Core Client Habit: Strength Train 2X/Week
Question: Did You Strength Train 2X This Week For 30 Minutes?
How To Know You’ve Done This: Strength Train For 30 Minutes 2X This Week.
From Dr. Matt: “When I was an undergraduate, I had an eccentric professor who taught the core of our exercise physiology classes. His name was Dr. Shaffrath. I really took a liking to him after our first class, when he stood up on the desk and shouted exuberantly pretending to be a cholesterol molecule or something like that. I don’t remember the specifics of the analogy, but I do remember laughing like never before in a lecture.
He also happened to work out at a gym where I was a personal trainer. One day I walked into the gym and was greeted by Dr. Shaffrath. “Klingler!” he announced. “Come to the bathroom and see this!”
At first I was a little taken aback, but I obliged. When we got to the bathroom, he proceeded to point at a naked gentleman in his 70s. We were well within earshot of the gentleman, which made it all the more awkward. “You see, Klingler,” Dr. Shaffrath said, pointing at the naked
man’s backside. “This is what happens when you lift weights. Those are the glutes of a man who has squatted with weight for decades.”
The man gave us an odd look and proceeded to put on his clothes promptly. But Dr. Shaffrath kept going. Still in front of this naked man in the midst of a locker room, he told me about the horrors of senile sarcopenia and how strength training helps prevent it, all while standing in a locker room full of naked men.”
Why Is This Habit Core?
Lifting weights helps us to be able to do the things we want to do and makes the golden years good.
In the big healthcare systems, you see many unhealthy people. It would be easy to chalk it up to bad genetics, societal influences, or plain old bad luck. These people have become victims of the pills, injections, and surgeries the medical world offers as a “solution.”
But with a few small tweaks to the patient’s habits over the course of a lifetime, their health destiny would have been drastically different.
Strong people are hard to kill.
We don’t have control over the day that we will cease to exist on this planet. But we can have a huge effect on the quality of the years we have. We love the phrase “strong people are hard to kill” because strength training and being strong makes us impervious to many of the common diseases and problems that tend to wreck lives.
When you lift weights, and get strong, you not only improve your circulation, the strength of your heart, and the functioning of your brain, but you also set yourself up to do the things that are
important to you for years to come.
You might be thinking, “But my goal is to lose weight. Won’t lifting weights make me bulky?”
Strength training is actually one of the keys to you getting the lean, fit, and healthy body you’re striving for. Lifting weights helps to better our metabolism long after our workouts are complete.
Strength training also releases growth hormone, which is essentially an anti-aging serum.
Then, as you age, because you’re strength training, you maintain your lean muscle mass so you can keep hiking, playing with your grandkids, and walking when you’re traveling Europe, or doing mission work in Haiti.
Whatever it is that you want to do with your physical retirement, strength training is imperative to make it a reality.
Weekly strength training sessions should be like an automatic deposit into your 401(k) account.
The benefits now are better sleep, better sex, a stronger body, and mor energy.
Plus, these“deposits” are an investment in your health long-term. Strength training is going to set you up to be able to have a great physical retirement. The beauty is, once you start and get into a routine, it’s easy to keep going, and some people even find it enjoyable. (Gasp!)
I think one of the keys is to have something you’re working toward. You need
some sort of number or goal to keep you motivated. It could be something as simple as trying to improve the amount of time that you can do a farmer’s carry with 30-pound dumbbells. It could be the weight on your bench press for five reps. It could be getting closer to a bodyweight pull-up. Maybe it’s doing better in your next Spartan Race like coach Chuck, dominating the ski slopes like our PT Practice Manager Renae, or climbing a rock wall that’s just a little bit too difficult right now like Dr. Erik. Whatever it is for you, have something to work towards.
How To Make This Habit Happen
Leading people through strength training workouts is our bread and butter here at Village. And that bread is made of almond pulp and the butter is raw and grass fed.
We will dive in deep on structuring and creating a strength training routine using body-weight and weights, but I want to acknowledge that there isn’t anything magical about strength training.
You could just climb some rocks. Dr. Erik is a strong guy and he doesn’t lift weights in the traditional sense. However, he rock climbs a few times each week. Moving your body vertically is a great form of resistance training.
But outside of rock climbing, there are very few forms of exercise which take all of your joints through their full range of motion with resistance.
So even if you ride a bike, hike, do lots of yard work or walk a ton, you still need to lift weights if you want to become the healthiest version of yourself.
Here’s the good news: you don’t need to slog away for hours each day in the gym working body parts in isolation. 2, 30-minute strength training sessions are all you need to get amazing results.
By doing multiple joint exercises, we can challenge our entire body efficiently. Our muscles were designed to work in a coordinated action. Therefore, the exercises we do should use multiple large muscle groups.
This is why, at Village, we rarely do things like biceps curls, lateral leg raises, or triceps extensions. It’s not that these are “bad” exercises per se; it’s just that we understand that people are busy and don’t have endless time to work out.
To get stronger, or maintain strength as you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important that you have enough recovery time between your workouts. We recommend about 48 hours between training sessions. But if you’re someone who only has between the days of Monday and Tuesday to get two workouts in, don’t sweat it, you’ll be ok.
What Exercises Should I Do?
There aren’t any “good” exercises. Our body doesn’t understand what squats, pull-ups, or lunges are. What the body understands is the amount of tension placed upon the muscles, how long the tension is on the muscles, and where the joints are in relation to each other.
Our body doesn’t understand how much weight we use either. Using 70 pounds on bench press with poor form and a fast tempo is likely not as effective as using 50 pounds, a slow tempo, perfect form, and feeling it in all the right places.
