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For most of humanity’s history, nature took its course by ensuring our daily activities built and maintained adequate muscle and bone strength. Those who failed to do this, simply did not survive. Today, however, most people worldwide are not naturally active, and weakness is a serious problem. In this and few more issues I will try to cover most things you should know on muscle building & strength training.
The point of a workout is not to exhaust the body — but to strengthen the body, and not sacrifice health. When we get fooled into thinking that the point of a workout is to fatigue the body into soreness or pain, we risk damaging and weakening it, requiring longer recovery, during which time our muscles are weaker and we must limit or avoid exercise.
I will try to cover as much science based research that I have been able to lay hand on over the next few issues on Exercise and Strength Training.
- Why you should do Strength Training
- The way to become stronger
- Toolkit to grow more muscles
- How to warmup before the big squat
- 100Day challenge – Top 50 & more ..
Do share your feedback and also any specific topic you would like me to cover. Please keep sharing your feedback with me on Twitter. Which article did you like most? What do you want to read more or less of? Other suggestions? Just send a tweet to @SandeepMall and add #GoodVibesWithSandeepMall at the end so I can find it.
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The simple answer is that if your resistance training is properly executed, and the result is building of muscle, the ultimate gain to the human body is literally ‘everything’. The ‘health’ territory that muscle tissue covers is phenomenal. It includes the potential for processing waste materials, oxygenating blood, controlling insulin levels, optimizing bone-mineral density, increasing metabolic rate, reducing bodyfat levels, optimizing aerobic capacity, enhancing flexibility, and appreciably reducing the chances of injury, while at the same time allowing you to perform day-to-day tasks with far less wear and tear and stress on your body. All of these health benefits flow from building and strengthening of your muscles.
More Muscles can save your life The medical literature affirms the absolute role that increased muscle mass plays to one’s benefit during life-threatening situations. A lot of the beneficial effects of strength training come from the fact that other organs of the body increase their functional capacity to track, one to one, with increases in muscle mass. As an example, if you were to be in a severe traffic accident and had to be admitted to an intensive care unit, the “start” point from which you would atrophy all of your organs is predicated on your degree of muscle mass. In other words, how long it would take before you reach multisystem organ failure and die, is directly linked to your level of muscle mass, because all of your other organ weights are going to be proportional to that.
Strength Exercise that is performed to make your muscles bigger also makes them stronger (and vice versa). When you’re stronger, the metabolic consequence of any work that you have to do as part of your daily life becomes less significant. Having more strength benefits you in all activities; it not only makes everything you do easier but also broadens the scope of what you can do.
Gastrointestinal transit time Slow gastrointestinal transit time has been associated with a higher risk of colon cancer, and gastrointestinal transit time has been shown to increase, by as much as 56 percent, after just three months of strength-training exercise. So, again, the greater your muscle mass, the quicker the gastrointestinal transit time and, therefore, the lower your risk for colon cancer.
Resting Metabolism Muscle is metabolically active tissue. Any loss of muscle with age leads to a lower energy requirement and a reduced resting metabolic rate. Without proper strength-training exercise to intercede, the resting metabolic rate will diminish by approximately 2 to 5 percent per decade. A study conducted by Tufts University, in which senior men and women took part in a twelve-week basic strength-building program, resulted in the subjects’ gaining an average of three pounds of lean muscle weight and reducing their bodyfat weight by an average of four pounds. As a consequence, the resting metabolic rate of the subjects increased by 7 percent, on average, which was equivalent of an additional 108 calories burned per day, or an extra 756 calories per week. This study indicated that the body burns at least 35 calories a day for every pound of lean muscle weight gained. This new tissue will burn more calories even while the subject is at rest.
Glucose Metabolism The ability to metabolise glucose efficiently is vital to health. Diabetes has been associated with poor glucose metabolism, which strength training has been shown to improve, increasing glucose uptake by 23 percent after only four months.
Insulin Sensitivity Human beings require periodic bursts of high muscular effort. In the absence of such activity, glycogen is not drained out of the muscles to any meaningful degree. When this state is coupled with routine consumption of large amounts of refined carbohydrates, a level of glucose is produced that can no longer be stored in the muscles. The muscles are already full, because an insufficient number of glycolytic fibers have been tapped. Glucose therefore begins to stack up in the bloodstream, and the body’s insulin levels rise. Because the glucose cannot get into the muscle cells, the receptors on the surface of those cells become insensitive to insulin. The body then produces even more insulin and now has large amounts of circulating glucose as well as insulin. That glucose gets transported to the liver, where, in the face of high insulin levels, it will attach to fatty acids (triacylglycerol), and all future carbohydrate ingestion now is partitioned exclusively to fat storage.
