Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weight Training: The Best Way to Get Lean

I have been so swamped lately. Still working out everyday with P90X, going to Amsterdam for a Long Drive event...USA vs Europe. The Horsepower Tee Shot Tour is incredible and will start airing Sept 19th on Speed TV. Title of the show " Big Shots - Titans at the Tee".

The Beachbody Program provides a great venue for health and fitness and once again, I'd like to share this one with all of you.

Weight Training: The Best Way to Get Lean
By Steve Edwards

Weight Lifter When it comes to reshaping your body, nothing is quite as effective as lifting weights. Cardio is great for your heart, Pilates will help you get stronger, and yoga will balance you out; but nothing compares with a well-designed resistance program for getting lean.

This is in contrast to our weight lifting cultural icons. Arnold, Hulk Hogan, and the WWE are who and what we tend to associate with pumping iron. It may be more accurate, however, to associate those massive bodies with anabolic steroids and turn our attention to the real cultural icon for weight training: Jack LaLanne. The guy who practically invented "lifting" as we now know it is well into his 90s and can still ace the fitness standard designed for a 30-year-old. Once considered a bodybuilder, his legacy has far more to do with his fitness exploits than his brawn. His feats include things like swimming with his hands and feet shackled and towing 70 people in 70 boats across Long Beach Harbor on his 70th birthday. The key to Jack's success over all these years has been lifting weights.

P90X®In his intro to P90X's Chest, Shoulders & Triceps workout, Tony Horton tells us, "It's just good old-fashioned weight training that's gotten lost in a lot of fancy gidgits and gadgets and things that don't work." But weight lifting is making a comeback. In a couple of months, Turbo Jam® creator Chalene Johnson will unveil her new program focusing on weight training as the path to a lean and healthy body. As scientists look for the latest way to halt a growing obesity epidemic, the research still leads them back to the same simple fact: resistance stimulates the muscles to work, which causes an effect throughout the body that keeps it strong, healthy, and lean. Let's take a brief look at why.
The basics of body composition

The science of how our bodies work is complex. However, the basics of body composition, and why we get obese and out of shape, are very simple. Due to the former, we can see how it's possible to believe that one magic nutrient, drug, or movement might transform us from fat to fit. But once we understand the latter, we see how this is highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Body Composition A simple overview of body composition looks like this. At the base is a skeleton that is held together with connective tissues. This encases most of your organs and circulatory system. Muscles surround the structure and enable it to move. Body fat protects the organs and joints. It's all covered by your largest organ, your skin. We're leaving out some obvious functionality but this is basically what makes up your body composition, which determines your shape.

While there are different body types, all of them look good when all of the above are in the correct proportion. We look worse when our body fat percentages exceed their intended uses. Excess body fat inhibits the body's natural ability to function, and, hence, leads to myriad health problems. To correct this, we need to reduce the amount of body fat in our bodies. There are many ways to make this happen. Eating less, eating better, and exercising moves the process in the right direction. But the easiest way to do this is to add muscle. And the best way to add muscle is to exercise using resistance.
Weight training basics

Planning a Workout Most weight training is what we call anaerobic. This means, simply, that the intensity it takes to do it exceeds your body's aerobic (oxygen-carrying) capability. Anaerobic training relies on something called the Krebs cycle, which is a process in each cell that puts the body under stress. This stress forces your body to adapt and works nearly every human function we associate with fitness, including your body's aerobic system. So, oddly enough, a well-crafted anaerobic workout program is all the work you need to have a perfectly healthy aerobic system. This is because recovering from anaerobic work requires your aerobic system to work. If you can understand this concept, it will be easy to understand why weight training is so vital.
The fat-burning misnomer

Many less intense programs, like aerobics and most "cardio" programs, focus on training in what some people call the "fat burning zone." This term is misleading because what it really means is utilizing fat for fuel—not burning body fat. Well—wait—it does actually mean that. The process is a little complicated, but I'll simplify it.

Guy with Dumbbell At low-level outputs, your body burns its stored fat as fuel. At higher outputs, it burns sugars that have been stored in your blood and liver, called blood glycogen. It's important to do both, but targeting fat mobilization as your primary fuel source in your workout makes little sense, unless you're training for endurance sports.

Your body has a limited store of glycogen—about enough for an hour or so of hard work. It attempts to save this for intense exercise (and brain function) and tries to do low-level tasks by burning body fat. Training at low intensity has a benefit, but it's only a fraction of what high intensity can accomplish in the same amount of time. And even though you are burning stored fat instead of glycogen, you aren't stimulating your muscles in the same way. This lack of stimulation means that you aren't creating the same level of hormone release, organ function, or muscle growth. The result is that you get far less fitness improvement in a given amount of time.

