Resistance Training – Muscle Strength Burns Fat!

If you’re like a lot of my patients over 40, you may have a few pounds to lose and would like to regain that youthful, toned, muscular look you used to have. It’s true, as we get older, if we don’t use it; we lose it, muscle strength, that is.

Did you know that people lose 5 lbs of muscle mass every 10 years after the age of 30? That’s right! With that muscle loss comes decreased metabolic rate, which means we burn fat slower and may gain weight faster. However, the good news is that there is a way to reverse this process. It’s called resistance training.

There are so many aspects of optimal health that good muscle strength influences. In fact, toned muscles not only make us look more streamlined but they can actually help us age slower, lose weight, build bone density, and stay agile and less prone to injuries.

Many people trying to lose weight tell me that they do aerobic exercise like walking, running, or cycling, several times a week along with watching what they eat, yet their weight loss is still very slow. When I ask them if they do any resistance, or muscle strength training along with those efforts, they’re surprised to hear that they’ll see results faster if they substitute some aerobic exercise for some resistance training. Let me explain why.

What Is Resistance Training?

Simply put, resistance training is any kind of movement of your muscles against an external resistance like free weights, weight machines, exercise bands, or even lifting rocks, that causes your muscles to contract. Doing these kind of muscle movements causes microscopic tears in the muscle in a process called catabolism, or break down, of the muscle fibers.

The healing and repair that our body does in response is known as anabolism. It causes the muscles to not only repair themselves but also grow stronger, denser, and more resilient. The result of that two-stage process creates a more toned you and increases your metabolic rate which helps you burn fat faster. If you burn fat faster, guess what? You lose those stubborn pounds of fat faster.

Here are some other side benefits of resistance training that I bet you’ll be surprised to know:

Can help lower blood pressure – current research shows that resistance training lowers both systolic (upper) and diastolic (lower) blood pressure by several points. It also decreases stress hormones in the blood which helps lower blood pressure.

Prevents osteoporosis by building bone – friction of the muscle against bone during resistance training stimulates the bone to grow and become thicker.

Reverse or slow down the aging process – along with a higher protein intake, resistance training helps release Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which slows aging.

Improve glucose metabolism – weight training improves insulin usage by utilizing glucose for muscle work. Helps prevent type 2 diabetes.

Aerobic and Resistance Training – Both Work Together

Don’t get me wrong, aerobic exercise is very beneficial to your overall health. It also improves your mood, decreases your blood pressure, increases your metabolic rate, increases lung and heart capacity, and helps you sleep!

However, I have some patients who exhaust and dehydrate themselves doing aerobic exercise every day for 1 hour, trying to lose fat and tone muscles. This is actually counterproductive. You can shorten your aerobic exercise time to 20 minutes, 3 times a week, doing interval aerobic exercise instead which not only energizes you but strengthens your heart and boosts your metabolic rate far better and faster.

Interval aerobic exercise, is doing a 10 minute slower warm up with your chosen exercise (walking, jogging, traditional bicycling or “spinning” on a bike in a club, elliptical machine, swimming, brisk dancing) and then alternating between short, 2 minute bursts of more intense, faster, higher resistance level exercise and slow, resting exercise for the remaining 10 minutes. As you get used to doing intervals like this, you can gradually increase your length of high intensity bursts to 5 minutes.

Resistance training, on the other hand, specifically targets the strength of each muscle group and should be done 3 times a week. Whether you use free weights or standing weight machines in your gym is your choice. However, you may want to start out on weight machines and incorporate some free weight exercises into your resistance training routine after you’ve become comfortable with it. Also, a good warm up session of stretching before resistance training is important to avoid injury. Be sure to also stay hydrated and drink a lot of water while exercising.

In general, a good guideline is 3 sets of 10-12 reps (repetitions), starting with 5-10 lb free weights, or 20 lbs machine weight. Each exercise should be done on an every other day pattern, giving your muscles a chance to rest and repair in between sessions. However, to start out with for the first week or so, you may want to decrease your number of sets and reps to half this amount and gradually build up to this level, increasing your weight slightly as you go. You don’t want to over work previously unused muscles and become sore.

