The most frequent question I get asked in the gym is: “What is the best exercise for ______”?
It’s funny because you could literally fill in the blank with any body part or insecurity. I get asked a variation of this question at some point every day. Sometimes I make something up because I know the person is not going to listen to my explanation and continue to do what they were doing anyway, especially if they don’t like the answer they received.
The fact of the matter is there is no single best exercise to “burn abdominal fat”, “get bigger biceps” or “lose the bingo wings”. Anybody that tells you anything even remotely like this is either lying or they know no better.
So we know there is no best exercise to make you lose fat from a particular exercise or no one exercise that is best for your pecs but there has to be some sort of silver bullet right?
All training types cannot be created equally? Can they?
All training types; strength training, higher rep ‘muscle building’ training and endurance training will work with a beginner to a certain extent. It is because the beginner wasn’t particularly good at anything to begin with so their body will adapt and gain essential muscle, lose fat and get stronger. Happy days.
But what happens next?
What happens when the newbies gains come to a screeching halt after the first couple of weeks? They have adapted to the ‘program’ and then ….. Nothing.
The key to getting results as quickly as possible is to get strong FIRST. That doesn’t mean you have to become a seasoned powerlifter to make progress but it suggests that you can’t come in to the gym, weak as a kitten, and expect extraordinary results if you are too weak to exert yourself. Makes sense right?
Physical strength is basically the ability to move heavy weights. Well, this is what everyone thinks it is. In fact, it is the act of getting stronger then you were before so lifting heavily relative to your ability/ more proficient in training itself.
Strength training and muscle gain.
People often keep strength training and muscle building training in seperate little boxes rather than aknowledging that they are in fact closely related. High repetitions with lighter weight with short recovery times is often labelled muscle building training while heavy weights with fewer repetitions and long recovery times are called strength training. In my experience the stronger somebody is, the heavier the weight the person can handle for high repetitions so for a person to gain an optimal amount of muscle they need to include strength training in their training and not just fart about with light weights all the time.
Strength training and technique/breakdown/ weaknesses
Strength training is the best tool for identifying weaknesses. There is no other type of training that highlights a weakness or a lagging body part better than strength training.
Strength training and endurance
It may seem counterintuitive but strength training helps endurance. Crazy right? Think of this way first before you dismiss me as being an idiot. If somebody gets stronger, then everything seems less of an effort as it is less of a % of their max strength. If something requires less perceived effort and less actual effort then it is easier and uses less energy. It then stands to reason that your endurance is better by default, doesn’t it?
Strength training and pregnancy
Being stronger going into or during a pregnancy brings with it a whole range of benefits for both mammy and baby. The toll on mammy’s body is less, the pregnancy and the birth take less toll on the body and the recovery time is much quicker. Get stronger!
Strength training and your later years
I dread getting old. It is literally my worst nightmare. I can’t imagine not being able to fend for myself, struggling to get up of chairs and taking 3 hours to walk to the shop. I read a study recently that found that leg strength was a better indicator of longevity than any of the other indicators, even more so than cholesterol, diabetes or anything else. That’s right, leg strength was a better predictor of quality of life and longevity. There’s one to think about. It makes sense though. Too often I see people retiring to ‘take it easy’ and their health deteriorates quicker than ever before. Sedentary behaviour and too much ‘relaxing’ is bad for you, especially over 50.
Strength training and being awesome
What if you want to be big AND strong? Who doesn’t? 90% of men want to be bigger and stronger, the other 10% either don’t know it yet or they are lying. Similarly, 90% of women want to be more ‘toned’ and stronger, the other 10% don’t know it yet or are lying.
[Aside] Toning requires a certain amount of muscle gain, albeit a small amount, in order to look toned and not gaunt. Fat loss on its own will result in a skinny gaunt look, even at high body fat percentages. Thats when people start telling you you’re “too skinny” etc, when you can still see fat on your waist that you would rather get rid of. The fact of the matter is you probably are TOO SKINNY. i.e. you need more muscle in order to reach the level of leanness you desire. So this time, when you lean up, you won’t look skinny – just lean and athletic.
Simple as that.
Did I mention that getting stronger is class?
Bryan Kavanagh BSc CSCS
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