High-Intensity Training

High-Intensity Training: Everything You Need to Know

High-Intensity Training: Everything You Need to Know

Woman doing High Intensity Training on a machine

What is High-Intensity Training?

High-Intensity Training is doing one set of an intense strength training exercise to achieve a goal of momentary muscle failure- think max intensity. Each exercise is slow and controlled and the entire workout is brief, intense, and focused. You generally can't do more than 20-30 minutes during a HIT session.

HIT is an exercise approach that has existed for over 50 years and has helped people reach a wide range of goals.

In this article, we dive into what HIT is, how HIT works, the benefits it provides, and how it differs from other methods of exercise.

If you are new to The Perfect Workout or are looking to get a better understanding of the fundamental science behind our methodology, this article is for you.

How High-Intensity Training Began

Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus’ training machines, created HIT in the early 1970s (Baye, n.d.).

Jones noted that people often focus on the most exercise that our bodies can tolerate, but we should instead look at the minimal amount of exercise that we need for great results.

He concluded that we should “train harder” but for shorter and less frequent workouts (Baye, n.d.).

Our muscles benefit most by performing an “all-out” effort while also resting sufficiently between those intense workouts. Training intensely and frequently could lead to overtraining (Baye, n.d.).

Those concepts birthed HIT: training with a focus on quality over quantity.

Man training with dumbbells

Is Slow-Motion Strength Training High-Intensity?

At The Perfect Workout, we use brief, infrequent workouts to help you achieve incredible results.

To be effective and time-efficient, our workout method is “Slow-Motion Strength Training” (SMST), a style of High-Intensity Training (HIT).

Don’t let the name fool you. Just because our method of strength training is slow, doesn’t mean it’s not intense.

In fact, using slow lifting speeds, as opposed to lifting faster with excess force and momentum, we ask our muscles to do more work. Making the workouts very intense, highly effective, yet ultra safe.

Learn More about our methodology.

What Are the Benefits of HIT?

HIT is a unique approach but is not specialized for achieving one specific benefit.

In fact, this workout method leads to a range of fitness and health benefits.

Studies using a High-Intensity Training approach led to the following results:

  • muscle growth
  • added strength
  • enhanced confidence
  • an increase in metabolism
  • fat loss
  • a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol
  • regulated blood sugar levels
  • more endurance, stamina, and energy
  • improved cardiovascular fitness and health
  • stronger bones

(Cornelissen & Fagard, 2005; Davy et al., 2017; Pratley, Nicklas, & Rubin, 1994; Preuss, 2020; Waller, Miller, & Hannon, 2011; Westcott, Apovian, & Puhala, 2013).

Also, people are likely to become more active after starting HIT, which could be due to having more energy or better overall well-being after starting training (Preuss, 2020).

There’s one other noteworthy benefit of this workout method, and it’s unlike the benefits previously mentioned…

Time.

HIT provides all of these benefits in a fraction of the time of other workout programs.

The previously cited studies featured 2-3 HIT workouts per week averaging around 20 minutes per workout. (Preuss, 2020; Waller et al., 2011).

While many exercise programs recommend 1 hour a day, 4-5 days a week, high-intensity training requires significantly less real estate on the calendar.

A standard weekly time investment for a HIT program is about 40-60 minutes.

In total, HIT saves you about 2-4 hours per week when compared to many other exercise programs. Not to mention the hours of time spent recovering from injuries avoided by using this ultra-safe method, or thousands of dollars not spent on healthcare and medications by using HIT as preventative care.

man training with two dumbbells

How Does HIT Work?

HIT gets you great results while avoiding overtraining. This is due to training harder but less often, or a “quality over quantity” approach. This manifests in both the workout frequency and execution.

With high-intensity training, only one set is performed per exercise. Each repetition is executed with a high focus on form, moving the weight through a full-range of motion with a slow and controlled tempo (Baye, n.d.).

Each exercise is performed to “Muscle Success,” when the muscle reaches a point where it can no longer move the weight on the lifting phase of the repetition – aka. muscle failure.

Training to Muscle Success ensures that the maximum amount of muscle fibers are trained and stimulated. In other words, your muscles get the most benefit out of a single set.

Muscles continue to become stronger over time through progressive overload. This involves a perpetual increase in the demand placed on muscles during training. HIT achieves this through frequent weight increases, even if the weight increase is a small amount (e.g. 2 lbs.).

To keep the exercise effective and challenging enough to stimulate muscle growth, weights should be increased when the current weight being used no longer achieves muscle success within 1-2 minutes.

HIT workouts typically train all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. The recommended frequency for HIT training is 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days.

High-Intensity Training Exercises

A typical high-intensity slow-motion strength training workout generally consists of 7-8 exercises per session. This may vary slightly depending on a number of factors: once or twice a week, injuries/limitations, and individual goals.

In theory, you can hit all major muscle groups with just 4 exercises:

  • Leg Press: Glutes, Quadriceps, Calves
  • Chest Press: Pectorals, Shoulders, Triceps
  • Lat Pulldown: Lats, Biceps, Abdominals
  • Leg Curl: Hamstrings

Depending on the individual, other HIT exercises can be incorporated to target specific muscle areas, including:

  • Leg Extension: Quadriceps
  • Bicep Curl: Biceps, Forearms
  • Tricep Extension: Triceps
  • Hip Abduction: Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minor, TFL
  • Hip Adduction: Inner Thighs
  • Compound Row: Trapezoids, Rhomboids, Biceps (often interchangeable for Lat Pulldown)
  • Abdominal Machine: Abdominals

If you look at the first list, you’ll notice the entire body can be targeted with just four exercises, making it relatively simple to get a full-body workout.

More exercises can be added if needed to fully fatigue the smaller muscles that may have not achieved muscle success on bigger-muscle machines.

For example, the biceps are the secondary muscles used on the Lat Pulldown. The Preacher Curl can be added to workouts to fully target them.

This does not mean it is necessary to do all 11 exercises in every workout.

In fact, having the ability to easily complete 11 slow-motion strength training exercises is a good indication that the intensity level is not high enough.

Think of your workouts as a short sprint, not a mile-long race. The reason there isn’t a mile dash in track & field is because nobody can sprint that far, or work that hard for that long. So, milers must pace their efforts rather than sprint the entire mile.

Since intense effort is what stimulates the best results from the muscles (and the body), demanding slow-motion strength training workouts have to be relatively brief.

If you feel like you can perform slow-motion strength training exercises for more than 20 minutes at a time, you can probably improve your results by increasing the intensity and learning how to work harder.

Female doing an exercise class vs a female doing high intensity training

HIT vs. HIIT?

High-Intensity Training started in the early 1970s, although another training with a similar name has achieved popularity around public gyms in the 2000s. HIT is often confused with HIIT, or high-intensity interval training.

