Strength Training – Something to Think About, and then Do

Something to Think About, and then Do is a series of articles to inform you about training and exercise concepts and to provide ways of bringing them into your daily life. So far, you’ve read about core, posture, glute amnesia, cardio fitness, hydration, balance and the importance of moving.  Now we discuss strength training.

Our eighth installment is about Strength Training.

I’d like to start with a few basic principles. First and foremost, strength training is for everyone. Second, strength training is an enabler of balance, coordination, and good health. Last but not least, building strength builds confidence.


What is strength training?

Also known as resistance training, it is the use of muscle force against some form of resistance. You can do strength training with nothing more than your
body weight, as with squats, pushups, crunches and planks. The resistance can be enhanced and intensified by using equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or weight stacks on an exercise apparatus; also everyday objects at home can be used for resistance, like a gallon of juice or milk, a bag of groceries or even a child or a pet (I remember doing flying angel leg extensions with the weight of my daughters). With or without equipment, there are hundreds of workouts that can accommodate all levels of fitness and fitness goals. Strength training has been found to have a number of positive effects on your health and well-being, as identified in scientific studies conducted over the decades and that continue today:

• Improving strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments
• Improving balance, coordination, and injury prevention
• Building strong bones by increasing bone density
• Increasing lean muscle mass, reversing the effects of muscle loss that come with
sedentary behavior and aging
• Increasing metabolism, burning more calories throughout the day
• Improving range of motion and joint flexibility
• Controlling blood sugar level

Increase Confidence

In addition to all that, strength training increases confidence. When you are stronger you can do more for yourself. You feel better about yourself. You might even sleep better. Sound too good to be true? Hear about transformations some of our members (your friends and neighbors) have experienced. Many of their stories have been recorded and can be found here and on our Facebook page.


Strength Training Programs

Whether you are new to strength training or you want to enhance your workout, we have a number of offerings for all levels, ranging from one-on-one, to small groups of 8-10, to larger classes. As always, we are here to help you find the right approach for your personal goals.  Click Here for frequently asked questions about our Strength Training Programs!


Click Here to Learn More!

Vive la resistance!

Lean Muscle IS Your Friend

Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

Strength training = Lean muscle tone

I want to take some time this week to talk about the link between strength training and body composition: two of my all-time favorite subjects. During this July, which is body composition month, I want to try to dispel some common myths regarding the effects of strength training. Many people, both women and men, have a fear that strength training will result in “bulking-up”. Unfortunately, there are a large percentage of people who miss out on all of the wonderful benefits of strength training due to this concern. In fact, strength training often results in a leaner more toned look (the opposite of bulky) and will improve your body composition by simultaneously increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat percentage. Strength training even helps you burn more calories when you are not in the gym. How, you may ask?

Cardio or Strength Training for Higher Calorie Burn?

First of all, muscle mass is metabolically active. Muscle burns more calorie pound for pound than fat, some estimates place muscle calorie burn at 50 calories/pound/day while fat only burns 3 calories/pound/day. This is a huge difference! Increasing your lean muscle mass even slightly will have profound effects on your daily calorie expenditure even on days you don’t make it to the gym. Another benefit of strength training is that your body tends to burn more calories for the 24-48 hours after a strength session than it does after a cardio session. So for all of you counting calories, while an hour on the treadmill may look like it will result in more calories burned than an hour lifting weights, the long-term calorie expenditure of strength training will often be greater. I encourage you all to take advantage of these benefits of strength training. Aim for at least two strength sessions a week. We have great options for strength training from Targeted Training to TRX. Your body (and your body composition) will thank you!