Long after your muscle cells have become insensitive to insulin, your fat cells (adipocytes) remain sensitive to insulin. As a result, the system of someone who does not perform high-energy exercise will have high amounts of triacylglycerol, which is then moved into the fat cells, where it is converted to triglycerides and ends up being stored as body fat. One of the most important ways to reverse this process is to engage in strength training
Release Body Fat stores Body fat loss is another benefit that proper strength training affords the trainee. This benefit of a resistance-training program is a result of three factors. The first is that an increase in muscle mass raises the resting metabolic rate of the body, thus burning more calories in a twenty-four-hour period. The second is that calories are burned during the strength-training activity as well as being burned, and at a higher rate, following the cessation of the workout while the body undergoes replenishment of exhausted energy reserves and repairs damaged tissues. Third, as discussed, while the muscles empty themselves of glycogen, glucose is moved out of the bloodstream and into the muscle, lowering the bloodstream’s insulin levels. When this happens, the amount of triacylglycerol in the liver and in the circulation, falls. This lower insulin level translates to less body fat storage.
Improves Lipid Profile Strength training has been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, improving blood lipid profiles after only a few weeks of strength-training exercise.
Blood Pressure The medical literature reveals that properly performed strength training has actually been shown to reduce resting blood pressure in mildly hypertensive adults without the risk of dangerous blood pressure increase.
Bone Mineral Density There is no shortage of data in the medical literature indicating that significant increases in bone mineral density can be derived from strength training.7 Not only will proper strength training makes you stronger, but also this strength helps to protect you from sustaining the sorts of falls that cause the types of fractures we witness in osteoporosis sufferers.
Arthritis People who suffer from arthritis will be pleased to learn that strength-training research on arthritic subjects has shown that resistance exercise may ease the discomfort of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Lower Back Pain One of the more common ailments we witness in contemporary society is lower-back pain. Fortunately, there is strong medical evidence that a properly performed resistance-training program involving direct exercise for the muscles of the lumbar spine can help to ease lower-back discomfort and to strengthen the lumbar muscles.
Flexibility In most instances, people consider flexibility to be the third leg of the fitness tripod, the other two being cardiovascular stimulation and strength building. While enhanced flexibility is desirable, you don’t have to enroll in a yoga class or stretch constantly (or at all) to safely achieve flexibility. There is widespread confusion, even among fitness authorities, between stretching and flexibility. What you want is not increased flexibility so much as enhanced flexibility. This goal is achieved by an application of resistance at the safe extremes of a muscle’s range of motion.
Cardio vascular health Cardiovascular health is often confused with aerobic conditioning, the latter of which is always specific to a particular activity, such as running or stationary cycling. Cardiovascular health, by contrast, equates to the ability of the heart, lungs, and bloodstream to supply whatever the muscles need. According to an abundance of studies, the cardiovascular system receives tremendous stimulation and benefit from resistance exercise.
Strength training stimulates growth, maintenance, repair mechanism that builds capacities and slows ageing.
All workouts ever created have one thing in common – Progressive Overload.
This is the gradual increase in weight, volume, intensity, distance, frequency, or time training in order to achieve a specific goal. In simple words, the tiny incremental improvements you make each time you step into the gym, or hit the turf for running or enter the swimming pool. Exercise, by its very nature, is an adaptive process. It’s the whole reason we do it.
If you are not attempting to improve or progress in some way, its probably not training.
Homeostasis is the ability of the body to remain in stable internal state. Stimuli and Stress can impact our homeostasis and cause us to adapt and improve.
The Story of Milo
The story of Milo is famous in strength circles. A celebrated 6th-century BC wrestler, Milo was born in the city of Croton and like most successful athletes of that period, became the subject of some epic tales of strength, skill and power. His daily diet included 9 kg of meat, 9 kg of bread and 10 litres of wine, and how he could burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.
But these aside, Milo was best known for epitomising the idea of progressive overload. All because the Greek fitness-themed fable details how Milo picked up a small baby cow and carried it on his shoulders every single day. As the cow grew, so did Milo’s strength.
Days, months and years of progressive overload later and Milo was able to hoist a full-size, half-tonne bull onto his shoulders and stroll into town to pick up his weekly groceries.
