So how important is resistance training? I have had the privilege of working with one of my peers, a fellow PT, and strength and conditioning specialist, Mike Stare from Spectrum Fitness in Beverly, both professionally as well as personally. Mike helped to redirect MY fitness program while I was recovering from my knee injuries 1.5 years ago. Mike is on top of his game from a fitness training standpoint. He has devoted a lot of time and resources in developing an evidence-based approach to fitness and weight loss in ALL age groups. You can see this for yourself at his website. It is important for clients in a fitness program as well as our patients in physical therapy at OrthoWell to understand HOW to strengthen muscles.
The physiological principle of “overload” is what makes the difference between strength gains and stagnation. Resistance training is hard work! I tell my patients “If it’s easy, then you’re doing something wrong!” Is it true that people will lose 5-10% of muscle strength in every decade of life after the age of 40? Studies have shown that people can retain 100% of their muscle mass and strength from age 40 through their 80s with exercise! (Wrobelski, A. et al. The Phys and Sports Med, Sept 2011) You can read more on the Anti-Aging movement at Mike’s BLOG as well.
However, during exercise, you need to challenge your muscles physiologically. You need to provide a “load” that goes “over” your muscles comfort zone. In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. So how do you do this? There are many books and magazines such as Muscle Fitness that advocate all kinds of strategies for maximizing strength and muscle mass. Strength gains can be accomplished by performing a one-repetition maximum as well as via the typical 10 rep set approach. My approach, with the fine-tuning of Mike, is to instruct my patients in 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. The most important factors to consider are the utilization of proper technique in order to isolate the specific muscle as well as to use the idea of the “loss of technical form” as your maximum output point. By the time you reach the 8-12th rep you should be tiring and on the verge of a loss of technical form. You should not work to fatigue as this will compromise your technique and become a safety concern. Regarding the frequency of strengthening exercise, studies show that strength gains are maximized at a frequency of 2-3x per week. The American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) recommends working out a MINIMUM of 2x per week at an intensity that is equal to 70-85 percent of your one rep maximum (maximum weight you can use for one rep) for 8-10 reps and 1-3 sets. A program that comprises repetitions over 12 is considered endurance training. For cardiovascular benefits, the ASCM recommends exercising for a frequency of 3-5 times per week, at an intensity equal to 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate for a time of 20-60 minutes. Research has shown that you’ll get the same beneficial results by exercising at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate that you would get exercising at an intensity 80% of your maximum heart rate.
At OrthoWell, as part of your physical therapy, we get you started on a strengthening program that targets your problem area. Finding the right practitioner to design a complete, individualized fitness program can be a very rewarding thing and Spectrum Fitness is definitely one of our choices. As Mike points out, “If there is one thing to do to improve the quality of life as we age, strength training would be it.”
For our athletes and runners, don’t forget that strength training has been PROVEN to enhance athletic performance. Read the following to get the facts!
-A University of Alabama meta-analysis of the endurance training scientific literature revealed that 10 weeks of resistance training in trained distance runners improves running economy by 8-10%. For the mathematicians in the crowd, that’s about 20-24 minutes off a four-hour marathon – and likely more if you’re not a well-trained endurance athlete in the first place.
-French researchers found that the addition of two weight-training sessions per week for 14 weeks significantly increased maximal strength and running economy while maintaining peak power in triathletes. Meanwhile, the control group – which only did endurance training – gained no maximal strength or running economy, and their peak power actually decreased (who do you think would win that all-out sprint at the finish line?). And, interestingly, the combined endurance with resistance training group saw greater increases in VO2max over the course of the intervention.
-Scientists at the Research Institute for Olympic Sports at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland found that replacing 32% of regular endurance training volume with explosive resistance training for nine weeks improved 5km times, running economy, VO2max, maximal 20m speed, and performance on a 5-jump test. With the exception of VO2max, none of these measures improved in the control group that just did endurance training. How do you think they felt knowing that a good 1/3 of their entire training volume was largely unnecessary, and would have been better spent on other initiatives?
-University of Illinois researchers found that addition of three resistance training sessions for ten weeks improved short-term endurance performance by 11% and 13% during cycling and running, respectively. Additionally, the researchers noted that “long-term cycling to exhaustion at 80% VO2max increased from 71 to 85 min after the addition of strength training”