Few things are as good a predictor of health and longevity as muscle mass.
Too little muscle and we become frail, weak, and predisposed to all sorts of injuries and degenerative diseases.
Too much muscle mass and we become restricted, tight, and (possibly) eventually flabby.
There’s a sweet spot in there within which we feel competent, safe, and strong in ways that do not limit our daily function.
Sadly, most people don’t have enough muscle mass – and have the chronic aches and pains that come with that limitation.
They also don’t make good use of their existing muscle mass – too sedentary and therefore feel at risk of acute or traumatic injuries.
Needless to say, beginning a regular strength training routine is the most impactful way to both increase muscle mass AND improve your bodies ability to use the muscle you have.
To build muscle we want to focus on:
- Time Under Tension – this refers to how long a muscle is under strain during an exercise. The more total seconds that muscle is under strain, the greater the time under tension – resulting in improved muscular efficiency and potential muscle growth. We can increase time under tension by either: increasing the number of repetitions we perform or slowing down the repetitions with the use of a tempo.
- Appropriate Rest Periods – to build muscle we want to apply TUT (Time under tension) without giving our muscles too much time to recover in between applications. An ideal rest period is somewhere between 30-60 seconds depending upon the fatigue caused by the movement.
- Appropriate Reps and Sets – ideally we want to perform 30-40 repetitions of a single movement targeting a specific muscle group. Those reps should be broken into either 3 sets of 10 reps or 4 sets of 10 reps.
- Appropriate Loading – the weight used must be sufficiently difficult that the movement actually feels like a STRAIN. Simply doing 30-40 reps at a slow pace will do nothing if we are not appropriately challenged by the movement or tools used.
- Nutrition – limit processed foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and adequate amounts of protein. This is broad and generic but sound nutrition principles are the same across the board – until you’re working on a body building competition or something of that nature we don’t need to get too specific – simply focus on eating healthily and your body will follow suit.
To close out – strength training is an essential element of exercise that improves our resilience, increases our longevity, and keeps us injury free. While we do need to slow down on our training as a society in general, strength training does not have to be all that you do. 2-3 sessions per week of 45-60 minutes is sufficient – leaving plenty of time for other forms of exercise based upon preference.