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!

Barefoot Training in the Martial Arts – No Shoes is Good News!

Most Students of the Martial Arts train barefoot when they are indoors. And, most martial art systems train 80-100% of the time between four walls and on a soft mat. So, for many, training without shoes isn’t much of a challenge.

In the Martial Science, we spend 80-100% of our time training outside. We still support the barefoot training philosophy and motivate students to do the same – even when training in the park.

Why should you go shoeless? Because wearing shoes just does not look cool with your uniform.

Okay, I do believe that shoes serve a purpose and some shoes do not look as ridiculous as a pair of over-cushioned running shoes (Tabi and Five Fingers for example).

I do however, prefer being without shoes. I love to run barefoot, hike, climb and generally just not wear shoes at all. In fact, I spend about 75% or more of my time without any shoes and prefer to stretch this into my sporting activities. I am not the only one.

* Abebe Bikila, Olympic marathoner, won the first of his consecutive gold medals without shoes.

Research barefoot running in Google and you will get a lot more hits on shoeless wonders like Abebe. For example, Michael Warburton published an online paper titled, “Barefoot Running.” Warburton points out that the extra weight of shoes is worse than a few pounds around the waist. Extra weight means more energy is spent. As part of your stride, weight on your feet must adjust to a constant increase and decrease of speed.

Research shows that two 10-ounce shoes will make you more than five percent less efficient. That is good to know – especially when you consider the micro-movements the body has to make to keep from suffering an ankle injury.

Internal, External and Spatial Awareness

Next let’s talk about proprioception and don’t worry if you haven’t heard that word before – neither has Microsoft.

Proprioception (pronounced PRO-pree-o-SEP-shÉ(TM)n), from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception) is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body.

Let us associate the senses with Mind, Body and Spirit and break them into three categories (only for the sake of learning this concept):

01 External (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing and balance) – Body

02 Internal (senses that help us to perceive pain) – Mind

03 Spatial (sense that shares feedback in relation to our world) – Spirit

Proprioception is a sense that helps us to verify where the limbs of our body are located in relation to each other and space around us. It also helps determine if we are moving at the correct speed or using the correct amount of force.

In the Martial Science – we consider Spirit to represent life-spirit and interaction with the living world around us; people, nature and animals.

We get feedback from the world around us in order to adjust and improve our lives. Well, your body needs to do the same thing in order to function properly.

If you did not have proprioception and I put a blind fold over your eyes, you would just fall over. The police test proprioception to see if someone has had too much to drink. This is because you lose this sense when you have had too much alcohol. That is why they ask you to walk on a straight line without looking at your feet. Without proprioception, we must look at our feet in order to walk.

If you watch a baby move his hands around trying to grab for something, you will notice that his hand movements stutter as they begin to learn how to develop hand and eye coordination. Every time that they reach for something new, they are creating new data and feedback to build on.

The skill to spin a sword or catch a Frisbee both require that you have a very specific SENSE of the exact positions of your limbs, your muscles and joints involved. The development of this skill has to reach level 4 of the natural learning process:

1 You are unaware of your incompetence (you don’t know you don’t know)

2 You are consciously incompetent (you know you don’t know)

3 You are consciously competent (you must think as you act)

4 You are unconsciously competent (you can act without thinking)

Let us assume that you are a martial artist that would like to have natural cat like reactions. Not only that, but you want good timing, and to be able to kick with deadly accuracy.

At first, you are going to be unaware of the fact that you cannot kick properly or with precision (1). Then you see someone kick the way you would like to and begin to understand that you do not currently have the skills you desire (2). With some training, you can kick a bag or target on command (3). Finally, with years of practice, you can kick without thinking. You react naturally (4).

This sense must reach autopilot so that you can then focus on other important areas of performance, such as contemplating alternative strategies, observing your environment or punching while kicking.

A more modern way to label proprioception is to call it movement intelligence. This is of course with the belief that proprioception is focused on feedback. When the body moves, information is sent to the brain for further investigation, calculation and adjustments.

There’s more to it than meets the eye and foot coordination.

Studies researching ankle injuries suggest that our reflexes play a bigger role in staying injury free. When you wear bigger shoes, you are not going to have as much development around the core areas of your foot and ankle. Shoes alone could be the cause of many ankle sprains, knee injuries and back pain.

Here is a quiz. Pain caused by ankle sprains has to do with:

A Strength

B Endurance

C Flexibility

D Balance

The correct answer is D – balance / proprioception.

Having a strong ankle, physical endurance or flexibility will not save you from an ankle sprain if you have not also developed the neuromuscular system to react naturally. Shoes just do not help us with this development as much going barefoot does. Imagine wearing a shoe on your hands.

Going barefoot helps to improve proprioception because you can feel more of your feet, develop more muscle memory and thus increase chances of reacting naturally. The more you can FEEL the better, as this will create more signals and thus more data. In the end, that = more balance.

It all happens so fast and on such a micro level that it is not something we can consciously adjust to in the now.

Since most martial artists already train barefoot, I am suggesting that you also do the same when you are in the park training, or lounging around the house. If you want improved kicks, you need to start from the ground up. The more often you kick and train barefoot – the better.

NOTE: You must train with shoes too if you expect to know how to move in a real life situation (we do not go barefoot in the mall). Balance is key – but before you put on the iron man suit – consider training what is inside it first.

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Pre and Post Workout Strategies for Kettlebell Training

Pre and post workout nutrition strategies for kettlebell training

The right nutrition plan and timings of your food or supplements before and after your workouts are some very important components to think about when kettlebell training. This article will shed some light on these key factors and it will discuss some nutrition guidelines, so that you hit the ground running when are performing your kettlebell workout. Plus it will enable you to recover effectively. A key point to consider is that an excellent workout is always planned in the kitchen even before you even step foot into the gym.