How? All through the gradual increase of stress (weight in this case) placed upon the body during training. It’s the single most important component of anyone’s training programme.
Without it, you don’t improve!
Tool Kit to Progressive Overload
- Add more sets – It’s the simplest tool to start with. Add more sets to your routine. Let’s say you can do three sets of 8 reps. of Barbell Bench Press with 60 kgs. Start by adding one more set. May be 3-4 reps. Take it to 8 reps like earlier sets. Once you are able to do 5 sets of 8 reps each, understand your work capacity has improved. Now it’s time to drop back to three sets with higher weight, say may be 70 Kgs. When you drop back to three sets, it’s less volume than you have been accustomed to, setting nicely for re-ramping of the volume.
- Add more reps – This is also important. Add more reps to your routines. This was made famous by legendary Canadian weightlifter Doug Hepburn. You simply pick up weight that you can do eight sets of one repetition with, then slowly add an extra rep to each set util you do all sets 8 X 2 reps. Then increase the weight and start over with one repetition.
- Add Cardio – Add intensity to your work capacity by adding 20-30 minutes cardio after 8-10 hours of your strength training. Simple activity like spinning or rope jump aren’t very taxing on the body or joints
- Add finishers – Add movement specific finishers after your strength training. To increase your work capacity, finishers are your answer. Quick intense movement based workout added at the end of your workouts like 10×10 sets of tyre flips after your deadlift day or 3×100 mars sprinting after your leg day. Know that increasing work capacity is secret to fitness.
Toolkit to making yourself strong
- Visualise every lift – Visualise how the movement is supposed to look and feel. Imagine how the bar feels in your hand, load on your back, weight on your feet. Perfect your visualisation. After the set, analyse it. How did it feel? How did it look? What could be improved upon?
- Lift without ego – Remove your ego. It’s not what you lift, it’s how you lift. The weight should be light enough that you need to be in control, yet heavy enough to force the body to perform the correct movement pattern. Ideally lift 60-80% of your 1 rep max.
- Always lift, never fail – Avoid failure on your sets. The more you struggle, the more your technique breaks down.
- Don’t dilute your strength – Your body will adapt specifically to the demands you place on it. So it makes sense to train to your specific goals. Concurrent training dilutes your effectiveness to improve a specific component.
- Get tight – Get stiff and tight when lifting. The tighter you get, the more force you generate and the more weight you can lift. Commit to tensing your body as hard as possible on every set and every rep.
One Rep Max
- The one-repetition maximum (1RM) test is often considered as the ‘gold standard’ for assessing the strength capacity of individuals in non-laboratory environments.
- It is simply defined as the maximal weight an individual can lift for only one repetition with correct technique.
The following represents the basic steps in 1-RM (or any multiple RM) testing following familiarization/practice sessions:
- The subject should warm up, completing a number of sub-maximal repetitions.
- Determine the 1-RM (or any multiple RM) within four trials with rest periods of 3 to 5 minutes between trials.
- Select an initial weight that is within the subject’s perceived capacity (~50%–70% of capacity).
- Resistance is progressively increased by 2.5 kg to 20 kg until the subject cannot complete the selected repetition(s). All repetitions should be performed at the same speed of movement and range of motion to instill consistency between trials.
- The final weight lifted successfully is recorded as the absolute 1-RM
Remember your each exercise will have 1 Rep Max
The laws of muscle growth are as certain, observable, and irrefutable as those of physics.
These principles have been known and followed for decades by people who built some of the greatest physiques we’ve ever seen. Some of these laws will be in direct contradiction to things you’ve read or heard, but fortunately, they require no leaps of faith or reflection. They are practical. Follow them, and you get immediate results. Once these rules have worked for you, you will know they’re true.
- Muscles Grow Only if They’re Forced to This law may seem obvious and not worth stating, but trust me, most people just don’t get it. By lifting weights, you are actually causing tiny tears (known as “micro-tears”) in the muscle fibers, which the body then repairs, adapting the muscles to better handle the stimulus that caused the damage. This is the process by which muscles grow (scientifically termed hypertrophy). If a workout causes too few micro-tears in the fibers, then little muscle growth will occur as a result because the body figures it doesn’t need to grow the muscle to deal with such a minor stimulus again. If a workout causes too many micro-tears, then the body will fail to fully repair the muscles, and muscle growth will be stunted. If a workout causes substantial micro-tearing but the body isn’t supplied with sufficient nutrition or rest, muscle growth can’t occur. For optimal muscle growth, you must lift in such a way that causes optimal micro-tearing and then you must feed your body what it needs to grow and give it the proper amount of rest.