It is a BIG one

It is a BIG one

Personal Training Director, Jay McWilliams

Guess what? It’s my favorite month of the year….. STRENGTH MONTH! If you have been following my newsletters, you know how important full-body resistance training is to achieving all of your health and wellness goals. The benefits are countless: from increased metabolism, to decreased risk of fractures, to better cognitive function. If you do one thing for yourself this year, make it adding two to three days of strength training to your routine. A new 8 week cycle of Targeted Training is beginning May 28th, and this is a great way to begin a consistent strength routine. Please find below a description of Targeted and some answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

Targeted Training provides a middle ground between personal training and group classes, by offering strength training in 8 week programming cycles, in a well-planned progression to groups of up to 6 participants. You will receive the attention to detail, individualized coaching and support found in training, while still enjoying the camaraderie of a small tightly knit group, all at a much more affordable price tag than personal training. Each 8 week progression offers full-body strength training using a variety of equipment, including barbells, cable-machines, kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands. You will track your progress over the course of the 8 weeks on a personalized tracker sheet. Most participants are able to see concrete improvements in strength over the course of the program. In fact, the majority of participants continue with the program for months to years and continue to reap the strength benefits. After the 8 week cycle of training, there will be an additional make-up week; to allow those who had to miss 1-2 sessions during the program a time to make-up these work-outs. At that point current participants are allowed to sign-up for the next cycle before it opens up to the general community. To maximize the benefits of the program, we highly recommend twice a week attendance, but once a week attendance is possible. Each session allows a maximum of 6 participants, ensuring a good training environment and plenty of one-on-one coaching from the trainer.

Targeted Training Frequently Asked Questions:

I am a beginner at strength training, is Targeted a good fit?

Yes! Targeted has the ability to be much more customizable than group classes and all levels, from beginner to advanced, can work out together and challenge themselves appropriately. One of the most rewarding aspects of Targeted is seeing your progress over the 8 weeks, which we track on a strength training tracker sheet. Beginners will be shocked by how much they can progress in these 8 weeks, and often report feeling encouraged and inspired by more advanced participants. It is a warm and compassionate environment with everyone supporting each other.

Do I really need to attend twice a week?

The program is designed for twice a week attendance and you will get the most out of the program if you are able to attend twice per week. However, if this is not possible in your schedule, you can attend once per week. If you are only coming once per week, it will be critical to complete 1-2 days of full-body strength training on your own outside of class.

Why is this an 8 week program?

We have found that eight weeks is a good amount of time to focus on a “micro-cycle” of training progressions, and this provides an easy way to allow new participants to enter the program at designated times. However, most participants continue to attend Targeted training for months to years; there are some members who have been doing Targeted twice a week steadily for three years and they have the strength gains to prove it! The program is designed to be used as a long-term progressive strength training program divided into 8 week cycles.

I have an injury I am rehabilitating from, is Targeted right for me?

Targeted training has worked wonders for many participants with injuries and physical limitations. The small group environment and one on one coaching allow for safe effective strength training for those with some limitations. Personal training may be a better option if you are very restricted by your doctor or physical therapist, or if your goal is a more specific rehabilitation program for a certain body part. But, if you are looking for full body strength training while working around an injury, Targeted is a great option.

Why is there an additional cost for Targeted?

Targeted training fits more in the realm of small group personal training than group classes, and due to the small group size and level of attention it is an excellent value. At less than $20/session it is a fraction of the cost of personal training. You will also have the opportunity to utilize equipment that is not available to group class participants. We encourage you to speak with current Targeted participants and ask them about the value of the program.

Upcoming Targeted Schedule

Targeted Strength Training: Traditional Program

Monday/Wednesday: 8:30-9:30am, 5:30-6:30pm, 7:00-8:00pm

Tuesday/Thursday: 6:30-7:30am, 11:30-12:30pm, 6:00-7:00pm

Introduction to Weight Training (Female only)

Saturday 12:00PM

This class is designed for women who are new to strength training and are interested in learning the fundamentals of the three primary barbell lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Taught in a supervised and small group of women only, this class will help you find your strength and properly and safely execute the major barbell lifts. No prior weight training experience is required. If you’ve ever been curious about powerlifting and wondered, ‘can I do that?’, then this is the class for you. Come learn how to lift with the camaraderie and support of your fellow strong women! Each class will begin with a warm-up to properly prime your movement patterns and work on mobility prior to lifting. This class will follow a workshop-style – the first half of the class will cover the basic cues, setup, and execution of the lift, and the second half will include a weightlifting circuit incorporating the lift of the week. We will learn the basic movements using kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands, and work our way up to the barbell lifts.

