Category Archives: FAQ and Fables

Split training or full body workout?

What is Most Effective for Muscle Growth: Split Training or Full Body Workout?

Increasing muscle mass and strength are important training goals for many people. Muscle hypertrophyNot only for cosmetic reasons but for health reasons as well, people seek to increase their muscle mass. A much used method to increase muscle mass more effectively, a process also known as hypertrophy, is using a split training program. In a split training program only a few muscle groups are trained every workout. This allows more exercises per muscle group which increases the training stimulus to the muscle compared with performing just one exercise per muscle group.

Unfortunately there has been little research comparing split training with a comparable full body workout up until now. However the following advantages and disadvantages are theoretically supported.

Advantages Split Training in comparison with Full Body Workout

-A stronger and more complete training stimulus per muscle group. As a result of combining multiple exercises in one training session, a larger part of the muscle is targeted which results in a larger number of muscle fibers that need to adapt.

-It allows for a higher training frequency. When the increase in muscle mass from a Full Body workout performed 3 times a week is not sufficient, it is a bad idea to perform this workout 4 times a week or more. This will not allow the muscle to recuperate and increase its’ size. A split training regimen, if designed properly, even allows daily training. While muscle groups that have been trained in a previous workout are allowed to recover.

Disadvantages compared in comparison with Full Body Workout

-It is less suitable for beginners. The training intensity is often too high for relatively untrained muscles. Moreover, most beginners will have a hard time reaching the necessary training intensity at all, since they still have to learn to activate their muscles to a larger extent. When they can’t reach the necessary training intensity, split training often offers few advantages.

-It requires a higher training frequency to train all muscle groups regularly. Ideally muscles are trained when they are fully recuperated and adapted to the previous training stimulus. For optimal results it is recommended to train every muscle group two times a week. When a split training is performed two times a week, the muscle will have recovered by the time it is trained again, but the training adaptations will probably have disappeared as well.

-Smaller increases in growth hormone and testosterone production. The increase in hormone production is strongly dependent on the amount of muscle mass that is active during training. Since split training targets a few muscle groups each training, the hormonal response on training is smaller. Recent studies have shown that this hormonal response is not a requirement of muscle growth. However, it is likely that growth hormone production has other beneficial effects, such as stimulating fat metabolism. A full body workout is probably more effective in this aspect.


Using a split training regimen has both advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, no studies comparing both split training and full body workouts have been performed. However a split training allows for a higher training frequency and a more complete workout for each muscle group, while other muscle groups are allowed to recover.


-Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. Fundamentals of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2004, 36, 4, 674-688.

-Wescott, W.L. How Often Should Clients Perform Strength Training? ACSM’s Certified News 2010, 20, 2, 10-11.

Weight loss: what works and what doesn’t?

Every year, losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolutionWeight loss. And just before the summer, a lot of people try and lose weight or get in shape to look their best at the beach. A lot of different methods are used to achieve this. From diets, training regimens, fat burners, sauna belts and power plates. To help people lose the pounds, we present a list with the most effective and ineffective or even unhealthy methods to lose weight and fat.

The things that work:

  1. Healthy Nutrition

Many people think that they eat healthy, only a few really do. The body needs the right amount of nutrients to function properly and sufficient calories of course. The fact remains that, in order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you take in, but it is more important to get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and proteins. This makes sure your body functions optimally and can therefore burn more fat. In addition you tend to lose less to no muscle mass while eating a healthy amount of protein.

  1. A combination of resistance and cardiotraining.

Wheight loss occurs when more energy is used up than taken in. Training increases the amount of calories used, but we also optimise energy systems in our body, and therefore the capacity to burn fat. This last effect even helps us lose weight, while not working out. Additionally, resistance training makes sure no muscle mass is lost during weight loss, therefore preventing the well known yoyo effect.

  1. Exercising regularly and often

Aside from training, regular physical activity such as walking or riding a bicycle, is very important. This will activate the body, increase the amount of calories used and therefore help in losing weight. It will help the body in recovering from a training and reduce stress hormone levels as an added bonus.

  1. Rest and sleep

Although everyone focusses on nutrition and training while losing weight. Resting and especially enough sleep are very important for health and weight loss. When you don’t sleep enough, the body can’t recuperate enough, stress hormone levels will rise and you will lose muscle tissue sooner.

