Strengthening your muscles: important things to know

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You should always begin your strength training session with a period of warm up. Do a few minutes of endurance type activities and then end the session with some simple stretches. Also, when beginning the program, it is a good idea to start with light weights and high repetition. After a month or so you may then emphasize heavier weights and lower reps.

By Gregory Whyte

The Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center

We know from recent studies that most people who reach the age of 70, will experience a loss of about 20% of the muscle mass they had at age 30. This loss of tissue weakens muscles and affects balance. Fortunately, through the use of resistance (strengthening) exercises, the negative effects of this condition can be reduced.

One of the goals of your fitness program should be to develop and maintain adequate levels of muscular strength. In addition to an increase in strength and muscle mass, other benefits of your participation in a well-planned and executed muscle strengthening program are improvements in the performance of your daily tasks, the potential for increased calorie burning, delaying or preventing the onset of osteoporosis, reducing your risk of injuries and helping to prevent low-back pain.

In general, seniors who participate regularly in a safe and well-planned strength training program seem to maintain strong and well defined muscles.

The key to strengthening a muscle or muscle group is to have that muscle or muscle group perform against workloads that are above those normally encountered. This is the principle of overload. The workload should be increased periodically until a desired maximum is reached. This is the principle of progressive resistance.

You should always begin your strength training session with a period of warm up. Do a few minutes of endurance type activities and then end the session with some simple stretches. Also, when beginning the program, it is a good idea to start with light weights and high repetition (e.g.: 12 reps). After a month or so you may then emphasize heavier weights and lower reps (6 to 8 reps).

Here are some additional tips to assist you in building and strengthening your muscles:

• Rest for a few minutes between sets.

• Work the larger groups of muscles before conditioning the smaller ones.

• Your routine (selected exercises) should be arranged so that no one muscle group is exercised twice in succession.

• The intensity of the exercise is important. Muscles are conditioned best when a weight that can only be lifted between six and eight times is used, and when the six to eight repetition (one set) is performed three times.

• Your weight training session should be three times each week or every other day. The serious bodybuilder may increase the number of days.

• This tip is for all those “overly dedicated” folks who visit the weight room, five, six and even seven days a week. In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes people who are trying to strengthen and build muscles make is training too much and resting too little. The body and its muscles are made stronger when they are exposed to levels of stress that are above normal and then given an adequate amount of time to recuperate. Working your muscles and not permitting them to recuperate properly is one sure way of weakening them and possibly causing them to decrease in mass. Your muscles are a part of you. They too need to work, eat and rest. This is how they grow and develop.

• An important factor that helps to determine how fast and how well a person builds his/her muscles is the correctness of each exercise performed. Some effort should go into learning the correct way of performing each exercise; those involving the use of special weights and those that manipulate the weight of the body.

• Another important aspect of your body building effort is planning. By planning, I am referring to a determination of the various areas of the body you wish to strengthen, the exercises that are most appropriate and the order in which each section should be exercised. As a rule, you should plan your workout to ensure that each area of the body is exercised and then given a chance to rest. For instance, if you worked your chest and legs on Monday, you should allow them to rest on Tuesday. You may work them again on Wednesday.

The Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center is available to assist those in need of fitness information and services. Visit at 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte or call 941-625-4175, ext. 263.

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