a Fitness, Health and Wellness Blog

Strength

Dumbbell Benefits

Dumbbell training is one of the most common courses in fitness and weight training. It is not generally better than all the other weight training courses, but it has some of the advantages that other weightlifting trainings lack. For example, dumbbell training enables you to exert more force on your muscles especially when doing unilateral training. When using only one arm, the muscles on the other side of the body are recruited to help stabilize the weight. It produces more force on the side that is being trained. Thus, you can lift more than what you normally can with that limb than what it can lift in bilateral training. You can lift 40 or 50 pounds on one limb easier than you can lift the same weight simultaneously on both limbs. With this advantage available to dumbbell training, you build stronger and bigger muscles. Unilateral training with dumbbells also help increase metabolism to burn more fats. The routine is twice as long and each side is given enough focus one at a time. The exercise on one side is repeated on the other side. This helps develop not only the muscles but also power and endurance of the body.

Dumbbell training is also one good way to shape up our abs. When doing exercises with the dumbbells, the muscles of the abdomen are also recruited to help maintain the balance. As the upper limbs carry out the training, the muscles from the body are also used to provide greater force and maintain balance so they are also included in the training.

Power and endurance are increased as both muscles and cardiovascular organs participate in the training. The other training courses in weightlifting may require another course of training for cardiovascular workout but if you are not at liberty to do all the courses, the cardio workout of the dumbbell training may be enough. Probably one of the best advantages of dumbbell training is that a lot of the routines are applicable in everyday life. Some of the range-of-motion exercises using dumbbells follow the natural movements of our upper limbs as we normally move. With dumbbell training, the everyday activities of sports, work and just ordinary movements are made easier.

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Strengthening Your Legs

LegSprinters have been around for thousands of years competing with each other but it is only when strength training made its appearance that the face of sprinting changed dramatically. 
 
Strength training helped the sprinters to increase leg strength for sprinting and this worked towards making them strong and quicker than those around them.

Initially strength training was not viewed favorably because there was a misconception that this would make sprinters bulky and end up making them slower. However, this was proved wrong when many sprinters did do strength training as a way to increase the leg strength for sprinting and ended up being faster than sprinters who did not do strength training. In addition, scientific research ahs proved that sprinters with bulky muscles have the least amount of fat in their body, especially in their legs.

One way to increase leg strength for sprinting is by running up a hill. This training, in fact, is being done by many professional sprinters and runners who are looking for speed through increased leg strength. Find a hill that is around 75 to 100 meters long and run uphill until you reach the peak. This running should be hard. Then slowly jog down to the bottom of the hill. This should be done a few times. When you are running uphill fast, you will work the muscles of your legs and this will help to improve not just the leg strength but also the way your body process the increased oxygen intake.

Even doing squats help to increase leg strength for sprinting and if this is not part of your exercise regimen, you should make it. Squats will improve and strengthen the muscles in ankles, knee, hips and spine and some of these muscles are primarily used in sprinting.


Importance of Core Strength

core appleWhile on tour in Eygpt, I spoke with the trainer/fitness gym manager, Herb. He was an older gentleman. I asked him about a training program for me in preparation for a Ranger Prep course. He rather blankly asked, “Do you want to be strong or look strong?” This question implied looking and being strong are not one in the same.  I chose to be strong and not look strong. Herb developed a rather simple program that consisted of various abdominal exercises. This was my introduction to the developing core strength. Read up on it below.

Core Strength
There are benefits to having a strong core other than the external. Core muscles include your abdominals, along with the muscles around your back, hips and pelvis. These muscles keep your core stable while your limbs are active. You, regardless of sport, need to have a strong core to create and maintain strength within your body for any activity.  A strong core helps an athlete shift power from the deeper muscles of the hips and trunk effectively to the extremities, withstanding powerful athletic movements and reducing chances of injury. Imagine the handle of a bull whip moving in a deliberate but controlled manner. This motion sends the energy out to the tip which in turn moves at a high velocity. The energy produced from a strong core works in a similar fashion, helping an athlete run faster, jump higher, and kick, hit, and throw with more power.

The body operates as one unit, not in isolation. The body’s core muscles are located in and around the hips, the spine, and the shoulders. The core muscles include large powerful muscles we can see as well as smaller, deeper and more intricate muscles we can’t see. Whereas many bodybuilding exercise techniques focus on isolating muscles for cosmetic improvements, core training takes a more systemic approach. To create balance and stability in the body requires multiple muscle groups all working together with precision.

The Importance of a Strong Core
It is these core muscles that make a strong connection between our lower and upper body, the “core”. Having a strong core will make our bodies more resilient to the external forces that are applied to our bodies daily. For example even pushing open or pulling open a door requires some core strength otherwise as our hand met with the door our upper body will collapse.  Without good core strength players would be injured very seriously by leaving their spines unprotected.

The Core Muscles

Stomach: These are the deepest of the stomach muscles and are also considered as the most important for a strong core. They act like a big weight lifter’s belt that ultimately does the same job. They will help with flexing and twisting at the waist and they protect our organs, but their main job is to create a strong core link between upper and lower body (Marked in red on the first diagram).

