Most people think weight training is only useful if you’re trying to “get big” or “bulk up”. The idea that weight training can also be helpful for getting lean and improving general health is one that is still catching on.
Here are the facts: Your body composition (the amount of lean tissue you have relative to your overall body weight) is the main determining factor in how you look and even in the level of health and fitness you are able to attain. Muscle tissue is highly active metabolically speaking. It requires more energy to maintain and thus creates an increase in your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). That’s the rate at which your body burns calories, even at rest.
Fat (or adipose tissue) on the other hand, is basically an inert substance. Think of it as a storage reservoir of energy. Your body won’t tap into that stored energy unless it becomes necessary. While you can create a calorie deficit by eating less and moving around more (ie. cardio) weight training is a much more efficient method since the activity itself uses more energy and the resulting increase in muscle tissue creates an even greater demand for energy.
So, now that you know why building muscle is important, it’s time to learn exactly how to do it. The basic premise behind progressive resistance training is very simple:
“In order to increase the size and strength of your muscles, you must continually apply resistance against a demand that exceeds your current limitations.”
You probably know that training your entire body is better than just training isolated body parts. You probably know that it’s important to give equal attention to pushing and pulling movements to ensure balanced development. You probably know that you should train your upper and lower body. There is no shortage of online workouts and thousands of books have been written on the subject. What you may not know is that in order to improve, you must continually strive to exceed your current level of development.
In the gym, this means continually adding more weights, completing more repetitions, or both.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much physiology but there are two main types of muscle fibers:
- Type I Muscle Fiber. Also known as slow twitch fibers, type I muscle fibers use oxygen more efficiently and can be used over longer periods of time ( think endurance). These are our smaller, least powerful muscle fibers that have little potential for hypertrophy.
- Type II Muscle Fiber. This is the fast twitch type of muscle fiber that can burn energy quickly for short bursts of strength. These are our larger, more powerful muscle fibers that have a great potential for hypertrophy or growth. (Source: International Sports Sciences Association )
So, the muscles that have the greatest potential for increase are composed of fibers that respond to heavier weights and a relatively lower number of repetitions (4-8). “Feeling the burn” by pushing for more and more repetitions is fine to warm up, to thoroughly tax a muscle or to induce a “pump” but it’s not optimal for increasing size or strength.
I created an outline of the exact workout technique I use. It’s called “pyramiding”. Basically, it involves starting with a lighter weight at higher repetitions (13-16) and adding weight on each set while reducing the number of repetitions on each successive set. If you would like to check it out, just contact me here and I’ll send you a copy.