Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Before I get to the part about weight training I will address comments.
Emily-- No, I'm not going to go on a tangent about mental image and physical fitness, but did you know that regular aerobic exercise has been shown to be comparable in effect to many anti-depressants? (Nobody should stop their prescription meds because of that comment) I know that my last post was a bit tangential from your question, but I felt it was a better place to start what I had been thinking of discussing for quite some time.
Anonymous pregnant lady-- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-40 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise most, if not all days of the week for pregnant women. You shouldn't lay on your back because the baby can compress a big vein on the front side of your spine and cut off a major source of circulation. You also shouldn't do things that are risky for impacts to your belly. Dodge-ball, for example, is out. Sit ups are also no good during pregnancy. I know that your specific comment was on energy levels, etc. I can't give you more energy, nor can anyone else, but the regular light exercise is going to be good for you, help your health for the delivery and also be good for the baby. And when you reach the end of the third trimester and REALLY want to go into labor may I recommend a pogo stick workout. (That was a joke... I should probably put on here somewhere that I shouldn't be a substitute for medical advice).
Woulfes-- Can you lose weight by lifting light weight lots? Sure, the lighter the weight and the more you lift it, the more likely it is that you could use it as a means of losing weight. The lighter the weight and the more you lift it the more it resembles aerobic exercise and you stop getting the weight training benefits from it.
Does any increase in metabolism help in weight loss? Yes, but let's take a reasonable look at this. Those tips that you read in the popular press about exercise substantially increasing metabolism for ~24 hours post exercise were taken in large part from a study on college cross-country runners who ran 60+miles/week. That is not the typical exerciser. The typical exerciser sees some increases in post weight training metabolism which is good, but still not sufficient to use as a sole weight loss strategy.
One more thing to consider... In general, the heavier a person is, the more muscle they have. Yes, body fat percentages go up with weight, but it takes muscle to carry around that fat, so in general (body builders and extremely muscular big people are usually excluded from this) heavier people have more muscle. For those people (at this point the majority of the population), running will be a great step in taking the layer of fat off of the hiding muscle. Yes, you will also lose muscle with a heavy running program, and weight training can help you look more toned, but for the majority, losing the fat that is hiding the muscle is the biggets obstacle in a fit appearance.
On to a home workout program.
My major obstacle in designing this program was repetitions. The ideal number of repetitions for building muscle is between 8 and 12. When you are doing a weight training program, we need to understand the importance of reps and how many to do. If I am able to do 100 push-ups (I'm not), but know that 8-12 reps is the 'best', so I only do 10, I will get virtually no benefit from the exercise. So when I say 8-12 reps is the best, that means that you will do your last rep and then you will try to do one more. On that last attempt I could tell you that I would give you $10,000 if you completed it, but you would be unable to do so. Not because you didn't want the money, but because no matter how hard you exerted yourself, you simply could not do one more rep. The problem with a home workout is that your resistance is limited, so when you get to 13 reps, you can't just add a another weight to the bar, you have to find the perfect object around the house, which can be awkward to lift and even dangerous in some cases. If you are serious about it there are big rubber bands available that you can use for resistance that are really good (the link is the first I found, not necissarily the best. You should do your own search for exercise bands).
So here are a few really good exercises that you should be doing.
Push-ups- It works the pectoralis muscles and triceps. If you need to do them from your knees in order to get to 10, then do so, but as you improve you should add some from your toes. The key is to not stop until you absolutely can't do any more consecutively. I know that I said that 8-12 reps is best, but for the best results you need to do as many as you can consecutively. This should also be easily done with a kid. When you can do 12 reps from your toes, put the kid on your back and use the kid as resistance.
Planks- This is simply making your body into a plank that is suspended by your elbows in front of you and your toes. It works the core muscles. Hold it as long as you can. Or if you want to prolong your missery (and maybe get better results) hold the plank for 15 seconds and then take a 5 second break and repeat as long as you can. You should also do these on each side by using just one elbow and making your body more verticle so you are balancing between one elbow and the side of your same foot and looking at the wall.
Row- This one you stand next to a chair, bending one knee and placing it on the chair. You then bend from the hips, keeping your back straight and lift something heavy
There, the picture is better than my description. Use a gallon of milk or something else that you can easily hold, canned goods probably aren't heavy enough.
Pull-ups- Yes, that one where you hang from the bar. It works muscles in the upper back and you should be doing them. If you can't do them, join the club. Rest your feet on something behind you with your knees bent while you hang from the bar. You can then use your feet to help you a little in the pull-up until you can do it unassisted.
Dips- You can sometimes do this if you put two chairs back to back with about 18 inches in-between. You can put one hand on the back of each chair and go down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and then straighten your arms. Again, if you need to use your feet a little that is fine. I would recommend a stool or something to put your feet on so that you aren't tempted to just stand up, but it is still easy to do so if you need to.
Squats- This is my favorite. Since you won't really have anything that will provide adequate resistance, I think you should do jump squats. So you bend your knees and squat down and then stand up as fast as you can and jump into the air. When you come down, bend your knees to absorb the shock, sink down to your original squatting position and jump again. It becomes a series of jumps. See how many you can do in a row. (This is a bad one for pregnant lady, whereas all of the others should be fine.)
That's a start. If anyone has other recommendations, let me know. I'll add more as I think of them.