The names sound alike, but the styles of training are very different. High-intensity training is a strength training approach that helps people gain strength, muscle, and improve their overall health.

High-intensity interval training is an approach to aerobic exercise that is also used to improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness, although it’s not an effective way to build strength and muscle.

HIIT is an aerobic workout that alternates intervals of all-out aerobic effort (e.g. running sprints) with low-intensity aerobic intervals (e.g. walking). The high-intensity intervals last around 30-60 seconds each, with 1-5 minutes of lower-intensity activity in between (Shirav & Barclay, 2021).

If you are going to do “cardio,” minute-for-minute, a HIIT workout is more effective than traditional approaches to aerobic exercise. (Shirav & Barclay, 2012). If you want the most efficient option, you can also improve your cardiovascular health through high-intensity training (without intervals) in just 20 minutes, twice a week.

Both involve a high degree of effort. Both are generally brief workouts. Both increase your heart rate significantly. However, one (HIT) is a style of strength training that improves muscular fitness, aerobic fitness, and health. The other (HIIT) is primarily aerobic training that improves aerobic fitness and health.

Trainer coaching a male on high intensity training

High-Intensity Strength Training is NOT Just Lifting Weights

Here’s an important question – “How is HIT any different than what most people do in the gym?”

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and general bodybuilding fitness approaches tend to be the standard for average gym-goers when it comes to strength training.

Their recommended method of training is we would refer to as “traditional weightlifting.”

Both the ACSM and bodybuilding leaders recommend and emphasize more work and less intense effort than HIT. For example, other workouts might call for twenty bicep curls with a light weight, performed twice, as opposed to HIT, which calls for less than half as many reps with weight two or three times as heavy, performed once.

ACSM advocates for more sets (2-3 sets of 20-30 reps per exercise), not pushing to “Muscle Success,” and a much faster repetition speed (Singh et al., 2019). Similar to HIT, they recommend a frequency of 2-3 days per week.

Female Trainer coaching a Female member on the Gravitron machine

You might see the word “bodybuilding” and immediately think ‘that is NOT me.’ But many weight lifting principles you might be familiar with stem from bodybuilding methodology. Keep reading to find out more…

Bodybuilding programs typically stress the quantity of work more than what’s featured in HIT-style training (Dickson, 2021). Bodybuilders train about 4-6 days per week, at least three sets per exercise, and workouts that focus on a limited number of muscle groups in each workout.

Sound familiar?

Overall, bodybuilding uses an approach that emphasizes quantity of work to build muscle strength and size. Bodybuilders usually don’t perform each exercise to “Muscle Success.”

Considering these workouts often take 45-90 minutes, it’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to spend around 4-8 hours per week in the gym.

Bodybuilding’s emphasis on a higher volume of weekly exercise is the recommended approach for those who want to maximize their muscle size (Dickson, 2021).

While some professional bodybuilders have used HIT-style training (i.e. Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, Dorian Yates), the vast majority of professionals have used more traditional bodybuilding programs.

For those who are seeking general exercise benefits, a HIT-style approach makes more sense. The majority of strength training’s health and fitness benefits are achieved with 2-3 shorter workouts per week (Singh et al., 2019; Waller et al., 2002; Winett & Carpinelli, 2001). And for those pursuing bodybuilding, HIT still has a place in your workout toolbox.

Female Trainer coaching a female on the Abdominal machine

Who Should Perform HIT?

HIT can be used to reach virtually any goal a person desires from exercise. Read that again!

While it’s not specialized for professional athletes or fitness competitors, it has been proven to help people of the general population with a large range of goals.

For instance, a ballerina can’t perfect her ballet technique by doing only HIT and an ultra-marathoner can’t get good at marathons without running. Both of them can protect their joints, gain strength, and improve their health with HIT and might include that in their training regimen. But most of the general population aren’t ballerinas and ultra-marathoners.

If you’re seeking an improvement in common measures of health, more strength or muscle, greater aerobic fitness, more confidence, a more positive overall mood, or weight loss, HIT will help.

HIT’s unique approach to exercise, though, makes it especially useful for certain groups of people:

Beginners

HIT’s emphasis on quality over quantity is well-suited for people who are starting an exercise program (or are resuming after a long break). The emphasis on slow, controlled repetitions increases training safety, making it much less likely that a beginner would become injured while learning proper lifting techniques.

Also, anecdotally speaking, soreness seems to be caused by a large increase in the amount of training. We’ve noticed that debilitating levels of soreness occur when a person jumped from doing little or no exercise to three or more sets per exercise.

HIT’s approach of less being more, performing one set per exercise, is unlikely to cause anything more than a mild level of soreness after the first 1-3 sessions.

Member Testimonial about High Intensity Training

People with Injuries and/or Seeking Pain Relief

Exercise has the opportunity to help or hurt people with injuries. When properly executed, strength training reduces pain, improves strength around the joint, and enhances the overall function of the injured joint (Lange, Van Wanseele, & Singh, 2008).

Using a low amount of exercise (one set) on the injured joint, with a high emphasis on form, allows the joint to become stronger without putting an unnecessary amount of strain on the area.

Strength training just twice per week, with 15-20-minute workouts, is shown to help reduce joint pain in a number of areas (Winett & Carpinelli, 2001).

Time-Strapped People

Doesn’t this include everyone?! Yes, we believe so. But time is one of the most common reasons people don’t start or stick to an exercise routine.

Contrary to many popular exercise approaches, HIT requires a very feasible weekly time investment. The Perfect Workout’s approach, for example, generally requires a consistent commitment of 20 minutes, twice per week.

While many of us have a wealth of responsibilities, 40 minutes per week for exercise is very doable.

Summary

Overall, high-intensity training features a safe, effective time-efficient approach for improving your physical and mental health, physique, and functional abilities. Let’s recap:

  • HIT philosophy – “train harder” but for shorter and less frequent workouts. Perform an “all-out” effort at each workout while also resting sufficiently between those intense sessions.
  • The benefits of HIT are enormous, including muscle growth, added strength, enhanced confidence, an increase in metabolism, fat loss, a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, regulated blood sugar levels, and time efficiency.
  • HIT workouts typically train all major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. The recommended frequency for HIT training is 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days.
  • HIT is not HIIT. Both are high-intensity and relatively short workouts. HIT is a strength training approach that helps people gain strength, muscle, and improve their overall health; whereas HIIT is an aerobic workout that alternates intervals of all-out aerobic effort with low-intensity aerobic intervals.
  • Anyone can do HIT but it is especially useful for beginners who are learning proper technique, people with injuries and limitations that require workout customizations, and those with busy schedules.

