Strength Training

This is the first of a series of blogs on strength training. Also know as resistance training, it encompasses everything from body weight exercises (such as pushup) to using fixed path selectorized machines to advanced circuit training seen in Crossfit classes. For our purposes, WBV training done on the PowerPlate should be considered a form of strength training - although there are some other factors to take into consideration when designing programs for vibration platforms.

The purpose of this blog is not to argue the benefits of strength training (for that you should check out one of the previous entries) but to give some basic information to help you make good choices when designing you own programs.

So here we go…

What happens to my body when I strength train?

One of the amazing qualities of the human body is its ability to adapt to the stresses placed on it. This ability to adapt to stress is known as the general adaptive syndrome. When the body is physically stressed physiological changes will occur that allow us to more efficiently overcome the stress. OR whatever we do we get better at.

Think about the first time you ride a bike in the spring after not having done it all winter. You are slower, it takes more effort to do a ride that was easy at the end of the season and the next day every part of you hurts. Then, after a couple of weeks of riding, you are back to normal. What you couldn’t see was that your body increased its capability to recruit muscle fibers, increased its ability to pump blood to the legs and became more efficient at dispelling lactic acid buildup. In other words, your strength and endurance increased.

So what does that have to do with a dumbbell curl?

When you pick up a weight, do a crunch on a ball or perform a pushup, your muscles strain to produce force. As your muscles become overloaded they begin to break down. The next day the micro tears created in the muscles are repaired. This process makes you stronger.
Unfortunately, because the body adapts if you do the same thing over and over again the effect of the workout will diminish each time. The body will get better at that one specific action, not get stronger as a whole (or better at burning fat or have more stamina depending on your goal).

What’s the point?

In the end, whatever workout you choose needs to stick to two principals:

1. Variety - Your exercise routine needs to change at regular intervals. You can increase reps, sets, weight, or time under tension. You can add in different exercises, increase the instability of the exercise or alter the rest time between exercises. Any of these tactics will help to change your workout and keep your body guessing.

2. Progression - Your workout program should have a systematic plan to make it harder as your body adapts. Think about your workout not in single sessions but how it will evolve over the course of a year. As your body adapts, plan out what you will do to keep pushing your limits without going too far and over-training.

Next week we will go over some over-arching approaches to designing a strength program.