Island Fit: Strength training

Island Fit: Strength training

Khalid Kohgadai

Strength training is, and its necessity is not, exclusive to bodybuilders or those whose sole purpose is to increase muscle size. Every healthy person who strives for a long life free of pain and complication should include some strength training in their exercise regimen.

"But I don't want to gain muscle!" you say. Relax. If your sole purpose was to gain muscle, I would give you a completely different routine with an accompanying daily food goal that would put you in a daily caloric surplus. As long as you're not eating well above your daily energy requirements, you won't gain muscle. You can't create something out of nothing. It's simple physics. You won't gain muscle. Period. But you CAN gain strength in the absence of an energy surplus.

"But why do I want to be stronger? How is that going to improve the quality and length of my life?" you ask. I'll tell you why.

First off, let me explain that the strength this program is designed to give you is functional strength. My aim is not to work each muscle individually, my aim is to teach your body to work as one unit. So I'm not going to prescribe an exercise with the intent of working your tricep muscle. I'm going give you exercises that are going to help your tricep work in conjunction with your deltoid and core muscles to extend your elbow and shoulder and lift a load overhead. Get my drift?

Now, back to the original question: Why do you need strength training?

1. It strengthens your core. A strong core equals a stable spine. A stable spine ensures good posture well into old age. It ensures that if you lift something from the ground, you won't throw your back out.

2. It strengthens your bones, ligaments and tendons. If you do any type of running or high-impact endurance training, you know that you are susceptible to injuries in those areas.

3. It will preserve your muscle. If you're doing a fair amount of cardio and eating at a caloric deficit as part of a weight loss program, it is highly likely to lose muscle along with fat. You don't want that. If you lose 20 pounds and 10 pounds are from fat and 10 pounds are from muscle, are you better looking than you were before? Sure, you weigh less and have less mass, but your body composition is the same. You're just a smaller version of your previous self. When you strength train, you're giving your body signals that there's something in your everyday life that requires muscle. Thus your body will be less likely to use muscle as energy and more body fat.

Now, without further adieu, the program. It's a two day per week program. You can do them on any two, non-consecutive days but the bigger the gap between them, the better. Something like Monday and Thursday is optimal but as you adapt to the program, you can have the days closer to each other if scheduling requires a need for it.

Day One
Bilateral leg exercise
-Pushing exercise in the horizontal plane (away from the body)
-Pulling exercise in the horizontal plane (toward the body)

Day Two
Unilateral Leg Exercise
-Pushing exercise in the vertical plane (upward)
-Pulling exercise in the vertical plane (downward)

That's the basic program. Below are some examples of each type of exercise. They are listed from easiest to hardest. Notice how as the you go further down, there is less involvement and control coming from equipment and more from your body. I don't have detailed descriptions, but if you do a Google search for each exercise as I've named them, you should find detailed descriptions (but search at your own risk!). Now, pick an exercise from each category that you think you might be able to do, give it a shot. If you can't execute it with the proper form, take a step down. If it feels to easy, move on to the next one.

BILATERAL LEG EXERCISES
Leg press, bodyweight squat, goblet squat, barbell squat

UNILATERAL LEG EXERCISES
Step ups, split squats, walking bodyweight lunges, walking dumbbell lunges, walking barbell lunges

HORIZONTAL PUSH EXERCISES
Machine chest press, knee push up, standard push up, dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press

VERTICAL PUSH EXERCISES
Machine overhead press, seated dumbbell overhead press, standing dumbbell overhead press, standing barbell overhead press

HORIZONTAL PULLING EXERCISES
Chest supported machine row, seated cable row, standing cable row, bent over dumbbell row, bent over barbell row

HORIZONTAL PULLING EXERCISES
Cable pulldown (lat pulldown), assisted pullup machine, pullups, pullups w/dumbbell between knees

Final Points

1. Do three sets of five to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Sets of higher repetitions will be used with lower weight and vice versa.

2. Rest a minimum of two minutes between sets, more if you have to. Gauge rest breaks by taking enough rest required to do the next set with proper form.

3. Warm up properly. Start with five or 10 minutes of card before you start and do two or three warm up sets at much lighter weight and higher reps before each exercise.

5. Consult a doctor before trying anything I've suggested above.

6. Have fun!