Introduction
  
Many people believe Strength Training is only important for bodybuilders, weightlifters and athletes. Often people do not link strength training or muscular fitness with average men and women.  Unfortunately, some adults seem to fear having too much muscle.  I can’t tell you how many fitness training consultations I have conducted with clients starting a new fitness program where the new client’s primary concern is not getting too muscular. That would be a good problem to have and easy enough to adjust for as we go down the road.  Men and women who do not perform regular strength exercise lose about five pounds of muscle every 10 years.  The consistent loss of muscle detracts personal appearance, decreases their physical capability, and reduces their metabolic rate by 5 percent every decade.  This is a major reason Americans can eat the same amount of food but add fat weight year after year.  With less muscle tissue, calories that were previously used for muscle maintenance are now deposited into fat storage.

Strength training can change this situation.  There are many reasons why everyone should include sensible strength exercises in workout programs.  I will discuss some of the many benefits of strength training later in the course.  This course is called Strength Training 101 because the primary focus will be on sensible strength training fundamentals for improving muscular fitness.  Our goals is to discus vital information for designing safe, efficient and effective strength-training programs that allow you to feel better, look better, and complete your daily activities more easily.  These principles are appropriate for all (men, women, seniors, youth, athletes, experienced and beginner exercisers). 

Basic Philosophy of Strength TrainingOur basic philosophy of strength training is centered around:

  • Exercising safely. No matter how great a strength-training program appears to be, it should always be safe, of low-risk and at an appropriate level for the individual conducting the exercises.  For example, fast weight lifting movements are not recommended because they place too much stress on muscles, joints structures and tendons.  It is recommended that you conduct the exercises slowly and always have complete control over the weight.
  • Training effectively.   Different strength training programs provide various levels of strength development; some are more effective than others.  For example, traditional exercises such as pull-ups and crunches are effective body-weight exercises.  However, they don’t allow progressive increases in strength in resistance.  Up to a certain point, they will only provide moderate gains in strength.  You can get much better results by isolating specific muscle groups and progressively increasing the resistance with dumbbells, other free weights or variable resistance machines.

Working out efficiently.  Time is a valuable commodity.  We are all busy people with limited time for even important things like our training sessions. Exercising efficiently is a need and must be considered when developing an exercise program. 

 
Benefits of Strength Training
 
Today there is very little doubt muscular strength and endurance is important in many areas of life from competitive sports to more easily accomplishing the physical demands of everyday activities. Regardless of whether you’re an athlete looking for ways to improve your performance, a sedentary person who is not satisfied with your current lifestyle or a person who is trying to a healthy and effective workout experience, strength training can and should be part your fitness routine.  Strength training can play a major role in meeting your needs.  Strength training is not easy.  You must be willing and determined to work hard and take on the challenge.
 

As Craig stated in the video, often many people pass up strength exercises to spend time on cardio or to focus on their “problem areas.”  Strength training has many benefits that should not be missed.  Some of these benefits are physiological, some physical and some lead to better overall health.