If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and book a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Baye, D. (n.d.). What is high-intensity training (HIT)? Drew Baye’s high-intensity Training. Retrieved from https://baye.com/what-is-high-intensity-training/
  2. Cornelissen, V. A., & Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effect of resistance training on resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension, 23(2), 251-259.
  3. Davy, B. M., Winett, R. A., Savla, J., Marinik, E. L., Baugh, M. E., Flack, K. D., … & Boshra, S. (2017). Resist diabetes: A randomized clinical trial for resistance training maintenance in adults with prediabetes. PLoS One, 12(2), e0172610
  4. Dickson, J. (2021). The best bodybuilding programs for all experience levels. BarBend. Retrieved from https://barbend.com/bodybuilding-programs/
  5. Lange, A. K., Vanwanseele, B., & Fiatarone singh, M. A. (2008). Strength training for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review. Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 59(10), 1488-1494.
  6. Pratley, R., Nicklas, B., & Rubin, M. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in health 50- to 65-year-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133-137.
  7. Preuss, S.R. (2020). Work-It Circuit: improving health, fitness, and self-efficacy through a worksite exercise program. (Publication No. 27962132) [Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Greensboro]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
  8. Shiraev, T., & Barclay, G. (2012). Evidence based exercise: Clinical benefits of high-intensity interval training. Australian family physician, 41(12), 960-962.
  9. Singh, F.M., Hackett, D., Schoenfeld, B., Vincent, H.K., & Westcott, W. (2019). Resistance training for health. Retrieved from https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/resistance-training-for-health.pdf?sfvrsn=d2441c0_2
  10. Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.
  11. Westcott, W.L., Apovian, C.M., & Puhala, K. (2013). Nutrition programs enhance exercise effects on body composition and resting blood pressure. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 41(3), 85-91.
  12. Winett, R.A. & Caprinelli, R.N. (2001). Potential health-related benefits of resistance training. Preventative Medicine, 33(5), 503-513.

Hip Strength And Mobility

Hip Strength And Mobility - What You Should Know

Female strength training for hip strength and mobility

The hip bone’s connected to the… everything!

Maybe not anatomically, but the hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the human body, and it is a hub for functional movement.

Having strong hip joints and surrounding muscles helps maintain mobility and our ability to perform basic activities of daily living.

Thankfully, maintaining hip strength and mobility can be achieved through a few exercises performed on a regular basis. To learn more, scroll down.

The Importance of the Hip Joint

Healthy hips are fundamental to many day-to-day activities. The hip joint is where the head of the thigh bone (femur) meets an indented space on the pelvis. Hips support our body weight when standing. They are also critical to the processes of walking, climbing stairs, running, sitting, standing, and bending over.

The hips are so important that our strongest muscles — the quadriceps and glutes — are located around and help move the hip joint. Unfortunately, the hip joint is an area that’s highly susceptible to the “wear and tear” of life and aging.

Hips are also the most common site of osteoporosis and fractures with advancing age. Every year, 350,000 hip fractures happen in the United States (Hopkins Medicine). When hip fractures occur, they lead to a loss of independence and, in some cases, a loss of life.

Threats to Hip Health

Osteoporosis, a condition of low bone density, is a “silent” disease. You don’t feel it. You don’t see it. However, people start losing bone strength in their 30s, and that rate of loss picks up after age 50. As a result, bones become weak and susceptible to breaking with an event like falling.

Because the hip joint bears the most weight, it can be heavily impacted by osteoporosis. The thinner “neck” of the femur is the biggest risk for bone density loss and subsequent fractures.

Not only is this the most common site of fractures, but it’s also the most severe place to have a fracture. About one in five older adults die within a year of having a hip fracture, and a large portion of those who survive lose mobility and independence (Schnell et al., 2010).

Osteoporosis isn’t the only concern for hip health. The hip joint is one of the most common sites for arthritis. It’s especially common for people who have experienced years of more-than-normal force on the joint. These individuals typically have a background in athletics, dance, distance running, or people who have been obese.

With arthritis, people lose hip mobility, the joint feels tight, stiff, and painful, and about a third of people with hip arthritis get a joint replacement (Quintana, Arostegui, & Escobar, 2008).

Hip Strength & Mobility

Suffering from hip osteoporosis or arthritis as we age isn’t inevitable. Hip health can be maintained or even improved by focusing on two factors: hip strength and hip mobility.

Enhancing hip strength and a full range of motion can reduce the risk of suffering from hip pain, hip injury, or losing independence (Carneiro et al., 2015; Snyder et al., 2009).

The question then becomes, “How can we enhance hip strength and range of motion?” Strength training.

Multiple studies show strength training 2-3 times a week can enhance hip muscle strength, bone density, and range of motion (Carneiro et al., 2015; Rhoades et al., 2000; Snyder et al., 2009). (Though our slow-motion strength training method can accomplish those things in just 20 minutes, twice a week.)

These studies used a variety of approaches, ranging from using a few lower body exercises to full-body routines. Only a few exercises, though, are needed to improve hip health.

Resistance Exercises for Hip
Strength & Mobility

Leg Press

The leg press is not only the most important exercise in a workout, targeting the largest muscle groups, but it’s also critical for hip health. The leg press and its exercise variations below strengthen the largest muscle that supports the hip joint: the gluteus maximus.

In this exercise, you slowly push through your heels, keeping your buttocks down in the seat, pushing each repetition to the point just shy of locking out your knees. You then resist the weight all the way down to the bottom of the range of motion, barely touching the weight stack, and slowly beginning again. Repeat until you achieve “muscle success”.

It also improves bone density in the hip and surrounding areas (Rhoades et al., 2000). The leg press also increases range of motion for several key movements that involve the hip joint (Rhoades et al., 2000).

Read about John Abel, who’s improved his hip health at The Perfect Workout.

Hip Abduction

Hip abduction, commonly referred to as the “outer thigh exercise,” or “ABD,” strengthens muscles that are vital for basic activities such as walking: the gluteus medius and minimus.

Performing hip abduction helps strengthen those muscles plus increases lateral hip mobility (Snyder et al., 2009). Between the leg press and hip abduction, hip mobility improves in all directions.

At-Home Exercises for Hip Strength & Mobility

The leg press and hip abduction are ideal for achieving the goals of adding hip strength and range of motion. There are home exercises, though, which can mimic those movements.

Chair Stands

To perform this exercise, you sit in a squat position and stand from a chair. The challenge is to have as low of a chair as possible and to use slow movement.

Position yourself to sit on the edge of the chair. Keep your chest up and look forward. As you slowly stand, push through your heels and the middle of your feet. As you lower yourself with bent knees, only briefly allow your butt to contact the chair before slowly starting upwards.

Repeat until you achieve muscle success. This exercise targets the same muscle groups as the leg press does: the gluteus maximus and quadriceps.

Standing Hip Abduction with Resistance Bands

Mimicking the muscles that are used in the machine exercise that has the same name, the standing hip abduction involves standing and holding onto a counter or chair.