So, as a client does a lunge, I’m always asking them whether or not they feel their glutes firing, if it’s challenging, and if it’s causing pain. If the exercise is challenging to the correct muscles, with enough resistance to get sufficiently tired, I consider it a “good” exercise.
Simply doing squats or lunges and not having a purpose for them is pointless. This is why I think it’s so important to go to the gym with a plan and pursue your workout passionately instead of scrolling Facebook and Instagram between sets while you try to figure out what to do next.
Your workout should be a time dedicated and focused on investing in your health. You should have a set amount of time that you allow yourself for strength training each workout session. For example, set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes and have a goal to get through as many sets as possible with amazing form on six different exercises you chose. This will keep energy high during your workout and keep you motivated.
Some of the best workouts I’ve ever had have been when I was crunched for time and knew I needed to be disciplined in order to get my workout done. Some of my most lackadaisical workouts have been when I knew I didn’t need to be anywhere after the workout so I could take my time.
What About Machines?
We don’t recommend machines. The problem is that they force you through a confined movement path. This isn’t natural for your body.
In fact, the back extension machine has been proven to be one of the highest compressors of spinal disks when extending backwards. Dr. Stuart McGill has done research linking lower back health more to endurance and less strength or flexibility.
How Many Reps Should I Do?
First, it’s important to note that our body doesn’t understand reps. What it understands is the amount of time you place it under tension when you’re exercising.
Therefore, 5 reps done with a slow, 4-second lowering and a 2-second lift, will take just as much time as 12 reps done relatively quickly. These two will have a similar amount of tension placed on your muscles. But just for your enjoyment, I will lay out the recommended rep ranges below.
1-5 Reps: Power, strength, fat loss
5-12: Strength, fat loss, muscle building
13-20: Endurance, strength
What I don’t like about defining certain rep ranges to categories like endurance, strength, fat loss, or power is that any range of strength training will yield some measure of each of those categories. If you do 20 reps, you’ll increase your power, burn fat, and get stronger. Would using 5 reps of a heavier weight be better for fat loss than 20 reps of a lighter weight? I think so. But doing something is so much better than spending your time trying to get it perfect.
Moving Well With Strength Training
It’s imperative that you have a good rib-cage position and activation of your tummy muscles when you strength train.
For the ribs, you want to think about bringing your rib cage down before performing any strength training exercise. With exercises like pull-ups and shoulder press, I often see people flare
their ribs out as the exercise gets more challenging. This is problematic because you lose most of your core stability and control if your ribs flair. This puts added stress on all of our muscles because they don’t have a good foundation to work off of. Think of a house being built on a sand foundation as opposed to a concrete one.
Flared Rib Cage Shoulder Press
Ribs Down Shoulder Press
To assess the activation of your core muscles, poke your finger into the area about six inches to the right or left of your belly button. This is your lateral abdominal wall just comprised of muscles by our internal and external obliques and our transversus abdominis. These muscles act like a support belt around our midsection and give us a solid breathing foundation. When we perform exercises like squats, deadlifts, or shoulder press and we use these muscles, our cores get stronger, and muscles like our biceps and quads have a strong foundation to work off. Only performing these exercises without our lateral abdominal wall being activated creates instability and problems with the exercises.
The Basic Six Movements
OK! Now we are on to the big six movements of strength training. At Village, we structure our clients’ workouts based on movements from each of these six categories. Humans are fairly complex and able to move in an infinitely different number of directions and patterns. But, to simplify our lives and to ensure we are hitting most muscle groups in every workout, we recommend breaking things up into these six categories.
Squats use the big muscles in our legs like the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. When done with good spinal position, they tap into our core stability. Squatting is the most basic and fundamental of human movements. Many babies love to hang out in the squat position. As we age, we squat less frequently. Squats have practical implications in many areas of our lives. For example, the ability to get up and down off the toilet, and getting down on the ground with your grandkids to play Legos are impacted by our ability to squat. Squats can also assist in our ability to empty
our bladder fully, preventing hemorrhoid development, and strengthening our pelvic floor.
The hinge movements are the most difficult to teach and perform correctly. These include movements like deadlifts and kettlebell swings. The hinge movements are hip dominant. This
means that the hips move more than the knees and back. These exercises usually target the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back extensors.
When done correctly, they are an integral part of a good training program. When done incorrectly, they can lead to low back pain and other injuries.
Think of stepping over rocks while on hikes, climbing stairs, and getting up and down from the ground. Lunges develop strong, shapely legs and accelerate our ability to burn fat because of the big muscles used. We put all step-up and lunging exercises in this category.
This category includes anything where the weight is moving away from your body. Think push-ups and shoulder press. Upper-body push movements usually use muscles like our chest and triceps. At Village, we like to use large, multi-joint muscle exercises like a dumbbell bench press, the shoulder press, or TRX chest press.
When you think of an upper-body pull, think of exercises like pull-ups, single-arm rows, and face pulls. These exercises strengthen the muscles of our back and biceps.
The core is central to everything we do as moving humans. It serves as
the link between our upper and lower body. Core strength and coordination have been linked as an integral component of preventing low back pain and living a healthy life.
How To Get Started
Getting started is tough. There are so many options that it’s easy to get paralyzed by the paradox of too many choices.
The best way to get started is with a coach. We talk about this in depth in our client core habit of “Have A Movement Coach”. At the very least, find a personal trainer to help you get started. This relatively small investment will pay huge dividends long-term in your health.
For people looking for coaching, our program at Village is the best around. We offer 1 on 1 and small group personal training and coach people all day long 6-days a week.
At Village, we do something called the Village Fitness Experience. It’s a four-week journey towards understanding how to communicate well with your body. We help clients lay the foundation for communicating well with their body through movement in our
small-group training program.
There are plenty of good books on strength training. A favorite of ours is “The New Rules Of Lifting”. It gives a good started plan.