What doesn’t work or is bad for your health?

  1. Diets

Diets are at best a temporary solution to lose weight. When you stop with the diet and eat what you are used to eating, the lost weight comes back often accompanied by a few extra pounds. The worst diets make you lose muscle mass as well, increasing the chances of the yoyo effect.

  1. Long cardio workouts

Although it is not difficult to lose weight by performing a lot of cardio training and endurance improves as well, too much cardio training can increase muscle breakdown. One of the primary reasons is that stress hormones keep building up. A combination with some form of diet often increases this effect. Furthermore cardio training hinders recovery from training for as long as the training takes. It is better to perform high intensity cardio training for shorter periods. This is more effective and the time you save can be spent on recovery.

  1. Fat burners

There are some fat burning substances that are proven to be effective and safe. However the effects are generally small, and could be used in combination with healthy nutrition and training. Green tea extract is a good and safe example. The fat burners that are effective on their own, are potentially dangerous and illegal in most countries. Among these is Ephedra.

  1. Sauna belt

There are several weight loss programs which incorporate a heated belt tied around the waist during training. The heat from the belt, softens up the fat so the body can burn it more easily, or so they claim. No research can back these claims up however. The body determines the location of fat loss, not your clothing. At best the heat from the belt decreases the amount of water around that location for a short time. When someone loses weight using this method, it can be attributed to the training performed while wearing the belt, not the belt itself.

  1. Power Plates

A lot of research has been performed investigating the effects of the power plate in rehabilitation and weight loss. For weight loss, it is just as effective as the sauna belt. It does not add anything. In other words, how much weight and fat you lose depends on how you train with it. On the other hand, if you enjoy training on it, it can’t harm either.


Unfortunately there are no miracle cures. When you want to lose weight you have to work for it. The most effective method is to perform both resistance and cardiovascular exercise, and combine this with healthy nutrition. In addition make sure you walk or cycle regularly an sleep sufficiently.

What is suspension training and what does it do?

What is suspension training and what does it do?

TRX suspension training is a new form of training which employs a Suspension trainingdevice consisting of a band with two handles. Because the TRX suspension trainer hangs from a supporting beam or branch, many different exercises can be performed which use the body’s own weight (or a part of it) for resistance.

Contrary to many regular fitness machines which limit the freedom of movement, performing similar exercises on the TRX trainer requires a better technique and more stabilisation of the body to perform the exercises correctly. Therefore more muscle fibers are activated to stabilise the body during the movement and they are activated to a greater extent.

The Core (center of the body, which includes the abdominal and lower back muscles) is effectively trained, which will increase total body strength because muscles can work together more efficiently. Additionally, energy consumption after training will increase as a result of the large number of muscles that are trained using the TRX.

TRX suspension training is an effective means to increase strength, exercise the Core muscles, to improve muscle coordination and stimulate the metabolism with the aid of a short high intensity workout.

See also:

-Resistance training: Free weights or machines?


What is Kettlebell training and what does it do?

What is Kettlebell training and what does it do?

Kettlebells are weights that look like a cannonball with a handle. KettlebellsBecause the center of gravity lies away from the handle, kettlebells are very suitable for performing explosive movements. Kettlebell training is therefore often employed to let athletes perform better, because it not only trains maximal strength, but it increases the rate of force generation and how to make use of the increased force effectively as well.

Although kettlebells can be used for exercises that normally employ dumbbells, the main advantage of kettlebell training are exercises with which a large number of muscle groups are activated at the same time. This improves coordination between these muscle groups, among which the core muscles, strengthening the weakest link, which results in increased muscle strength. Another large advantage of exercises which activate a large number of muscle groups is that the energy consumption during and after training strongly increases, which increases fat oxidation and hence, makes losing weight easier.

Kettlebell training has many advantages and can be a very effective alternative workout for people who have been training with dumbbells for a long time, or those that want a high intensity workout to improve (functional) strength. However, because of the high velocity of the movements and large forces that accompany them, this form of resistance training is not suitable for people suffering from injuries, such as low back pain.


How long does it take for muscles to start growing?

