Practical Exercise Tips for Best Body Shape and Health
There is controversy in the literature about the effects of exercise on testosterone blood levels. Conflicting results may be explained by differences in the intensity and duration of the activity and the physical characteristics of the individual (e.g. age and fitness level).
Relatively short duration intense activity may lead to transient increases in testosterone concentrations. Athletes who train intensively may experience reductions in testosterone levels but not below normal clinical range. This is not necessarily a consistent phenomenon.
The important thing to remember is that when done correctly, exercise can have the following proven benefits that go beyond just looking good:
- Improved muscle function and strength.
- Reduced trunk (belly) fat
- Increased muscle mass
- Decreased LDL (bad cholesterol).
- Decreased triglycerides. Muscle hypertrophy (enlargement) induced by resistance training, may decrease triglycerides in those with high levels.
- Improved mood and decreased stress.
- Increase bone density in men and women.
- Improved aerobic function and lung capacity.
There are some things to consider before you start an exercise program. Get your blood pressure, heart rate, weight, body dimensions, fasting cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar measured. Your doctor should be able to advise you if you are capable of exercising without health risks.
If you feel too tired and weak, start by walking every day to your best ability. Walking can increase your energy levels so you can start a more intensive exercise program as you feel better. Use a cheap pedometer to measure your daily steps; try to reach 10,000 steps a day since that amount has been associated with good cardiovascular health and fat loss.
There are two types of exercise: resistance (weight) training and cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise. Resistance training uses weights to induce muscle growth. Cardiovascular exercise improves your body’s aerobic capacity (the way it uses oxygen). It also increases your metabolism so that you can burn fat, lower your bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower your blood sugar.
Do low-impact aerobic exercise for 20-40 minutes, three to four times a week. Exercises like walking fast, bike riding (stationary or the two- wheeler), stair stepping, and using an elliptical trainer or treadmill are all effective. Switching between different exercises can help keep your interest going. Be careful about aerobic exercise if you are losing weight involuntarily, if you are overly tired or recovering from illness.
Train with weights and machines three times a week for no more than one hour. Starting with machines is the safest way until you get familiar with the exercises. As you feel more confident and strong, bring in free weight exercise (hopefully with the help of a workout buddy). As you get stronger, increase your weights in every exercise. Exercise one body part per week, and do three exercises per body part. One light warm-up set and two heavier sets of eight to ten repetitions to momentary muscle failure (until you cannot do another rep) are enough for each exercise. If you do not have access to a gym, do push-ups on the floor and squats holding books or large bottles full of water at home. As long as you are “resisting” your own body weight, you are doing resistance exercise.
Important Things to Remember
- Learn how to do each exercise correctly. Concentrate on using strict form to get the most out of each exercise and to prevent injuries.
- Make sure your muscles are warm before targeting them with more challenging weights. Warm them up with a light, high-repetition exercise set.
- Don’t use your body to add momentum; cheating this way takes work away from the targeted muscles. Use a deliberate speed to increase the effectiveness of the movement.
- Use a full range of motion on all exercises. Feel the muscle stretch at the bottom and go for a momentary peak contraction at the top. Don’t go too fast!
- Warm up before you work out and stretch afterwards to prevent injury. Briefly stretch the major muscle groups before your training. This helps flexibility and muscle recovery.
- Feel the muscles working by keeping your head in what you’re doing. Focus on your muscles contracting and relaxing. Concentrate on your body exercising, not on random thoughts or people around you.
- If the weight is too light (more than 12 repetitions), try using a heavier one or do the movement more slowly and really feel the contraction. You should be barely able to finish the tenth rep if your weight is the right one. Of course, as you get stronger with time, increase your weights.
- Keep rest periods to no more than about 20-30 seconds, or shorter, depending on how tired you are from your last set. This will also help to give your heart a mini-workout.
Always remember -- safety first! If something you do in an exercise hurts, stop! Ask for help to figure out what you’re doing wrong. Maybe it’s improper form. If you hurt yourself, you will hinder your progress because you won’t want to work out. Learn proper form! Do not exercise if you feel you are coming down with a cold.
If you can afford it, join a gym. If you spend the money, you’ll be more likely to stay with it, and consistency is the key to success in any exercise program. Also, try to find someone who is enthusiastic to train with, or get a personal trainer (if you can afford one). It’s easier to stay motivated when you train with someone else who has a vital interest in your mutual success. It’s also safer to have someone to spot you when you lift heavy weight.
