A slim body with a wide chest, muscles outline on the abdomen and muscular arms, this is what every man should look like according to the current pattern. Most dream about it striving to achieve this perfect image, which is helped by properly selected strength training. However, it has a positive impact not only on the appearance, but also on the overall physical condition, if carried out correctly, of course. The concept of strength training is a kind of generalization here, because in fact, every form of strength training is important, thanks to which we also maintain health.
Strength training and other forms of physical activity – how they affect our body
Walking through the streets of Polish cities, we notice with concern that many men do not care about their physical condition and their shape looks more streamlined than muscular. One can venture a guess that men, especially those over 40, have completely neglected themselves, and the common condition they suffer from is growing overweight and abdominal obesity. Its development is influenced by many factors, most of which are due to their own negligence, but the most important of these are two:
1. Fat containing and indigestible diet
There have already been a lot of books and articles written on this subject, which, by the way, most men avoid. Ignorance of these vital issues can be seen through their fat bodies, still crammed with everything that is harmful, fattening and unhealthy. It is mainly men who are lovers of the so-called junk food, hamburgers, pizza, pork knuckles or ribs, consumed in huge amounts, washed down with beer or sweet, carbonated drinks. Even when they want to start training, it quickly turns out that their bodies are too ruined by the wrong diet and require first regeneration and providing them with the missing nutrients. Vitamins, preferably from all groups, minerals, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are important in the first place. Other substances contained in recommended fruit, vegetables, fish and poultry are also useful, and they should replace red meat, and to facilitate digestion it’s best to choose whole grain cereals, dark wholemeal bread, bran, groats and brown rice. The body will soon feel the benefits of such a change, gaining strength even for the toughest strength training.
2. Complete lack of physical activity
Another bane of modern society after non-compliance with the recommended dietary habits, also in our country. Forcing someone to do a daily dose of exercise in the fresh air, even a walk, let alone exercise, is almost a miracle, as we are so used to a sedentary lifestyle. Let’s be honest that we sit in the morning, on our way to work, in most cases also a few hours at work behind the desk, then we drive home again by car, where we sit in front of the computer and TV. We evade walking at any cost, even going to a nearby store for shopping, and the effects of this immediately affect our health, causing such ailments as:
- weakening of bones and joints, manifested by increased susceptibility to injuries, fractures, bruises, sprains and progressive degenerative disease. It usually affects the legs, mainly the ankles and knees, which can hardly bear the increasing load. Lack of physical condition and the development of the appropriate muscles also means problems with the spine, a greater risk of discopathy or spinal hernia, very painful diseases which in some cases may even end in permanent disability;
- heart and circulatory system diseases caused by excess cholesterol deposited in the veins and astronomical amounts of salt delivered with junk food. It is the cause of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, stroke or infarction. Lack of exercise also poses a threat to the brain, the hypoxia of which is manifested, among other things, by increasing concentration and memory disorders;
- problems with digestion and metabolism. It has been proven long ago that exercise, and especially active participation in some sporting discipline is of great importance for proper functioning of the digestive system. Physical effort speeds up metabolism and other processes responsible for fat burning, and by causing a more intense bowel movement, it facilitates the digestion of even the heaviest foods;
- weakening of the immune system, the body’s natural protective barrier, without which we automatically become more susceptible to all diseases and infections that threaten us.
Strength training – conditioning to reduce the risk of injury
The above examples clearly show the risk of neglecting our physical condition and what diseases this may result in. It is not worth underestimating it, it is better to finally move from the chair, although it will be a long time before we start a typical strength training. As already mentioned, it requires adequate preparation, so it is better to start with lighter forms of activity that allow you to gradually get in shape. Let’s start with short daily walks, increasing the distance we have walked each day, and the best results will be obtained by using Nordic walking poles. You can walk practically anywhere, but avoid places where we will be exposed to smog and car exhaust fumes, and let’s not forget about comfortable sports shoes with shock-absorbing sole. Gradually, we can also include other forms of exercise, and professional trainers recommend that you start your adventure with sport:
- stretching, that is stretching exercises involving all parts of muscles, especially useful for people leading a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise prepares the muscles for increased effort, relaxes them and improves flexibility. It is also perfect for people who want to increase the mobility of joints, eliminating their stiffness and pain;
- running, which has as many supporters as opponents, however, it cannot be denied that it has many advantages. The same rule applies as for walking, we start from short distances, and with a little patience, you may be able to run the entire marathon over time. In running, i.e. jogging, it is important to prepare in advance and choose the right footwear to protect the feet, and the positive effect, besides a significant weight loss, will be the development of leg muscles, preparing them to endure increasingly greater loads;
- swimming, classified as general exercise, training that has a beneficial effect on the entire body. It develops practically every part of the muscles, allows them to relax, and people complaining about back pain will get rid of it quickly.
Strength training – the most important rules recommended by professionals
Once we are sure that we are in the right condition, which should be verified by a professional trainer, we can start strength training, i.e. building up our strength and muscle mass. A better solution than exercising at home is joining a gym and training there under the watchful eye of professionals who adjust the exercises to our actual abilities. This way, we will avoid the risk of serious injuries, and a good trainer will at the same time provide us with the most important rules of strength training:
Setting the goal we want to achieve
This is the first thing we should do to adjust the set of exercises we are going to do. Most people who start such trainings want to build their muscle mass and then sculpt the whole body to perfection, so as to arouse admiration and envy of the environment. Strength training is also a good choice for people who just want to lose weight, quickly and efficiently burn all excess body fat, and then increase their physical strength, which can be useful, for example, in their workplace.