Women’s Intermediate Weight Training

Saturday 11:00AM

This class will cover the fundamentals of the three primary barbell power lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Taught in a supervised and small group of women only, this class will help you find your strength and properly and safely execute the major barbell lifts. In addition to barbells, this class will use a variety of equipment including kettlebells, dumbbells, cable machines, and resistance bands for a well-rounded full body strength training program. Come discover why so many women are switching up their old gym routines and changing their body composition with barbell training! This class is recommended for those who have some prior weight training experience but are looking to take your experience to the next level, or fine tune your barbell lifting techniques and increase your strength.

Once you have registered, we will email you with instructions to either sign up for Targeted on your own, or set up a one on one consult to discuss the targeted program and figure out if it is the right fit for you.

Weight lifting is not just for men

Weight lifting is not just for men

Weight Lifting Does Not Have To Be A “Testosterone” Filled Environment Here at 50/50 there are more women strength training now than ever before. The days of only attending aerobics, jogging on treadmills, and lifting pink 3lb dumbbells are long and gone.
In general, most women at any age loathes strength training. While about half do the recommended amount of aerobic activity each week, only 20% also do the muscle-strengthening exercises of weight training. Yet the research has concluded the benefits, from bone protection to disease prevention, and it appears to have some special benefits to women.
Weight lifting builds muscle and is the only kind of exercise that increases lean muscle mass. And one of the very few ways to make bones denser, a benefit especially important for women of all ages. Over time, bone gets less dense and more brittle and prone to osteoporosis, a condition that affects many women. Women have smaller, thinner bones than men from the start, and after menopause women lose estrogen, a hormone that protects bones. There are a host of other benefits reducing risk factors for several diseases. Weight training increases lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolism making the body more durable against many diseases. Not to mention making it easier to change body composition, for those looking to reduce body fat.

Click here to read about the Importance of Balance Training!

What does it mean to increase strength?

Okay, so hopefully all of you are fully convinced of the benefits of strength training. Now let’s get in to the nitty gritty details of the different types of strength training: muscular strength, muscular power, muscular hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. Think of these categories from the stand-point of your end goal. What is your training intent? Are you looking to increase overall strength? Improve your explosive movements for your tennis game? Look more defined in your bikini? Or, improve your time for your next ultramarathon? These are all example of goals that would be best served by one particular style. Now how do you implement these styles of training to achieve these goals? Let’s break in down….

Muscular strength is best trained by using a heavier weight (80-100% of 1 RM for advanced strength trainers) for 2-6 sets of 1-8 reps. Notice the repetitions per set are low, and the recovery is long, up to 3 minutes between sets. Training like this is the fastest way to improve your base level of strength, but may not give you the body of your dreams in a short amount of time. Training for muscular hypertrophy will result in more defined individual muscle groups, taken to its extreme training for muscular hypertrophy along with an incredibly strict diet will result in a body-builder appearance. However, for most of us training for muscular hypertrophy will result in a more toned appearance, something that many desire. 99.9% of us do not have the genetics to achieve the Arnold Schwarzenegger look! This involves training individual muscle groups with a higher weight (70-100% of 1 rep max) for about 3 sets of 8-12 reps with shorter rests.

Training for muscular power involves using a light load ((0-60% of 1RM) but involves explosive movements, such as box jumps. Improving muscular power is desirable for many different types of athletes, especially when speed and jumping are involved. This type of training is effective, but needs to be utilized carefully to avoid injury. Training for muscular endurance will result in increased levels of overall fitness and endurance, but is not as effective at increasing your base level of strength. Muscular endurance is achieved by using lighter weights for higher repetitions, up to 25 per set, with minimal rest. Now how do you decide which is best for you? This is where working with a personal trainer, who can assess your areas of strength and weakness will really help. For those taking classes, most of the classes (i.e. Tabata, Spin and Strength, and Fit Camp) fall on the muscular endurance side of the spectrum. Targeted Strength and Conditioning incorporates more muscular strength and hypertrophy. Now remember, any strength training is good, but to achieve a desired result you need to make sure you are training in the most efficient way. When you train with an intent in mind, your results will improve dramatically.

