During the Olympics, we saw world-class gymnasts hurl themselves into the air and land on their feet. If the average person tried to perform these moves, their joints and discs could literally crumble from the force.
Why doesn’t that happen to gymnasts? Well, they obviously train for years to learn proper form. But they also protect their bones and joints by building thick muscles to absorb the force generated by the moves they perform.
Of course, building muscle isn’t just beneficial to Olympic gymnasts. Average people like you and me can reduce the risk of degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and other disorders of the tendons, cartilage and ligaments by building muscle mass.
Our muscles require anabolic stimulation to grow. Anabolic processes involve the synthesis of proteins and complex molecules in the body that lead to the growth of muscle mass. This shouldn’t be confused with anabolic steroids, which accelerate these processes through artificial means but can also be used to treat a variety of illnesses.
Our bodies don’t receive anabolic stimulation by running on a treadmill. We build muscle mass through bodybuilding and resistance training.
Bodybuilding is a term that scares a lot of people. They think of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his Conan the Barbarian days, and professional bodybuilders who look like they have balloons stuffed under their skin. But bodybuilding isn’t just for extreme bodybuilders. Bodybuilding and resistance training can benefit virtually anyone.
Resistance training exercises and challenges muscles using an opposing force or resistance. Opposing forces can include free weights such as dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells, as well as weight machines, resistance bands, and even our own body weight.
Before the Industrial Revolution, resistance training involved lifting everything from bales of hay, to bags of seed, to farming equipment. Although resistance training wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, humans were far more active and healthier because they relied on their muscles and not machinery for everyday tasks.
During resistance training, muscle fibers break down. In the following days, these fibers repair and grow stronger, resulting in muscle growth. With more muscle mass come greater power and strength. Keep in mind that power and strength are two distinct physics terms, not interchangeable gym terms.
Strength is the maximum amount of force a muscle or group of muscles can generate against an external load. It can be measured in the amount of weight lifted during a particular exercise.
Strength and speed are required to produce power. Power is the ability to exert as much force as quickly as possible, or the maximum amount of work performed in a particular timeframe.
The more muscle mass we build, the more strength and power we can generate, and the more resilient the body becomes to injury and degeneration. This helps us live as many quality, disease-free years as possible.
The bottom line is this. If you’re going to support the musculoskeletal system, you can’t just focus on the skeletal component. You need to incorporate muscular development, which is achieved through resistance training.
That doesn’t mean I want you to join a gym and lift weights until you pass out. One of the biggest problems I have in clinical practice is people walking into a gym, paying $19.99 a month for a membership, and thinking they know what they’re doing. I treat those people for injuries every day.
Nobody should start a resistance training program without supervision and without a plan, especially someone in a deconditioned state. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons can disintegrate and wither away if we don’t use them properly.
If you want to learn more about how building muscle mass through resistance training can help you feel better, function better, and live longer, come see us at Natural Healthcare Center. We’ll help you determine where you are now, where you want to go, and the best way to get there.