When a person starts a resistance training program aimed at increasing muscle mass without any previous training experience, it may take some time before results are visible. Despite the rather large increase in strength during the first few weeks, the muscles do not grow very rapidly. How long does it take for muscles to start growing? And how is it possible that the muscles are getting stronger without growing larger?

This can be explained by the nervous system recruiting more muscle fibers during a specific exercise, which could not be activated before. In addition, autogenic inhibition, or antagonistic muscle activity, is lowered which results in an increase in net produced force, without the muscles having to work harder. Moreover, the antagonistic muscles work even less. In other words, the nervous system optimizes the muscular system and it learns how to use the muscles more effectively without any structural adaptations such as hypertrophy, which cost a lot of energy and protein to realize.

During the first two to three months of resistance exercise, this mechanism plays the largest role in increasing muscle strength. Hypertrophy, while present to a small extent, will become more noticeable when most of the potential of the muscles has been reached and the muscular system receives adequate stimulation to warrant further adaptation. This means that exercise intensity must increase continuously so muscles have a reason to grow, when the nervous system cannot realize any further improvements in muscle coordination. After the period in which the nervous system improves muscular coordination, hypertrophy will become more noticeable.


-Heyward, V.H. Designing Resistance Training Programs. In: Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription. 2009. Human Kinetics, Champaign USA.

-Wilmore, J.H., Costill, D.L., Kenney, W.L. Adaptations to Resistance Training. In: Physiology of Sports and Exercise Fourth Edition. 2009. Human Kinetics Champaign USA.

Fact or Fable: Fat Metabolism starts after 20 minutes of exercise

To improve body composition and weight loss it is often recommended by fitness experts to perform cardio training for a duration of 30 minutes or more. It is said that fat metabolism starts after 20 minutes of continuous training. After 20 minutes glycogen stores should be depleted and the body is forced to burn fat instead. Is this true or not and is this the most effective way of losing weight and improving body composition?

Firstly a large body of research has shown that exercising for longer durations is not necessarily more effective than short high intensity workouts in improving body composition. Moreover, the latest research has shown that low volume high intensity interval workouts are far more effective in stimulating fat loss than high volume moderate intensity exercise.

Secondly, the body will always try to burn fat and save the limited carbohydrate store for when it is necessary to work at higher intensities. The body of an average human only has enough carbohydrates to exercise at higher intensities for 20-30 minutes, which explains the source of this fable, but these stores can be increased by proper exercise as well.

It is true that when exercise intensity increases, the anaerobic energy systems are the first to supply the necessary extra energy and it takes a while before the aerobic systems, among which fat oxidation, have increased activity enough to supply the required energy. However, this process only takes a few minutes depending on training status. This means that if exercise intensity allows it, someone exercising for 20 minutes will be burning fat for at least 17 minutes.

Fat does not burn as easily as carbohydrates and therefore energy for performing higher intensity exercise will be provided by carbohydrates. However, when the body exercises regularly at these higher intensities, which do not allow fat metabolism or limits it, the body gets a signal to improve the efficiency and capacity of fat metabolism so it can sustain higher exercise intensities while using primarily fat.

In conclusion, fat metabolism is one of the most important energy systems in the human body. The body always strives to burn fat to produce ATP if possible or will adapt to allow for more efficient fat metabolism, making it easier to lose weight and improve body composition. However training duration does not have to be longer than 20-30 minutes to use fat or to be effective in weight loss if exercise intensity is high enough.

When are you training too much?

Exercise normally stimulates the body to recover and through this process improve endurance, strength or other variables through super compensation. Well performed fitness training will increase growth hormone secretion, which stimulates recovery and rejuvenates tissue. A higher training frequency and training intensity normally results in better results. This is true up to a point. While it does not happen too often, it is possible to break down the body instead of improving performance by training too much.

This can occur when someone for example performs resistance exercise two times a day targeting the same muscle groups. This is rare however, since resistance exercise stimulates anabolic hormone production, such as growth hormone and testosterone, which stimulate recovery.

