Our precious muscle is what keeps us healthy. It not only keeps our metabolic rate revved up, it gives us the strength and mobility to maintain a quality of life that we deserve. Finally, muscle helps both men and women achieve the taut, lean physiques that we tend to find so attractive.
With age, however, we lose muscle mass. This process begins around age 30 years and continues for the rest of our lives. This loss of muscle contributes to many of the age-related changes that occur in our bodies, like weight gain, osteoporosis, heart disease, back pain, arthritis and even diabetes.
Fortunately, by engaging in a regular strength training program, you could not only slow your muscle loss down, but you could actually reverse it!
One of the most important components of increasing muscle mass is strength training. For weight management, bone density and general health, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that eight to ten strength training exercises be performed two times per week. The Center for Disease Control also sings of the many benefits that a regular strength training routine can have as we get older.
It is generally accepted that for each pound of muscle you gain, you burn an additional 35-50 calories a day. For example, if you gain 5lbs of muscle, that translates into 175 to 250 calories burned a day, or 18.25 to 26 pounds a year!
Increasing muscle tissue may also increase your overall weight, but don’t let this scare you – more muscle means a higher metabolic rate, leading to greater fat loss. Furthermore, the muscle gained through this method is long-lasting and is easier to maintain. So while the numbers may be higher on the scale, rest assured that it is coming from a welcomed increase in fat-blasting muscle, heavier than fat tissue but also much more lean, shapely and healthy.
Another bonus of regular strength training is that you can always keep it fresh and avoid boredom – there are so many different ways of doing it! You can use free weights, your own body weight and various pieces of equipment. Personally, I’m a fan of free weights.
MUSCLE BUILDING VS. MUSCLE ENDURANCE
Once you get into a regular routine of strength training, your muscles generally respond in two ways. First, lifting weights causes your muscles to be challenged beyond their regular capacity, and to be destroyed (in a good way!). This causes your body to kick it into gear to repair the broken down muscle, causing them to increase in strength and size.
The other way muscle respond to strength training is by increasing their energy stores, endurance and fluid retention. Different methods of strength training promote different responses.
In order to increase muscle tissue, the weights you’re using for strength training must be heavy enough to cause muscle breakdown and repair. A good rule of thumb is to use weight that you can only perform 3-5 reps with — after that, you shouldn’t be able to perform another lift without rest (and if you can, than go heavier!). Since you’re going to be pushing yourself hard, be sure to rest 2-4 minutes between sets.
Strength Training to Increase Muscle Endurance
In order to improve muscle endurance and energy stores, choose a weight that will challenge the muscle but will allow you to successfully get through 10-15 repetitions. Unlike a muscle building regime, rest 45-60 seconds between sets.
Our Lean on Regular Strength Training
So, what’s the verdict? Barring any injuries, it is best to incorporate heavy strength training into your workout routine. As we age, we are at risk of losing muscle mass, which can introduce a whole host of unwanted issues and injuries. Fortunately, heavy weight training has been shown to not only slow this process down, but it may actually reverse it.
And cast aside concerns that strength training will make you “too bulky”. Incorporating a balanced, total body strength training regime with regular stretching and a balanced nutrition plan will help create a symmetrical, trim and strong body that you can move in, feel good about and enjoy.