2016-02-19

Muscle strength and strength training

I returned yesterday from my thus far annual half-month visit to Japan. One of the pleasures of visiting it is visiting its big bookstores, at lease in big cities - the pleasure totally lacking unfortunately in Israel only with painfully miserable bookstores. I like to stumble upon new books on those topics I never thought about.

The topics that caught my attention this time while I was wondering in my favorite bookstores in Kobe, where I'm based every time I visit Japan, are muscle strengh and strengh training. I stumbled upon (and bought) a couple of books about the correlation between excellence in work and muscle strength. This in turn led me to other books explaining medically the importance of muscle strength, including core stability, for our external and internal health and fitness, especially after the age of 40, when we start losing muscles with the average annual rate of 1% unless we train them.

The first physical exercise I started in my late teens and still continue until today on a regular basis is running. Until I started swimming, another aerobic exercise, several years ago, my focus in physical fitness was exclusively on (cardiovascular) endurance. Running also has developed the muscles of my lower body, but my upper body remained thin. Having seen that swimming could also develop the muscles of my upper body, I started to train my muscles, especially those I can't train through running and swimming, though not so systematically, realizing that muscle strength is far more important than endurance.

Having read about and been convinced of the importance of muscle strength, I've already become not only a more systematic practioner of strengh training - my favorite method of strengh training is the so-called bodyweight strengh training as I can do it anywhere with no special equipment - but also its enthusiastic preacher. My parents, my sister and her husband, none of whom has ever trained their muscles systematically, have already received illustrated guides to bodyweight training as gifts from me. My "poor" S/O has been forced to start receiving my private instruction.

So why is muscle strength so important in a nutshell? As far as I understand from the books I've read, including those by someone who is considered to be the highest authority on muscle physiology, one of the reasons for its importance is that it prevents us from falling accidentally and find ourselves bed-ridden in the last years of our life. On the one hand, we have to keep training our muscles regularly to maitain their strength, but on the other hand, we seem to be able to start developing our muscles at any age. Muscle training seems to be a very worthwhile investment.

Another benefit of muscle strength is that it makes you younger not only externally but also internally. This realization has made me observe other people around me from a totally new perspective. Some people look younger for their age, while others look older, and what makes this difference? Actually, their body shape that is determined by their muscle strength! One can easily tell physically lazy men by their flat chest and sagging buttocks.

There seem to be enough people in Israel who run and/or swim regularly, but it doesn't seem to me that there are enough people here who also train their muscles regularly. It's so sad to see so many old people here who are suffering from their poor physical fitness for a very simple reason - their negligance to invest in their muscles. Just like healthy finance, muscle strength is the result of an informed intellectual decision, and not a chance.

I'll continue preaching this gospel beyong the small circle of my immediate family. And the best means for this end is to be physically fit in muscle strength myself. I'll also stress how convenient bodyweight strength training, it's enough to spend 5-10 minutes each time three times a week or so, and the best time to start muscle training (or anything important in this respect) is now.

PS: One of the best free online resources on bodyweight strength training is Global Bodyweight Training. And my favorite offline reference is Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy.