Greater resistance training equals greater strength


February 15, 1994|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

Most athletes in professional team sports train for strength because strength improves almost every aspect of their game. The stronger you are, the faster you can run, the farther you can throw, the higher you can jump and the harder you can push against an opponent.

Exercising against progressively greater resistance makes you stronger. The most common mistake made by competitive athletes is that they train too much, which prevents them from lifting their heaviest weights. Lifting light weights many times prevents maximal strength gains. Endurance training with weights tires you out so you will not have the strength to push against very heavy weights. If your workout includes a bench press of three sets of 10 repetitions at 150 pounds, you will not become stronger by doing five sets of 10 at the same weight. You become stronger by taking at least one workout per week of lifting 160 pounds, even if you can do only one set of 10. However, you should not lift near your maximum weight more often than once a week.

The drugs that some athletes take, by themselves, do not make them stronger, but they help them to recover faster from a workout so they can lift heavy weights more often. Anabolic steroids are altered male hormones that lower blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol and cause heart attacks, liver damage, insane behavior and self-destruction. Beta agonists are drugs that are used to treat asthma. They are potent stimulants that in large doses cause irregular heartbeats, lack of coordination, jitteriness, nervousness, nausea and vomiting. These drugs are banned by the International Olympic Committee.

Q: I'm 62 and have started a regular exercise program, but I worry constantly about having a heart attack. Are there advance warning signs I can watch out for?

A: Heart attacks rarely occur during exercise. Although the vast majority of the following symptoms during exercise will have nothing to do with a heart attack, you should stop exercising if you feel pain in your chest, left arm or shoulder, nausea, dizziness or unusual shortness of breath way out of proportion to how hard you are exercising. Another sign of heart stress is a pulse rate greater than 110 beats per minute 10 minutes after a mild exercise session. If any of these symptoms persist, check with your doctor.

When your heart muscle doesn't meet its need for blood, it hurts and you will feel pain in your chest, left arm or shoulder. When your heart beats irregularly, it may not be able to pump enough blood to your brain and cause you to feel dizzy or nauseous. When your heart does not pump enough blood to your muscles, lactic acid builds up in them and causes you to feel a burning in your muscles and shortness of breath. A healthy heart should be able to recover from mild exercise in 10 minutes. A continued fast pulse rate means that your heart has been stressed beyond its usual demands.

If you exercise regularly, there is little chance that exercise will cause a heart attack. On the other hand, people who exercise only occasionally are more than 100 times as likely as exercisers to develop a heart attack during strenuous exercise. Build up your program gradually and stick to it faithfully for a healthy heart.

Q: I understand why I should cut down on fat, but why is fiber so important?

A: Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and body weight. It prevents constipation, diverticulitis and gallbladder disease. Americans should eat about 35 grams of fiber each day, but our average intake is only 11 grams.

Fiber is found only in plants. Chlorophyll in leaves uses the energy from the sun to combine carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil to form the simple sugar glucose. Then the plants combine millions of glucose units to form fiber, which is the basic structural unit of plants.

When you eat fiber, it cannot be absorbed because only single glucose sugar units can pass from your intestines into your bloodstream. Your intestines do not produce enzymes that are capable of breaking off single glucose units from the fiber molecule.

Fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber forms bulk and keeps food moving.

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

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