Greater strength: Lift more weight, don't lift weight more often


November 09, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer United Features Syndicate

If you want to become very strong, you have to lift the heaviest weights that you can. If you work out by lifting 100 pounds 10 times in a row and want to become stronger, you have to train on weights that are heavier than 100 pounds. Lifting three sets of 10 at 100 pounds won't make you as strong as lifting one set of 10 at 110 pounds.

You can become even stronger by lowering weights, because you can lower heavier weights than you can lift. This is called negative lifting. However, you shouldn't lower a weight more often than once a week because lowering causes far more damage to muscle fibers than lifting.

Pick 10 to 20 exercises that will work several different muscle groups. Do the same exercises in each workout, and each week, do an easy, moderate and hard workout.

Make Monday's workout moderate: Lift the heaviest weight that you can lift 10 times in a row for each exercise.

Make Wednesday's easy: Use a weight that is only 85 to 90 percent of what you used on Monday. Since you are lifting lighter weights, you can do more sets with less strain on your muscles. Do three sets of 10 for each exercise.

Make Friday's hard: Start out by lifting the heaviest weight that you can lift 10 times in a row (just like you did on Monday). Then add 5 to 10 pounds. You won't be able to lift the weight, so ask two strong friends to lift the weights and you will try to lower them as slowly as you can six times in a row. Then add 5 to 10 more pounds and lower that weight slowly three times in a row. A word of caution: This workout will hurt, and it can injure you if you are not careful. So stop if you feel severe pain. Allow at least two days to recover and then start the cycle over on Monday.

Q: I went to the health food store and saw a bottle labeled vitamin P (bioflavonoids). What are the health benefits? -- G. R., San Jose, Calif.

A: Until recently, none were known. A recent study written about in the Oct. 23 issue of the British medical journal Lancet showed that Dutch men who take in the most bioflavonoids have the lowest incidence of heart attacks. However, you don't need to get bioflavonoids from pills. They are found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, wine and tea. Previous data shows that men in southern France, Italy and Greece also have very low rates of heart attacks. They and the Dutch may be protected by the bioflavonoids they eat. The French get them from wine, the Greeks and Italians from fruits and vegetables and the Dutch from the tea that they drink.

Over the last 50 years, entrepreneurs have advertised that bioflavonoids cure herpes, bruising, bleeding, colds, cancer and allergies, even though at that time there was no evidence that they offered any health benefits whatever. They called bioflavonoids "vitamin P," but a vitamin is a chemical that is necessary for life and bioflavonoid deficiency has never been reported in humans, although it has been reported in crickets. Therefore, bioflavonoids are vitamins only for crickets.

Most heart attacks are caused by the buildup of fatty plaques in arteries. These buildups obstruct the flow of blood to the heart and eventually stop it completely. Bioflavonoids help to block both steps. Before the bad LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream can form plaques in arteries, it must first be converted to oxidized LDL. Bioflavonoids help to prevent the bad LDL cholesterol from being converted to oxidized LDL.

Q: I am on a low-fat diet to lower my cholesterol. Can I eat an unlimited amount of turkey breast because it is low in fat? -- R.S., Jackson, Mich.

A: Certainly not, even though a 3.5-ounce piece of roasted turkey breast generally contains between 3 and 7 grams of fat, and you are allowed 20 grams of fat on a low-fat diet.

Roasted turkey breast is low in fat, but it is loaded with cholesterol, calories and animal protein, and it is devoid of plant fiber. All of these factors can raise your cholesterol and body fat if you eat too much.

Low-fat diets do not lower cholesterol and body fat unless you also limit your caloric intake. You can defeat your low-fat diet just by eating too much food, since all extra calories beyond your daily requirement is converted to fat by your liver. So, on a low-fat diet, you have to eat a lot of plant fiber. It is the only component in food that contains no calories, and by eating it you deceive your brain into thinking that you are getting calories.

Eating turkey every day puts a large amount of cholesterol and animal protein into your body. They raise your blood cholesterol level, even if you are able to limit your intake of other fats. Many people have the same misconception about eating chicken on a low-fat diet. Roasted chicken breast contains five times as much fat as the same amount of roasted turkey.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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