Place a resistance band around the outside of both ankles. Train one leg at a time. Keep the other leg on the ground and use that for balance. The moving leg moves out to the side as far as possible, then slowly moves back toward the standing leg. Once the moving leg’s foot taps the ground, it should slowly move outwards to the side again.

Repeat until you achieve Muscle Success, then switch to train the other leg.

Hip Health Summarized

A healthy hip joint is critical. It’s the center of basic activities, such as standing, sitting, and walking. Therefore, we must keep the joint healthy.

Aging and the wear and tear of life’s activities lead to skeletal concerns, which increase the risk of hip pain, swelling, loss of movement, and fractures. To protect your hip joint, you can strength train with exercises involving the area.

These hip exercises help improve muscle strength, bone strength, and mobility. The specific exercises that are most important for hip health are the leg press and hip abduction. At-home replacements are using resistance bands during standing hip abduction and performing chair stands.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Carneiro, N. H., Ribeiro, A. S., Nascimento, M. A., Gobbo, L. A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Júnior, A. A., … & Cyrino, E. S. (2015). Effects of different resistance training frequencies on flexibility in older women. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 10, 531.
  • Quintana, J.M., Arostegui, I., & Escobar, A. (2008). Prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis and the appropriateness of joint replacement in an older population. JAMA Internal Medicine, 168(14), 1576-1584.
  • Rhodes, E., Martin, A., Taunton, J., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Schnell, S., Friedman, S.M., Mendelon, D.A., Bingham, K.W., & Kates, S.L. (2010). The 1-year mortality of patients treated in a hip fracture program for elders. Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, 1(1), 6-14.
  • Snyder, K. R., Earl, J. E., O’Connor, K. M., & Ebersole, K. T. (2009). Resistance training is accompanied by increases in hip strength and changes in lower extremity biomechanics during running. Clinical Biomechanics, 24(1), 26-34.

The Impact of Strength Training and Inflammation

the impact of strength training and inflammation

woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation
woman with her hand on her knee hurting from inflammation

It’s the reason why omega-3 fatty acid supplements have become popular in recent years.

It’s one of the major reasons why we floss. It’s a big detriment of smoking.

It’s the target of medications taken for arthritis, headaches, and menstrual pain.

Inflammation is one of the major players in the development of heart disease (some medical professionals think it’s the primary cause).

It’s a sign of atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes developments.

The list goes on and on…

Related Post: Strength And Your Health

We use the term “inflammation” often, but what exactly is inflammation?

Inflammation is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself. When inflamed, our bodies are trying to remove or destroy an unwanted presence, such as foreign bacteria, or we are repairing damaged tissue.


Inflammation is good when the body attempts to heal itself and is successful…


However, it can become destructive when it’s not able to eliminate the cause of irritation and triggers disorders such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders or more serious illnesses like cancer.

Signs & Symptoms of Inflammation

Common signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, heat, and pain. But inflammation in the body can also show up in some unexpected ways. Below are some inflammatory responses to look out for:

Joint pain

The most common symptom people experience is sore joints, particularly in the knees, shoulders, and elbows. One easy way to understand if pain you’re experiencing is inflammatory is if it's been diagnosed with anything that ends in “itis.” Such as bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, etc.

Headaches

If you're somebody who experiences headaches or migraines on a chronic or regular basis, that could be a result of inflammation in your body.

Skin breaking out

Breaking out with pimples on your face, or experiencing itchiness, eczema, and rashes are signs of inflammation.

Weight gain

Unexplained weight gain, puffiness or bloating can be responses, particularly to inflammatory foods.

Digestive issues

Gastrointestinal complications and chronic tummy troubles are signs of an inflamed gut.

Allergy-like symptoms

Runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing may not be symptoms of an allergy, but inflammation.

Depression

Anxiety, mood disorders, and depression have been linked to chronic inflammation [2].

Fatigue

Feeling really tired or lethargic, experiencing insomnia, having trouble sleeping are common signs.

Frequent infections

Experiencing frequent infections can be a result of long-term inflammation.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation can be acute or chronic, and the difference is critical. Examples of acute scenarios are sore throats, cuts on our skin, or irritated gums (which is why we floss, to prevent irritants). Acute inflammation is immediate but lasts for a few days or weeks.


Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a major issue. This occurs when an acute situation lingers, an autoimmune problem exists, or when there is some other chronic irritant. Chronic is the type found with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


Both acute and chronic can be localized in the body, but inflammation which affects the entire state of the body is known as systemic inflammation.


We measure inflammation by looking at cytokines.

What are cytokines?

Cytokines are proteins that influence the survival and proliferation of immune cells. They also have a key role in initiating the inflammatory response. Some cytokines are anti-inflammatory and some are pro-inflammatory.


Also, C-reactive protein (CRP) is another substance produced by the liver that indicates systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered as a sustained two-to-three fold increase in some cytokines and CRP.

Strength Training and Inflammation

Flossing, omega-3 fatty acid intake, and low-intensity physical activity help decrease systemic inflammation. However, strength training’s impact on inflammation isn’t as well known.


Researchers at the University of Connecticut recently analyzed the few studies that do exist on the relationship between the two [1].


Microscopic muscle damage occurs during strength training, especially during the lowering phase of a repetition. The researchers found a variety of results with strength training and inflammation….

Does Lifting Weights Cause Inflammation?

As a result of workout-induced muscle damage, inflammation rises in the short term, and the production of several cytokines increases (although not all are pro-inflammatory).


As a whole, the cytokines released right after strength training have two major responsibilities: repair the muscle damage and regulate new muscle growth. Both are positive responses.

Does Weight Training Reduce Inflammation?

Fortunately, strength training also actually improves chronic inflammation. A 12-month study using strength training with overweight women averaging 39 years old showed a decrease in CRP.


A nine-week study featuring young men and women training with heavier weight loads caused a decrease in one pro-inflammatory cytokine.


Strength training also improved CRP in a three-month study with old and young populations. These were just some of the positive results reported by the University of Connecticut researchers.


The researchers did note that intensity was a key factor. A seven-week study of young men showed that heavy resistance strength training improved two anti-inflammatory cytokines to a greater extent than lighter weight strength training. Another important factor was rest. According to one study, when adequate rest isn’t achieved, exercise can be pro-inflammatory.


What is the mechanism causing strength training to benefit chronic inflammation? The researchers stated that muscle gained from strength training increases the body’s daily energy expenditure (metabolism) and insulin sensitivity (a state key to preventing diabetes), and both of those results decrease the requirement for pro-inflammatory cytokines and CRP.

Should You Strength Train or Not With Inflammation?

Overall, strength training increases some acute inflammation markers by breaking down muscle tissue, but those markers lead to long term health benefits by rebuilding the muscle stronger.

