Look Good, Feel Great : 6 - an introduction to muscle training

Why do muscle training?

Let’s remind ourselves of the cardinal rule of fat loss – in order to lose fat, your energy output must be greater than your energy intake

One way of doing this is to reduce your energy intake by eating smarter and taking in fewer calories. Unfortunately trying to strip off fat by smarter eating alone only gets you so far. That’s because up to 50% of the weight you lose won’t be fat – it ’ll be muscle. Your body’s primeval response is to battle as hard as it can to hang on to its fat stores, as it can’t distinguish between you eating smarter and what it considers to be impending starvation!

When you add aerobic training you do two things – you increase your energy output, thereby creating even more of an energy deficit, AND you burn fat directly. What you DON’T do is hang on to your muscle.

A recent US study found that people who combined calorie restriction with an aerobic exercise programme AND a muscle training program maintained muscle mass while making considerable improvements in strength, body composition (fat/muscle ratio) and aerobic capacity

The study had three subject groups:

1. those who restricted calorie intake but didn’t exercise

2. those who restricted calorie intake and did aerobic exercise

3. those who restricted calorie intake and did aerobics and muscle training

In 12 weeks, each group lost the same amount of weight– about 20 pounds

The BIG difference was in the amount of muscle lost. Group 1 lost nearly 7 pounds of muscle. Group 2 lost over 4 pounds of muscle. Only Group 3, the group who did muscle training, maintained their muscle mass – which means that ALL the weight loss was from fat

And hanging on to your muscle (and, even better, building some more muscle) is important for several reasons:

• the health benefits it brings; lower blood pressure, injury prevention, slowing down of bone and muscle loss and delaying fragility as you age

• the more muscle you have the leaner you’ll look as muscle takes up less room than fat

• the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate is and the more fat you burn

Muscle training burns fat continuously. The reason is simple – the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate (and therefore the more fat you burn). This is because muscle is more metabolically active than fat – in other words it needs more energy (calories) to sustain it.

So if you weigh 200 pounds and have 25% body fat, your metabolic rate is 1840 calories a day. If on the other hand, you weigh 200 pounds but have 15% body fat, your metabolic rate is now 2006 calories a day. Your body burns 166 calories a day more!

So what, you may ask? Well here’s the ‘so what’:  if both ‘yous’ had a calorie intake of 1840 per day, over a year the ‘you’ with 25% body fat would maintain weight. The ‘you’ with 15% body fat would LOSE 17 pounds of fat

 Where can I do muscle training?

The good news is you can train anywhere you want. Muscle training is all about using resistance to build muscle and you can use the resistance of your own body weight to do press ups, sit ups, squats etc. By adding a set of dumbbells you can increase your range of exercises exponentially

If you also get yourself a bench and barbell set and clear out a little corner in your favourite room at home, you up the ante again! If you want more and you have the space and the money you can get some very sophisticated home gym set ups indeed. The major benefit of home training is convenience. If the time saving and convenience benefits of training at home help you stick to your training programme better, then work out at home

The alternative is clear - join a gym. We looked at the advantages of joining in gym in part 2 of this series -the exercise possibilities are endless, the atmosphere is motivational and people are there to help you

Myths and Legends about muscle training

“I’ll get too big and muscly and look like a freak”

GET REAL! Do you think it’s that easy to build so much muscle? It literally takes years and years to build bodies like that, and even then it’s a fair bet that many of the professional bodybuilders you’re basing your ‘fears’ on are on steroids and other drug

Do you really think a few strength training sessions down at the gym will mean you’ll sprout massive muscles? Of course not! The process takes place slowly, and you’re actually in control of how you want your body to look. And guess what, if you ever do reach nirvana where you have all the muscle you want, you can just change your training and nutrition from muscle building to maintenance.

“If I stop training, all my muscle will turn to fat”

ERRR, NO. Muscle and fat are two completely different types of body tissue, so if you stop training, your muscles will shrink - partially or completely - back to their original size, but they will not turn into fat. What CAN and DOES change is tour body’s ratio of muscle to fat. Especially if you continue to take in calories at the same rate

As long as you continue with your strength training you’ll never have to worry about shrinking muscles and increasing body fat. If your activity level ever does drop dramatically because of an injury or other reasons beyond your control, you must re-calculate your calories according to your new activity level and adjust your food intake

“I’ll get muscle bound and lose flexibility”

Muscle training doesn’t reduce flexibility; inactivity reduces flexibility. If you perform muscle training exercises through the full range of motion, this will actually increase your flexibility, especially if done in conjunction with stretching exercises.

An easy way to fit stretching into your routine is to stretch in between sets. To maintain good flexibility, try and stretch three or four times per week

“If I train my abs every day I’ll lose fat”

You see them all the time at the gym. Men, and more often women, doing multiple sets of abs exercises in order to lose the fat around the belly.Sorry folks – doing lots and lots of abs exercises every day doesn’t burn more fat around your gut! In fact, abdominal training has ZILCH to do with fat loss!

Abdominal training develops the muscle underneath the fat but doesn’t remove the layer of fat on top of the muscle. You may well have a great set of abs but they could be covered up with fat, so you can’t see them! In order to do that, you need to eat sensibly and do aerobic exercise as well as muscle training

So train your abdominals just like any other body part, once or twice a week. What abs will take are more sets and reps, not in order to burn fat, but because they’re a muscle group that can benefit from it!

Next - Your starter muscle training programme

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February 10, 2012

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