In addition the intensity of resistance exercise, when performed right, is too high to sustain for longer periods or very often because of muscle soreness. When performing cardiovascular exercise, one runs a greater risk of overtraining, because the total exercise duration is often longer and relative intensity is lower than resistance training. The longer duration increases cortisol production, a stress hormone which breaks down muscle for energy and inhibits testosterone production. The lower intensity does not stimulate growth hormone and testosterone production as much as resistance exercise.

So on the one hand, cardiovascular exercise can break down the body and inhibits recovery and on the other hand, not much growth hormone and testosterone is produced to stimulate recovery. As a result, people get weaker by training too much. In addition, the immune system is suppressed, increasing the risk of infection. This does not mean that cardiovascular exercise should be avoided altogether, it merely means that one should be wary of performing too much exercise without adequate rest. The negative effects of too much training can already occur by training 8-10 hours per week, which is normal for quite a few endurance athletes.

Stretching: how and when?

Stretching, when performed in the right way a the right time, can be a very useful way to improve flexibility and retain range of motion. However many people get it wrong.

For one, it is not a good idea to stretch immediately after exercise. The muscles are likely to have small ruptures or micro trauma from the workout itself, which only gets worse by stretching it. And because of increased blood flow and fluid in the muscle as a result of training, the muscle will be stiffer. Stretching a muscle stiff with blood and fluid will only add to the damage, and therefore muscle soreness.

Second, research has not found any evidence that stretching helps to prevent injuries. Moreover, it even seems to increase risk of injury when performed prior to training, because the muscle can lose strength and is therefore more vulnerable and less stable. This occurs especially as a result of static stretching, which can immediately lower muscle strength by as much as 10-20% during the subsequent training.

Not all forms of stretching prior to exercise are a bad idea. Dynamic stretching does have positive effects. When stretching a muscle dynamically, tension on the muscle is gently applied towards their maximum range of motion for short durations. This activates the stretched muscles, preparing them for higher forces and contraction speeds, which can increase maximum strength. In addition it will increase muscle temperature because it is an active form of stretching, whereas static stretching does not.

This does not mean static stretching does not have any benefits, it can increase range of motion in a safe manner. But to reap most benefits and not run additional risk of injury during training, static stretching is best performed on days when no cardiovascular or strength training is planned.

Cardiotraining: Are you training hard enough?

Cardiotraining training is an essential part of a healthy and effective training program and can be used to achieve multiple goals. When performed correctly it strengthens the heart, increases quality of blood vessels and lungs. Therefore it is very useful for people suffering cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus (especially type 2) and COPD, but it is most often used to increase endurance or to lose weight.

The important question is however, how do I know if my cardiovascular workout is performed at the right intensity? An often heard and persistent fairy tale is that for losing fat, low intensity training is the most effective. This is not right however, and many studies show that higher intensity workouts result in larger amounts of fat loss and larger increases in endurance and oxygen uptake.

To determine the right intensity, it is possible to use a heart rate monitor and calculate the right heart frequency, but this requires a good quality heart rate monitor. Another simple way is to check if talking during training is still possible. When someone can continue conversation, the body apparently has enough oxygen to allow disruption of air flow for talking and no real training occurs. When only a few words can be spoken at a time during training, while breathing heavily, training is far more effective. The reason for this is that the body needs almost all oxygen to go to the muscles to maintain exercise.

When no more air is available to speak, the aerobic system is completely active and the anaerobic system has to deliver the energy that the aerobic system is not able to generate. As the body strives for balance and anaerobic metabolism disrupts this balance by for example an decrease in pH, it will improve aerobic function so it is better able to meet training demands. This will increase the intensity at which someone gets trouble speaking and it will stimulate resting metabolic rate and fat metabolism, making weight loss easier. When one is not able to speak during training, training intensity is high enough to receive the benefits of cardiovascular training, which do not occur at lower intensity.


Training against obesity

Obesity is a serious form Fitness against obesityof being overweight and is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. Trying to lose weight while being obese does not necessarily mean a different approach than being overweight, but there are some key points to keep in mind during when training against obesity. Many people who have become obese by not exercising enough and an unhealthy diet, have an altered metabolism This makes it harder to use fat to produce energy and therefore makes it more difficult to lose that fat. In other words, when someone gains weight, it gets progressively harder to lose it again in a healthy way, because the body has increasing difficulty to burn the excess fat and is only able to burn carbohydrates for energy. 