The metabolic process
Muscle Burns Fat This is, at its most basic, the speed at which your body engine runs while resting. The more fit you are, the higher your metabolic rate is likely to be. Excess muscle on your body takes more energy just to keep it there. Body fat doesn't have the same requirements. In fact, it sort of does the opposite, by gumming up the works and inhibiting the metabolic process. Remember that muscle is there so that the body can move and do stuff. Fat is there to protect the body, especially the organs. It is similar to having a spare tire sitting inside of you. It adds weight and slows you down but does nothing helpful for your metabolism. This means that the most effective way to burn body fat is to add muscle to your frame because it burns fat around the clock. That is precisely what Chalene Johnson's new program will do—and you'll be hearing a lot more about "muscle burns fat" in the coming weeks.
Why your scale is lying to you

Using the above body-composition basics, it's pretty easy to understand why losing weight should not be your ultimate goal. Instead, you should focus on losing body fat, which means that you'll get smaller at the same weight. By volume, muscle weighs far more than body fat. So much so that by adding muscle you can actually gain weight as you shrink. This isn't true for most people, but many "skinny fat" people find that all of their health indicators improve as they gain weight.

Overweight Man Working Out This is especially important to consider if you're highly de-conditioned, because not only do you have more fat on your body than you should, you probably have less muscle. As this ratio comes into balance, the scale may not be dropping, but your body can be making substantial changes. Furthermore, weight training can change your bone density. This does not increase the size of your bones but increases their weight and strength. For this fact alone, it's recommended that everyone add some resistance training into their lifestyle as they age.
What to do if you want lean muscles instead of bulky muscles

The bad news is that there is no such thing as a lean muscle. The good news is that there is really no such thing as a bulky muscle. We use these terms to describe a body type, not a muscle. Lean muscle is also a term that means, well, muscle. All muscle is lean. Body fat is not lean. So the only non-lean muscle is one that has excess fat around it.

You can't really change a muscle's shape. It either grows, called hypertrophy, or shrinks, called atrophy. Weight training programs target muscle growth. All muscles are lean and shapely. To look lean and shapely, you want to build your muscles so that your metabolism increases and your body-fat percentage decreases.

Woman Bodybuilder "Bulky" (in quotes, because it's a matter of opinion) is a term used for muscles that are larger than normal. These are much harder to get than most of us, especially women, tend to believe. Bodybuilders certainly wish it were a lot easier. But adding excessive muscle takes an almost obsessive amount of work. Due to gravity, our bodies don't like to weigh too much and resist adding muscle. It's easier to add excess fat because not much can be done about overeating. Adding bulk is so difficult that steroids have become a huge societal problem.

It's also easy to control whether or not you become "bulky" through the number of repetitions (or time spent) doing resistance work. Sets that are longer than 12 or so repetitions (or about 30 seconds) self-limit the muscle's ability to grow. Therefore, those looking for a "lean" look should target higher reps once they've decided that their muscles are large enough.
And the added benefit of antiaging

Weights and a Man Weight Lifting

Finally, nothing helps you age more gracefully than weight training
. There are other ways to stay lean, but using resistance training creates hormonal releases that offset the aging process better than anything else. Furthermore, you lose muscle as you age—about 1 percent or so per year beyond the age of 30. Antiaging medicine is often prescribed in the form of injections of the very same hormones that are released when you do intense resistance workouts. Weight training is a cheaper, and arguably more effective, alternative to spending a lot of money on doctors. Just ask Jack LaLanne. (And stay tuned for more information about our new weight training program . . . ChaLEAN Extreme!)

To find out more about weight training and overtraining, check out this story from Beachbody Network News (BNN).

And for more health and fitness news stories, tune in to new episodes of BNN every Tuesday and Friday exclusively at


Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

I'm new to resistance training and am a little confused by the instruction to do more reps to avoid bulky muscles. Can you explain the science behind that? How does that work? Should I also lower weight if my muscles are as big as I want them to be?


Pat Dempsey said...

This is it in a nutshell. It's a myth that you're going to Bulk Up like a body builder. It's not that easy. If that were true, I for one, would be HUGH!

Some people have a greater muscle mass, some have less muscle mass- but that mass is muscle. A pound of muscle is going to require energy to stay around. If you have a greater muscle mass, you'll have a greater metabolism.

Doing high reps with low weights will build strength but does not produce "big bulgy" muscles.pushing your muscles to complete fatigue with ample recovery time is the way to build that lean muscle look and increase strength. Most women who aren't downing steroids, taking testosterone & spending hours in the gym and competing professionally are not going to get very muscular. It's just the body makeup of a woman.

Fat takes up more space than muscle. So by doing more reps w/ low weights, & if you're eating the proper foods (cut out the junk)... the body starts to breakdown the fat that is stored, producing less body mass and a "lean" strong, & stealth looking body. Your metabolism is now working at a faster pace, burning the fat that produces that Bulky look. Bottom line...proper diet & exercise will produce the lean fit body most people are looking for.

You personally,won't have to lower the weight that you are currently using. Just add another rep to your workout routine
If you have any questons feel free to call me M-F 9am to 4pm 818.353.6717