Time to get Stronger!

Guess what, it’s Strength Month! My favorite. In coming weeks, I will discuss principles of strength training in greater detail, but today I just want to touch on some of the many benefits of strength training. You know exercise is important to your long-term health and well-being, and you probably know your routine should include some weight or strength training… but do you know why? Weight training strengthens muscles so they can support you through all of your activities, throughout your lifespan. If you don’t build and maintain your muscles, there’s a host of negative effects such as loss of muscle mass and bone density, and increased risk of falls. But, let’s keep things positive today. Here are some of the more fun and interesting benefits of strength training: decreased cancer risk, increased IQ (really!), decreased risk of anxiety and depression, better sleep, and a more positive attitude throughout the work day. How much strength training do you need to do to get these benefits? As few as 2-3 full body sessions per week will cause you to reap these rewards. This still leaves you plenty of time for your favorite spin class, or to try our new Yoga class on Sundays. You do not have to strength train every day to see these positive effects.

Here at 50/50, we want to ensure you that it is one or our six focal points of health and wellness. Staying strong is important for everyone, and increases the chances of enjoying a long, healthy and vigorous life. There are many ways to incorporate strength training into your routine. For more traditional strength building, Fit Camp, Targeted Strength and Conditioning, and Personal Training are great options. For muscular endurance, TABATA and Spin and Strength are fun classes to get your heart pumping and work your muscles. For those of you newer to strength training, I highly recommend personal training. Not only will you get the one on one attention needed to ensure correct form, but you will also receive a full-body assessment and a plan of corrective exercise to address imbalances that may otherwise hold back your progress.

However, you chose to incorporate it, I challenge all of you (yes, especially you spin aficionados) to incorporate 2-3 days of strength per week for the next month. Your body and mind will thank you!

Strength training IS for everyone

What does fake news look like in our industry?

Today with social media, the internet, and many other outlets of information, it can be challenging to realize what information is reliable and what is not.  Whether its information about diet, strength training, injury prevention, or the best recipe for Angel Food Cake.  Today, I want to demystify a myth sometimes thrown around gyms…Lifting weights is bad for the joints…Lifting weights is going to hurt your shoulder, elbows, back…
Yes, with bad form or advancing too quickly, accidents and injury can happen with wight training.  All sorts of things can happen with any exercise, ask a runner who gets shin splints or runner’s knee. You don’t have to add weights to your workout to get injured. Quite the opposite, weight training has a protective effect on your joints.
The Arthritis Foundation states: “Strong muscles support your joints. If you don’t have enough muscle, your joints take a pounding, especially your spine, hips, and knees, which must support your entire body weight. Weight training exercises help build muscle and keep your muscles and surrounding ligaments strong. That way, your joints don’t have to do all the work.”
Exercise Physiology for Health, mentions: “By stressing your bones, weight lifting stimulates them to grow thicker and stronger. Weightlifting can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis and can slow or even reverse the progression of existing osteoporosis. Stronger muscles also support your joints.”
As an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, I always like to discuss the industry standards to help support my opinion:  The American College of Sports Medicine, recommends performing resistance exercise, including lifting weights, two to three days per week. ACSM suggests (2-4 sets) per exercise, and (8-12 reps) per set to build strength and (10 to 15 reps) to develop muscular endurance.
Well, don’t just take my word for it.  Read what one of our favorite Targeted Strength and Conditioning members, Lisa Connolly, has to say about the topic:
Before joining 50/50 fitness I always found a way to avoid upper body exercises in my workout routines. After undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries, I became afraid that any wrong movement would set me back. So, to prevent re-injuring myself, I thought it was better to be safe and avoid it. All of this changed when I walked through the doors at 50/50.
I found confidence each class I took and began to look for a new challenge that fit with my schedule. It was recommended that I try Targeted Strength and Conditioning, and I am so grateful that I did. Since joining Jay’s program, I have seen huge improvements with my shoulders. Not only has my shoulder stability improved, but also the lingering pain has subsided since I began to strengthen the surrounding muscle groups. I have also regained some range of motion that I never thought I would get back.
It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that keeps me coming back to Targeted each week. Everyone in the class is extremely supportive and I continue to feel stronger overall, after each class. Jay takes his time to demonstrate each exercise, reviews how your body should be positioned, and makes sure you are completing each exercise with perfect form. He coaches you every step of the way and recognizes when you are ready for a new challenge. I would highly suggest Targeted Strength and Conditioning for anyone who is considering it. This program has been highly beneficial for me.
Lisa has reaped the positive benefits of strength weight training, demonstrating how strong muscles support (even injured) joints. So, the take-home message is don’t be afraid of weight training. It is appropriate for everyone! The key is exercising with proper form and a safe progression. Personal training and Targeted Strength and Conditioning are a great way to ensure you have the support you need to be safe.