Therefore, strength training’s positive effects on chronic inflammation levels are probably part of why it is shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

To maximize your health gains, eat well, train with a challenging strength training program (like slow-motion training!), and get adequate rest between your workouts.

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

1. Calle, M. C., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Effects of resistance training on the inflammatory response. Nutrition research and practice, 4(4), 259-269.


2. Lee, C. H., & Giuliani, F. (2019). The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Frontiers in immunology, 10, 1696. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

Best Exercises for Women over 60 + Workouts To Avoid

Best Exercises for Women over 60 & and The Workouts To Avoid

Woman Running in athletic wear

One of the most common questions we get from someone beginning an exercise routine is “What are the best exercises for me?” 

While there are tons of resources on the best exercises for losing weight or the best exercises for specific conditions, women in their 60s are in a unique time in their life. Not considered a young adult, but just barely considered a senior. Not to mention being post-menopausal and all the bodily changes that come with it. This requires specific guidance.


There are certain requirements for women over 60 to exercise effectively and lose weight. So what
are they?  


There are many factors to consider while answering this question: cardio vs. weight training, what to do and what not to do, how often to exercise, how to lose weight and keep it off, and what’s worked for real-life people.


In this article, we’ll cover it all. 


If you’re a woman over 60 this is for you. If you’re not, well, stick around, you may be able to help someone who is.

 

Jump to a Topic:

weight loss woman over 60

How to Lose Weight in your 60s and Keep it Off

Losing weight in your 40s, 50s, and 60s can prove to be a much bigger challenge than it used to be. Why is that?

There are a few reasons why your post-menopausal body seems to be a bit more resistant to losing weight and keeping it off.

Sleep

Many women during and after menopause have trouble sleeping. Decreased sleep quality and duration can lead to unexpected weight gain.

Hormones

We don’t have to tell you that as a woman, your hormones are constantly going through a wild ride. From menstrual cycles to childbearing and menopause, it can feel like a rollercoaster. Estrogen in particular can be a cause of increased body fat when levels are very low or very high.

Age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia)

Muscle tissue changes from decade to decade, no matter who you are. Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Muscle loss can also contribute to limited physical ability, low energy, and decreased metabolism.

Insulin Resistance

Women naturally become more resistant to insulin as they get older, resulting in an increase in insulin and blood sugar levels. This can lead to additional weight gain.

 

Although these factors may feel like roadblocks to looking and feeling the way you want to, know we have some simple solutions to combat them.

Making changes to your diet and nutrition is a necessary part of making any long-lasting changes to your body. This may take some experimentation and guidance from your Doctor or a Dietician to decipher what works best for you.

As for the exercises, we’ve got you covered.

Strength Training is hands-down the most effective way to combat sarcopenia (age-related- muscle loss). It helps maintain and increase lean muscle mass.

With the addition of lean muscle mass, your body naturally burns more calories, which helps aid in fat loss and sustainable maintenance.

Strength training is also a very effective sleep aid. In fact, just two slow-motion sessions a week can help you to sleep better and longer. AND if that’s not enough, improved sleep helps to steady blood sugar levels, which we know is one of those pesky side effects of getting older.

So, prioritize strength training in order to maintain muscle mass, improve sleep, regulate blood sugar levels and make changes to your diet based on your nutritional needs. (We suggest starting with your protein intake!)

woman over 60 lifting weights with a personal trainer

Should Women Over 60 Lift Weights?

Yes, women in their 60s (and all ages, really) should lift weights. Muscles aren’t a young man’s game. Men and women can gain both strength and muscle at all stages of life.

A big reason why this is so important is muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. Muscle loss can also contribute to limited physical ability, low energy, and decreased metabolism.

Muscle Loss Over Time Infographic

Research shows there are enormous benefits of strength training for women 60 years or older such as:

  • stronger bones
  • improved balance
  • a lower fall risk
  • enhanced memory and focus
  • reduced blood pressure and blood glucose
  • increased protection against the development of many chronic diseases.

Should Women Over 60 Do Cardio?

The short answer – it depends on why you’re doing it. The long answer, we need to dive a little deeper…

Cardio is an aerobic activity that significantly increases the heart rate, thus conditioning the cardiovascular system. The most common cardio activities are walking, biking, running, and swimming.

Many people do cardio with the intent to achieve fat loss, which is not all that efficient. But many others do cardio to meet psychological and emotional needs.

Going for a walk or run can be a great way to decrease stress, clear your mind, enjoy nature and improve your overall feeling of well-being.

A potential problem is that cardio activities create more opportunities for getting injured. High-intensity cardio like running, sprinting, jumping, or anything that involves explosive movement involves high levels of force.

And we know that force is the leading cause of injury in exercise.

Force formula translated for exercise

Because women in their 60s are at higher risk of injury such as falling (WHO), some of these activities might want to be avoided.

Running, jumping or any high-impact activity can also be hard on the joints. Genetics and pre-existing conditions also play a part here. Some of us are blessed with knees that will never give out, making it possible to withstand activities like this, with little to no challenges.

While the rest of us experience joint issues, cartilage loss, or an injury that makes activities like this painful and unsustainable.

If you’re in the latter group, activities like walking and swimming might be ideal for you, especially in your 60s. Both create little to no impact on the joints – and they’re fun!

Slow-motion strength training (SMST) can produce cardiovascular conditioning, fat loss, and muscle strength gain. When doing SMST, there is no need to do cardio or aerobics. But if it's something you like to do, then choosing one that is most enjoyable and safest on the body is ideal.

To answer the question of whether or not women in their 60s should do cardio- here’s our answer:

  • If you’re doing it to lose weight, no. Focus on increasing lean muscle mass with effective strength training and nutrition. This is a much more efficient way to lose fat.
  • If you’re doing it to meet physiological or emotional needs and enjoy an activity that does not hurt or result in injury, then go for it!

As always, partner any aerobic activity with weight-bearing exercises to avoid accelerated muscle and bone loss.

Weekly exercise schedule Monday through Sunday

How Often Should a 60-Year Old Woman Exercise?

It is recommended for women over 60 to exercise twice a week.

When we say exercise, we specifically mean high-intensity strength training. Anything else is considered recreation… and it's important to have both. Read more about exercise vs. recreation to learn the distinction and why it's so important.

Because high-intensity exercise is so demanding on the body, it requires ample time to fully recover between training sessions. By taking more time than necessary to recover, you potentially miss out on time spent doing another results-producing training session!

Training once a week is a good option for some people. Compared to working out twice a week, once a week exercisers can expect to achieve approximately 70% of the results of those who train twice a week.

This may be ideal for someone who has extremely low energy levels, is battling multiple health issues, or has a budget best suited for once-a-week training.

