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304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
My guess is that you first started exercising because you just wanted to transform your body composition. And I don’t blame you for that, I did as well. Who doesn’t want to look sexy and attract certain people into their lives? So basically, if you were not told by your doctor, you most certainly started working out by being a bodybuilder. But building a leaner, more muscular body is not the only reason people seek to throw some weights around. As experience grows, demands grow.
Some people want to tap further into their strength potential, others wish to be more athletic and agile on the playing field. Others only want to get rid of that goddamn back pain that had been troubling them for years and years. For quite a few people working out is an excellent way to meet new people or have fun with family and friends. You get the idea! There are many good reasons to invest time in your physical health and before we kick it off I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of moving weight regularly.
By working out you can massively increase your strength in any desired body part. Studies have shown that it is possible to at least double your strength levels within the first one to two years of training. Think about it: babies and toddlers only become stronger by applying forces against gravity by crawling, rolling, squatting and playing all day. So, imitating your kid’s movements (if getting in those positions is still possible) is one of the most basic and easiest workouts you can do to improve strength and mobility. Imagine the potential for strength when your body is dealing with progressive overload induced by (free) weights or more challenging lifting techniques!
With increases in strength, you will usually also see an increase in muscle volume (hypertrophy). Hypertrophy kicks in, when the existing muscle volume fails to meet its demands. Progressively increasing the weights being moved, forces the body to innervate more and more muscle fibers. If the quality and quantity of the working muscles become insufficient to handle the load, the body is forced to adapt in a way that makes bearing such a load possible in the future. One of these adaptions is the physical growth of muscle tissue, also called hypertrophy. But the potential for growth is strongly correlated to your ratio of fast-twitch muscle fibers compared to slow-twitch muscle fibers. So lean, slow twitch, ectomorph people – usually with a tendency to favor endurance sports – must train and eat totally different compared to folks with a fast-twitch surplus. But hypertrophy is possible for both body types and at all ages.
The single best thing to do to keep your bones healthy is to move against resistance or to lift heavyweights. Of course, walking and running also have their benefits, but lifting high loads at least twice a week improves bone density dramatically and serves as the best protection against osteoporosis. Bone mass peaks between age 30 – 40 before it starts its steady decline. You could either raise your bone mass to a higher density before that to draw from such a density advantage later in life, or at least slow down its decay after age forty by working out. Some studies have shown that it is even possible to increase bone density in later years, if people start working out and stick to a well-rounded routine.
Did you know what holds your joints together? No, it is not bones. Rarely do bones have physical contact to each other in the big joints of the limbs and torso. Joints are held in place by muscles, ligaments and joint capsules. All those structures experience positive effects if you exercise with enough weight, in the right movement form and if you give them the recovery time they need. That said, joint stability improves due to proper regular workouts, which can be crucial in any sport or physical activity. The older you get, the more will muscular force, joint stability and mobility determine the quality of your life.
There are still too many people out there thinking that adding muscle mass inhibits their mobility. Nothing could be further from the truth! Look at powerlifters or Olympic lifters, watch world-class gymnasts or sprinters! What do they all have in common? They are pretty mobile, and they are pretty jacked! Applying high forces, either by lifting heavy or by performing quick, athletic movements does not reduce your range of motion. If performed correctly, meaning over its whole range of motion (ROM), any exercise can improve mobility. Lifting through the entire range of motion even prevents muscles from shortening too much and can furthermore increase its length.
More strength, joint stability, mobility, and bigger muscles usually also lead to a better posture. This is not only great if your main goal is to improve your looks. A good posture and the ability to keep it well and stable during movement is key to performing on your max in any sport because it enables you to generate and redirect great forces through your pelvis and upper body and transfer those forces to your limbs efficiently. Furthermore, does good posture protect your spine including your central nervous system (spinal nerves and brain), because those structures don’t like too much movement like flexion and extension? Try bending and extending your neck continuously for a minute. It won’t feel good on the cervical spine and you will feel dizzy after a few seconds.
If you are an athlete, you will like this. It is a proven fact that you can improve your quickness just by lifting harder. Compare athletes’ bodies of any sport over the last few decades and put them in relationship with typical performances of that era. You will discover that throughout the years athletes have become more jacked and way quicker in any sport. No surprise, if we consider that resistance training has become more and more popular and important in college and professional sports since the eighties.
More powerful muscles lead to more physical safety. Of course, you won’t be harassed by your neighborhood bully anymore, take that to the bank! What we are really talking about is the ability to absorb hits in contact sports, the ability to brace your core and joints when forcefully changing direction or decelerating on a dime. The cervical spine, shoulders, knees, and elbows are very vulnerable during competition. So, bulking up and strengthening those areas is certainly the best way to prevent drama.
Resistance training will furthermore help you to increase your metabolism and your hormonal balance. Most people will benefit from an increase of local energy storages like ATP, phosphocreatine, and glycogen when lifting to failure. Performing circuit training, supersets or sets in the range of 10-15 reps and higher can furthermore enhance your lactate tolerance, which in turn increases your capacity to keep intensities up for longer time periods. Your hormonal balance will change for the better, once you start working.
More testosterone will not only boost your sex drive, but you will also produce more human growth hormone (HGH) to facilitate recovery overnight. Well trained people are more resistant to stress because they produce less stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in uncomfortable situations. The bottom line is that the allocation of hormones plays a huge role in body composition, mental and physical performance. By exercising and working out you can keep your hormones in check.
That said, also the cardiovascular system benefits from a well-rounded lifting routine. Not only does the heart grow thicker and slightly larger, pumping more blood per minute, thus lowering your resting heart rate. Also, blood pressure adapts to your training, if it is too high it will drop slightly if too low it will even increase to optimal levels. All this serves one common goal: to get more oxygen and nutrients to the cells that need it in less time and with less work while reducing Low-Density Cholesterol (LDL) and raising High-Density Cholesterol (HDL).
Today we know that dynamic muscular work can improve blood flow to and circulation in the brain by as much as 50%. Complex, multi-joint exercises with free weights can improve coordination, concentration, short-term memory and therefore neuro-plasticity of the brain. And don’t forget about the positive effects a good looking, healthy and strong body can have on your self-confidence, the way you communicate to others and the way others perceive you. When hard exercise leads to increased lactate release, endorphins flood the system leading to more wellbeing and a better mood during and after the workout.
The older people become, the more they feel restrained by their own bodies. Working out also means taking charge of one’s life and health because it means upping your quality of life – at any age. All the aforementioned benefits will be most important to you when nature tries to make you feel the wear and tear of a hopefully productive and inspiring life. This is also true for any patient working out to get his or her health back in order. Along with a positive mental attitude, healthy food and one or two cardiovascular workouts (running, swimming, cycling, etc.) per week, lifting your body weight or additional poundage is the best drug you can administer to yourself.