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  Fitness & Weight Management

september 2012

Gain Strength, Win Age

Dinaz Vervatwala
 
It’s amusing how most teenage lads grow up having hulky and muscular personalities as idols. Glossy, colourful posters adorning walls are a certainty, regardless of whether the characteristic mess one sees in their rooms leaves scope for the display or not.

A stint or two with gymnasiums and dalliance with weights, chasing a particular look, is perhaps part of every teenager’s biography. Strength training – something that starts off as a matter of choice and aspiration early on in life, becomes a near ‘must’ as one grows older.

Strength training is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.

With the advent of modern technology, materials and knowledge, the methods that can be used for strength training have multiplied significantly. The terms ‘strength training’ and ‘resistance training’ are used interchangeably even today.

Functional Benefits
When performed properly, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improve overall health and well-being. It includes increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength and toughness, improved joint function, improved posture, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, a temporary increase in metabolism, improved cardiac function and elevated HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Older people who take up weight training (a kind of effective strength training) can prevent a certain loss of muscle tissue that normally accompanies ageing. They can even regain some functional strength and become less frail! They may be able to avoid some types of physical disability.
  • Weight-bearing exercise also helps to prevent osteoporosis – the silent killer associated with abnormally reduced bone density. Lack of strength training has been shown to reduce skeletal bone mass.
  • Many people take up weight training to improve their physical attractiveness. Most men develop substantial muscles whereas women develop a firmly toned body. An individual’s genetic make-up dictates the response to weight or strength training stimuli to some extent.
The three important variables of strength training are—intensity, volume and frequency.
Intensity refers to the amount of work required to achieve the activity and is proportional to the mass of the weights being lifted. Volume refers to the number of muscles worked, exercises, sets and reps during a single session. Frequency refers to the number of training sessions performed per week. Exercise selection should be limited to the basic foundational barbell movements, such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press and bent-over row.

Things To Avoid
  • Do not push yourself too much! Too much intensity, volume and frequency will result in overtraining and eventually lead to injury. There is also the risk of health issues like chronic soreness and general lethargy, illness, or even acute trauma such as avulsion fractures.
  • A high-medium-low formula can be used to avoid overtraining with either intensity or volume or frequency being high, one of the others being medium and the other low.
  • Orthopaedic specialists recommend that children below the age of eight years should avoid weight training because the growth plates on their bones might be at risk. Younger children are at a greater risk of injury too. They should always be guided by trainers. Strength training is a safe form of exercise when the movements are controlled and carefully defined for both adults and children. However, as with any form of exercise, improper execution and failure to take appropriate precautions can result in injury.
Diet And Liquids
  • Strength training must match the changes in diet in order to be effective. A light, balanced meal prior to a workout (usually one to two hours before) ensures the availability of adequate energy and amino acids, in order to perform the intense level of exercises.
  • The type of nutrients consumed affects the response of the body, and nutrient timing, whereby protein and carbohydrates consumed prior to and after a workout have a beneficial impact on muscle growth.
  • Water should be consumed throughout the course of the workout to prevent dehydration.
  • A protein shake is often consumed immediately after a workout session because both protein uptake and protein usage are increased at this time. Glucose (or just sugar) is often consumed to quickly replenish any glycogen lost during the exercise.
Strength training is a safe form of exercise when the movements are controlled and carefully defined for both adults and children. However, as with any form of exercise, improper execution and failure to take appropriate precautions can result in injury .