How to mea­sure strength train­ing

Daily Press - - Life Health - By Amby Bur­foot The Wash­ing­ton Post

The aer­o­bic ex­er­cise guide­lines from the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine and other fit­ness groups are pre­cise: You should aim for 150 min­utes a week of mod­er­ate aer­o­bic ex­er­cise (such as walk­ing), or 90 min­utes of vig­or­ous ex­er­cise (such as run­ning).

How­ever, the same or­ga­ni­za­tions are less pre­cise when it comes to re­sis­tance (strength) train­ing.

They call for two or three ses­sions a week, but make no ref­er­ence to to­tal time. To add to the con­fu­sion, strength train­ing can seem com­pli­cated, with all those con­trap­tions and weights and meth­ods of lift­ing them. To the res­cue: A re­cent pa­per sim­pli­fies the vari­ables, and of­fers a prac­ti­cal and proven pro­gram that can be done in less than an hour a week.

The re­port, which ap­peared in the jour­nal Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy, Nu­tri­tion, and Me­tab­o­lism, was writ­ten by a team of U.S. and Bri­tish strength-train­ing ex­perts. Their in­ves­ti­ga­tion aimed to de­ter­mine if rel­a­tively short strength train­ing ses­sions uti­liz­ing dif­fer­ent lift tech­niques could im­prove strength. It also looked into blood glu­cose lev­els pre- and post-ex­per­i­ment.

Sixty-two ex­pe­ri­enced, strength-train­ing sub­jects (26 male; aver­age age, 40) were placed into one of three pro­to­cols. A con­trol group per­formed all ex­er­cises with two sec­onds of con­cen­tric mus­cle con­trac­tion and four sec­onds of ec­cen­tric con­trac­tion — that is, two sec­onds of the kind of con­trac­tion from lift­ing and four sec­onds of the kind of con­trac­tion from low­er­ing. A slow group did the same ex­er­cise with 10 sec­onds of lift­ing, 10 of low­er­ing. A very slow group did 30 sec­onds of low­er­ing, 30 sec­onds lift­ing, 30 sec­onds low­er­ing.

All sub­jects fol­lowed a rou­tine that con­sisted of two dif­fer­ent strength ses­sions, of nine ex­er­cises each, that em­pha­sized the chest press, leg press and pull­down. Sub­jects per­formed each ses­sion once a week for 10 weeks.

At every work­out, sub­jects did the as­signed ex­er­cises to “mo­men­tary fail­ure,” which took about 12 lifts with the con­trol group, four to five for the group do­ing 10 sec­ond con­trac­tions and just one lift at 30:30:30. As a re­sult, sub­jects spent the same “time un­der load” in each of the three pro­to­cols — about 90 sec­onds.

Af­ter 10 weeks, sub­jects in all three groups had gained a sig­nif­i­cant amount of strength, but there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween groups. All groups also had a lower blood glu­cose level. This re­sult was not sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant, but the au­thors be­lieve it “might be clin­i­cally rel­e­vant,” as the drop low­ered sub­jects into a dif­fer­ent quar­tile of blood pressure risk.

“Our pa­per showed that you don’t need to spend two hours in the gym five times a week, as many peo­ple think,” says lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor James Fisher, from Southamp­ton Solent Univer­sity in Eng­land. “Even trained in­di­vid­u­als con­tinue to make gains with less than an hour a week. My own work­outs take less than 20 min­utes, twice a week.”

Con­sider mak­ing time in your sched­ule for two short strength-train­ing ses­sions a week. Don’t sweat the de­tails. You can lift at what­ever pace you en­joy, but it is im­por­tant, Fisher be­lieves, to reach the point of mo­men­tary fail­ure where you can’t do any more rep­e­ti­tions.

Don’t prac­tice ex­plo­sive, high-speed lift­ing that could lead to in­juries. “Stay re­laxed and main­tain your breath­ing pat­tern,” Fisher ad­vises. “Don’t hold your breath.”

This ap­proach should be even more ef­fec­tive with un­trained lifters, who will have more to gain from be­gin­ning a strength pro­gram.

“The main mes­sage is that re­sis­tance train­ing can be rel­a­tively sim­ple and still ef­fec­tive,” says Fisher. “It doesn’t have to get com­pli­cated by var­i­ous train­ing meth­ods and pro­to­cols.”

GETTY

With re­sis­tance train­ing, lift weights at a pace you en­joy, but ex­perts say it’s a good idea to reach the point of mo­men­tary fail­ure where you can’t do more rep­e­ti­tions.

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