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Strength training benefits, including better cardiovascular health

In episode 4 of “Train to Failure,” we continue the discussion by talking about the objective of strength training and some of the main benefits that occur in your body when you increase your lean muscle mass and get stronger. Let’s break it down into simple terms and real-life examples to understand why it matters.

Understanding sequential muscle fiber recruitment

Sequential muscle fiber recruitment may sound like a complex term, but it’s a crucial aspect of effective strength training. It refers to the need to activate all muscle fibers within a muscle, not just the slow-twitch ones typically engaged in most exercises. Many people settle for “doing something” during their workouts, but true strength gains go beyond that.

The objective of strength training

The primary goal of strength training is to induce damage and weaken the muscle fibers – this is known as creating an “inroad” into the muscle fiber. Think of it as digging a ditch into the muscle fiber. To maximize results, one should aim for at least a 40% weakening of the muscle fiber. When this level of inroad is achieved, along with adequate recovery, the body responds by getting stronger and increasing muscle mass.

Real-life comparison: battling a mountain lion

Imagine your body is designed to handle various physical challenges, whether it’s lifting weights in a gym, fighting for survival in the wild, or simply performing tasks that require strength. In all these scenarios, what your body recognizes is the damage to muscle fibers and the subsequent weakening of muscles.

The benefits of proper strength training

Proper strength training offers a multitude of benefits, especially as we age:

1. Basal metabolic rate and calorie burn

Maintaining lean muscle mass keeps your basal metabolic rate high, allowing you to burn more calories even at rest.

2. Energy storage in muscles

Increased muscle mass provides improved storage capacity for energy within the muscles, enhancing overall endurance.

3. Enhanced bone density

Strength training contributes to higher bone density, crucial for maintaining bone health.

4. Improved cardiovascular system

Here’s where it gets interesting: stronger muscles result in a more efficient cardiovascular system. Recent studies show that having more muscle than the required demand for a task means you don’t have to recruit all your muscle fibers. This means your cardiovascular system isn’t taxed as heavily.

Real-life example: climbing stairs

Imagine climbing a flight of stairs with someone significantly older. If you have more muscle than the demand requires, you won’t have to recruit all your muscle fibers, and your cardiovascular system won’t be as strained. In contrast, the person with less muscle will need to potentially utilize all available muscle fibers, putting greater stress on their cardiovascular system.

Beyond traditional cardiovascular activities

Strength training isn’t just about lifting weights; it also enhances your cardiovascular system’s efficiency. Cardiovascular activities like running, biking, and swimming aren’t the only ways to stimulate your heart and lungs. When you strengthen your muscles, your cardiovascular system becomes more effective at supplying oxygen to meet the necessary demands.

Monitoring your progress with Smart Strength machines

When using Smart Strength machines, you can easily track your inroad percentage, a key metric for assessing the effectiveness of your strength training. Look for this information in the top left boxes on the machine’s display after completing a movement.

The symbiotic relationship

In summary, muscular strength and cardiovascular strength share a symbiotic relationship. Strengthening your muscles not only improves your physique but also enhances your cardiovascular system’s efficiency, contributing to overall health and well-being.

So, next time you hit the gym, remember that strength training goes beyond building muscles; it’s a path to a healthier, more resilient cardiovascular system as well.

You can check out our Smart Fit Method 101 series, stating at episode 4 of 5 on training to failure by clicking here.

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