Fit From the Ground Up
Strength training is the bedrock of any exercise program
Astrong foundation is the starting point for all construction projects. Fitness enthusiasts can take a lesson from today’s soaring skyscrapers, which demand the firmest foundation of all—built on bedrock. In like fashion, your health and wellness depend upon the “bedrock” that you choose to make the foundation of your fitness program.
In previous “To Your Health” columns, I defined the three elements that contribute to physical fitness: cardiovascular capacity, flexibility and strength. I went on to describe the construction of a reasonable, doable program incorporating each of those elements and what such a program would look like. Last issue I discussed the cardio and flexibility elements and how and where to fit them into an overall training program.
I have saved discussion of what I consider to be the most important element for last: strength. That is the “bedrock” upon which the other components rest. Considering the importance of cardiovascular capacity and flexibility, some might consider that statement to be a bold one. Yet in my capacity as a certified personal trainer and a student of fitness for more than five decades, I can tell you from experience that any effort to pursue cardio capacity and flexibility will eventually fail without maintaining your muscular strength and endurance. Remember, I am the guy who str essed (and continues to stress) the vital importance of cardiopulmonary health and flexibility in attaining and maintaining physical fitness. How can I then rank one element of fitness above another? Consider this: All human self-mobility is accomplished by the actions of the muscles upon the skeletal bones—an exquisitely designed system of levers and fulcrums dependent upon the contraction of the muscle fibers. “Duh!” you say. “Tell me something I don’t know, Tony.” OK. The game changer here is time. Over time, without strength training, you will continue to lose muscle (a process called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss). If you are lucky enough to grow old, this process can be debilitating, but it is not inevitable. Since most of us wish to live a long, healthy life, aging is something that cannot be avoided (there is only one cure for aging and no one wants it). If you wish to maintain both your looks (don’t even try to tell me you don’t care about that), health and an active lifestyle, you are going to need to keep your muscles as strong and toned as you can. Otherwise … The tottering gait, stooped
ANY EFFORT TO PURSUE CARDIO CAPACITY AND FLEXIBILITY WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL WITHOUT MAINTAINING YOUR MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE.
shoulders, fragility of weak bones (and the danger that comes with that), balance issues and so much more are all signatures of one whose muscle strength and tone have been neglected, usually for many years.
Age-related muscle loss has been shown to be largely avoidable (and, thank goodness, reversible). Young or old, you should incorporate strength training into your routine, and you will be the better for it both today and tomorrow. Based on this critical reality, where and how does strength training fit into your workout plan?
The last issue’s column discussed the first two segments of each workout and their sequencing within the workout: The first segment was warm-up; the second was flexibility/stretching. Next issue I will focus on structuring the segment that comes last in the sequence (yet first in importance) in your workout: strength—the foundational bedrock of your fitness.