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eeping Fit

Strength Training For Time-Pressured People

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

Age Body Weight Pre (lbs.) Body Weight Post (lbs.) Body Weight Change (lbs.) Percent Fat
Pre (%)
Percent Fat
Post (%)
Percent Fat Change (%) Lean Weight Pre (lbs.) Lean Weight Post (lbs.) Lean Weight Change (lbs.) Fat Weight Pre (lbs.) Fat Weight Post (lbs.) Fat Weight Change (lbs.)

Men (N=383) 203.2 200.5 -2.7* 21.1 18.4 -2.7* 158.8 162.5 +3.7* 44.4 38.0 -6.4*
Women (N=749) 163.6 161.8 -1.8* 29.5 27.7 -1.8* 114.2 115.9 +1.7* 49.4 46.0 -3.4*

* Statistically significant change(p<.01)

Of course, there are a variety of health-related reasons to do strength exercise. These include increased bone density (Menkes 1993), improved glucose metabolism (Hurley, 1994), faster gastrointestinal transit (Koffler, 1992), better blood lipid levels (Stone 1992), reduced low back pain (Risch 1993), and less arthritic discomfort (Tufts 1994).

Perhaps the most prevalent misunderstanding about strength training, particularly for those who would like to do it, is the time requirement. Many adults simply do not have time to do the multiple-set workouts they have been told are necessary for strength development. Fortunately, time-efficient single-set training can be just as productive as time-consuming multiple-set training when performed properly.

Recommended Strength Training Program
The excellent results attained by the 1,132 research program participants (Westcott 1996) required only 25 minutes of strength exercise, two or three days per week. The recommended strength training protocol, based on the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines (1990), is as follows:

Training Frequency: Two or Three Days Per Week
The standard strength training recommendation of three nonconsecutive days per week is sound, and should be followed whenever possible. However, in a large training study (Westcott 1996), the 416 subjects who did two strength workouts a week achieved almost 90 percent as much strength and muscle gain as the 716 subjects who did three strength workouts a week. For people who have difficulty getting to the gym three times a week, it is good to know that two strength workouts per week produces nearly as much training benefit.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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