Let’s talk about rest! Ahhhh….

Once Halloween hits it seems like life becomes a roller coaster ride until the New Year. Many of us are in the go-go-go mentality of maintaining our work and/or school commitments along with having the added responsibilities of holidays, family, and entertaining. While there is a lot of joy this time of year there is also an equal amount of stress. One of the great lessons we can take from strength training is that, in order to push hard, we need to make time for recovery. Traditional strength training work-outs are divided into sets of exercise consisting of a certain amount of repetitions, each set is followed by a period of rest. The rest period is just as important as the working period. Taking the adequate rest between sets is absolutely essential to making progress with our strength training. Often we fail to give the rest period in our life the importance it deserves. This is detrimental to the progress we make both in and out of the gym.

There are a myriad of different strategies when it comes to work/rest intervals. The ratio will often depend on your goals for strength training: some people lift to improve muscular endurance for long distance events, some people lift to increase there lean muscle mass and rev up there metabolism, some people lift for muscle hypertrophy and developing a particular body part of interest, others lift for pure strength building. A general rule is that the heavier you lift (or the higher percentage of your one rep max to be technical about it) the longer your rest period needs to be. For example, power lifters may rest for upwards of five minutes between sets. Most of us at 50/50 aren’t lifting heavy enough to require this much rest, so typically a 1:1 work:rest ratio is very effective when we are lifting. This will seem like a lot of rest to many of you, but I promise it is effective. The key is truly picking a weight that challenges you in the 6-12 rep range, meaning the last two reps are very difficult (but not impossible) to complete with proper form. For those of us who thrive on pushing ourselves to the max every second of every day this rest thing can be very challenging at first, but I swear that the endorphin rush you get from a well executed dead-lift or bench press will rival any runner’s high.

When we think about our body’s need for rest and recovery our mind often go towards yoga and stretching, which are great for your body and I highly encourage you to participate in these activities. But, I want to challenge you to think of this need for rest and the importance of rest in all your work-outs, particularly your strength training. Use this rest time to mentally prepare your body, coach yourself through proper form in your head, visualize yourself executing the move, and congratulate yourself on making progress towards your goals. Mindful strength training is effective strength training, and rest is an essential part of this equation. Take a deep breath and say ahhhh……

Jay McWilliams C.S.C.S

Targeted Strength and Conditioning gets a New Look!

Targeted Strength and Conditioning: Looking back and the road ahead!
Wow, I cannot believe this small group offering Targeted Strength and Conditioning has been taking place for a year and a half now! What a time full of positive experiences and transformations.  Thank you to everyone that has and still is participating.  I am excited to offer some new changes and developments to this program.
It is quite amazing to think that this program started with a couple of you that needed a strength training session that worked with your schedule.  This program began as one Small Group Training that took place outside with a few 8lbs and 10lbs dumbbells.  In just several weeks, that small group began to grow; the sessions began to resemble nothing that many of you had experienced before at 50/50.  That Small Group Training began to get a “following”, it grew, another group later developed and Targeted Strength and Conditioning was created.  In a year and a half, I have trained approximately 30 individuals without injury, and with much strength, fun, and camaraderie.   In this article I will give a brief overview of the new structure, some information on strength training, and how to use this program to better meet your strength goals, using the pull-up, one of our core moves, as an example.

