Health Nut: Weight training helps keep bodies pumped

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September 7, 2010

1:40 AM

Does the unlimited food at the Commons Dining Hall and disturbing amounts of Natty Light make you glad that there is only another month left of shirtless weather? As the school year rounds into form, don’t let your belly do the same. Consider defeating stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing your confidence through a safe and structured weight-training program.

The first step to any successful exercise program is setting SMART goals, meaning your goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-anchored. Setting SMART goals allows you to keep track of your progress and creates a sense of self-accountability. If weight loss is part of your exercise objective, remember that a healthy and maintainable goal is one to two pounds per week. Don’t let the diet books fool you either. In order to lose one pound, the only thing you need to remember is that you must have a 3,500-calorie deficit, meaning you must burn 3,500 more calories than you eat. One way to help achieve a caloric deficit and increase self-confidence is through resistance (weight) training.

Think the weight room is just for athletes and frat boys? Think again. Weight training is an integral part to any successful exercise regimen for men and women, no matter if the goal is weight loss or just general good health. To understand why weight training is important to achieving a healthy weight, let’s talk about basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of calories you burn daily while at rest. In other words it is your energy consumption if you sat in front of a television and watched “Jersey Shore” reruns all day.

Because muscles require more energy than fat, adding muscle mass increases your daily calorie expenditure.
Strength-training workouts also require a large amount of energy. You might find yourself burning 150 to 300 calories during a 30-minute session — that’s right, there are ways other that the elliptical to burn calories. As an added benefit, your body burns more calories for several hours following your workout because of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption — and because your body has to work hard to repair and build your exhausted muscles.

Here are some ideas for starting your successful resistance-training program. Lift weights two to four times per week on non-consecutive days. Lifting tired muscles on back-to-back days does not give your body a chance to become stronger. Also, choose exercises that give you the most bang for your buck. In general, the most effective and efficient exercises are multi-joint movements, which do not isolate one muscle. To start, try these five total-body exercises. Perform two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for a good balance of strength and endurance. Start light and work your way up.

Squats: Work your whole lower body and core, including the big muscles in your legs — hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. When performing squats, be sure to keep your knees over your ankles and the weight in your heels to prevent excess strain on your knees. Grasp the bar behind your shoulders, so that the weight is resting on your upper back, with your palms facing forward. Slowly squat down, bending your knees so that your thighs and lower legs form a 90-degree angle. Stand up slowly.

Dumbbell bench press: Works the muscles in your chest (pectorals), as well as your shoulders. For added difficulty, increase your range of motion by rotating your hands in at the top of the motion. Lie on your back on the bench and grasp a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing in. Lift the dumbbells above your head so that your arms are completely extended.

Upright row: Primarily utilizes the muscles in your lower back, as well as the big middle- and upper-back muscles (rhomboids and lats). Stand upright grasping a barbell in front of you, with your palms facing your thighs. Slowly lift your arms up to your shoulders, making sure that your elbows extend out to the sides.
Reverse lunges: Another way of activating the large muscles in your legs. This movement also necessitates a great deal of core (abs) strength. Alternately extend one foot behind you, as if you are taking a step backward, and lower your back knee straight down. Complete this exercise with dumbbells for an added challenge.

Plank: A classic core exercise that is easy on the back. Resting on your elbows, lift your body into a push-up position, but rest on your elbows, making sure that there is about a 90-degree angle formed between your upperarms and forearms. Hold the position.

If you are unsure of how to perform any of these exercises, please do not attempt them on your own. Consider finding a friend who is knowledgeable about resistance training, and who can properly spot you.

__Casey Corman is a Health Nut columnist. He is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He is also the personal training supervisor at the Student Recreation Center.__

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