How to Add Muscle Resistance Training to a Workout Regimen

The idea of resistance training to an exercise intended to alleviate adrenal fatigue is to build muscle strength rather than muscle endurance, which you get from aerobic exercise. Muscle resistance training can use free weights, exercise machines like those at a typical gym, or home machines.

Resistance training should be a component of your overall program for the following reasons:

  • Studies show that improving muscle strength with resistance training improves bone health. Over time, high cortisol secretion worsens bone health, and you want to counter those effects. Muscle resistance training increases bone strength and can delay the onset of conditions like osteoporosis.

  • The excess secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands can cause muscle atrophy. Combine this with the fact that many people with adrenal fatigue don't exercise, and the result is muscle groups that haven't really been used in years and need to be strengthened.

  • Resistance training (especially as people get older) is vital for decreasing the possibility of muscle injury and maintaining functional independence. You don't want to be driving around the supermarket in a mobility scooter before you absolutely need to.

  • When you build muscle mass, you increase your metabolism. An exercised muscle burns calories even after your exercise session is complete.

Muscle resistance training can be either aerobic or anaerobic:

  • Aerobic: More repetitions with lower resistance (lighter weights) is a more aerobic form of muscle resistance training. People with adrenal fatigue should start out with lighter weights and fewer reps.

  • Anaerobic: In general, fewer repetitions with higher resistance (more pounds of weight) is an anaerobic form of muscle resistance training.

Before starting any muscle resistance program, define your goals. Objectives are typically to improve your overall fitness and increase your muscle strength. Your goal at this point shouldn't be to “get huge.” (Don't worry. In time, you'll no doubt be showing firm, well-defined muscles, and you'll probably lose some body fat, too!)

The term free weights refers to weights not connected to a machine. When you exercise with free weights such as barbells and dumbbells, you increase the strength, flexibility, and range of motion of your muscles. You're typically exercising more than one of your muscles in more than one way.

Understanding the ways that you move your muscles is important when trying new resistance exercises. A muscle has these basic movements:

  • Flexion: Bending forward, as in bringing your hand to your shoulder

  • Extension: Bending backward, as in extending your hand away from your shoulder

  • Abduction: For example, raising your arm at the side to be level with your shoulder

  • Adduction: For example, lowering your arm to be at your side

  • Lateral flexion: For example, bending to the side

Understanding which muscle groups will be affected in a particular exercise can help you stretch and warm up appropriately. For example, some exercises used to strengthen the muscles in the chest work your arms and shoulders as well. Stretching these areas properly is essential to decreasing the risk of muscle fatigue and pain.

Using free weights generally increases your muscle flexibility and range of motion more than doing similar exercises on a machine does. Talk to a trainer about what kinds of exercises are right for you.

In general, you should start out doing five to seven repetitions using a weight that you can lift comfortably; then repeat once after a 1- to 2-minute rest. You can increase the number of repetitions with each session.

Weight machines can help you exercise in an efficient way. They're very convenient, and unlike free weights, they don't need to be put back after you've finished your set.

One example of an efficient workout is circuit training. You do one or two sets of an exercise to work a muscle group and then move to the next machine on the circuit. A typical circuit works the chest, arms, legs, and back. (You can also do this type of workout with free weights.)

If you have adrenal fatigue, cut everything in the circuit by 50 percent. Do a half circuit and only half of the repetitions. Start out with five repetitions for each exercise in the circuit and see how you feel. You need to find out what your baseline exercise threshold is. Don't worry. You can gradually make your program more intense.

Before you start any weight training program, pay attention to the following:

  • Physical support: If you're planning to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds for men or 10 pounds for women (and you will be), you need to provide support to your torso and lower back. One way to do this is to use a weight belt. As a bonus, belts look pretty cool at the gym.

  • Proper form: Pay attention to the proper form for each type of exercise. At worst, you risk injury from bad form. At best, you don't work the muscles correctly to get the results you want. Ask one of the trainers at the gym about the form for any weight machine or free weight exercise.

Work with a coach or mentor. You need guidance as to what type of program to follow — which exercises to do, how to use the correct form, how much weight to use, how many repetitions to do in a set, and so forth.

Ask the coach about his or her background and education. Note that the term “personal trainer” can mean many things, so be a little skeptical. You don't want someone who just points to a weight machine and says, “Lift that.”

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