Osteoporosis Training

When people get older, bones often get weaker as a consequence of changes in hormonal regulation caused by aging and/or menopause. Especially in women osteoporosis, as this process is called, can pose large problems. It increases the risk of bone fractures when people fall.

Fortunately osteoporosis can be prevented to a large extent or countered by means of an effective training. Similar to muscle tissue, bone adapts to external forces. So to increase bone strength and improve bone tissue quality it is necessary to increase the amount of force exerted on the bones in daily life.

Running is reasonably effective, to improve bone density, especially for the bones in the legs, but resistance exercise has better effects. Resistance exercise at the right intensity and with the right exercises can exert force on most bones, making them all stronger, instead of just the legs. A good training intensity to start with is a resistance with which 15-20 repetitions can be performed. This is a lower intensity, but since the bones are not as strong as they should be and bone tissue adapts a little slower than muscle tissue it is better to take it slow and increase intensity not too quickly.

After 2 months of regular training, training intensity can be increased to a resistance with which 12-15 repetitions can be performed, later 10-12 repetitions with corresponding resistance are recommended for optimal loading of the bones. When performed regularly, osteoporosis can be prevented, slowed down or even reversed.

How long should you train?

Many people think that the longer one trains, the better the results. Although a certain amount of training is necessary, it is possible to train too much or too long. So how long should you train?

One of the factors involved is the amount of glycogen the body still has in store to use during exercise. When the body’s glycogen stores are emptied, it can not sustain a high training intensity and muscle tissue will be broken down to supply the necessary energy.

Normally, the body has sufficient supply for 45-60 minutes of fitness training. In well trained athletes this supply can be increased to 90 minutes. It is therefore important that a training never lasts for more than 60-75 minutes (this time is longer because fitness training allows recovery periods). Sometimes training for a longer period is possible, but make sure carbohydrates are replenished by a sports drink or other fast carbohydrates.

During training the body produces the stress hormone cortisol. When it is produced in large quantities and it can not be broken down because one trains too long, cortisol levels can rise more permanently. This is seen as one of the causes of overtraining, in which performance decreases and recovery from training is slow. An elevated cortisol level breaks down muscle mass, effectively countering the effects of training or even breaking the body down further.

Spot reduction during weight loss

Many people want to lose weight and fat, preferably at the problem zones like the abdomen or hips. To achieve fat loss on the abdomen, many people perform abdominal exercises or they use special machines which claim to stimulate local fat loss such as the Better Belly®, Slim Belly® or similar devices. It seems logical that the muscles which are active during an exercise burn fat that is closest to the muscle. However, unfortunately spot reduction is not possible and here is why:

There are several reasons why you can’t choose the location where fat is removed. Firstly, when performed right, the intensity of resistance exercise is too high to burn fat. Even when the intensity is low enough to burn fat, it will not disappear on the locations nearest to the active muscle, but the fat will come from free fatty acids in the blood.

These fatty acids are released by fat stores throughout the body, and the body determines which fat stores release the required fatty acids. This is influenced by body build, sex and therefore genetics, but can’t be influenced by exercises targeting specific locations or devices that claim to mobilize fat at a certain location. There is no scientific evidence supporting the workings of such machines nor is there any theoretical mechanism which could support this theory.

There is however some evidence that resistance exercise influences hormone levels which regulate where fat is stored, and when resistance exercise is performed right, fat mass is reduced to a larger extent on the abdomen. To achieve this, all muscles should be trained at a high intensity. The only other way to achieve local fat loss is that really works is a visit to your local plastic surgeon.*

* Note: This is an ironic statement, plastic surgery is not a field of specialty of Fitness Science and we don’t recommend it specifically to achieve local fat loss.


-Heyward, V.H. (2010). Designing Weight Management and Body Composition Programs. Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription Sixth Edition. USA. Human Kinetics.

-Spriet, L.L. The Metabolic Systems: Lipid Metabolism. In: ACSM’s Advandec Exercise Physiology. Lippincot Williams & Wilkins USA.

How does strength training increase muscle mass?

