When you have completed this elementary stage of your weight program for six to eight weeks, you should be able to handle heavier weights and perform fewer reps per set. Ideally, your goal is to drop the number of repetitions that you can actually complete down into the range of eight to 12 reps per set for optimal strength gains (and besides, aiming for 10 reps is easy to remember). While focusing on higher reps using lower weights increases muscular endurance more effectively, lifting a greater resistance for fewer reps generally produces greater gains in muscular strength; consequently, your muscle fibers will increase in size faster, and you'll add more muscle mass. As a result, your muscles will use more calories even at rest, your resting metabolism will increase, and your insulin sensitivity will improve. Alternately, when doing more than one set per exercise, you can increase the weight or resistance on each successive set, slightly decreasing the number of reps you finish each time the load increases (for example, from 15 reps to start, then 10 on the second, harder set).
According to the latest research, it appears far less important to focus on how much weight you lift than to make sure that you are lifting any weight at all. For instance, a study on postmenopausal women showed that both high-load (heavy weights, low reps) and high-repetition (lighter weights, more reps) resistance training were effective in increasing muscular strength and size, indicating that even easy resistance training is beneficial for older women. Likewise, muscular endurance, strength, and stair climbing time improved similarly in adults aged 60 to 83 doing only one set of twelve resistance exercises at either 50 percent of their 1-rep max (the maximal amount they could lift one time) for 13 reps or 80 percent of 1-rep max for 8 reps, which the participants did thrice weekly for 24 weeks.
Basically, then, you can choose either training regimen and have similar gains. For variety, you may even decide to have easy days where you do more reps with lighter weights and hard days when you lift heavier weights fewer times, depending on how motivated you feel. The only resistance training principles you must follow are to work a particular area of your body (i.e., upper body) no more frequently than every other day; to equally train muscles with opposite actions on a joint, such as the biceps and triceps muscles of your upper arm or the quadriceps and hamstring muscles of your thigh; and to breathe in and out smoothly while lifting (no breath holding!).
For more information on all of the mental benefits of physical activity, please consult my new book, The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight. Check my Web site (www.shericolberg.com) for more details or to order a copy today.
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NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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