This is our third article in this series on exercise science. Read our second article “High Intensity Interval Training-Easier-Effective-Burns More Fat” if you missed it. Most of us think of lifting weights primarily to get bigger, stronger muscles. Well that’s good and true, but it’s not enough to keep you motivated to go to to the gym day after day. What if I told you that lifting weights grows bone tissue, lowers insulin sensitivity, builds the heart muscle, increases fat-free tissue/ decreases fat tissue…and strengthens brain neurons and nerves.

But to get these benefits you need to exercise the right muscles in the right way. Good News is it’s even shorter and simpler than you think! 

Strength Training’s Effect on Muscles

Everyone gets different results from resistance exercise. These changes seen depend upon the stimulus (was the weight heavy enough? Did you conduct the move correctly? Were you able to go to failure?). As you lift you will adapt to the exercise and the results will lessen unless you change it or add a heavier load.

Three things are important to see results:

  • Follow an effective exercise protocol
  • Vary your exercise program
  • Make it exercises you like to do

What Makes a Muscle Increase in Size and Strength?

muscle-fiberIncreases in the size of muscles is called hypertrophy. The ‘pump’ you feel after lifting your weights is called transient hypertrophy (short lived muscle swelling). This short term effect is caused by fluid accumulation, from blood plasma, and will last for a bit until the lymphatic and blood systems carry the water and plasma away.

To make long-term muscle gains you need to work out both your fast and slow twitch fibers for more than 16 consistent workouts. AND you need to work out to muscle fatigue. Since 1993 studies have consistently shown that the most effective way to do this is by slow-speed training. See more about this below in our “Short and Effective Strength Training Plan”.

How Does Strength Training Build a Bone?

When you lift weights or do resistance exercises you load the bone and the muscle with the force. This creates a muscle contraction that pulls on the bone causing it to manufacture protein molecules. These proteins are deposited in the spaces between bone cells. They then become a bone matrix that ultimately becomes mineralized as calcium phosphate crystals. This causes the bone to become stronger and more rigid…able to withstand more pressure and weight.

Start resistance training in your teens and you can eradicate osteoporosis…start later and you can slow its progress.

Increase Fat Free – Decrease Fat Filled

There have been two forms of exercise that have been proven above the others in reducing fat accumulation on your body – high intensity interval training and strength/ resistance training. Resistance training creates a need for quick energy and thus the body burns glycogen and glucose over fat during the exertion part.

When you rest between sets and rest after completing the workout your easily available energy stores of glycogen and glucose (think carbs) are used up and your muscles utilize your fat for energy. Best part!!! This fat utilization process continues for up to 2 hours after your workout is done due to the rebuilding of the muscle fibers and increase in energy production.  

Strength Training Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Studies show that strength training for 12 weeks improved all subject’s insulin sensitivity levels and glucose tolerance levels whether or not they lost any weight in the process. 

The latest study from the Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Conference show that 80% of the obese and 40% of the general population have diabetes and metabolic syndrome symptoms…we need to think about exercise more as life-saving rather than fat-losing.

How Does it Improve my Heart, Arteries and Cholesterol?  

heart-diagramResistance training has been shown to reduce factors associated with coronary heart disease. The latest studies show that one in every 5 people over 40 will develop heart failure due to coronary artery diseases. When you strength train you exert a greater amount of pressure on your lungs and circulatory system to force the weight up and down. This is followed by a rest period where your heart rate returns to normal.

Studies show that this process strengthens the left ventricle of your heart and the rate at which your heart recovers to rest mode. Both this, and the subsequent increase of fat-free mass over fat-filled mass improves your circulation and the ability of your heart to adapt to stress. Read more here: https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/resistben.html

How Does it Benefit My Brain?

Our brains control our bodies, our thoughts, our actions and our lifestyles. Protecting and Improving our brain should be our primary focus over anything.

When we realized how much exercise helped improve our creativity, our memory and our mental endurance we suddenly had a better purpose for doing it every day rather than just for cosmetic reasons. There are numerous studies all supporting the immense benefits garnered from doing some form of exercise every day.

The primary brain benefits are:

  1. Increases blood flow to the brain. This brings oxygen, nutrients and hormones to your brain which protects your cells (stimulates healthy cell growth), improves our thoughts (reduces depressions) and your memory (recollection and retention of information).
  2. Increases brain circulation removes the waste products and plaques that cause inflammation and brain diseases.It also removes damaged brain cells which can lead to Alzheimer’s.
  3. Increases the production of nerve protecting compounds. It also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygenated blood and glucose that heightens memory function.
  4. Increases the size of your hippocampus – the area of the brain that processes verbal memory, reasoning and learning. Studies from UCLA, University of British Columbia and many other respected organizations all concur with similar results from their own tests.

Want One More Reason to Exercise?

weight-lifting-seniorThe National Institutes of Health asserts that physical activity can help delay the onset of dementia associated with age and disease. In fact, many experts agree that

…people who do not exercise are twice as likely to lose cognitive function and develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia. 

What’s the “Short and Effective Strength Training Plan”?

We have struggled with determining what was the most effective resistance exercise routine, with the best results and the best use of our time. Advancements in scientific studies made recently clearly shows that there are five things you need to do to create the best results:

  1. Lift slowly – lower slowly. Five seconds up to lift the weights/ five seconds down to lower the weight if using weights or same count up/ down if using your own body resistance. This creates the greatest muscle gains, allows you to lift to fatigue, and has the lowest injury rate.
  2. Lift to fatigue. You need to completely tire out your muscles to create the environment in your body that they need to increase in size to handle the load they are being faced with. Our body adapts to its environment, thus if we want to make it change we need to change the environment. Slowly lift and lower the weight until you feel like you can’t do one more attempt.
  3. Lift one set per muscle. When you lift to fatigue you only need to do one set and spend 15 minutes or less at the gym. Find the exercise you can do and just do it slowly until your too tired to do anymore. Then quickly move on to the next muscle group until your done.
  4. Lift with your larger muscles. Your big muscles exert more pressure on your heart, lungs and circulatory system to move the weights. Your smaller muscles assist with the load as the large muscles fatigue – thus all get a workout (think quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, back, glutes, shoulders)
  5. slow-weightsLift only 1-2 days per week. If you lift to fatigue your muscles need 48 hours or more to recuperate. It’s during this time that the muscles rebuild and strengthen – too soon lifting again and you lose the benefits.

Our Cauliflower Moment…Lifting weights quickly, lifting every day, and spending a long time at the gym did little to improve our muscles or health. Short and slow was the way to go! 

We are always interested in hearing from you. Share any questions, ideas or how your workouts are going. And don’t forget to share the news with friends to get everyone on the healthy track by liking us on Facebook or sending a pin on Pinterest.