Targeted Strength and Conditioning is now a six-week strength-training program, where it had previously been a sixteen-week program.  This will allow for those interested in participating in the Targeted strength training program an opportunity to join sooner.  This program has eight core movements throughout the six weeks: Core, Arms, Vertical Push, Vertical Pull, Horizontal Push, Horizontal Pull, Knee dominant, and Hip dominant.  Also, I have freed up 15 minutes at the end of the session to allow each group to work on their own unique six-week goal. For example, one group has chosen to spend the next six weeks focusing on lateral movements to strengthen their legs for the upcoming ski season! The main exercises will change within the six-week program every two weeks to keep everyone engaged, while maintaining the effectiveness of Progressive Overload.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published an official-position paper in favor of progressive overload for resistance training in healthy adults, and a 2015 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology found that the best endurance athletes in the world follow progressive overload’s principles.  Using Progressive Overload you work a specific muscle or function (i.e., squat or pull-up) in a specific manner, progressively adding intensity and/or duration over time. We use these principles in Targeted to safely build strength. For success repetition and consistency are key. Results don’t occur overnight but after months, and for some even years.  The pull-up provides a great example of this principle.
How can I develop the strength to do an unassisted pull-up? How do I know how many reps to complete? In general, a goal of 8-10 reps of a weight is a good rep range for three sets of an exercise.  A rep range of 6 reps of a heavier weight is better for gaining strength.  It is important that at the end of each set, you feel as though the last rep was challenging to complete, but not impossible.  We use a thirty-second rest period for recovery, you should need to use that rest period.  The pull-up/chin-up is one of the hardest exercises to complete.  We use assistance with resistance bands.  The blue band offers the most assistance, and the green band a bit less.  Beginners should strive to complete the 8-10 rep range with proper form, to create muscle memory, better prepare the joints, ligaments, and tendons for heavier resistance.  As you gain the ability to increase your number of repetitions past 10, use a lighter resistance band and work your way back up to 6-10.  Continue this, along with eccentric pull-up/chin-ups, and practicing holding your body weight unassisted in the top and middle part of the pull-up and chin-up movement.  With pull-ups and chin-ups it is imperative to practice attempting an unassisted pull-up sooner rather then later.   It is so gratifying to me to see our members progress to unassisted chin-ups and pull-ups. Many of you have and many are so very close; keep up the great work!

We Don’t Know Squat:

Director of Strength & Conditioning, Jay McWilliams

There are a few simple movement patterns that are as old as humankind. Just now, research is showing us how these primal movements are key to our health and longevity. One of these movements we do every day and in countless classes but we probably take for granted; the squat. The squat (along with the deadlift) is an excellent way to improve leg strength. A recent study from Brazil found that lack of leg strength is closely linked to higher mortality. In fact, people with weak legs were at a 5-6 times higher risk of death than those with strong legs! To build greater leg strength, we need to focus on performing squats with good form and added resistance (weight). In Targeted Strength and Conditioning we master Goblet Squats, Split Squats, Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats and Squat Thrusts. In time, our participants build up to heavier and heavier weights to really get strong. Time to get squatting!
Beyond the strength building benefit, performing a deep squat (also called a “third-world squat”) improves flexibility, by loosening the all-important hip flexors. Modern life has put many of us in an anterior pelvic tilt, due to lots of time spent sitting: at the office, in the car, and in front of the TV. Performing deep squats, along with stretching and foam-rolling, is a great anti-dote to this condition. To perform a deep squat, picture a toddler squatting while playing or (pardon the crude image) how you would squat to use the bathroom without a toilet. This is the position you need to be in to reap the benefits. Practice getting into this position and holding your balance to up to a few minutes at a time. Your body will thank you, and you may even live longer!

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