The increase in muscle mass due to resistance exercise is a result of several hormone mechanisms. High intensity resistance training increases hormone concentrations of testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1. These hormones stimulate protein synthesis and therefore increase muscle mass.

Men naturally produce more testosterone and growth hormone and these levels rise more strongly than in women as a result of resistance exercise. In men testosterone seems to be the most important regulator hypertrophy in muscle mass, in women, who produce much less testosterone, this role is reserved for growth hormone.

The amount of these hormones produced depends on several factors, the amount of muscle mass active during training, training intensity and rest periods between series. When more muscles are activated during training, anabolic hormone levels rise. The same applies to higher training intensity and shorter rest durations.


-Heyward, V.H. (2010). Designing Resistance Training Programs. Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription Sixth Edition. USA. Human Kinetics

Does strength training make you slow?

Many people who practice sports in which speed is important, especially martial arts, don’t perform any strength training. Although increasing strength can be very useful in most sports, it is also believed that strength training makes the muscles slower. Slower muscles in martial arts, means less quick attacks and therefore less power behind those punches, and in addition slower blocks. But does strength training make you slow? Find out below.

But does strength training really make muscles slower? Bodybuilders are often referred to, and it is true that they are not known for great speed. However, one of the most important characteristics of a muscle is that, within genetic limits, it adapts to what they are usd for. If you perform slow movements with very heavy weights, as is often the most effective way to build muscle tissue and hence the way bodybuilders often train, the muscles will grow in size but will not keep their speed.

Fast muscle tissue is, so to speak, more expensive to maintain for the body, so when it is not necessary and other demands are made of the muscle it will forgo speed in favor of strength in this example. On the other hand, if strength training is performed with a lighter load, allowing maximum contraction velocity, the muscle will get a signal that speed is also a requirement, and will maintain or even increase contraction velocity.

In conclusion, it is possible to decrease maximum contraction velocity with strength training, but when the muscles are trained at the speed that the sport requires, it is maintained or even improved. Giving the benefits of improved strength with no drawbacks. Therefore strength training is also highly recommended in martial arts.

Six Strength Training Tips

Although every exercise consists of different movements and uses different muscles, there are certain rules which apply to all exercises to train safely and effectively. Here are six strength training tips that apply to almost all exercises.

  1. Keep breathing during the exercise. Don’t hold your breath, but try and breathe during the exercise. This one seems very logical, but many people are inclined to hold their breaths when exerting themselves. This can be dangerous, as holding ones’ breath increases blood pressure more during exercise, increasing chances on developing an aneurysm, although this is very rare.
  2. Never overstretch any joints while they are loaded, (such as knees during a squat or leg press) or never apply great forces when the joints are at the end of their range of motion.
  3. Always perform the eccentric part of the movement in controlled and slow manner. Usually 3-4 seconds are advised to perform a full movement of an exercise. At least 2 of those should be spent eccentric to optimize training.
  4. Always keep the trained muscles active until all repetitions are done. Never let the weights rest on eachother or the floor when you haven’t finished your set yet. Don’t swing the weights or compensate with other muscles because the resistance or weight is too high.
  5. Make sure the machine or training bench is set up properly for you and make sure you train with a correct posture.
  6. Choose the right amount of resistance or weight with which you can reach the number of repetitions corresponding with your training goal and intensity.


How much should I train to stay fit and healthy?

Most people are aware that exercise and training are necessary to keep fit and is beneficial for their health, but just how much is required to achieve this? According to several national and international organisations it is sufficient to perform 30 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity on 5 days per week. In these guidelines moderate intensity is defined as activities that increase heart rate slightly, such as walking or cycling. Research has shown however that, in order to maintain health and functioning throughout life, is not enough. The American College of Sports and Medicine (ACSM), also recommends this guideline, however, they also acknowledge the fact that this will not be enough to stay fit and healthy. Therefore they recommend that in addition to being active for 30 minutes each day on 5 days each week, people also should perform resistance or strength exercise at two non-consecutive days each week. This prevents loss of muscle mass and osteoporosis and makes sure all muscle groups are trained regularly instead of only the muscles that are active during walking or cycling (e.g. leg muscles). Cardiovascular training of higher intensity is also recommended on three days each week, to increase or maintain endurance throughout life, to improve body composition and to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. These are the guidelines for training according to the ACSM:

-Resistance exercise: On 2 non-consecutive days 8-10 exercises which target all muscle groups. These exercises should be performed with a weight or resistance with which 8-12 repetitions can be performed, preferably increasing resistance and decreasing the number of repetition during each set. (e.g. 12x 10kg, 10x15kg and in the last set 8x 20kg).