Working out for more than an hour can cause overtraining which can destroy your muscles and decrease your strength. Overtraining is probably the factor most ignored by exercise enthusiasts. Prolonged exercise (overtraining) may lead to suppression of testosterone levels, possibly lasting up to several days.
In order to build muscle the body has to receive a stimulus, a reason, to grow bigger (hypertrophy). It’s really very simple: the body only does what it needs to do, what it is required to do. It isn’t going to suddenly expand its muscle mass because it anticipates needing more muscles. But if it is challenged to move weights around, it will respond by growing.
Another way to look at it is, if you take any bodybuilder and put him in bed for weeks at a time, he’ll begin to rapidly lose muscle mass because the body will sense that it doesn’t need the extra muscle any more. By lifting weights one delivers the needed stimulus to begin muscular hypertrophy.
However, overdoing exercise stresses out the body and actually initiates the process of breaking down muscle mass as the body begins to burn its own muscles to use for fuel. This overtraining is why so many people don’t grow at a satisfying rate. Even worse, these same people often will think they aren’t training hard enough. They increase their exercise routines, thinking they just need more stimuli! And this is where the biggest error is made -- more is not necessarily better! It seems paradoxical that you could work out less and grow more, but this is very often the case.
Any exercise beyond that which is the exact amount of stimulus necessary to induce optimal muscle growth is called overtraining. I know this sounds nonspecific but the idea is that it will vary from person to person. You need to listen to your body.
A Workout Log Is Recommended
The best reason to keep track of your workouts is so that you can see graphically what you are accomplishing. You will be able to see whether you’re gaining strength at a reasonable rate. You can also analyze your pattern to see if you’re overtraining. You will find when you log your workouts, that if you are overtraining, you won’t be gaining in strength or muscle size. Document your workouts by keeping track of the weight you lift and the amount of reps you lift for each exercise. Then when you go in to train again the next week, you’ll know what you are trying to improve upon. If you find out that you’re weaker than you were the time before, and everything else like nutrition, etc. is in line, you may be training too often. For downloading workout logs, visit: www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/WorkoutLogs.html
Food and Hydration
Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to keep hydrated. Dehydration can rob you of energy for your workouts. Drink plenty of water while working out. Avoid sugary drinks, since they will cause fatigue after an initial burst of energy. Some people like to drink green tea or creatine supplements in water before a workout to help increase energy levels through a workout.
A light carbohydrate meal (fruits, carbohydrate drinks, etc.) before a
workout and a protein-rich one afterwards is advisable. Keep yourself well hydrated with plenty of water throughout the workout. And get plenty of rest afterwards.
Do not work out right after eating a regular meal; wait at least two hours. If you need a snack, have some fruit and a slice of toast with peanut butter one hour or more before working out. Do not consume protein shakes before working out (leave them for after the workout). Digestion will slow down your workouts and bring your energy down. Within 30-60 minutes after the workout, feed your muscles with a balanced meal containing protein, good fats (olive oil, flaxseed oil), and complex carbohydrates, like fruits and whole grains.
Supplements like glutamine, creatine, and whey protein may be a good thing to consider. A shake containing one heaping tablespoon of glutamine, two tablespoons of Omega 3 oils, one or two scoops of whey protein, some fruit, and milk (if you are lactose intolerant try almond or rice milk, though not soy, since it may increase estrogen in both men and women), provides a good balanced meal after a workout.
Homed Economical Exercise Helpers
I love the following three cheap devices:
1- An exercise (medicine) ball and elastic bands. You can get one at $14 at
Target or any retail store. Make sure it comes with its own pump You can use these work outs: www.myfit.ca/exercisedatabase/search.asp?muscle=Ball&equipment=yes
2- I love the chin-up (pull-up) bars that you can install on door frames. Here is one that you do not have to install and you can move around: www.amazon.com/Creative-Fitness-DG-Door-Gym/dp/B00029A7C0
3- Get yourself a cheap pedometer in any store to make sure you wear it from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. Ensure that you reach close to 10,000 steps a day for best aerobic capacity. I like the Omron-HJ-
150-Hip-pedometer available at amazon.com
Two of the best websites for video clips of exercises and an explanation of
You can also find most exercise routines explained in videos on our channel.