Remember, this is resistance/strength training and not bodybuilding so keep your weights at just slightly tougher than comfortable level to avoid building a lot of muscle mass. Resistance training is very easy, and safe to do on your own, but, you may want to start off with a little personal instruction at a gym with a trainer who can give you a basic resistance training program and help you keep track of your goals.

I hope the basics of resistance training mentioned here will encourage you to add it to your fitness routine. The benefits of resistance training are usually noticeable within the first 3 weeks, and if you’re faithful to your dietary intake, you should see some tangible results in fat loss. Take your measurements before you start resistance training, and then again 3 weeks later. You may not see a big drop in numbers on the scale, as muscle, even though it is smaller and denser than fat, weighs more. However, your clothes will fit better and you’ll start seeing more and more muscle definition. You’ll have more stamina, you’ll look great and best of all you’ll feel awesome!

Weighted Pull-Ups for Building Rock Climbing Strength

Are you hitting a plateau in your rock climbing training? Often times we improve quickly when we start climbing, but then progress slows after the initial improvement in ability and strength. This can be frustrating, and getting past it means changing your training to provide new challenges to your muscles. Adding weighted pull-ups to your climbing training is one of the best ways to do this, and can do wonders for your strength. Let’s take a look at why that is.

The Science behind Heavy Weight

There are a few different outcomes from training your muscles: increased endurance, increased muscle size (muscular hypertrophy), and increased strength. Endurance and strength are very important to climbers, but we want to limit hypertrophy so that the added body mass doesn’t slow us down. A high strength to weight ratio is very important here.

To increase muscular strength you must lift very heavy loads. Lifting heavier weights trains your neuromuscular pathways to be more efficient by forcing them to recruit additional muscle fibers to lift the load. Conditioning your muscles to be more efficient lets you gain strength without gaining muscle mass. This is exactly what we want as climbers!

For optimal strength gains you should use enough weight so that you can only do 3 to 5 reps of an exercise. The goal of this is to load the muscles more than they are use to so that they learn to work more efficiently. It is important to rest completely between sets, about 3 to 5 minutes. You don’t want to tire out your muscles, which would instead build endurance or muscle size. Aim for 3 to 4 of these sets.

Avoid taking the bodybuilder approach to weight lifting. Bodybuilders will often perform 8-12 reps with lighter loads and shorter rest to focus on tiring out the muscles and increasing their size. This results in giant muscles that aren’t very functional for rock climbing.

Adding Weight to Pull-Ups

Pull-Ups are one of the best climbing exercises to perform with added weight. They will allow you to increase arm and back strength rather quickly. This will allow you to do more intensive climbing moves like lock offs and one arm pull-ups. Of course, you should only train weighted pull ups if you have a good base strength to begin with. If you can’t do at least ten body weight pull-ups then you should first focus on those.

You can add weight in a number of ways. Putting rocks in a backpack, hanging weights from a climbing harness, or using a weight vest are all effective methods of adding weight. It’s even possible to hold weights with your feet if you have no alternative. This method isn’t optimal however, as it doesn’t allow you to focus completely on your pull up. As stated before, when working weighted pull-ups you want to use a weight that only allows you to do 3 to 5 pull-ups before failure. Adjust your weight accordingly.

Try to work on your weighted pull-ups 2 to 3 times a week. You can do them after climbing, but don’t do them on days when you are very tired. You want to be at relatively high strength levels when you work on them.

Make sure to warm up properly before adding weight. These sets are very strenuous and you don’t want to injure yourself. Between each set make sure you rest until you feel fully recovered. Don’t be afraid to allow up to five minutes between sets. You don’t want to tire out your muscles; we want them at full capacity. Perform 3 to 4 sets of these weighted pull ups.

After a few weeks of training weighted pull-ups you should see significant gains in your climbing strength. You will feel lighter and quicker on the wall, and normal pull ups should be a breeze. After a few months your progress may slow again, at which time you might want to take a break and focus on endurance. A cyclical training pattern alternating focus between strength and endurance keeps your training from hitting a plateau.