Column: Haste makes waste when working out

Published 8:02 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

By Staff
I was asked by a YMCA walker to speak about a recent fitness issue. The issue pertains to the effects of lifting weights slowly instead of the usual one-second lift. I felt this was very interesting and worthwhile to write about. It is also a subject that I am a firm believer in!
In the past many people would have just whipped the weights up, but it is now said that they will receive better effects if they were to slow it down. In an article published by Newsweek, they talk about how lifting weights at a "snail's pace" can work wonders. The article speaks about a doctor who for ten years concentrated mainly on cardiovascular workouts. Then five years ago he changed his routine.
Instead of running 60 miles a week, he spends 20 minutes a week weight lifting. One may be asking, "is weight lifting enough, and what about the big hype on how important cardiovascular exercise is?" In my opinion you need both, and this article states, "everyone from the American Heart Association to the surgeon general's office has recently embraced strength training as a complement to aerobics".
This article also points out that it is not just weight lifting that is important but the idea of doing each repetition slowly (14 seconds). The point is to fatigue the muscle. By doing it this way your workouts can take up less time. So how does all of this work? When you push your muscle to failure, there will be a deep tear, and then while it is repairing over the next few days the muscle will thicken. You will be able to gain more muscle, which in return burns more fat.
When you gain muscle you are able to burn calories all day. With cardiovascular workouts you only burn calories for a short amount of time. In the article it states that if you "add three pounds of muscle, your body requires an extra 9,000 calories a month." This is not such a bad deal!
Now that we have the facts of the article, what do I think? In my opinion it is better to lift slower. Maybe not to the extreme of 14 seconds, but try for about seven seconds. Most of us usually do it in about two seconds. Why longer lifts than quicker ones? Maybe you have seen a person in a gym who whips the weights up like they weigh nothing.
Well they are barely using their strength - it is mostly momentum. They are also at risk of injuring their muscles. To take it slow is definitely a more effective workout for your body.
Weight lifting and gaining muscle is definitely a calorie burner and has great benefits. Lifting weights helps with things such as osteoporosis, helping the oxygen and blood movement; it keeps your fat percentage down which helps with problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
What about the issue of cardiovascular workouts? I would not count those out. Remember that anything done in excess is not good for your body. What about those people who only do cardio and never lift weights.
Once again, you need both. If all you do is walk or run everyday you are mainly getting cardiovascular workouts and not much for strength training. When you get older you will want to still have strength; you do not want brittle bones.
They are both very important tools for your body. If you like one better than the other then that is OK. Do more of the one you prefer, but add some of the other in too.
Many people relate weight lifting to a big "buff" person and cardiovascular workouts for the skinny person. That is not usually the case. Just because you lift weights does not mean that you will get huge and just because you run does not mean you will lose weight.
With the proper instructions you can get the best benefits from both of them. It is also nice to be able to see muscles on your body. Remember if you do begin a weight program for the first time make sure you have a qualified person to instruct you. You can call the Niles-Buchanan YMCA anytime and set-up an appointment with one of our trainers.
Thought of the week: "Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness." - Benjamin Franklin
Reference: Newsweek
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