Strength (anaerobic) training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance for the purpose of strengthening the musculoskeletal system. Why do we lift heavier and heavier resistances to gain strength? Well, let me shed a little light on the subject. The human body is awesome. It will do anything you tell it to do. That's why we have to be so careful with it. Whatever you tell your body to do, it will learn (adapt) to do it. The human body tries to adapt to any type of situation. For example, if you try to lift some weight that you've never been able to lift and you struggle your hardest but can make the weight move more than a few inches, your body will try to adapt. First, when you push against the heavy weight your muscles start to tear. Very small tears. Your brain will tell your muscles that you need to learn (adapt) to lift that specific weight in order to survive. So what will happen is your muscles will start to repair themselves and will build a little bit stronger to try and adapt to the workload. This is why people get stronger and bigger. The constant pressure and routine of lifting weights causes your body to continue adapting to workloads placed on it. The result is bigger, stronger muscles. Strength training affects many areas. Take a look at the following:

Physical appearance. Our skeletal muscles have a lot to do with our overall physique. Consequently, strength training can play a major role in enhancing our body composition and physical appearance. Consider a 114-pound woman who is 24 percent fat. If she loses 4 pounds of fat and adds 4 pounds of muscle, she will still weigh 114 pounds, but will be only 20 percent fat. Although her body weight remains the same, she has less fat and more muscle for a leaner, firmer and fitter appearance.

Metabolic function. Muscle is very active tissue with very high energy requirements. Even while we sleep, our skeletal muscles are responsible for more than 25 percent of our calorie use. An increase in muscle tissue causes a corresponding increase in our metabolic rate; likewise, a decrease in muscle tissue causes a decrease in our metabolic rate. We all know that the worse thing we can do when trying to get into shape is slow down that metabolism.

Anaerobic training not only makes you look good, but it makes you feel stronger and healthier. There are so many misconceptions about resistance training. I've heard them all. Some people think that they are going to get huge overnight. I've heard a lot of women state "I don't want muscles, I just want to be toned". Most people don't understand that it takes quite a long time to get huge. I mean, unless you're using some type of illegal performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, your muscles will grow and tone up at a very steady easy rate. Of course, there are some natural and legal sports supplements that can assist you. Look back in the Semper Fitness archive for a list. The bottom line is that no good fitness program will be complete without resistance training. The rest of this issue will cover some of my key principles when it comes to resistance training.

  1. Rest. Rest is probably one of the most important factors when lifting weights. The most common mistake that I see people make is overtraining. The muscles don't build when you lift, they build when you rest after your workouts. If you don't give your body enough rest, it will break down. You can equate your workouts to stress. You need a little to keep you on your toes. However, too much stress and you'll break down. I suggest no less than three days rest for each bodypart. I recommend four to seven days. I personally rest six to seven days between each bodypart. Rest gives your body plenty of time to recuperate, adapt and build more muscle for the next lift.
  2. Spotting. There is nothing more important to me in the gym than safety. That's why I always recommend a spotter if at all possible. I know a lot of you hate to bother people. Don't worry about that. Most guys don't mind giving someone a spot. Besides, they may be thinking the same as you. Now you just might get a new partner. This leads me to my next principle.
  3. Getting a partner. If at all possible, get a partner. A partner will help you to stay motivated. When you don't feel like going, Your partner is there to motivate you and vice versa. Further, you just solved the spotter problem. That partner can help you get that one last rep.
  4. Dietary needs. Make sure that you are feeding your body. Give your body some good quality protein to help build and repair that broken down muscle. Try to take a multivitamin to ensure that you're getting a fair share.
  5. Be patient. Don't expect to look like one of the Greek gods overnight. It's going to take a little while. But if you stay consistent, you'll make the gains. Please don't get frustrated because you're not Hercules or Xena overnight.
  6. Work for yourself. Remember, you're not in the gym to impress anyone. Don't try to lift super heavy weight just because you see someone looking or you're competing with someone. A lot of times, competition between guys and gals in the gym leads to injury.
  7. Select exercise that are different but comfortable. Change your workouts around and do exercises that feel comfortable to you. If an exercise hurts your joints or twists your limbs awkwardly, do a different one.

Please pay attention to the previous principles. They will help you get the best out of your lifts. This issue gives a little advise before you start your resistance program and while your conducting it. Next issue we will talk about many different exercises and the correct form to go along with them. Following that, we'll go into several different workouts to include the five day, three day and two day workout plans. That's the scoop this week. Stay pumped, stay motivated and OO-RAH!

Semper Fidelis!