- Muscles Grow from Overload, Not Fatigue or “Pump” While many think a burning sensation in their muscles is indicative of an intense, “growth- inducing” workout, it’s actually not an indicator of an optimum workout. The “burn” you feel is simply an infusion of lactic acid in the muscle, which is produced as a muscle burns its energy stores. Lactic acid tells the body to start producing anabolic hormones, but too much impairs muscle growth and causes tissues to break down. Muscle pump is also not a good indicator of future muscle growth. The pump you feel when training is a result of blood being “trapped” in the muscles, and while it’s a good psychological boost and studies have shown that it can help with protein synthesis (the process in which cells build proteins), it’s not a primary driver of growth. What triggers muscle growth, then? Overload. (Progressive Overload is described above). Muscles must be given a clear reason to grow, and overload is the best reason. This type of training causes optimal micro-tearing for strength and growth gains, and forces the body to adapt. Drop sets, giant sets, and supersets are for the magazine-reading crowd and druggers. Such training techniques flood the muscles with lactic acid and are often done with isolation exercises, further limiting their effectiveness. They simply do NOT stimulate growth like heavy sets of compound exercises do.
- Muscles Grow Outside the Gym Many training programs have you do too many sets per workout, and some have you train the same body parts too often. They play into the common misconception that building muscle is simply a matter of lifting excessively. People who have fallen into this bad habit need to realize that if they did less of the right thing, they would get more. If you do too many sets in a workout, you can cause more micro-tears than your body can properly repair, and you can spend too much time working out, which drastically elevates cortisol levels and hinders growth. If you wait too few days before training a muscle group again, you’re overloading a muscle that hasn’t fully repaired from the last training session, and you can actually lose strength and muscle size. If you allow your muscles enough recuperation time (and eat correctly), however, you will experience maximum strength and size gains. Studies have shown that, depending on the intensity of your training and your level of fitness, it takes the body 2 – 5 days to fully repair muscles subjected to weight training. You experience this by feeling the reduction of muscle soreness, inflammation, and weakness that follows your training. Another aspect of rest is sleep, of course. The amount of sleep that you get plays a crucial role in gaining muscle. While your body produces growth hormone on a 24-hour cycle, the majority of it is produced during sleep, and this is a major anabolic substance. Good general advice is to get enough sleep each night that you wake up feeling rested and aren’t tired throughout the day. For most people, this means 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Muscles Grow Only if They’re Properly Fed – How important is nutrition? Nutrition is nearly everything. Simply put, your diet determines about 70 – 80% of how you look (muscular or scrawny, ripped or flabby). You could do the perfect workouts and give your muscles the perfect amount of rest, but if you don’t eat correctly, you won’t grow—period.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Packing on slabs of rock-solid lean mass is, in essence, just a matter of following these four laws religiously: lift hard, lift heavy, get sufficient rest, and feed your body correctly. That’s how you build a strong, healthy, ripped body.
Leadership Board – As per data audited on 5th March 2022. Congrats to Top 50 in both categories. The Top score in Under 40 category is 920.15 and 50th rank is 454.59. The top score in Over 40 category is 871.73 and 50th score is 396.66.
FITstar of the week
Jayshree Sarda is a psychologist, who firmly believes that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional well-being. Finding ‘Love for fitness’ late in her life, Jayshree is participating in 100 Day challenge for the first time and has set ‘being consistent’ as her fitness goal.
Mentored by Dr Rajat Chauhan, Jayshree loves how sensible the schedule of the challenge is, how it respects her individual journey and how there’s always a cheerleader around. She says, “As a woman, I play many roles but the role which is closest to my heart is that of a mother. Husband and I took up fitness/ running primarily because we wanted to be good role models to our children and till now that is the biggest motivation on lazy days. Also support of the family matters”.
She joined the Challenge being inspired by Sandeep Mall and it has given her the opportunity to be more consistent. She admits that a fitness journey is not a cakewalk and a ‘never say die’ attitude is the key to reaching the goals. She asks her fellow participants to take inspiration from Scarlett O’Hara and believe that ‘if they falter one day, it is all right. After all, tomorrow is another day’.
“Sometimes I feel envious of people who make it look so easy. For me, no run is easy. I have stumbled, in different phases of this journey. Sometimes taking longer breaks than necessary. But I like it that I do not give up – on myself”, Jayshree says.