If you don’t have the right nutritional strategy for your kettlebell regime; then you are doing yourself an injustice when it comes to you achieving your goals. If you are working out when you are in a starved state, you will not have enough energy for you to maximise your fitness gains. If you are exercising for a long duration without eating, you are limiting your body’s ability to burn calories and to sustain the intensity of the kettlebell workout. In addition, if you don’t feed your muscles and restock your energy stores after exercise, you will not have the essential recovery tools in your armoury.

What should you eat before your session?

As mentioned previously the main aim of the pre workout nutrition plan is to start the kettlebell session in a fed state and to ensure that all of the foods that you have eaten have been digested and absorbed properly. The last thing that you want to do is eat a meal that is very high in slow acting proteins and fats, because they take longer to digest and they can make you feel sluggish and zap you of your energy. When you eat, the blood is redirected to the digestive system to help with the breakdown of foods. This essentially takes away the blood from the skeletal muscles; thus reduces the oxygen supply and waste removal when exercising. So the kettlebell session will be much harder work when you have eaten a meal which is high in fats and proteins. More often than not stomach ache is attached to this scenario when training.

To ensure that you are full of energy when you perform you kettlebell session, eat a meal that is roughly 300-500 calories, high in fast acting carbs and proteins, 2 hours before you begin the session. Try consuming a small bowl of porridge, whole meal cereal or even a small yam or sweet potato as these are a good example of some fast acting carbs. If you have to eat 5-10 minutes before you workout then consume half a banana or a small spoonful of peanut butter along with a small handful of almonds.

Staying hydrated is essential for kettlebell athletes because without proper hydration your body will find it harder to deliver the nutrients to the muscles, along with oxygen and water to the cells. This will decrease your energy levels and it will make the session a lot harder. Try to drink at least 2 litres of water per day but don’t over do it before your workout because you will feel bloated and sluggish. A good strategy is for you to drink your water intake gradually and continuously before you begin your workout!

In terms of supplements you can drink a whey protein shake that is high in branched chain amino acids 1 hour before you train, as this will ensure the following:

· They are a catalyst for muscle protein synthesis and then it binds together the muscle amino acids to create a stronger muscle infra-structure

· They boost insulin levels to facilitate an anabolic environment during protein synthesis. This mechanism enables the right balance of nutrition, hormones and metabolic actions that are essential for you to create muscle and burning fat

· They enhance human growth hormone levels and decrease the stress hormone’s (cortisol) levels. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down muscle tissue to be used as body fuel. This is very bad news for muscle building and weight loss.

A post workout nutrition strategy

The supplement intake post exercise is very important for aiding recovery along with growth and repair. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAS) are again an excellent choice to consume post exercise; the question is why?

Well, BCAAs are broken down quickly and used in the working muscle effectively because they by-pass the liver. It is this process within the body that stops muscle soreness after you exercise because it blocks muscle damage and increases muscle growth and repair. Plus, it increases insulin levels post exercise and this induces an anabolic environment which is a primary factor in muscle growth and repair.

They should be consumed within 45 minutes of stopping your session and this is a very important timeframe as enzymes and hormones are actively repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, as well as restocking your glycogen stores. This makes your muscle tissues very susceptible to the nutrients and building muscle hormones. You should be using a simple carb such as maltodexrin because it raises your insulin levels and this will drives the amino acids into the muscle tissue. This will also increase your glycogen stores and add a banana or an orange to boost your lost electrolyte levels, as this will further your recovery.

The latest studies in 2014 state that BCAA’s cannot be absorbed without the assistance of Whey Protein. Previously we have been consuming BCAAs throughout the day to further enhance recovery. This could be doing more damage than good. Find a good Whey Protein with BCAAs.

How to Start and Maintain a Weight Training Program

You should begin your weight training program with both short and long-term goals. Identifying goals is an important means of maintaining interest and enthusiasm for weight training. A key point is to establish realistic short-term goals that can be reached in the first several weeks of training. Reaching these goals provides the motivation needed to continue training.

Developing an Individualized Exercise Prescription

The exercise prescription for strength training has three stages: the starter phase, the slow progression phase, and the maintenance phase.

Starter Phase

The primary objective of the starter phase is to build strength gradually without developing undue muscular soreness or injury. This can be accomplished by starting your weight training program slowly beginning with light weights, a high number of repetitions, and only 2 sets per exercise. The recommended frequency of training during this phase is twice per week. The duration of this phase varies from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your initial strength fitness level. A sedentary person might spend 3 weeks in the starter phase, whereas a relatively well-trained person may only spend 1 to 2 weeks.

Slow Progression Phase

This phase may last 4 to 20 weeks depending on your initial strength level and your long-term strength goal. The transit ion from the starter phase to the slow progression phase involves three changes in the exercise prescription: increasing the frequency of training from 2 to 3 days per week; an increase in the amount of weight lifted and a decrease in the number of repetitions; and an increase in the number of sets performed from 2 to 3 sets.

The objective of the slow progression phase is to gradually increase muscular strength until you reach your desired level. After reaching your strength goal, your long-term objective becomes to maintain this level of strength by entering the maintenance phase of the strength training exercise prescription.

Maintenance Phase

After reaching your strength goals, the problem now becomes, how do I maintain this strength level? The bad news is that maintaining strength will require a lifelong weight training effort. Strength is lost if you do not continue to exercise. The good news is that the effort required to maintain muscular strength is less than the initial effort needed to gain strength. Research has shown that as little as one workout per week is required to maintain strength.