Muscular fitness is important to perform many activities of daily living, what doctors love to call ADLs. The maintenance or improvement of muscular strength enables you to perform these tasks over your lifespan. For this reason, resistance training should be an integral part of your fitness program. In addition to the achievement of muscular strength, resistance training has many other benefits, including the ability to increase bone mass and strengthen connective tissue. Again, this becomes more important as you get older and the loss of bone becomes more of a problem. There are other documented benefits of resistance training, to include modest improvement in cardiovascular fitness (especially with circuit training), reduction in body fat, and improvements in body fat blood pressure, glucose tolerance (diabetes), and blood lipid (fat) and cholesterol profiles. Muscular strength is achieved by the overload principle, or progressive resistance, whereby the resistance, frequency or duration of the muscular movement is increased over time. This is best achieved by using weight or a load that will require near maximal effort. Muscular endurance, on the other hand, is best achieved by using a lighter weight or load and performing more repetitions. Most agree that the best way to improve both muscular strength and endurance is to choose a weight that can be performed for 8 to 10 repetitions.The following guidelines are recommended by the ACSM in the pursuit of muscular fitness:
• Perform a minimum of 8 to 10 exercises that train the major muscle groups. The idea here is to develop total body strength in the most efficient time frame. Shoot for an hour of total workout time. Anything longer may feel like a job, and not an enjoyable activity.
• Perform one set of 8 to 10 repetitions for each exercise to the point of volitional (you feel that’s all you can lift) failure.
• Perform this workout at least 2 days per week. While more may be better, 2 days is sufficient to achieve the goal of muscular fitness.
• Perform the exercises with good technique. Consult a trainer if you need, but the incorrect performance of exercises increases the chances of injuries and cheats your muscle out of the maximum benefit.
• Perform the exercises through the full range of motion. Again, this will maximize the potential benefit to the muscle.
• Breathe! Maintain a normal breathing pattern and do not hold your breath as this may undesirably increase your blood pressure.
• Find someone to share the pain. A training partner can provide safety, assistance, feedback, motivation, and a social environment that will encourage your consistency and gains.