With summer just around the corner many of us are starting to think about easing ourselves back into our old exercise routines. Whether it be to lose a couple of kilos, or to ensure we feel just more comfortable spending time at the beach, most are slowly starting to climb back into their running shoes or slide back onto their bike seats.
But what if I were to suggest that this type of exercise (as in exercise of the cardio variety) may not be the best way to promote changes in the way we look or feel? While it may go against somewhat ‘traditional recommendations’, strength training is an excellent means of exercise that can cause HUGE changes in the way we look. This makes it the perfect type of training to complement our cardiovascular exercise.
Strength training can help build lean muscle
A sentence I hear on a very regular basis when discussing training or body composition goals goes a little something like this: “I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to ‘tone’ up”. To be honest, this thought process is extremely common for those looking to get into the weights room seriously for the first time. Which is why I then proceed to explain that weight training will not make you ‘big and bulky.’ It is actually extremely difficult to put on large amounts of muscle mass (particularly for females).
*Just quickly, if you want reassurance that this is the case, take a look at 99% of regular gym goers. Many look fit and healthy, while very few look like professional bodybuilders (even despite their best efforts).
In fact, the ‘toned’ look that many train for is actually a matter of building some muscle while losing some fat, resulting in more visible muscle definition – pretty simple really. So with all this in mind, strength training builds muscle tissue, which is integral to making large changes in body composition.
Strength training can increase our metabolism
As an added bonus, the process of building muscle – no matter how small the amount – can have a huge impact on our ability to lose weight.
You see, muscle is highly metabolic tissue, meaning that it actually requires energy to survive (it uses the energy we obtain from food). With this in mind, by increasing the amount of muscle mass we have on our body (even slightly), we can increase the amount of energy we burn each and every day – irrespective of the exercise we perform that day!
By adding some lean muscle tissue you can literally increase the amount of energy you burn when you’re on the couch or at work – which makes it much easier to promote weight loss in both the short and long term.
All it takes is performing some form of strength training 2-3 times per week.
Strength training can help us burn a heap of energy
Now, in addition to increasing our metabolism, strength training is also an effective means of promoting weight loss as is quite taxing. Strength training is a challenging form of exercise, and as such performing a single session will use a heap of energy. But where strength training differs from more traditional forms of exercise, is that it has a slightly longer recovery period associated. It is commonly accepted that muscle takes anywhere between 24 and 72 hours to completely recover after a workout (this recovery time is dependent on the intensity and volume of work performed during that training session).
During this entire period, the body is using additional energy to recover from our workout.
As a result, strength training can help us lose weight by increasing our energy expenditure both during, and after, our training session.
Bonus: Strength training helps you function every single day.
While this isn’t necessarily related to making any changes in our body composition, it is still certainly a large positive!
Becoming stronger, and through this improving our ability to function on a day to day basis, is extremely rewarding. It not only provides a clear demonstration that all our hard work in the gym is paying off, but also makes life in a physical sense much easier.
Whether it means being able to move your own furniture, pick up children without a second thought, or bring your groceries in from the car in a single trip, it doesn’t really matter – getting stronger will help you in every aspect of your life.
Take away message
When it comes to bang for your buck exercise strength training is hands down our best option. It have some great effects on our body composition, it can also improve our strength and function – both of which are essential to improving ability to get through the day.
With this in mind, performing weight training 2-3 times per week is ideal to stimulate both large increases in strength and massive changes in body composition. If you have any questions (or maybe don’t know where to start), feel free to book in with us today, so you can draw a line in the sand and get started.
Dolezal, Brett A., et al. “Muscle damage and resting metabolic rate after acute resistance exercise with an eccentric overload.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 32.7 (2000): 1202-1207.
Kraemer, William J., et al. “Effect of resistance training on women’s strength/power and occupational performances.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33.6 (2001): 1011-1025.
Staron, R. S., et al. “Skeletal muscle adaptations during early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women.” Journal of applied physiology 76.3 (1994): 1247-1255.
