Welcome back to the What Supp Blog! Today I’m bringing the first segment of a three part post about the benefits of implementing a strength training routine for just about any body.
The series is going to explore the fundamentals of a basic strength training routine from a health and performance perspective. This topic has been discussed in detail by the great Mark Sisson who I’d highly recommend one and all to read up on to learn about his ‘Primal’ approach to nutrition and overall well being.
Im going to first look at the benefits on longevity and the hormonal impact of strength training to evidence why its benefits reach far beyond ascetics. I’ll go on to detail the movement patterns for the body and discuss what exercises can be used to good effect to build a base to generate whole body strength.
The series will conclude by introducing a more specialised approach to weight training called Maximum Sustained Training. This will be explored with view for those seeking to improve their athletic performance.
So building muscle and strength is not just a vanity project, with its impact having some potentially far reaching effects. To kick off, the benefits and necessity for introducing strength training actually increases with age. It’s a sobering fact that one of the number one causes for elderly people entering care homes is the result of injuries caused from falls.
Bone density and strength is something that decreases as we age, therefore one great reason why a basic strength training routine should be introduced is its bone strengthening qualities.
The musculoskeletal system provides form, support, stability, and movement to the body. It is made up of the bones of the skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. Done correctly, strength training can strengthen this whole system. This has has a knock on effect of addressing imbalances, and as such, reducing risk of chronic injuries caused by day to day overload on the body caused from the most basic environmental factors such as sitting and using a computer.
This is not the only reason to start strength training. Scientists have widely researched the acute effects of weight training on levels of certain important hormones. It’s useful to consider the processes that break down (catabolic) and processes that build up (anabolic).Not only does the bulk of the research conclude that strength training boosts levels of anabolic hormones like testosterone, but it has also been shown to decrease catabolic hormones like cortisol.
Reducing cortisol should be a aim for one and all. Cortisol is made by your adrenal glands; two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Along with effecting the immune response, cortisol also plays a key role in other functions, including how your body breaks down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.
What is key for overall wellbeing however is that cortisol has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. While a little spike of cortisol is good in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often. High cortisol levels over a prolonged time can also cause lack of sex drive and, in women, periods can become irregular, less frequent or stop altogether. In addition, there has been a long-standing association between raised or impaired regulation of cortisol levels and a number of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Planes of motion
I will not go into a great detail of anatomy and physiology here (due to in no small part my knowledge being limited here!), but I will briefly touch on the body’s planes of motion.
Your body doesn’t move in one dimension. If it did, you wouldn’t be able to move your leg away from you, toward you, in front and behind you. Your body moves in three dimensions, these are the three planes of motion; sagittal, frontal and transverse.
Dividing the body into left and right halves using an imaginary line gives us the sagittal plane. Any forward and backward movement parallel to this line occurs in the sagittal plane.
With the same imaginary line, divide the body into front and back halves and you have the frontal plane. Any lateral (side) movement parallel to the line will occur in the frontal plane.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the transverse plane, which divides the body into superior and inferior halves. Movement parallel to the waistline, otherwise known as rotational movement, occurs in the transverse plane.
What’s important to remember is that the body will move through between two and three of the planes for any given function, therefore the strength training movements I’ll introduce will represent that.
Any strength training routine, like most things in life, is best started with the basics. The basics in this instance are body weight exercises that can be built upon with or without added resistance to generate more challenge.
The often banded about term in any gym, forum, magazine etc is ‘functional’ strength. Now functional can mean different things in different contexts. In the overall health and wellbeing context this however means the ability to have a whole body improvement in basic strength, balance and mobility.
The second post in this series will introduce movements that will span across the three planes of motion and will include pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging and rotating. Stay tuned and we’ll go into greater depth next time about exercises to achieve these goals. Thanks for reading!