Hippocrates once said, “That which is used develops, and that which is not used wastes away”, which translated in today’s 21st century speak means “if you don’t move it, you lose it”.
Both quotes are very relevant and fitting when it comes to the human body or, more specifically, our musculoskeletal system.
How is Muscle Built?
Most people believe that it is when they are exercising that their muscles are building and getting stronger, but technically it is after the workout that the construction party begins at a cellular level.
While you’re performing your favourite squat exercise you are creating small microscopic tears in the tissue.
It is only when we are done with our strength training session, and resting that the cells go about repairing these tears, this time making the damaged fibers stronger. Stronger fibers equates to bigger and more physically powerful muscles.
Can’t I Do the Same Exercise Every Week?
Once you start your strength training routine, it will only take the muscular skeletal system about two months to adapt to that particular training routine. Once that adaptation has occurred (and if you continue with that same exercise program), you will eventually encounter an “exercise plateau”.
You are now maintaining instead of developing.
What’s the answer you ask? Variety! Variety is so important to any fitness program, whether that program is a strength-training program, a running program, a swimming program or an exercise class. You need to keep the muscles confused and the mind stimulated.
But, I don’t want big muscles?
The main hormone needed, for these big muscles that a lot of women are fearful of putting on, is testosterone and testosterone is produced in small quantities in us ladies.
The only way to get big muscles like a man is to be, well a man. So, if you have a penis, then yes you will most likely gain muscle. If you don’t, then you won’t. It’s that simple.
Please, do not be afraid to pick up the heavier dumbbells as you get fitter. They won’t turn you into a muscle-bound freak. I promise.
What if I take a break from strength training? Will my muscle turn to fat?
Taking a break will not turn your muscles into fat. Instead, they will turn into a self-ticking bomb ready to detonate at any time.
Just joking. Kinda.
When we stop training the muscles start to atrophy. This refers to the actual loss of muscle mass within your muscle tissue. Our muscles begin to decrease in size and we lose that “toned” look about them.
This is why a lot of people mistakenly believe that muscle turns to fat. Because where there once was a beautiful firm muscle, is now a flabby pile of, well, flab. And, the flab got there by the muscles shrinking and your fat mass invading in on their territory.
This decrease can, surprisingly, start in as little as 72 hours, depending in how often the muscle is used in real life. So, the muscles in your legs will probably atrophy slower than the ones in your back, because we use our legs everyday.
Some tips to keep your program fresh and interesting:
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel. I am constantly uploading different workout routines, and as a subscriber you will always have first access 🙂
- If you are over 40 (and new to exercise) begin my 6-week online fitness course: Over 40 – Becoming a Fat Burning Machine. This will literally build you up from square one and turn you into a workout machine by week 6.
- Increase the weight that you lift 5-10% every 1-2 weeks. This will constantly stress the muscles and bones, without leaving you sore the next day.
- Hire a personal trainer. I never give my clients the same workout twice. I am constantly mixing it up so that they can learn new exercises that they can take with them.
- Workout to music. Studies have proven that music will enhance your exercise performance as well as improve your adherence.
- Instead of pumping out the same 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions each week, try advanced training techniques such as:
- Drop sets (note, there many variations of this): as you progress with your sets, add more reps while you “strip” the weight down. Example: shoulder press using 15lb for 10 reps, set #2 use 12lb for 15 reps and set #3 use 10lb for 20 reps.
- Circuit training: perform each exercise, one after another, with little rest in-between. This is how a lot of my YouTube videos are filmed. I love this technique because I get the best of both worlds, weights and cardio. Try this workout.
- Super setting: alternate between two different muscle groups for a set. Example: perform a set of squats and then immediately follow that with an upper body exercise, like a chest press. You can also super set opposing muscle groups, such as the biceps and triceps, or the quadriceps and hamstrings, or the pecs and lats. Try this workout.
- Eccentric training (also called negative sets): on your last set emphasize the lengthening of the muscle, for each rep. Example: take 2 seconds to lower into your squat and then 5-6 seconds to come back up to a standing position.
- Diminished-rest interval training: time the rest you take between sets in your current workout then in each subsequent session, try to perform the same total number of sets and reps, but reduce your rest periods by five to 10 seconds each time. I do this with my classes a lot – just don’t tell them.
- Tabata training: perform big muscle moves, like squats and lunges, in 20 seconds intervals of hard work to 10 seconds of rest for 8 sets. Try this workout.
- Single-sided training: train the left and right sides of your body separately to develop muscle balance and symmetry. Some examples: perform a seated row one arm at a time using a D-handle, chest press a dumbbell one arm at a time or squat one leg at time.
- Ladder workouts: take two exercises and alternate between the two. Start at 10 (or more reps) and work yourself down, or ladder down, to 1 rep. I love doing this with burpees. Try this lower body ladder workout.
Women and Strength Training
- 2-3 times a week working at 50-60% of their repetition maximum (take the amount of weight that they can lift once and multiple that by 50-60%).
- Begin with easy movement patterns to create body awareness.
- Areas to target: core, postural muscles
- Try this workout, No Gym Required
- 2-4 times a week at 60-75% of their repetition maximum.
- Begin with a circuit workout to include the cardio in the strength program.
- Areas to target: glutes, postural muscles and core.
- Try this workout, Best Butt Workout for Women
- 3-4 times a week at 60-90% of their repetition maximum.
- Try a split routine, training upper body one day and lower the following.
- Areas to target: core, upper body (especially the pectoral muscles)
- Try this workout, Upper Body and Abs for Women
- Loss of muscle mass and strength start to occur in our 40’s (Kravitz, 2007) so a strength training regime is a must for this age group m(which is precisely why I developed this!).
- 2-3 times a week at 60-90% of their repetition maximum.
- Incorporate balance tools with your strength routine.
- Areas to target: core, upper body strength
- Try this workout: Tank Top Arms
Fifties and Beyond
- 2 times a week at 50-75% of their repetition maximum.
- Women in this age bracket tend to see more success when working with a trainer or attending group classes geared for their age group.
- Areas to target: balance, posture, core, shoulders
- Try this workout, Hamstring and Hip Opener
Looking for some tough love training? I’ve got small group classes, one-on-one appointments, and online personal training. In other words – everything you need to get started! Check out my website here.
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