Zurlo, Francesco, et al. “Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 86.5 (1990): 1423.
“Give me abdominal exercises to lose fat around my stomach! Can I do triceps exercises to get rid of my granny arms? These are statements or questions I have heard more times than I can count. It is a question steeped in marketing, wishful thinking and a desire for that society driven “six-pack” and or “buns of steel.” The “spot reduction” theory is based around the act of selectively reducing fatty deposits in targeted areas by exercising the specific area. It seems logical to an extent. If a client works a muscle, then the fat around the area is used to produce the energy needed for the movement.
Unfortunately this is not the way it works!
If only it was that simple!!
Let’s briefly look at why we burn fat from the whole body:
When we need to complete a movement… say climbing a set of stairs
— We use glucose (carbohydrate) as our first pick to create/fuel a muscular contraction/movement.
— This glucose is either floating in blood stream or the liver (which stores glucose) gradually releases it into the blood stream.
— Once the glucose runs out, we tap into our fat source by way of a signal from the brain. This results in a release of triglycerides.
— This literally breaks up the fat cell (triglyceride) into a fatty acid and a glycerol molecule. The fatty acid the travels through the circulatory system, to the heart, liver and /or lungs (if blood has time to be oxygenated).
— From there it heads to the working muscles where it goes through a process to release the energy to make movement
— No matter which muscle needs the fuel, the molecules (fats, carbohydrates or proteins) travel around the circulatory system.
So all in all, it is not as easy as grabbing a fat cell from the specific muscle and using it’s energy. It is essentially easier and more efficient to steal those fatty acids from everywhere. We can’t choose where we lose our fat from. Sorry guys!
There is research to back up this idea.
In 1984, a study found that a sit-up program does not preferentially reduce fat cell size or fat thickness in the abdominal region in comparison to other body sites. In 2007, another study determined that an upper-body program resulted in a generalized loss of fat mass rather than specifically the upper-body. Finally in 2013, it was found that training a single leg was effective in reducing fat mass but not specifically in the trained limb. This was determined using a whole body DEXA scan, which is the current gold standard for determining fat mass.
So what helps reduce waist circumference (fat mass)?
From that exact research gives us a clue. Each of those studies looked at a different body part (arms, abdominals and legs) and all had an effect on the bodies fat mass. So, if we completed a whole-body strength program we would see an effect over the whole body. Whilst getting stronger overall in the process.
It is a win-win!
Furthermore, from an energy balance perspective, completing exercises incorporating large muscle groups in big compound exercises creates greater energy deficit. These are exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press and rows. Why?
The more muscles used in one movement, the more fuel (fat/glucose) it needs. Just doing a sit-up, which works abdominals, look at a squat which can use legs, glutes, abdominals etc. You will also produce less fatigue and therefore complete more exercises by looking at a whole body approach. So rather than looking at 1-2 abdominal exercises to lose weight, try variety. We encourage clients to complete aerobic exercise, some resistance training and any incidental activity your heart desires. Plus think about the quality and quantity of food and drink you consume (but that’s another story).
Most importantly, stop getting fooled by those marketing departments. Also throw out that ab-cruncher that is collecting dust under your bed! Please!
Adelaide is arguably Australia’s best city to be a cyclist in, and at the moment, with the Tour Down Under (TDU) in full flight, this is particularly the case! It is so good to see so many cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads, and in particular, the number of interstate riders that are here on organised tours.
I’m sure that with this activity going on, cycling apps like Strava would be seeing lots of kilometres adding up! For myself, and my ‘Leukaemia Foundation – Ride As One’ team members, starting to accumulate more kilometres on the bike is very important, as we have our 7-day 1000km ride in about 3 months!
One great way to beef up these kilometres can be achieved by commuting to work!
