Lifting heavy things every once in a while IS absolutely necessary to longevity, health, and “taking care of your body”. No matter your age or your gender.
Only lifting heavy things creates structural adaptations in muscle and bones to keep us strong and resistant to injury for our entire lives. You may not be thinking the same thing when I say “intense strength training”, but my routine is far from intense. I spend between 30-45 minutes, M-F lifting weights. I see progression each week. Consistently. But the only intense part is that it’s hard work, and I train to failure. There are many ways to train, but you need to realize that taking care of your body the right way is not ever going to be easy. If you want to be lazy and not work hard, your goals will be severely hampered.
If you’re a woman, and you are concerned about “getting bulky” or looking “too intense”, take a gander at these videos of natural women lifters. It’s their livelyhood to lift weights, yet in the absence of steroids, they just look like they are in great shape. You wouldn’t even look twice if you saw them on the street ( I would, but for reasons I won’t say 😉 ).
Notice how all these lifts are functional, meaning that they assist your every day life and ability.
For comparison, here’s a couple videos of “jacked up” women bodybuilders. The movements they are doing are not as functional, and are focused on “getting big”.
Notice how there is no agile athleticism involved in these movements. These two are focusing on individual muscles for size, and not utilizing skill techniques that would actually be useful in real life.
Now why is lean muscle mass so important?
Our ultimate goal in eating a functional Paleo diet and moving around a lot is to achieve positive gene expression, functional strength, optimal health, and extended life expectancy.
Lean body mass is healthier than adipose tissue. Generally, the more lean mass a person has, the longer and better they live. But to simply increase lean mass to get “bulky” at the expense of agility and function is counterproductive. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We are talking about functional, sexy, lean mass.
Have you ever heard the phrase “died of old age” or “died of natural causes”? Basically that means the person died as a result of the end of the logical aging process, the diminishment of organ reserve and muscle mass that once supported their functional life.
Muscle provides a metabolic reserve!
Muscle produces proteins and metabolites in response to physical trauma. This response is essential to the body’s efforts to achieve recovery and resume homeostasis. With the loss of muscle mass, we lose this metabolic reservoir. Lifting heavy things also causes a poitive adaptation in bone tissue. Heavy loading causes your body to react, depositing more calcium where you need it most. If you want to prevent osteoperosis and bone fractures, especially if you are a woman, heavy lifting early in life will help you reach that goal of stronger bones and a life resistant to injury.
Organ reseve refers to the functional capacity of our organs to support life. Interestingly, lean muscle mass and organ reserve have a correlation: skeletal muscle mass and organ reserve tend to correspond throughout life.
The diminishment of organ reserve and lean muscle mass is somewhat genetically influenced, but the expression of your genes depends on the interaction between your genetic blueprint and your personal environment and lifestyle. This means that our efforts throughout life to build and maintain muscle mass tend to improve or retain not just muscle mass but the function of other tissue as well, including the function of vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. And vice-versa. It’s a widely accepted assertion that 75 percent of our health and life expectancy after age 40 is determined by environmental factors, including the impact of our daily lifestyle choices. Now there’s a reason to get off the couch.
What are the best ways to maintain lean body mass throughout life?
- Prevent inflammation by eating a Paleo/Primal/Caveman diet
- Eat plenty of protein
- Get healthy fats. They enhance muscle protein synthesis! And prevent inlammation.
- Limit toxin exposure from the environment and your food.
- Exercise and lift heavy things!
Men and women should work out the same way,
as long as you have the same goals: functional strength, promoting lean body mass over fat mass, and improving overall health. Hormonal differences between men and women, as well as diet, will change how your body reacts to heavy lifting, but the end result is the same: increased strength to body weight ratio that is crucial to long term health and fitness, muscle that makes sense, fat burning muscle that fits you. Muscle that will preserve your good looks and shape for your entire life!
Check out these older-age CrossFitters. They are all over 50! And they will continue to feel and look great for a long time following Paleo diet and lifting heavy things!
You can also check out these really amazing success stories at Marks Daily Apple. There are a ton of men and women of all ages (many over 50) who have made drastic changes in health and body composition. I can tell you one thing…they look a lot better than those “Weight Watchers success stories”.
They do basic strength exercises that focus on function and aesthetics. Those women do not look “bulky”. And those guys look like they are in pretty damn good shape. I think they are setting themselves up for long term health and resistance to injury, don’t you?
Got more questions? Something I missed? Let me know below!