Proper strength training helps shape bodies

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kirsten Wicker
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series of fitness articles that will run throughout the month of May in conjunction with Air Force Fitness Month.) 

The aim of Air Force Fitness Month is to teach Airmen how to set a routine and maintain their fitness level while promoting fitness education. 

A solid strength training program is a step in the right direction when it comes to maintaining a high fitness level, according to fitness officials. 

There are specific things each individual can do to build muscle strength, power and endurance, according to exercise physiologist Patrick Conway, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron. 

To build muscle strength, one must find out how much weight is required to do two to three sets of ten repetitions, with each set becoming progressively more difficult to lift. Mr. Conway recommends determining the maximum weight a person can lift one time by doing a weight test. 

"Add weight until you can only lift it one time without losing form," Mr. Conway said. "Then reduce the weight until you can lift it ten times. More than ten reps is too light and less than ten is too heavy." 

To build muscular endurance, reduce the weight until 14 to 15 reps can be completed in two to three sets. Once a maximum weight is established, most people will see a good improvement over six to eight weeks when they maintain 60 to 75 percent intensity while exercising, Mr. Conway said. 

To obtain the best results, ensure that the exercise is being performed correctly, he said. The fitness center and fitness center annex have trained professionals who are educated on the proper use of the machines and free weights. It's best to make an appointment and take a tour of the equipment to learn how to perform the exercises correctly. 

And lastly, developing muscular power relates to a person lifting a heavy weight quickly and in short bursts. To improve muscular power, Mr. Conway recommends finding a weight that can only be lifted one to four times. A few reps in two to three sets will improve muscular power. 

Performing strength training for each muscle group two times a week with the correct weight and form will make muscles stronger and larger, he said. 

"You should see dramatic improvement in strength in six to eight weeks," Mr. Conway said. "It may take a little longer to see the muscles get larger, but stick with it and you'll begin to see the results." 

The benefits of strength training are many. A strong, fit body will support cardiovascular fitness, as well as the natural movement of the body. Building muscle also helps to burn fat, reducing body fat percentages and lowering the risk for heart disease and some cancers. 

Beginners should start out on the machines to build strength. As strength improves, begin to use free weights to maximize muscular strength, power and endurance, Mr. Conway said. 

"Strength training shapes our bodies quicker than anything else we can do," he said. "It's easier than cardio fitness to maintain and it is a safe activity if you perform the exercises correctly with the correct weight." 

For help understanding the best supplements to maximize strength and fitness efforts, McChord will host a Lunch and Learn event May 19 at 11 a.m. in the Fitness Center Annex. Mr. Conway will be explaining which vitamins and supplements work best and how to make the most out of mealtime. 

The Lunch and Learn is a great opportunity to ask questions about supplements before you buy, said Tanya Henriques, a health education program manager with the 62nd MDOS. 

"There are so many different vitamins, protein powders and supplements out there," Ms. Henriques said. 

"We will emphasize the safe way to build strength through nutrition and also discuss how to buy the right supplement products to get the results that you want." 

To sign up for the Lunch and Learn event, call 982-2088 or 982-5475.