Fit From the Ground Up

Strength train­ing is the bedrock of any ex­er­cise pro­gram

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY TONY DICOSTA Tony DiCosta is a cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer and fit­ness writer. As a com­pet­i­tive physique ath­lete in the Mas­ters Di­vi­sions, DiCosta has been the Over-60 Florida state cham­pion and holds nu­mer­ous re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ti­tles.

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


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.

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