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Muscle UP...the myths and realities of lean muscle

The benefits and rewards of strength training (otherwise known as resistance training) to build lean muscle are abundant. We cannont rely on aerobic exercise alone. Lets bust a few myths and look at the many reasons why!

Muscle Myths

“But I don’t want to bulk up”

Muscle does not weigh more than fat! They weigh exactly the same, but muscle is denser, leaner and smoother. Don’t worry about bulking up and looking butch ladies! Even guys have to try hard to bulk up with muscle. However, its easier for them thanks to that familiar hormone: testosterone.

“But muscle turns to fat later in life”

Fat cannot turn to muscle - nor can muscle turn to fat. You have to burn off fat and build muscle. If you know someone who used to be in shape but has let it go....they’ve allowed their muscle to diminish and put on weight.

“Any form of weight training will do”

Yes its true that any movement which involves muscle resistance is positive. However, if you are actively wanting to build muscle it pays to do your homework on effective ways and means.

In a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, women burned nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after their workout when they lifted 85 percent of their max load for eight reps than when they did more reps (15) at a lower weight (45 percent of their max).

Put simply, you are better to go with heavier weights and less reps for as long as you can safely hold your form.

There’s a longer-term benefit to all that lifting, too: Specifically, that effect is to burn extra calories, because muscle, unlike fat, is metabolically active. In English: Muscle chews up calories even when you’re not in the gym.

Muscle Realities

More muscle - faster metabolism

Replace 1kg of fat with muscle and you’ll burn an additional 100 calories a day. Magic isn’t it!

More muscle - better glucose storage

The more muscle mass you have, the more your muscles can be used to store glucose - as opposed to your fat cells!

“Given the glycogen storage capacity of muscles and the ready source of energy they offer, coupled with the metabolism driving power of muscles, I cannot encourage you enough to grow them!” Dr Libby Weaver, PHD in Biochemistry, Author and Holistic Nutritionist. As quoted in Accidentally Overweight.

More muscle - improve your silouhette

With the right programme and trainer you CAN shape and mould a better physique with weight training. Even if you store fat in tummy and thighs; don’t think you will be doing the best for your overall shape just by doing tummy and thigh exercises.

Sometimes; more focus on upper body strength and muscle tone can improve the appearance of the rest of your body.

Here’s an example. A great set of shoulders can really help to create the illusion of a tapering waist, and give us confidence and function to hold a better postural position.

More Muscle - protects health

As you age, muscle tissue and strength dwindles, but weight or strength training can reverse this process. It can also lighten your heart’s workload, boost levels of good cholesterol, lead to weight loss, improve your mobility and is a great guard against osteoporaosis.

Your Homework Exercise

This week try to increase the intensity of your resistance training programme. Use the weight you have been pumping on your final set now at your first set (and either maintain that weight for the rest of the sets or try continuing to increase the weight in small increments for the remaining sets). For example, last week’s bench press may have been 25kg for 15 reps. This week - increase it to 35kg for12 reps.

Fuel your body with carbs and protein before this workout.

Don’t sacrifice your form for heavy weight but DO push yourself to the max. Remember in order to repair this lean muscle tissue you have broken down you need to get that protein shake in IMMEDIATELY after this type of intense workout.