Monday, October 16, 2006

"Body" -> Cool Tools For Lifting

Here's the next cool tool in the arsenal.

In the photo to the right, we have my set of Powerblocks. Powerblocks are nothing more than dumbbells. I happened to get these at about 1/3 of the retail price since I got them used. However, while I'll talk about the blocks in this posting, you certainly don't need Powerblocks to lift some weights.

As the human body ages, we start to lose muscle. This is called sarcopenia. This loss of muscle mass is true for virtually everybody, and it is why old people get so frail and fragile. If you are in your 40's, chances are that you are fighting the early stages of sarcopenia.

Our flesh has some nasty tricks about how it is put together. You can take two people, and with their clothes on, and they may look built exactly the same. However, if you could x-ray them, you could find one that is composed of a lot of muscle, and the other is composed of a lot of fat.

Now, I don't have a good online reference photo, but I've seen pictures of the aging human, and as we age, we are the two people I spoke of above. Let's say that when you were 20, you were 165 pounds. Now that you are older, you are still 165 pounds. However, unless you've fought sarcopenia, you will find that the muscle has been replaced with fat. You may even look like the same body type.

The exercise physiologist call out that we must look at the Lean Body Mass (LBM) or the Fat Free Mass (FFM) of any individual to really figure out what type of shape that they are in. As you age, the FFM goes down as a natural effect. Now, even worse, our bodies may put on even more fat than fat free mass, and your dwindling muscles must put up with the insult of carrying more of a load than when you were young.

Generally, this is a bad thing as less muscle mass lead to many things including reduced immunities, more brittle bones, and greater chances of fractures.

So how do you fight this?

The wonder drug is "lifting weights."

But obviously, you need to be young, right?

The answer is no, as this study, featuring elderly (mean age 80 years old) and frail individuals, state. As a matter of fact, the more that you read the studies, the more you'll realize that lifting weights is the one thing that every old person should do. Shame on us, in many ways, for telling our parents to "sit down and take it easy." If our parents or grand parents stop getting up, they will find out that at some stage they can't get up at all. Taking it easy means not taking it at all.

Now, mind you, the older you are, means that you are not lifting to gain muscle mass, but keep from losing it. Although, almost everybody will gain some mass if they are starting up after being inactive. Generally, the younger you are, the more you will gain.

There is a lot of evidence that as you age, you should also think about taking it slow and easy into the routine. You can really hurt yourself if you go at it fast or too hard. Tendons and bones increase strength, but at a much slower rate than muscle. So spend a year toughening your tendons.

Finally, back to the Powerblocks. I love them, because it has a very cute pin assembly that allows you to instantly change the weights from 5 lbs to 85 lbs. (See the photo to the side.) Simply slip in the pin, and the right number of plates will be picked up. Now the plates come in 10 lb increments, which is fine for me, but with just little more work, you can slip in a round weight to increase 5 lbs at a time. You will also need a lifting bench.

If you really want to go on the cheap, you can pick up handles and plates down at Wal-mart and build whatever weights you need for your routine.

And speaking of my simple routine, well that will need to wait for another post.

No comments: