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Your body breaks down, but your body is also constantly renewed. According to Henry Lodge, M.D. and author of the book, Younger Next Year, “The muscle cells in your thigh are completely replaced, one at a time, day and night, about every four months. Brand-new muscles, three times a year. The solid legs you’ve stood on so securely since childhood is mostly new since last summer.”
Lodge believes that muscles control the chemistry of growth throughout your whole body. This means that exercise is the sergeant that instructs the soldier chemicals in your body to strengthen and repair all muscles and joints.
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Some other things that active, exercised muscles do are:
- Heighten your immune system
- Help you sleep better
- Lead to weight loss and fat burning
- Regulate insulin
- Increase resistance to heart attack, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol and depression
Wow! Active muscles do all that while idle muscles promote decay. Exercise is hard, but it is the kind of stress that tears you down to build you up a little better.
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The best type of body training is subjective and open for debate. It seems everyone has a different methodology whether it is weight lifting, aerobics such as running and dancing, yoga, Pilates, rowing, biking and so on. There are many different ways to optimal athletic performance, bodybuilding and overall health.
Muscle growth depends upon two things: basic physics and biomechanics. Technique—how this is done—is what makes for efficiency and reduced risk.
Three systems are involved for proper resistance training:
- The control system or sensorimotor (brain and motor) system
- The active or muscular system
- The passive or skeletal system, controlling proper alignment and stabilization
All must work together for movement and stabilization (so you don’t fall over during an exercise).
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There are benefits to lifting heavy weights. Doing so helps to stop bone loss as you age. It keeps the tendons that attach to bones and the goopy pads between your bones supple. Preventing your muscles from turning soft, strength training helps you carry things longer and further while keeping pain at bay.
A trainer can teach you to lift weights the correct way. If this is not an option, find a book or website with drawings, photos or videos. Forget the gadgets on TV. They don’t do the work—you do—and you don’t need gimmicks.
It is important to learn about range of motion and the right pace for a given set of repetitions (reps). Repetitions are how you build muscle. Strong muscles can pull weak joints apart, so you need to start with less weight (and less reps) and build from there.
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Weight Lifting Tips
Start with a warm-up. Even if the weather is hot, you need to prime your muscles slowly for safe and effective work. Stretching can be an important part of that as well.
Learn how to stand properly. Often people try to pick up too much weight to begin and they arch their backs, put pressure on arm joints or change their posture, all of which can lead to injury or strain. Again, refer to pictorials or get advice from a trainer to start the right way with correct alignment.
Breathe and coordinate your air intake and outflow. You should exhale deeply upon lifting the weight and inhale on lowering. You need a forceful effort but not lightheadedness, so make it controlled but not over-the-top. The idea is to bring fresh air into your body so oxygen —essential for a healthy respiration– can circulate throughout.
As the weeks go by and your competence grows, increase the size of the weight for additional resistance. Caution! Even bodybuilders will tell you not to jump to double your weight. Move up in smaller increments. You don’t want to create pain by forcing a strain thus taking you out of the program altogether.
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Your muscles have to learn how to carry weight properly. It involves balance and subtle correction from side to side. All of that strengthens of neuroconnectors, the wiring that learns the motion, and makes the best of it. Athletes do thousands of repeat movements in order to train their body to do it right, and do it best.
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Heavy and “Failure”
As you work up to heavier weights, there will be a point of “failure.” That means near pain, lifting the weight only a few times before you need to stop. Why? You have to build muscle by tearing it down. When they grow back, they are bigger and stronger.
Your worked muscles will need a day or even two days to recover. Don’t skimp on recovery because that is actually when muscles knit, growing bigger and more toned.
- Image Source: Muscles of the Back - flickr.com/euskalanato
- Aaberg, Everett. Muscle Mechanics. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2006. Book.
- Crowley, Chris and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., Younger Next Year. New York: Workman Publishing, 2004. Book.