STONE: Strength training doesn’t mean bulking up - Odessa American: Levi Stone

STONE: Strength training doesn’t mean bulking up

By Levi Stone, RN, MSN Chief Nursing Officer | Posted: Sunday, July 14, 2019 7:00 am

You meticulously plan your meals, managing and counting every calorie consumed. You’ve walked more than you ever have, maybe even hit the treadmill, or incorporated a jog or run in to boost your cardio efforts. Water is your go to drink now, shunning sodas and sweet tea.

You feel like you’re doing everything right, but still may not see the results you’d expected. Stubborn body fat, like the reserves that tend to camp out around the belly, thighs, and bottoms insist on staying put. While you should never give up on a healthy diet and exercise, there’s one type of training which is often overlooked or under incorporated to finally help shed the fat you’ve so desperately fought over the years.

To jumpstart your body’s ability to burn fat effectively and efficiently, strength training should be a focal point of your workout regimen. Yes … cardio training will burn calories and fat, but it does little to nothing in supporting muscle growth and development. Strong, healthy muscle tissue is necessary to ramp up metabolism, which in turn burns even more calories. Too much cardio can actually be counterproductive in achieving your overall fitness goals. Done exclusively, without strength training, it can push your body into a catabolic state which means that in addition to breaking down fat, it also breaks down muscle tissue. A proper balance of cardio and strength training can mean all the difference in looking and feeling your best.

When some people hear the words “strength training” it may conjure images of giant weightlifters aiming to be the next Mr. or Ms. Olympia. Others might feel it’s reserved to younger, more “fit” people. However, strength training is so much more than bulking up and packing on muscle. It yields very favorable results that can be customized to gender, various body types, and age to achieve the physique and goals you aim to achieve. And, you don’t have to spend hours each day hitting the gym to start seeing results. Strength training can be done in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, two times a week.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a well-rounded physical activity program which includes both anaerobic (cardio) and strength training exercises. They state as part of this program, strength training should be performed a minimum of two days each week, composed of different exercises to target all major muscle groups. Strength training can be accomplished using body weight, resistance bands, free weights, medicine balls, or weight machines. This means you can do it home if you cannot go to or afford a gym. Weights can be made and used from everyday household items such as milk jugs, luggage bags, boxes, bricks, or just about anything else that has weight which can be held and lifted.

Before starting any exercise program, it’s important to consult with your physician first. They will evaluate your current health by assessing any existing or potential cardiovascular issues, along with any bone or joint problems that may be aggravated by certain physical activities.

Once your healthcare provider has given the green light to participate in strength training activities, they can also recommend or even provide a strength training program consistent in meeting your goals while addressing any limitations you might have. For instance, using lighter weights with more repetitions can be easier on joints and ligaments but still provide the benefit of improving muscle tone.

The benefits of strength training aren’t limited to shedding body fat, but can also improve your bone density, prevent muscle loss, and most of all leaving you with a better sense of body image and self. Don’t let misconceptions or hesitations about lifting weights prevent you from seeing the positive effects it will have on your health.