Pumping Aerobic Iron

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Pumping Aerobic Iron

Post  Fitness Scientist on Mon May 03, 2010 7:58 pm

PUMPING AEROBIC IRON

Published in Iron Magazine

By Joe Mullen
Fitness Scientist



Exercise with resistance can enhance total body fitness. Aerobic dance as traditionally practiced cannot. Compared to the benefits of pumping iron, aerobic dance is a waste of valuable time. Especially if one has an injury.

Pumping iron, that is to say: exercise using high-tech equipment or free weights is the safest, most reliable and most versatile method of achieving aerobic fitness. When properly designed, an aerobic weight program will also produce high levels of strength, flexibility, muscle tone, and power.

Pumping iron is potentially more productive than aerobic dance, requires less skill training than swimming, produces less damage to the body than running, and is less hazardous than bike riding on the open road.

Surveys indicate that 91 percent of women think aerobic dance is the best way to become fit. It is not. Often overlooked is that aerobic training does not produce total fitness. Its practice virtually ignores strength training. We believe that LIFE IS NOT AN AEROBIC EVENT. For most people, strength specifically strength combined with muscular endurance is of more importance than heart condition.

The life-threatening heart attack is of such intensity; aerobic conditioning does not seem to help survival. We have often wondered what the survival ratio would be, if one conditioned the heart with short bursts of high-intensity exercise, rather than running.Then, if the heart goes into trauma, could it ward off serious damage, because it is prepared for such a trauma? Perhaps we'll never know the answer.

In addition, there is a staggering difference in injury risk, between aerobic dance and weight training. Seventy percent of those instructing aerobic dance suffer injury. Students of aerobic dance also sustain a high percentage of injuries. That is not said of weight training instructors or their students.

The basic principle of progressive fitness training is this: Supplies resistance to a contracting muscle and periodically increase the resistance as you become better conditioned. Weight training allows precise increases in resistance. Aerobic dance does not; it periodically reduces intensity.

The reduction in exercise intensity, comes about because of the weight loss typically experienced, by those watching their diets and at the same time taking aerobic classes. Here is why we feel aerobic classes can be deceiving: Aerobics programs become easier because most people use aerobics to lose weight.

This means that each person starts the program with a total body mass and a specific weight of each arm, leg, upper torso, and hips.

Initially, performing movements that require one to lift arms and legs will have the same effect as weight training especially for those folks who are de-conditioned. After all, lifting an arm or leg, upper torso or hips is lifting weight, the weight of the particular body segment.

As one "gets into condition" and loses body weight, it becomes easier to perform the movements. The aerobics program usually gets the credit for this perceived increase in fitness. While some improvement take's place, the improvement is never attributed, to loss of body weight, which reduces the total body mass, as well as the weight of each body segment. One is then participating in the same aerobic class, using less resistance (loss of body fat).

Everything becomes lighter. It is as if you were weight training and began to use less resistance each workout. We have yet to meet a weight-training instructor who promises better results if you reduce the effort or intensity. In effect, that is exactly what happens when one gets better, at aerobics. Of course, some instructors add resistance movements to aerobics.

Unfortunately, many of the resistance movements are not in a stabilized position. The movements are helped by semi-explosive movements added to the standard aerobic movement.

There is a feeble attempt to improve aerobic training by adding wrist and ankle weights, or light dumbbells. Less weight lifted, less calories burned, less effort expended. All in the name of improved fitness, improve cannot take place while decreasing the effort. Simple enough!

It is true that some research has shown it is not possible to reach an aerobic, steady state condition using free weights or exercise machines. Our opinion is that the research methodology was flawed, leading to erroneous conclusions.

The methodology was flawed because: the exercise sequence was wrong. Too many single-joint exercises mix with multi-joint movements in the same workout. This is a mistake because it allows the aerobic heart rate to drop quite dramatically.


As an example: Going from a leg press to a leg curl movement (in most cases) will allow the pulse rate to drop. We have found that some times, when the exercising person puts pressure on the rib cage (compression) this can alter the pulse and blood pressure dramatically.

Our research shows conclusively that: A properly designed strength-training program WILL IMPROVE AEROBIC CONDITIONING. Monitor this carefully. Be very careful of all exercises that put pressure on the rib cage area.

When designing an aerobic program using resistance, all exercises should be multi-joint movements for maximum aerobic benefit. Multi-joint movements use larger muscle masses. They involve movement of more than one joint, and place a greater stress on the heart and oxygen uptake, resulting in the ability to maintain a targeted heart rate.

Single joint movements will not cause the required heart rate elevation, except for those very out of conditioned individuals, or persons who have heart disease. Contrary to popular belief, aerobic training with free weights or machines is possible and quite simple if you apply the rules for aerobic fitness.

The following are standard aerobic guidelines incorporated into a weight-training program.

(I) Choose movements that involve large muscle masses. Multi-joint exercises are best, for example: squats, leg presses, bench presses, Overhead presses, chins, dips, pull downs, and rowing motions.

(2) Perform the movements smoothly and continuously and at a steady rhythm. We recommend a speed of movement of four seconds lifting and four seconds lowering. Do not pause at the start or finish of each movement.

(3) Determine the duration of the program according to the present fitness level. On average, 5 to 60 minutes of continuous activity is recommended, depending on ones starting fitness level.

Naturally, if one is much de-conditioned, 5 minutes may be enough. It is recommended that one add to the above time a warm-up of five to 10 minutes and a cool down of five to 10 minutes. This warm-up is carefully observed, if one is working, as a Fitness Trainer, with a much-de-conditioned person; it could be very taxing for this type of individual and may have to be counted a part of the aerobic timetable.

(4) Train two to five days per week. This is a general recommendation. Adjust it according to the intensity of the program and the level of condition of the client. Higher intensity means less total days committed to exercise, more devoted to recuperation.

(5) Gage the intensity of efforts by the pulse rate. This is often called a target exercise heart rate. One way to arrive at your target heart rate, is to take the number 220 and subtract ones age from it.

Consider this data a maximum heart rate. Then, depending on your present fitness level (check with your physician for advice), take 50 percent of your maximum heart rate (possibly less for very deconditioned persons) up to 80 percent (for those in excellent condition.

This will produce an exercise target heart rate.

If building total fitness is not your goal, it is possible to perform one exercise for the total time. After all, using a rowing machine or riding a bike is aerobic exercise, and in effect, each is one exercise, performed for one set for a specific period.


As previously indicated, there is more to total fitness than aerobic training can provide. Design a program that is enjoyable and varied and concentrates on multi-joint movements. For body balance, you should not attempt to improve your superior areas. Exercise superior areas at a high level, but do not increase the resistance, reps, or sets. As lagging areas improve, work all areas with the same intensity.


Pumping aerobic iron is the safest, fastest, most precise, and most time efficient way to build aerobic fitness.

Best of all, strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance, and power become enhanced.


Joe Mullen
Fitness Scientist
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Age : 80
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