As you can see from the image above, my travel distance from home to work is a short 5.7km, which would by cycling standards, hardly count as a worthwhile effort to pull the bike out of the garage. But even such a short distance can add up to something significant! Using my stats as an example, if I commute to and from work over a week, each day contributes 11.4 kms and about 140m of elevation. Over the week, this is 57km and 700m of elevation! That’s a decent enough ride if you were to do it in one go, and contributes a solid base to the rest of my weekly distances! Not too bad at all!
Other than the kilometres on the saddle, I think commuting can provide a number of benefits:
- Easy roll of the legs – You know that heavy leg feeling you get the day after a big ride? I find that my morning commute works wonders to get the system moving again, increase blood flow to those heavy muscles, increasing delivery of nutrients, healing agents, etc, and clearing up the inflammatory waste products!
- Frequency of rolling the legs, including multiple rides in a day! As a flow-on from the point above, as we are increasing the kilometres, and especially when preparing for a multi-day event such as the Melbourne-to-Adelaide ‘Ride as One’, the capacity to back up ride after ride is very important! While the commuting distances may be short, they help to getting used to getting on the saddle and turning the legs after shorter than usual recovery periods.
- Specific training outcomes there are days when I’m pretty exhausted from the overall load of my regular riding + work, etc, so the commute home is an ‘easy’ ride. There are days when I want to hit some higher intensities, especially after some shorter but steeper hills, so I’ll take a little detour on my way home, and really the heart rate and lactate production up, to teach my system to deal with those stresses better; or it may be practicing some acceleration and faster work on flatter stretches of road… whatever it may be, knowing that you are not in the middle of a 3 hour ride, and that home is not too far away, may encourage you to open things up a bit more than you may normally do!
- Improved productivity at work! – There’s nothing better than getting to work wide awake, having gotten your heart and breathing rates up a bit, and benefiting from the physiological and hormonal benefits that this brings! There is strong research showing that a short bout of aerobic exercise increases your cognitive capacity (creativity, capacity to learn, etc) by up to 20%.
- Switch off from work before getting home to the family – one thing I have learnt, is that when I get home, my beautiful wife and kids don’t necessarily want me to be ‘there’, they want me to be ‘present’. My ride home gives me 10-15 mins of time to transition from work mode to family mode… hopefully making me a better husband and dad!
So there you have it friends. Don’t under value those short kms between home and work!
Couple stretching in Park – Moving well to Move more!
If I could wave a magic wand, and make exercise feel easy for you; if you knew you were going to feel light, agile, nimble – would you want to do more of it??
60% of our population (an average figure across many ‘western’ countries) is inactive… I don’t think that this is because people intrinsically dislike movement! I think we lose our joy of movement at some stage, maybe it’s not a clearly defined line in the sand, but that change certainly happens… after all, we can all see the faces of kids when they are in the full blown joy of movement, right? when they are running after a ball, or jumping into a pool… so what happens? why do we stop to enjoy that movement, that used to give us so much happiness once upon a time?
I think the answer is that it has become hard to move.
One way or the other, it just doesn’t flow anymore does it?! There’s less time for it; it just seems like hard work. Maybe there’s fear of pain, or fear of an injury. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that we may stink after sweating (!) and the process of being ‘presentable’ again is too hard…
We all know the benefits of exercise right? So information is not the answer either… so can I challenge you to explore the FUN you used to have when you allowed your body to gain full flight?
I strongly believe that one of the keys to wanting to move more is being able to move better! It’s about putting it in the right order. Think about it for a sec… if you move well, then movement is all of a sudden easier. Things ‘connect better’. There’s less pain; less effort. There’s more power! More strength! More agility! More CAPACITY.
The key to moving more, what ever your motivation, is to move better. From there we can start to set new goals! Such as being able to re-join that sporting club you loved; being able to run around with the (grand)kids without fear of not being able to move tomorrow! or perhaps you want to run your first marathon, or climb a high peak… Or do a tumble turn again!! what ever that goal, let us help you put things in the right order, set up the right process for you to move better – so you can move more!!