Creating a professional exercise plan and choosing the most appropriate method
Going to the gym and having chaotic exercises on all the equipment there is a simple way to injuries and complete discouragement from further strength training. It is better to use the help of a specialist, a trainer with many years of experience, who will help us to set up the right exercise plan, determine their frequency, number of training sessions per week, duration of the break between them, the number of repetitions per series, etc. You can also count on help in choosing the best training method, and we can choose from:
- FBW (Full Body Workout), covering the entire body, practically all muscle parts, recommended for people who want to build their muscle mass from scratch and increase endurance, performed alternately with other types of training, usually twice a week;
- SPLIT, a form of training, in which we exercise one specific part of muscles once a week, e.g. chest on Monday, biceps on Tuesday, and leg muscles on Wednesday. Thanks to this, we will avoid the effect of overtraining, the muscles are less stressed and have enough time to regenerate. This form of exercise allows for a greater increase in mass and faster achievement of visible and effective sculpting;
- circuit training, consisting of a series of several or more exercises performed one after another, often without breaks between them, as long as we do all of them. The choice of exercises is closely related to the goal we want to achieve in this way and it can be push-ups, exercises with a skipping rope, jumps, rowing or bench press. The effect of circuit training is, among other things, a better metabolism allowing for more efficient burning of calories and strengthening the circulation, which has a beneficial effect on the work of heart and proper oxygenation of the body, including the muscles.
Adjusting exercises to the capabilities of your body
It is a rule that must be strictly followed, which determines our safety. The most important thing is to choose the right load, one that we will be able to lift without risking muscle or joint damage. Its selection should be made by the trainer, analyzing our actual capabilities based on observation of previous strength training. If the load is too heavy, there will be an overtraining effect that may even stop muscle mass building completely. If it is too light, we will not get any results and all our effort will be wasted.
Warm up, exercise properly and remember to breathe
Every training, not only strength training, should always be preceded by a warm-up. Without it, the muscles are insufficiently stretched and warmed up, which significantly increases the risk of damage, strain or pull. It is similar with joints, ligaments or tendons, and the consequences of neglect can be really painful. A typical warm-up usually lasts a few or so minutes, it involves stretching individual muscle parts, the recommended exercises include jumps, running in place, stepper or stationary bike and typical cardio exercises. They increase the physical efficiency, the efficiency of the heart muscle, which is better protected against diseases and oxygenates individual parts of the body. Just as important as warming up is the correct performance of all exercises included in strength training, and sticking to the recommended technique. We need to know how the gym equipment works, how to use it safely and perform exercises in order to obtain the highest possible efficiency. This should be ensured by the trainer who provide us assistance, correcting mistakes on an ongoing basis and giving the necessary instructions to avoid possible injuries. We should also remember about proper breathing, one of the bases of high effectiveness of exercises. Experts say that we should breathe in before lifting a load, and breathe out slowly as we lift it.
Exercises to finish the training and proper regeneration of the body
A mistake, often made by beginners, is to finish the strength training improperly, to move too quickly from the exercise phase to the rest phase. This poses a serious threat to health, sometimes resulting in collapsing or even fainting that requires medical intervention. If we get up right after lifting weights or any other effort and want to go to the locker room, our heart may protest, so it is worth doing cool down exercises. They allow you to gradually relax and soothe tired muscles, lower their temperature and at the same time regulate increased heart rate. These are breathing and stretching exercises, thanks to which the body will calm down and we will avoid the above mentioned problems, including the risk of venous congestion.
Rest and modification of the strength training plan
Even with the best intentions, you can’t exercise all week long, the body will quickly let you know about fatigue, demanding the right dose of rest. Regeneration after exercise is just as important as all the other elements included in strength training. It must include the parts of the muscles that we have trained on a given day, and they need a break of at least 24 hours before the next training session. You should not strictly stick to a once set training plan, it is worth modifying it on a regular basis, making adjustments to take into account your body’s current capabilities. The body does not always have the same performance, so it will be necessary to either increase or reduce the intensity of the exercise. The same plan all the time also makes muscle used to it, so it loses its effectiveness and we will not notice any increase in muscle mass.
Diet beneficial for muscle mass building
Even the most intensive strength training alone is not enough for the muscles to grow at the pace we would like to. It also requires proper nutrition, a diet rich in nutrients, among which the most important are large amounts of carbohydrates giving strength to do all planned exercises. They are the primary source of energy for muscles, and are contained in such food products as whole grain groats, whole grain bread, pasta and cereals. Protein is another nutrient that muscles demand, and it will be provided by lean meat, preferably poultry or beef and skim milk products. Let’s not forget about vegetables and fruits, a source of vitamins and minerals whose antioxidant properties help to get rid of free radicals that can damage cells and lead to cancer. During strength training, it is also important to drink large amounts of fluids, both before and after exercise, to avoid severe dehydration. In turn, the diet should strictly limit fats, not only deposited in various parts of the body, but they also may increase the feeling of fatigue. Let’s eat 5 – 6 meals a day, preferably every 3 hours, and the last one maximum 2.5 – 3 hours before going to bed.