Discover more from Lou O'Reilly takes out the trash.
The one about resistance training
Why we want to find joy in lifting weights, and how heavy you should aim for if you can.
Hello there, my sweaty pals.. thanks so much for dropping by, it’s lovely to see you.
Last week we talked about whether it mattered when you exercise, and this week I wanted to chat about resistance exercise. And the reason for that is because lots of beginners in a gym environment tend to hang out in the cardio section, but have questions about the weights.
When we talk about resistance training, we’re talking about lifting, pulling, pushing weight around. Like dumbbells, barbells, using those machines at the gym where you flick the switch over to make something heavier.. that sort of thing.
Cardio in opposition, doesn’t have extra weight attached (typically), but it uses your own body weight to increase strength and movements that are targeted to increasing your heart health. Cardio at the gym looks like all those bike, cross trainer, rower type machines at the front. But cardio is also dancing, going for a bike ride, walking or running.
What we know about resistance training, is that it is good for getting stronger muscles and joints which is great for mobility as we age. It’s good for flexibility and balance as well. I don’t know a single person that has a preference to not be able to move well as they get older, and so while I am adamant you should only do exercise that is joyful to you, lifting weights does have benefits if you can find joy in doing it.
The thing that confuses some beginners is where to start with resistance training. It can be overwhelming to see resistance training in a gym environment, and if you grab a couple of dumbbells from The Warehouse or similar, are you doing anything worthwhile to build your strength?
The answer is solely based on what you’d like to happen with your resistance training, as we have three options.
Strength is being able to lift heavier things for a short amount of time. For my lifestyle, I think of lifting one end of the dog kennel for someone else to clean under it quickly. Most people in the gym focusing on strength are not there because of a potential dog kennel lift they may need to do in the future, but you get what I mean. Powerlifting is the competitive sport for strength.
Hypertrophy is building up visible muscles. Think muscley buff type people. They might be competing on the stage in body building or figure competitions, or maybe they just like the way their body looks with visible muscle. Lots of reasons for people to focus on hypertrophy. People interested in growing visible muscles need to understand it is not easy. A lot of training, a focus on nutrition, and sleep and hydration is how people are successful in building muscle. It doesn’t happen purely because you lift weights.
Endurance is being able to lift moderately heavy things for a longer period of time. Think grocery bags from the car to the house. I want to be able to carry all of my bags in one go from the car. I can’t tell you why that is a need for me, it just is. House movers fit into this category well. We just moved back into our place recently and the speed and strength at the crew we had helping us.. wow. Boxes of our stuff lifted up from the truck and placed in our house with no trouble at all and fast. Endurance is also for people who play sport or a similar activity, too.
All of these types of resistance training help with improving bone density and joint strength and flexibility. The trick is to thinking about what you’d like to happen as well as that. Muscles, strength, or endurance.
For most people I work with, endurance is their reason. I’m also not a powerlifting coach but I can recommend an excellent one, and I can also recommend a hypertrophy coach too. If endurance sounds like what you’re into - lifting those grocery bags, or shifting a mattress down the hall to another room - endurance is for you.
But how heavy and how much?
In the fitness industry we base a lot from a person’s 1RM or 1 rep max, meaning the heaviest thing a person can lift just one time. And for each of the categories of resistance exercise, we aim to lift a percentage of the 1RM. My 1RM before my surgery was 90kgs that I lifted for 1 rep. It would be considerably less now that I haven’t lifted much recently. This is a chart I have lifted from my PN Academy membership explains it all. You might need to click on it to look at it properly.
For endurance which is where most of us sit most of the time, you’ll see we are lifting 40-60% of our 1RM and we’re doing a lot of reps. At least 15 for each set of exercises.
Finding your 1RM can be tricky if you don’t have access to a gym. An absolute beginner could start by filling up an empty milk bottle with water, and seeing how many times they could lift it to figure it out. A 2L milk bottle weighs 2kgs give or take, and so one in each hand lifted in a bicep curl movement could be a good test. If you get to 30 reps without breaking a sweat, you’ll know you need to go higher.
If you have access to a gym, ask one of the trainers there to put you through your paces so you know what to aim for.
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