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Exercise for Optimal Health and Fitness

Question: Obviously folks wanting to change body composition (lose fat or gain muscle) or maximize strength gains have to put in a proportionally larger amount of training to reach their goals but my question is this: what if my goals are general health and fitness?  What type of overall training program would you recommend for that?

Answer: While I tend to focus more on the goals of improving body composition, the above comes up enough to address.  Clearly not everybody works out simply to be buffed or, crassly “look better naked.” Some people are simply want basic overall health and wellness.

For that explicit goal, what kind of training is necessary?

General Guidelines for Health and Fitness

And the answer is not much.  The basic American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines are going to be more than sufficient. Their goal is to target the primary factors involved in basic health and fitness which are basic cardiovascular health and muscular strength.  Of course there is more to overall health than just those two factors.  I’ve presented the general ACSM guidelines below.  You might notice that they have guidelines for improving flexibility and ROM.  I won’t address those here.  Honestly, full … Read More

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Muscular Tension Part 3

So I’ve already covered a lot of information in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on muscular tension and believe it or not I’ll wrap up here.  Let me try to rapidly summarize the previous 2 parts (rapidly meaning like 6 paragraphs).

High mechanical tension for some number of “effective” contractions is the primary initiating factor in muscle growth; this occurs via the FAK/PA/mTOR pathway.  Activating this pathway requires that muscle fibers are first recruited and then exposed to enough high tension contractions (the amount needed per set, per workout or per week are currently unknown).   You can get to a number of high tension “effective” contractions in numerous ways: heavy weights (80-85% or heavier) for lower repetitions or moderate/lighter weights for moderate/high repetitions so long as the sets are near or to failure.

We can’t measure mechanical tension easily in the gym (yet) and need some objective marker we can use.  Weight on the bar is, to a first approximation, a proxy for mechanical tension and heavier weights should lead to higher muscular tensions.

But only with the understanding that you can’t  compared dissimilar situations.  You can’t compare two different individuals, you can’t compare different repetitions ranges Read More

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Muscular Tension Part 2

Ok, so in Muscular Tension Part 1 I looked at the topic of muscular tension in overview.  What it is, what it represents and why it is important (i.e. as the primary initiator) in terms of muscle growth.  This had to do with high-tension skeletal muscle contractions activating mechanosensors which turned on the protein synthesis pathway via mTOR .

This requires two factors which are recruiting the fibers and then exposing them to some (currently uknown) number of contractions to activate the mTOR pathway via mechanosensors..  This can occur in a number of ways including lifting heavy weights (80-85% of max or higher) which recruit all fibers from repetition 1 or by lifting lighter weights near or to failure.  Both may end up achieving the same or a similar number of high tension repetitions.

All roads lead to tension.  It’s just a matter of how you get there.

I ended up by addressing the idea of “effective reps” the number of reps of a set or workout that occur under full recruitment and activate mTOR.  The idea being that only those effective reps really matter in terms of a growth stimulus, at least for the highest threshold muscle fibers.  Effective … Read More