Muscular strength and endurance is a component of fitness that is necessary for optimal well-being and quality of life.
Strength training actually revs up your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories hours after your session.
Lifting weights can also help you throughout the aging process. As you age, your muscles become weaker and your risk of developing health issues increases.
But, by keeping up with strength training, you can combat that downward spiral.
Listen in as Edward M. Phillips, MD, discusses the many benefits of strength training, both for toning your body and keeping your weight in check.
RadioMD Presents:Train Your Body | Original Air Date: March 3, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
RadioMD. RadioMD.com. Your trainer, Melanie Cole, is here to motivate and help you perform. It's time now for Train Your Body.
MELANIE: Strength training is a pretty generic term. What does it mean? Does it mean lifting heavy weights and those guys you see in the free weight room grunting and sweating? Does it mean just lifting a little bit like you see the ladies in the aerobics room with their three pound dumbbells? What does strength training really mean? What exercises give you the best benefit? How often should you do it? All of these things are about to be answered by my guest, Dr. Edward Phillips. He's Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehab at Harvard Medical School. He's also the founder and director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at the Joslin Diabetes Center.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Phillips.
DR. PHILLIPS: Thank you, Melanie.
MELANIE: So, strength training. If someone was to come to you and say, "I want to strength train. What does that mean and how do I start?" What do you tell them?
DR. PHILLIPS: Great. So, let me back up and say I'll just give you what the Federal recommendations are so you understand why all Americans are asked to participate in this. There is a physical activities guideline for Americans that most famously calls for all Americans to be moving 2.5 hours a week, 150 minutes, and we're working really hard to get there. Getting out and doing that brisk walk. The other part of it is that twice a week, we're recommended to do a routine of, it's actually called "resistance training". Resistance training means like anything where you're pushing your muscles against some sort of a resistance. Strength is one outcome. You could do that through lifting weights or through pulling on a resistance band. You can do it with doing body weight training. You can't see me right now, but not only am I standing up, I'm going up and down on my toes and I'm working my calves. I'm just working against gravity. So, what we're looking for is twice a week, and we try to ask you, because of muscle soreness, not to do them two days in a row. So, that's where we're going to start. We're going to try to get you working the major muscles of your body twice a week.
MELANIE: Okay. So, major muscles being what and what kinds of exercises? Squats? Lunges? Do bicep curls count? Push-ups against the counter in the kitchen? Do you have to take that a half an hour or 45 minutes and actually go through a routine? Tell us about what you actually do, the semantics of it all.
DR. PHILLIPS: Sure. So, the full prescription would be that you're going to work all the major muscle groups. For instance, if I'm going up and down on my toes, I'm working my lower leg. If I start doing squats, I'm working my thighs, including the quads in the front and the hamstrings in the back. If I start bringing my legs out to the side balancing on the other leg, I'm starting to work my core and my butt muscles—my glutes. If I start to do to the plank position where it's sort of the top of a push-up, I'm working my core and I might be holding it. If I start to do push-ups from that plank position, I'm obviously working my upper body. So, all of them are good. Obviously, we want you to do all of them, but in answer to your question, even if you did a little bit, it's better than nothing. So, bicep curls are great. What's interesting about our muscles is that they respond specifically to the stress. What that means is, if you do bicep curls, you'll be able to do bicep curls. It's not going to help you run, or, not directly. It's not going to help you with the strength of your back. The muscles will respond to what you do. So, if you say, "Well, I want to have strong legs, strong back, strong arms," you're going to work out all of them. So, you're getting the idea that you're trying to do a general routine of your legs, your arms, your back, and you can do this a couple of times a week.
MELANIE: So, for people that don't know what exercises work what muscle groups because, yes, the muscles react specifically. So, you do something for that muscle and it builds on itself and then it will be stronger at that particular movement or that particular muscle group movement, but how do you know that doing a row works those lats? How do you know that planking works the core if you're not a trainer or you're not somebody who has been doing this a long time?
