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Resistance Training

Posted on 04/11/2008

Your muscles do work; they use energy to move your body. Resistance is a force that opposes work. When you do resistance training, you apply a force against your body’s movement to make your muscles do more work. The point of resistance training is to teach your muscles to do more work, to build muscle strength and endurance.

Strong muscles help you perform normal activities easily and without undue fatigue and they provide you with enough extra oomph for emergencies, such as running to catch a bus. They give you good posture and flexibility, making you more graceful. Increased stability and balance keep you from falling and hurting yourself. Strong muscles make your bones stronger and increase bone density. They store energy and oxygen more efficiently, reducing the demand on your heart and lungs. They increase your resting metabolic rate, so you burn more calories even when you’re sleeping or watching TV. You look better, feel better and have more energy when you have strong muscles.

There are several ways to add resistance training to your workout. You can use free weights, machines or barbells and dumbbells. You can use resistance bands. Or you can use your own body as the source of resistance. Resistance training involves moving each muscle group through a series of repetitive exercises, usually exercising all the muscle groups in your body over the course of a few days, putting each joint through its full range of motion—while applying some kind of resistance or weight.

Resistance training causes microtrauma to your muscle fibers—tiny tears and shear injuries within the muscle fibers themselves. It’s supposed to do that. Of course, the distance between microtrauma and a sports injury isn’t very far, so it’s important to use the following safety precautions when doing resistance training:

• Warm up before performing resistance training by doing 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Cold muscles are susceptible to injury.

• Use good technique and form when performing exercises. If you are uncertain how to do an exercise correctly, get help from a trainer. If you know how to do the exercise correctly and are unable to do it with perfect form, you probably have too much resistance and need to back off a bit.

• Make sure any equipment you use is in good repair before you use it.

• Exercise on a non-slip surface in an uncluttered area.

• Utilize good posture and proper body mechanics when performing resistance training.

While you are working out, muscle tissue breaks down, and muscle breakdown continues during the early recovery period. Muscle synthesis (build up) occurs during the recovery stage and after exercise. Eating a snack that has a balance of carbohydrates (for energy) and protein (for muscle synthesis) before and after your workout minimizes muscle breakdown and causes muscle synthesis to occur at a more rapid pace.

It takes 24-48 hours for your body to heal the microtrauma and build new muscle tissue, which is why rest days are important. You should rest each muscle group for a minimum of 24 hours between workouts. If your muscles are tired or sore from your last workout, it’s too soon for the next one.

Resistance training is an important part of an overall fitness program. It’s important for weight loss, for meeting the demands of daily life and for fitness and well-being.

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