Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

Okay, it’s time to talk strength training. Not a lot of fun this, but so necessary to the total fitness picture that it has to be addressed. I am about to outline a regimen of lifting heavy objects over your head multiple times, assuming an unbecoming posture in a quad searing squat, crunching your abs until the “burn” screams for economy size Rolaids, and I want you to do it at least twice a week for the rest of your life. Nope, not just until you see muscle definition, but for the-rest-of-your-life. That’s strength training.

As we age, we lose 0.3 to 0.5 percent of our bone mass every year after age forty. Muscle mass goes too, we get too weak to do stuff. Our joints and the meshing bones and the tendons and sinews and pads get brittle and weak as we age. They atrophy. They let go without notice. The pads between the bones dry out and hurt when we move.

The great thing is, lifting big heavy weights stops most of that. Lifting heavy weights every couple of days basically stops the bone loss…stops (or offsets) the muscle loss…stops the weakening of tendons, restores the protective pads and gets rid of the pain. Aerobic exercise does more to stop actual death, but strength training makes life worthwhile. But the really cool thing is, after you do it for a while, it gets to be kind of fun! You become addicted, and you really do feel much, much better. The muscle definition happens pretty quickly, so you can see a difference, and the initial pain and muscle soreness is replaced by a smug feeling of power as you begin to realize things you can do that you weren’t before, that you don’t hurt in the bad way anymore, and that you really are starting to look pretty good in your clothes again!

As with any new physical endeavor, check with you doc to see if you’re up to it, and don’t go at it like you’re killing snakes, because you’ll just quit in a week and be worse off than you were before. Get a trainer, get a good book, get a friend with real savvy, go to the university and volunteer as a guinea pig (choose a faculty member in the athletic department, they can assign you a promising student and you both benefit) or sit and watch diligently for a few sessions. It is imperative that you do it right because the potential for permanent pain is a reality, and it’s much easier and pleasant to do it the correct and productive way.

The machines are great, but I prefer free weights because they involve balancing and subtle corrections from side to side. That way you are not only using and strengthening a bunch of muscles, but also a ton of neuroconnectors …so you’re working on you wiring, too.

So once you get the go-ahead, and overcome the initial shyness in the fitness center, or deal with mirror phobia in your own home, this is the plan. If you’re going for the two day program, do both arms and legs with a couple days of recovery. (To build muscle you first tear it down, in repairing it gets stronger…hence muscle growth). If you don’t allow recovery time your body can’t very well repair anything; think about it.

If you decide on a three day option (three days is for growth, two for maintenance), do upper body one day, rest, lower body, rest, and so on. Making sure to alternate aerobic and lifting days.
This is the beginning your own Twelve Rep Program. You will begin with lighter weights and more repetitions, so put into your head the number twelve. Cheaper by the dozen. Two sets of twelve repetitions. Later you can go to three sets of twelve reps, and/or increase the weights. You’ll know by your body, your book or your trainer, but the number twelve is a good point of departure.
If you haven’t time for the whole regimen, the quads are the key. Strengthening your quads is the best thing you can do to prevent bad knees, they are the shock absorbers of your body. They are the biggest muscles you have, so they burn more calories even when they’re idle. I mean, if you can walk, you can run, if you can run, you can get in a decent exercise, and if you can work in an exercise program, you have a ‘leg up’ on the slugs.

Remember...twelve reps three times… of every major muscle group. You burn calories more intensively all day, burn more calories to fuel those muscles, see definition very quickly, and feel better all around. Plus, clothes just feel and fit better on a tuned body. Get with the Twelve Rep Program.

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