Strength Training Benefits include:
Physiological Benefits
  • Regular strength training produces more myofibrils per muscle fiber, more capillaries per muscle fiber, more intramuscular energy stores, and better muscle fiber recruitment. The major response to progressive strength or resistance exercise is an increase in actin and myosin (muscle proteins). We will discuss the muscle anatomy later in the lesson.
  • The stress applied to muscle is transferred to the tendons and ligaments (connective tissue) and bones. This produces more collagen proteins in the ligaments and tendons and more osteo-proteins in the bones. The result is a strong, well developed and injury resistant musculoskeletal system.
Physical Benefits – a well developed musculoskeletal system improves overall health and quality of life as the ability to perform daily tasks becomes easier. As many of my clients have said, I have my life back.
  • Physical Capacity – I was an Engineer during most of my years in the Navy. So, sometimes I like to draw compares the human body and mechanical systems. The heart functions as the fuel pump of the body and the muscles serve as the engine. Muscle use energy to move and of course critical for all physical activity. We will discuss more later in the course. A progressive strength training program is the key to improving your muscular fitness.
  • Physical Appearance – Let’s face it…what is driving this train. To cut directly to the point. Everyone wants to look better naked. One of the most common reasons for is to do the obvious and improve our physical appearance.
  • Metabolic Function – Muscle mass and metabolic rate are closely related. When you add muscle mass, your metabolic function will increase. The old saying “use it or lose it” definitely applies to skeletal muscles. Without participating in an appropriate strength training program, muscle fibers will gradually become weaker and smaller (atrophy). This will also need to the decrease in metabolism.
  • Athletic Power – Powerful performance is the key to success for many athletes. Most sports coaches encourage their athletes to strength train in order to improve the performance power and decrease the risk of potential injury. Coaches understand that proper strength training does improve both the athletes’ movement speed and joint flexibility. The bottom line is a stronger athlete is a better athlete.
  • Injury Prevention – Research has revealed that four out of five Americans experience back pain. In most cases, the cause is poor muscle conditioning. It is very important to maintain strong postural muscles to counter the effects of gravity on our aging bodies. Well conditioned muscles protect the body from a wide variety of degenerative processes.
  • Health Benefits – Regular strength training improves our overall health in many ways.
    • Improved Body Composition
    • Decreased Blood Pressure
    • Reduced Sedentary Risks
    • Increased HDL (good) Cholesterol
    • Enhanced Overall Well-Being
    • Psychological Benefits

Muscle Anatomy

I’m not going to turn this lesson into an anatomy and physiology course. However, it is important to understand a little of what is going on in your body and visualize while it is happening.  I prefer my clients to be involved in their fitness programming and take an active role in the decision making and program development. Why, because it’s your body. No one knows it better than you do.  I don’t use cookie cutter programs. Each person receives customized, tailored workouts designed to meet each individual’s needs.  Everyone starts at a different level with different strengths and weaknesses.  For the most part, we all have a similar goal: to improve our personal appearance (look better naked).  But, goals do vary a little from person to person.  We need to build a program based on what you need, not recycle the same workout used for the last client.

Muscle Anatomy
Skeletal muscles contain bundles of muscle fibers.  The muscle fiber is a muscle cell, the individual cells that are the functional component of muscles.  Muscle fibers are cylindrical strands that contract as a unit when stimulated by a nerve impulse. 
 
 
 
Muscle Fiber Structure
This video explains the components that make up a muscle fiber and describes how they work together to perform a muscle contraction.

Myofibrils are smaller cylindrical strands that run the length of the muscle fiber. Each myofibril consists of numerous protein filaments that are segmented into individual units called sacromeres. Sarcomeres are the smallest units of contraction within the muscles. Sacromeres consist of two proteins (actin-thin and myosin-thick) that form a pattern and perform a specific purpose. Based on the Huxley Sliding Filament Theory (the most widely accepted theory that explains muscle shortening, the muscle contraction process is as follows: the Cross-bridges or myosin heads attach to specialized spots along the actin filaments, causing the myosin and actin to slide past each other in opposite directions.
 
Muscle Structure

 

The pulling action between the actin and myosin proteins that produces the muscle contraction involves electrical, chemical and mechanical interactions.  The electrical stimulus arrives via the motor nerve, which is part of a motor unit.  A motor unit consists of a single motor nerve and all of the individual muscle fibers that are activated by that nerve.  

The Motor Unit

This video explains how the Skeletal Muscular System and the Nervous System work together with chemical reactions to create muscle contraction, movement and activity.

 

Strength Training Principles

Strength Training Coaching from Wenkey Jerry on Vimeo.

Jerry Wenkey provides good tips and things about prior to starting your strength training program.  Mustering up the determination to work hard and push through the program, selecting the right device/machine or type/method of strength training for you, train the entire body, don’t only focus on one or two problem areas, and others.