Graph of the body's total recovery resources

On the days in between high-intensity workouts, it is okay to be active and move the body.

Remember when we talked about doing activities that meet psychological and emotional needs? Consider rest days a great opportunity to do those activities and avoid other high-intensity or strength training exercises.

In short, most women over 60 get the best results from working out twice a week, or once every 72-96 hours.

What Are The Best Exercises For Women Over 60?

The best exercises for women in their 60s are ones that are going to help build and maintain muscle mass. These exercises should also be safe on the joints and support bone strength.

Dr. Bocchicchio, a creator of slow resistance training, also states that exercise should be something we can retain throughout a lifetime.

The best exercises should be:

  • Safe: injury and pain-free
  • Efficient: can be achieved promptly, ideally 20 minutes, twice a week
  • Effective: achieve temporary muscle failure and produce measurable results
  • Sustainable: can be done for a lifetime

Several specific strength training exercises are beneficial for a 60-something woman, but we suggest focusing on these 5 impactful exercises: Leg Press, Chest Press, Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl & Abdominals.

Leg Press

The Leg Press Machine is an incredible piece of equipment because it allows you to fully target the biggest muscle groups in the body: the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at bone density changes in women between 65 and 75 years old following a year of strength training.

During the study, the trend of bone loss that comes with age not only stopped but also reversed.

The leg press was the only major lower body exercise performed. In addition, it was credited with helping the lower back, as no direct exercise was performed for the lower back muscles. By improving bone density, the leg press reduces the risk of fractures in high-risk populations… that’s women over 60.

The leg press provides as much or more bang-for-the-buck as any one exercise does.

Chest Press

The chest press is a highly effective way to strengthen the pectorals (chest muscles), triceps, and anterior deltoids. These muscles are critical in lifting movements. Your anterior deltoids are responsible for lifting your arms in front of you.

Holding groceries, blow-drying your hair, lifting a suitcase into an overhead bin, or pushing a heavy door open are examples of activities that can become easier with stronger deltoids.

Chest Press Machine and Anatomy Graphic of muscles

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown could be considered the “leg press” of the upper body.
This exercise targets the Latissimus Dorsi (the “lats” or wings of the back), Trapezius (“traps” or upper back), Pectoralis Major (chest), Posterior Deltoids (shoulders), Biceps brachii (front of the upper arm)

Training the lats improves the shape of your back. As lean muscle tissue is added to the lats, it gives a ‘V’ shape to your back. Gaining muscle in your lats might help make the appearance of “love handles” become less noticeable.

The pulldown also helps improve aesthetics with your arms. The biceps and shoulders are key players in this exercise and will help make your upper arm muscles more defined.

Leg Curl

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves.

These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are partly responsible for walking, squatting and bending the knee.

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement
performed during the Leg Curl. Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs, and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee. The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee and pull your thigh backward (hip extension).

This exercise is crucial in maintaining overall leg strength and function.

Leg Curl Machine and anatomical graphic of muscles

Abdominal Machine

The Abdominal Machine works – you guessed it – the abdominals, specifically the rectus abdominis. Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles. Strong abdominals help with balance and stability in everyday activities, sports (like golf and tennis) and can help to prevent falls.

By consistently doing these big five exercises, you strengthen all the major muscles in the body, creating and maintaining a strong foundation for future workouts and everyday activities.

Exercises Women Over 60 Should Avoid

Are there any exercises that women over 60 should not do? This is not an easy answer, and here’s why…

We know women in their sixties who are thriving, have more energy than ever and are just as strong as they were in their 30s. We also know women in their sixties with decades of injuries, are caretakers for others or are in a fragile state.

A quick Google search will tell you to avoid all heavy lifting or to walk and do water aerobics. We’re not going to do that.

It would be crazy to say that all women 60 to 69 should never do one type of exercise. But for some of the most common injuries or limitations we see in 60-year-old women, there are some exercises to be careful with.

Joint Issues

If you’re someone who experiences joint issues such as osteoarthritis or experiences chronic inflammation, high-impact movements like running, jumping, and burpees are probably not for you.

Shoulder Injury

Postural issues, limited range of motion, rotator cuff injuries – these should all be exercised with care and adjusted to account for the specific injury. Some exercises to avoid or alter are overhead press, skull crushers, full range of motion on chest exercises, pushups, lat pulldown, chest fly, and lateral raises.

We have worked with clients with ALL of these injuries. Most are capable of doing all exercises with alterations. If possible, avoid NOT doing these and work with someone who can help you safely accomplish a workout with a shoulder injury.

Knee Injuries

Injured knees are unfortunately very common in women over 60. However, this does not mean avoiding leg exercises. Finding a way to safely exercise the lower body is extremely important because working the biggest muscles in the body has the greatest overall effect on gaining muscle and bone density… and losing fat.

With that being said, it's vital to know how to do leg exercises with proper form to avoid further injury.

Exercises such as squats and lunges require very specific mechanics to be effective and safe. We recommend only doing those exercises if you’re very familiar with how to do them, or are working with a trained professional.

What about the exercises that are painful, no matter what? We’ve had clients over the years experience discomfort on the leg extension, despite alterations made to their range of motion, seat settings, and amount of resistance. So, we don’t do those!

Pain is a helpful indicator. Anything that hurts, besides the burning of muscles hitting temporary muscle failure, is your body’s way of saying, “Hey, something isn’t right.”

Listen to your body, and remember this rule of thumb: If the exercise isn't safe, it's not worth doing.

Woman over 60 recovering from exercise

The Perfect Workout Case Studies: Exercise Routines for Workouts for Women Age 60-69

For over 20 years we’ve helped more than 40,000 people improve their health and fitness – many being women in their 60s. Each person who works with us has a different body with limitations, a history of injuries, different wants, needs, and goals to achieve. This creates a need for customization.

Below are case studies of real clients and their ideal workouts based on their age, goals, limitations, and preferences. Identifying information has not been included to maintain client privacy.

Woman over 60 exercising with a personal trainer

Client A: Busy 64 Year Old Nurse With Multiple Injuries

64-year-old woman, from Orange County, CA
Works part-time-two 12 hours shifts as a nurse in addiction and psychiatric units. Also cares for her ill mother.

Goals:

  • Increase strength, lean muscle mass, endurance, flexibility, and improve posture
  • Strengthening of the upper body, lower body, strengthen around hips and knees.
  • Wants to be able to do everyday daily activities again without having to compensate for her injuries, ie. squat down, lift to a cabinet for a jar, reach under her sink.
  • Wants to be able to garden again.

Medical:

  • Arthritis/Joint Degeneration – neck, R-hip capsule
  • High Blood Pressure – well managed with medication
  • Joint injury – L-knee ligament, R-hip labrum tear
  • Spinal Injury – C-spine fused C3-6, surrounding discs herniated
  • Thyroid Condition – Hashimoto's thyroiditis
  • Surgeries – L-foot, hysterectomy
  • Low back pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to focus on working the major muscles without straining the neck, a common side effect of this exercise.