-Endurance exercise: On at least 3 days each week, 20 minutes of intense exercise which increases heart rate strongly. The intensity is high enough when no more than a few words can be uttered during training, otherwise intensity is too low.

Should you stop training when you feel your lower back?

During some exercises, especially exercises for the abdominal muscles, but also free weight exercises such as the squat, people feel their lower back muscles being active. It is often thought that this could cause lower back pain and should be avoided to prevent low back pain. Which is quite a strange thought, as every other muscle in the body may be felt during training. Moreover, when during abdominal exercises the lower back muscles are felt, it can be an indication that those muscles are to weak, which can increase the risk of developing low back pain. Muscles in the lower back should be trained as well just like the rest of the muscles.

As long as the exercise does not hurt in the lower back and the muscles just get tired, they are trained and there should be no additional risk of low back pain, when the exercises are performed correctly. Strong low back muscles, add to the stability of the spine which reduces risk of developing low back pain and it can increase strength in different exercises.


What happens when we age and can we slow it down?

During aging, different processes take place reducing strength, endurance, agility, speed and worst of all often health. Of course not all these processes can be completely prevented for everyone, but the following can often slow down, prevent or even reverse certain aging processes:

-Muscle function: Muscle strength in untrained people generally peaks around the age of twenty. After the age of twenty muscle fibers that are not used frequently will get progressively smaller until they disappear completely. Unfortunately whenever a muscle fiber is gone, it is gone forever and can’t be replaced by a new one because muscle fibers lost the ability to divide. However, when muscle fibers are regularly used at a high enough intensity, muscle fibers will get stronger and often bigger, preventing them to disappear from disuse. This can be achieved through regular strength or resistance exercise. The decline in strength associated with age, can be prevented to a large extend, when training correctly.

-Artheroscelerosis: Again after the age of 20, the vascular wall of arteries start to harden which causes loss of elasticity and an increase in blood pressure. When this process has progressed far enough, blood cloths can be formed and this increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. This process is also influenced by genetics and lifestyle factors such as diet, but regular cardiovascular exercise at a high enough intensity can largely prevent it or at least slow it down. Research has shown that the vascular wall of 40 year old people who exercise regularly can be in the same condition as that of a 20 year old, implicating atherosclerosis can be delayed decades.


Free Weights vs Machines

Free Weights vs Machines: People often wonder if resistance training with free weights is better than training with machines and why. Both methods have distinct advantages and disadvantages which are discussed in the article below.

Training with machinesFree weight vs. machines

-Training with the aid of machines is often much easier. Machines ‘force’ the person training with them to make a certain movement and

therefore it is easier to train with correct technique.

-Because it is easier to perform an exercise correctly and movement is forced in a certain direction there is less chance of injury.

-Machines are often easier and quicker to set up

-The stabilizing muscles are not activated as much and will hardly be trained, so the limiting factor is more often the larger muscle groups that are targeted by the specific exercise. (ie. the main muscle groups receive a proper training)

Training with free weightsFree weight vs. machines

-Training with free weights, even when performing the same basic movement as with a machine (for example a dumbbell press vs a chest
press) activates the muscles that aid and stabilize the movement to a greater extent. This has important implications for stabilizing ability of certain joints.

-Because there is more variation in movement, strength gains are not as specific as in training with machines, but more general, meaning that strength useful in real life will increase more. In addition, the stabilizing muscles are trained to a greater extent, making free weight training superior in increasing ‘real life’ strength.

-Improvement in proprioception also known as the sense that detects position and movement of the body. Because more attention has to be paid to a correct technique during training, people using weight training are better aware of what their body is doing, which makes it easier to correct bad posture and to train more effectively.

-Because it is harder to perform the exercise correctly, the movement is not forced into a certain direction and more stabilazation is needed there is a higher risk of injury compared with training with machines.