Obliques: These muscles are positioned slightly to the sides of our waists and link all the way up to the rib cage. There are 4 in total, 2 each side and are made up of internal and external obliques. They will help with the core and movements involving twisting and tilting at the waist (Marked in purple in the second diagram).

The 6 Pack: which sits on top of the other stomach muscles and down the centre from the rib cage to the pubis bone. Its main job is to keep the pelvis in line which in turn protects the spine, although many men will tell you that its main job is to attract the ladies (Marked in red in the second diagram).

Back: These are in fact very small muscles that run up your whole spine on both sides. Whilst your body has full control of them they do do their job automatically, after all you don’t have to remind your upper body to stay upward when you are standing. These muscles tend to be very tight and weak outside of the normal range. That is why, if you have a weak core, it is these muscles that tend to take the brunt of it. Obviously their main job is to keep you upright but they also help with the twisting and bending of your trunk.

Hip: Also known as your hip flexor muscles. These are situated at the top front of your legs and help raise the upper leg upwards. They join in the top of the thigh and travel through your pelvis and onto your lower spine. These muscles are notorious for being short because of the amount of sitting we tend to do and as they join into the lower spine they can be a direct cause of lower back pain. As well as being strong these also need to be supple.

Butt/Bum: Your bum muscles basically and one of the biggest muscles in your body. It plays a major part in moving the legs during running, walking etc and is very important for good posture, which in urn is essential for a strong core. These muscles tend to be very weak on most people and therefore should be worked on. Also, another 2 muscles found in your bum underneath. They are much smaller and again seem to be generally weak in most people. In my opinion these muscles are loosely core related. However if they are not functioning correctly they can create a weakness in the core, especially through sideways movement of the upper body. Their main jobs are to take your leg out to the side and to rotate the whole leg outwards.

Legs: These are definitely not considered part of the core muscles, however you really should consider them a member as one of their smaller roles is to aid the movement of our torsos backwards. Whilst it doesn’t have a major role and is often overlooked, it should be added because of the affect it has on the core when it is tight. The tighter your hamstrings the bigger the negative influence on your core strength.  A very important muscle to stretch.


Displays of Strength

Don’t think about how weak you are — think of how strong you’re going to be. Michelle (Berry) Dougherty

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A display of “strength” (e.g. lifting a weight) is a result of three factors that overlap:
Physiological Strength meaning muscle size, cross sectional area, available crossbridging, responses to training,
Neurological Strength meaning how strong or weak is the signal that tells the muscle to contract,
and Mechanical Strength meaning muscle’s force angle on the lever, moment arm length, joint capabilities.

Contrary to popular belief, the number of muscle fibres cannot be increased through exercise; instead the muscle cells simply get bigger. Muscle fibres have a limited capacity for growth through hypertrophy and some believe they split through hyperplasia if subject to increased demand.

The “Strongest” Human Muscle
Since three factors affect muscular strength simultaneously and muscles never work individually, it is misleading to compare strength in individual muscles, and state that one is the “strongest”. But below are several muscles whose strength is noteworthy for different reasons.

  • In ordinary parlance, muscular “strength” usually refers to the ability to exert a force on an external object—for example, lifting a weight. By this definition, the masseter or jaw muscle is the strongest. The 1992 Guinness Book of Records records the achievement of a bite strength of 4,337 N (975 lbf) for 2 seconds. What distinguishes the masseter is not anything special about the muscle itself, but its advantage in working against a much shorter lever arm than other muscles.
  • If “strength” refers to the force exerted by the muscle itself, e.g., on the place where it inserts into a bone, then the strongest muscles are those with the largest cross-sectional area. This is because the tension exerted by an individual skeletal muscle fiber does not vary much. Each fiber can exert a force on the order of 0.3 micronewton. By this definition, the strongest muscle of the body is usually said to be the quadriceps femoris or the gluteus maximus
  •  A shorter muscle will be stronger “pound for pound” (i.e., by weight) than a longer muscle. The myometrial layer of the uterus may be the strongest muscle by weight in the human body. At the time when an infant is delivered, the entire human uterus weighs about 1.1 kg (40 oz). During childbirth, the uterus exerts 100 to 400 N (25 to 100 lbf) of downward force with each contraction.
  • The external muscles of the eye are conspicuously large and strong in relation to the small size and weight of the eyeball. It is frequently said that they are “the strongest muscles for the job they have to do” and are sometimes claimed to be “100 times stronger than they need to be.” However, eye movements (particularly saccades used on facial scanning and reading) do require high speed movements, and eye muscles are exercised nightly during rapid eye movement sleep.
  • The statement that “the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body” appears frequently in lists of surprising facts, but it is difficult to find any definition of “strength” that would make this statement true. Note that the tongue consists of sixteen muscles, not one.
  • The heart has a claim to being the muscle that performs the largest quantity of physical work in the course of a lifetime. Estimates of the power output of the human heart range from 1 to 5 watts. This is much less than the maximum power output of other muscles; for example, the quadriceps can produce over 100 watts, but only for a few minutes. The heart does its work continuously over an entire lifetime without pause, and thus does “outwork” other muscles. An output of one watt continuously for eighty years yields a total work output of two and a half gigajoules. “