Chest Press (vertical grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Avoided for a long time due to spinal injury (neck). Recently introduced with very lightweight to gradual work on range of motion and resistance increase.

Hip Abduction: Targets outer gluteal muscles. Client performs the exercise for approximately 2 minutes, at a slightly lower intensity level to account for labrum tear and arthritis. Back support is included to adjust for spinal injuries.

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip)

Preacher Curl: Targets the upper arms and forearms. Client performs the exercise with a decreased range of motion (3-hole gap ~ 3-inch decrease).

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the abdominals for approximately 1:30-2 minutes. This helps her to engage and fatigue the muscles without overextension or flexion of the spine.

Leg Extension: Targets quadriceps and muscles surround the knee. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Curl: Targets hamstrings. Client performs this exercise about every 4-8 workouts adjusting for left knee ligament injury.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs the exercise with a limited range of motion (sitting further away from the footplate) to account for spinal injuries and knee injuries. Lumbar support is used.

Client B: Very Active Before Injuries

A 63-year-old woman from Chicago, IL
This client used to live a very active lifestyle: walked 20-25 miles a week, did yoga, weightlifting, and pilates.

Goals:

  • Reverse Osteoporosis
  • Be able to go on walks again
  • Build bone density and muscle in thighs and legs
  • Regain strength and fitness level she had before.
  • Improve muscle tone – shoulders, arms, thighs, calves. No timeline. Exercise pain-free!

Medical:

  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Osteoporosis/ Osteopenia
  • Tear in the labrum, where the biceps tendon connects. Doctor says to work on pulling motions*
    • the neck does not have complete ROM in her neck
    • pain when pressing or reaching right shoulder rotated forward

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Compound Row: Targets upper back muscles and arms and helps with *pulling motion. Client performs with palms facing toward each other to keep shoulder joints closed, decreased range of motion (5-hole gap ~ 5-inch decrease).

Hip Adduction: Targets the inner thigh muscles. Client performs an isometric hold, contracting the primary muscles and holding for approximately 1-2 minutes. This allows her to maintain strength without moving the affected joint (hip).

Time Static Crunch: Targets abdominals. Client performs isometric bodyweight exercise alternative to the machine that requires overhead positioning of the arms (shoulder injury).

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Client performs exercise normally, along with lumbar support.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Hip Abduction, Tricep Extension, Leg Extension, and Leg Curl.

Client C: New to Strength Training & Ready to Enjoy Retirement

A 63-year-old woman from Dallas, TX
Recently retired and wants to be able to enjoy vacationing and everyday activities without worrying about getting injured or not being able to “keep up.”

Goals:

  • Lose 50 pounds
  • Wants to be much healthier. Strengthen and tone all over. Get back into shape.
  • Be more active. Have the energy to do her daily activities without feeling winded or like she can't do it
  • She would love to enjoy an upcoming trip by walking everywhere (many steps)
  • Strengthening up legs, toning the upper and lower body
  • Wants to feel more confident and stronger to be able to enjoy life without worrying about hurting

Medical:

  • Two knee replacements
  • Scope on Left knee: scar tissue removed a bundle of nerve fibers located directly below patella
  • Occasional right shoulder pain

Customized Workout:

This Client trains 20 minutes, twice a week for maximum results in the shortest possible time.

Chest Press (Vertical Grip): Targets chest and back of arms. Client performs the exercise with a 4-hole gap, which decreases the range of motion and helps prevent additional shoulder pain. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Abdominal Machine: Targets abdominals. Client performs the exercise with legs out from behind the stabilizing pads and lifts knees slightly up toward the chest. This helps to prevent any additional strain on the knee and can help achieve better muscle-mind connection.

Leg Extension: Targets thighs and muscles surrounding the knee. Client performs exercise normally but does so with caution to avoid any knee pain. This exercise is particularly important to help strengthen her legs for walking and maintain strength around the knee.

Leg Press: Targets all major muscles in the lower body: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves. Feet are placed higher up on the footplate, creating a more open and easier angle on the knee joints. Client occasionally performs an isometric hold toward the lower turnaround of the exercise when experiencing pain or pulling sensations in the knee. This exercise is performed each workout to help aid her goal of overall strengthening and fat loss.

Tricep Rope Pulldown: Targets triceps. Client often performs this exercise instead of Tricep Extension due to shoulder pain in a raised position.

Client also does the following exercises with no major adjustments: Lat Pulldown, Leg Curl Hip Abduction, Hip Adduction, Preacher Curl, and Compound Row.

Summary

You might be thinking, all the roads we’ve taken in this article have led to slow-motion strength training. And while that might be mostly true, it's not the only thing a woman over 60 should ever do to move her body or achieve overall wellness.

Women over 60 can and should be exercising. For the purpose of exercise, high-intensity weight training is recommended. It's safe, effective, efficient, and sustainable for just about every age and injury.

Women over 60 should do cardio activities that bring them joy, stress relief, and socialization. These activities should be safe for the body and not interfere with the true purpose of exercise.

Exercising twice a week is recommended to get maximum strength training results. All other recreation should be done on a desired basis.

The best exercises for women over 60 are compound movements that target the biggest muscle groups in the body, such as leg press and lat pulldown. These help to build and maintain muscle mass, increase bone density, and help with fat loss.

Injuries and limitations should be considered when exercising. Working with a trained professional like a Certified Personal Trainer is ideal when working out around injuries. However, pain is a key indicator of when NOT to do a certain exercise or movement. So, use your best judgement.

The Perfect Workout team with in studio and virtual personal training

If you want more information on how to incorporate slow-motion strength training into your workout routine, we have a free introductory session. If you’d like to know more about how to work with a trainer online, get a free consultation call with a Personal Trainer.

To share this article with someone you know, copy this link and share away!

