In previous blogs, I discussed glucose as your bodies preferred source of fuel, or energy for daily activity. You now know our bodies convert ingested carbohydrates into glucose, or blood sugar. Ingest too many carbohydrates and excess glucose will eventually get stored as triglycerides in your adipose fat tissue resulting in unwanted body fat.
You also know your body protects its fat stores for future energy needs against a potential starvation event. Your body will cannibalize its own muscle to use as energy before utilizing its precious energy stores which reside in your adipose fat tissue cells. You MUST use your muscles so your body will bypass this cannibalizing process and use its fat stores for it’s go to energy source.
“Resistance training”, or using your muscles does not require lifting weights. No intimidating gym visits needed here. In fact, no weights are required at all. Let’s talk about using our own body weight as the weight needed to obtain a leaner and healthier you.
In his book, “The Primal Blueprint,” Mark Sission talks about, what he calls, “Primal Essential Movements”. He recommends four body weight exercises which work all the major muscles in your body and promote functional fitness for daily life activities. At the same time, you will be teaching your body to convert and utilize its fat stores for its energy needs leading to a leaner and healthier you.
So, what are these four body resistance exercises? Push-ups, squats, planks, and pull-ups. Haven’t done these exercises since your high school or college days? Don’t worry, we can alter each exercise to suit your current physical ability and you’ll find that they are easier to do than you may think.
Let’s start with push-ups. We all think a push up is done from a starting position on the floor making them very difficult to do. Let’s go to the stairs. Facing a set of stairs, place your toes close to the bottom stair while placing your hands on the fourth stair from the bottom. Now do a push up. You’ll find these easier to do as you have transferred most of your weight to your feet relieving your shoulders from doing most of the work. Start with 5 sets of a quantity you can maintain for each of the 5 sets. Work your way up to doing 12-15 repetitions for each of the 5 sets taking a three-minute rest in between sets. Has your heart rate increased? If you answered yes, that’s great. Increase in your heart rate is important. Don’t let your heart rate elevate too much, you want to be able to hold a normal conversation while your heart rate is slightly elevated. Now, once you are able to perform 5 sets, move down one stair eventually working your way to placing your hands on the floor. Are you able to perform 5 sets of 12-15 repetitions while flat on the floor? Turn around and place your feet on the first stair from the floor and challenge yourself. Work your way up the stairs placing your feet higher. It is important that you are able to complete all 5 sets but they must be challenging. Remember, we are teaching our body it needs its muscles so it will not eat away at our muscles for its energy needs. Challenge yourself.
Planks. Lay on the ground, elbows on the ground shoulder width apart hands extended out in front of you, palms flat on the floor. Legs behind you spaced comfortably apart, toes pointed down. Now, raise up on your toes and elbows in a stiff body position. Work your way to being able to hold this position for 30 seconds. Take a 3-minute break in between sets and work our way up to 5 sets at 30 seconds each set. Once you have been able to perform 5 sets at 30 seconds, work your way up to 45 seconds, then 1 minute. Your goal is to master the plank for 2 minutes. You will feel your core tighten up, your back and glutes will be challenged working your large muscle groups. Are you sweating? Good!
Squats. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms straight in front of you, palms facing down. Hold this position while lowering your butt as low as you can go. Try to get your thighs parallel with the ground before standing back up. It’s ok to put a chair or a stool behind you until you become comfortable with the movement and gain confidence in your ability. Work your way up to 5 sets of 25 repetitions. You’ll feel a burn in your quads which is exactly what you want.
Pull-ups. Pull ups require the most strength of these four exercises but don’t worry, there are ways around everything. Search “resistance bands” on the internet and purchase a set. The kind with integrated handles work best. Loop over a hook or an overhead beam in your basement. From a seated position pull the bands toward you in a fashion that mimics a pull up. Increase tension as you gain strength. Assisted pull ups are easy too by hooking your foot in a resistance band on one end and looped around a traditional pull up bar on the other end. The assistance the band provides is greater than you may think making you look like a pro at performing this exercise. Pull ups work several muscle groups including your lats, biceps, abs and core.
Alternate these four exercises every other day doing push-ups and squats on day 1, 3, and 5, pull-ups and planks on days 2,4, and 6. Challenge yourself, over time increase the amount of reps within each set as you gain strength and confidence.
In my next blog I will discuss the three different muscle fiber types and the benefits to working each individual one. Whether you are looking to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance, or increase lean muscle weight, we will determine the work out resistance training regimen to suit your goal.
So go get started. In a very short period of time you will be impressed how quickly you will be able to see results. But remember, “If you want it, you’ve got to go get it.”