DR. PHILLIPS: So, two ways of looking at it. One of them is that when I prescribe exercise to my patients, the most common early conversation is, "So, Melanie, what would it take to get you to walk a little bit more?" If I saw you walk in and you're walking out, we know you can do that. You learned this when you were about 1 year old. We've got that. When you need to do strength training, if you haven't been trained, we, actually, will likely send you to some sort of professional. If there is a medical diagnosis, I might be able to send you to a physical therapist. I might want to find a well-credentialed personal trainer, an exercise physiologist—someone that can train you. That works. There are lots of people that will go turn on their iPhone and download a video of some exercises going on. That's one direction.
Another one for the listeners is, my field is rehab medicine and we talk about function. So, what I'm going to do is ask you to strengthen up the parts that need strengthening. Very simply, if you're having trouble getting out of a chair, why not get out of a chair a lot of times? In other words, if you're having trouble getting out once, the prescription is, with a little bit of support, we're going to get you in and out of a chair 5 times. The muscles that you need to work, you do not need to know the names of. I can tell them to you, but you're going to be working the extensors of your hips and your core in order to rise out of the chair. If you can rise 5 times in a row, you may start pushing off with your arms, and you get to the point where you don't even need to push off, those muscles, that functional activity is going to be improved so when you go home and you need to get off the toilet, which is a challenge for many older adults, you can do it.
So, that's an approach of sort of functional rehab or rehab or functional strengthening to do the stuff that you need to do in order to maintain that activity; in order to improve that activity.
MELANIE: That's great information, too, Dr. Phillips, because on the American College of Sports Medicine's fitness trends for the years as they go on, functional fitness training which is exactly what you're talking about, always rises up on the list and that is getting up out of a chair so that you can get up off the toilet. Reaching into your trunk to grab your groceries so that you can reach into your trunk and grab your groceries or lift your grandchildren or do any of those things that make for that function daily to increase your ability to do what you do every day.
So, what about some of those myths that go on with strength training? Women and resistance training--women specifically. I don't know if they're still saying that, but they used to say to me, I've been in the business 25 years, "Well, I don't want to bulk up. I don't want to look like one of those German swimmers." Those ladies work hard and eat like a bird. You know? You can't look like that that easily.
DR. PHILLIPS: Yes. So, the kind of strengthening that needs to go on and the difference between no strength training and modest improvements, meaning that you're stronger, but you have not yet hypertrophied your muscles. That's fancy talk for your muscles have grown larger. In women, seeing the definition is way down the line. If you're just starting to do the strengthening, your muscles are going to get much, much stronger long before they get bigger and you're going to feel much better. Aesthetically, you'll still be improved without sort of bulking up. It's interesting you talked about the German swimmers because when I think about sort of an attractive, strong woman, you know, we've got our First Lady going sleeveless and people talk about aspiring to have Michele Obama arms in a positive way. Like "I want to show a little bit of..."
MELANIE: You want that muscle. You want that definition.
DR. PHILLIPS: Absolutely.
MELANIE: And, she's a bigger woman, too, and yet she is able to have that real nice tone that just looks lovely. So, ladies, you know he's saying, "Don't be afraid of that." Lifting 3 pounds, 5 pounds, 8 pounds, 10, 12's--they're not going to give you these bulky, ugly arms. You can have nice toned arms. So, in the last 30 seconds, Dr. Phillips, wrap it up for us.
DR. PHILLIPS: So, I would say everybody needs to be doing some sort of resistance or strength training. It's going to improve your function. It's going to improve your aesthetics. It's going to improve all sorts of health metrics. You're going to feel better about yourself, have less pain and the more people that do it, the healthier our country would be.
MELANIE: Absolutely. Great information. So, the basics are here, just get out and do it. You want to add strength training into your day. Lift that milk jug 15 times, pick up your children, squat a little, lunge a little. You know, lift your legs, move around. Do core planking, sit on the ball and do some pelvic lifts. Do your bicep curls and your rows and your abdominal exercise. Add them all in because it's all going to add up and make you stronger and more fit and healthier and it feels good and you pants fit better.
So, if any of the other reasons aren't good, well, that last one's probably the best.
This is Melanie Cole. You're listening to Train Your Body right here on RadioMD. Thanks for listening and stay well.