  • Caretto M, Giannini A, Simoncini T. An integrated approach to diagnosing and managing sleep disorders in menopausal women.
  • Maturitas. 2019 Oct;128:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.06.008. Epub 2019 Jun 28. PMID: 31561815.
  • Fernando Lizcano, Guillermo Guzmán, “Estrogen Deficiency and the Origin of Obesity during Menopause”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2014, Article ID 757461, 11 pages, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/757461
  • Grantham JP, Henneberg M (2014) The Estrogen Hypothesis of Obesity. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99776. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099776
  • Rhodes, E. C., Martin, A. D., Taunton, J. E., Donnelly, M., Warren, J., & Elliot, J. (2000). Effects of one year of resistance training on the relation between muscular strength and bone density in elderly women. British journal of sports medicine, 34(1), 18-22.
  • Mumusoglu S, Yildiz BO. Metabolic Syndrome During Menopause. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2019;17(6):595-603. doi: 10.2174/1570161116666180904094149. PMID: 30179134.
  • Paw, M.J., Chin, A., Van Uffelen, J.G., Riphagen, I., & Van Mechelen, W. (2008). The functional effects of physical exercise training in frail older people: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 38(9), 781-793.
  • Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. (and others) Effects of Regular and Slow Speed Resistance Training on Muscle Strength, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2001, Vol 41, Iss 2. Pp 154-158
  • The Nautilus Book, Ellington Darden, Ph.D., Copyright 1990 Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, P. 85
    Body Defining, Ellington Darden, Ph.D., Copyright 1996 Contemporary Books, Chicago, IL, Pp 19,34,35 4 Peterson JA. Total Conditioning: A Case Study. Athletic Journal. Vol. 56: 40-55, 1975

The Secret to A Successful Workout

The Secret To a Successful workout

Woman experiencing muscle failure

The secret to a successful workout is…

NOT the equipment.
NOT the cold water in between exercises.
NOT even the incredible Trainers. 😲

Though all of those things can vastly improve the quality of your workout, the true secret to getting everything you want out of a training session is this-

Muscle Success.

In this article we discuss the necessity of achieving temporary muscle failure in your workouts and why it's the ultimate goal of every exercise you ever do.

“Muscle Success” should be your goal every time you workout.

By muscle success you might think I mean better tone, firmer muscles, greater strength, or more lean muscle tissue that burns extra calories. Each of those certainly represents a type of success, but I'm referring to something else by the term “muscle success.”

So what do I mean by “muscle success”?

You're pushing or pulling as hard as you can, and the weight refuses to budge even a fraction of an inch because your muscles have become so fatigued. You're attempting to make the weight move, but it's momentarily impossible for you to do so.

If you continue maximally pushing or pulling for several more seconds to make sure you're really at this point of muscle success, you'll have achieved deep momentary fatigue in the targeted muscles. 

Play Video

Why is Muscle Success Important?

It’s when the greatest benefits for your body are stimulated. This deep momentary fatigue in the muscle sends a strong signal to your body that it needs to get stronger, improve muscle tone, and increase your metabolism.

Within certain limits, the deeper you momentarily fatigue your muscles, the greater the changes you stimulate in your body.

But this isn’t exactly easy to achieve on your own. It's certainly a lot easier to quit each set of repetitions before you reach muscle success. Which is why working with a Personal Trainer is so beneficial.

Fatiguing down to this success point during a set of repetitions is not fun while you're actually doing it. It's uncomfortable. Your muscles often vibrate and burn. But it's the best thing you can do to generate results from your training.

The fun part is that each full body workout is only 20 minutes and results that are stimulated from achieving muscle success on each exercise are enormous: 

  1. Greater strength 
  2. More endurance 
  3. Additional calorie-burning lean muscle tissue 
  4. Reversing age related muscle loss (sarcopenia) 
  5. Increased metabolism for how many calories 
  6. Improved fat loss 
  7. Stronger bones 
  8. Reversing aging of muscle cells (express younger DNA in the nuclei) 
  9. Improved cardiovascular fitness 
  10. Improved cholesterol levels 
  11. Lower blood pressure 
  12. Improved low back pain
  13. Better blood sugar control you burn even while you're resting 
  14. Improved immune system 
  15. A number of other benefits 
reasons why muscle success, Man experiencing muscle failure

Even more benefits

I’d like to discuss two benefits of muscle success which aren’t talked about as often: cardiovascular health and an objective way to track your progress. 

The Journal of Exercise Physiology examined the same topic which looked at 157 studies, focused on the cardiovascular benefits provided by strength training to muscle success. 

While strength training in general provides several improvements to the cardiovascular system, the authors noted that many benefits are received or amplified only when training to muscle success. 

For example, after three months of training, men and women of various ages had enduring improvements in overall blood flow due to muscle success. Training to complete exhaustion increased artery size in another study. This is positive as larger arteries are less likely to experience a heart attack-causing blockage in the same way that adding lanes to a highway reduces the chances of having a traffic jam. 

Pushing to muscle success also increases the ability of arteries to expand when blood flow increases, which reduces the stress experienced by artery walls. 

Training to muscle success benefits your health in ways that may not occur if you train with lower intensity and don’t reach that point. 

Muscle Failure infographic

performance tracking

Also, you gain the benefit of an objective assessment of your performance. 

If you reach muscle success when lifting 200 pounds in 60 seconds on the leg press, we have measures of your current ability in regards to your leg and hip strength. 

If you arbitrarily stopped at 60 seconds (sick of feeling “the burn,” bored, etc.), the time you lifted for doesn’t provide us with any objective information. 

Who knows how much longer you could have performed the set for? 

If you train for 70 seconds the following session, we cannot say it’s an improvement – you may have been capable of that performance during your previous visit.

As you see, in addition to improvements in strength and appearance, muscle success stimulates greater changes in your cardiovascular system and gives you a way to objectively measure your progress. Therefore, the next time you encounter the discomfort of the last few reps, keep pushing. I promise: the extra effort is worth it. 

Muscle failure workout data
muscle failure graph for chest press

the magic happens at fatigue

I've experienced firsthand the difference that achieving muscle success can make. Prior to stumbling upon slow-motion strength training in 1992, I used to exercise with traditional methods of weight training for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week – 12 total hours of exercise per week. 

I would rarely (if ever) fatigue to the point of muscle success on any of my exercises -lengthy workouts require pacing yourself with a lower level of effort, which reduces how intensely you're able to train. 

When I tried slow-motion strength training I learned to fatigue all the way to muscle success on every set of each workout, and my results improved dramatically as a result. 

Muscle Failure-Matt Hedman Founder

My superior results were because I'd learned to make my muscles work harder. The higher intensity-pushing harder at the end of each exercise stimulated much better improvements in my body. And because my effort and intensity were significantly higher than before, by necessity my workouts had to be shorter. 

I advocate moving very slowly during every weight training repetition (approximately 10 seconds to lift the weight on each rep). But for results, fatiguing to the point of muscle success is actually more important than how slowly you move. 

Moving slowly during strength training is beneficial for great results too. It's just that reaching muscle success plays an even bigger role for results. Ideally you want to both achieve muscle success and move very slowly on every exercise. 

On each of your exercises as you near muscle success and your repetitions start to get challenging, try to cultivate a mindset of looking forward to the burning and shaking sensations you're experiencing. It’s where the magic happens!

Reference 

Steele, J., Fisher, J., McGuff, D., Bruce-Low, S., & Smith, D. (2012). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure improves cardiovascular fitness in humans: a review of acute physiological responses and chronic physiological adaptations. J Exerc Physiol15, 53-80.