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Resistance exercise: What you need to know

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Let’s face it: If you’re a man, you want that natural male V-taper. You want your muscles to be strong and have mass so you can look like a man should look.

Resistance training can help you reach those goals because it stimulates the development of proteins found in muscle cells, which then improves the ability of muscles to perform.

To experience the benefits of resistance exercise, it’s important to understand the best ways to optimize your time at the gym so you can ensure you maintain optimal health and benefits from each workout session.

The first one is that the shorter rest periods advocated by some extreme cardio workout programs may not be best for resistance training.

What is resistance training?

Resistance training consists of any exercise that allows the muscles to contract against an outside resistance, such as weight machines, dumbbells or your own body weight. Among the most common and basic types of resistance exercises with body weight are  pushups and lunges, and you can also use free weights and machines to add more resistance than your body weight provides.

But if you are serious or want to be serious about resistance training, one thing you want to know is how much rest you need to optimize the benefits of your activity.

A study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research points out that although resistance training offers men a variety of benefits, there are some shortfalls if you don’t follow some specific practices. In particular, when resistance exercises are done with short rest, men can experience significant fatigue that has a negative impact on their technique and results.

At the University of Connecticut, researchers examined the impact of fatigue on 12 men who had at least six months of experience with resistance training. The study used body weight squats, which are highly tiring, to test fatigue.

The investigators noted there were “lasting residual effects on movement capabilities after a high-intensity short rest protocol,” including significant decreases in knee and hip flexion and hip adduction.

If you are using resistance training and want to maximize your benefits, then you might want to discuss your workouts with a professional. The authors of the study explain that “strength and conditioning coaches must be careful to monitor movements and exercise techniques after such workout to prevent injury and optimize subsequent exercise protocols that might be sequenced in order.”

Other benefits of resistance exercise

Resistance exercise can also provide better cardiovascular health, a reduction in body fat and an increase in metabolic rate (you’ll burn more fat).

And since bone density is a concern for men as well as women, it’s good to know that resistance exercise has a positive impact on the level of bone minerals and can help in the fight against osteoporosis. In fact, a review published in Sports Medicine reported that “strength exercise seems to be a powerful stimulus to improve and maintain bone mass during the aging process.”

Those of us in medical practice have known this for years, as the body is a reactive system. If you want to increase bone density, you have to challenge your body so that it knows you need harder, stronger bones.

Resistance exercise for older men

One reason men engage in resistance training is to ward off the negative effects of aging. A new study looked at how effective that effort could be in both men and women. The elderly volunteers (average age 70) in the study engaged in resistance training three times a week for six months. The researchers used X-rays to measure factors contributing to strength and other health aspects both before and after the study was completed.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that muscle fiber size, leg lean mass and quadriceps area all increased.

And did you know that studies show the stronger your quad muscles are, the less chance there is you’ll die early of any cause?

The participants also experienced an improvement in sit-to-stand time, along with better cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and glycemic control. These findings led the authors to note that a “generic resistance-type exercise training program can be applied for both women and men to effectively counteract the loss of muscle mass and strength with aging.”

If you are already engaged in resistance exercise training, it’s wise to periodically review your program and discuss it with a professional trainer and your healthcare provider. If you are considering starting a resistance exercise program, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning and work with an exercise specialist to determine the best program for you.

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