of daily living and enjoy the recreational activities in which we choose to participate. And, muscular strength is what moves our body through space and time along the way.
The definition of muscular strength is the capacity of a muscle to exert force against an outside resistance. The muscle must be under tension (i.e. TUT – time under tension), long enough to stress the muscle adequately to create hypertrophy (i.e. increase in muscle size). And, the muscle must be placed under this tension often enough to continue progressing and to maintain muscle mass.
Then, we must input an adequate amount of high quality protein (this varies upon body weight, gender and activity level), which is broken down into amino acids, in order to grow and repair the muscle during recovery.
Two excellent sources of high quality protein are whey (i.e. animal source) and soy (i.e. plant source) and this may be inputted in various ways including nutritious protein shakes. Regarding protein shakes, however, be sure to include those calories in your daily caloric input and note the size/quantity of the shake.
Recommendations for strength training are:
• Perform a muscular strength training program two-three non-consecutive days/week for all major muscle groups.
• Train to momentary muscle failure on each set. This will vary significantly between muscle groups in terms of resistance, both body weight and external resistance. For example, the upper body musculature is typically smaller in size than the lower body. Consequently, you will probably be capable of lifting heavier weights on squats and lunges than on biceps curls. And, typically the smaller the muscle group, the lighter the resistance. So, you may be able to handle heavier dumbbells on a bent over row for the latissimus dorsi, than a lateral raise for the medial deltoids.
• Always remain in control throughout each and every repetition and never utilize momentum to move the body part or weight.
• Once you are able to perform your program with ease, it is time to progress or you may find yourself losing muscular strength (i.e. atrophy). This progression is known as periodization — or periodically changing your program to continue building strength.
As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.