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The Science Behind Your Workout
Part Two

There are basic exercise science principles behind the success or failure of your workout program. Runners don’t have strong upper bodies unless they lift weights because the specificity principle states, “You only get good at what you train for”.

If you exercise sporadically, you can’t expect results because you are not giving your body enough of an overload for it to get fitter.

Here are some other scientific “rules” that control the outcome of your exercise regimen.

Overcompensation
This is related to the overload principle. It explains how the body adapts to any overload. A simple example of overcompensation is a callus. It is the body’s attempt to protect a part of your body that is being subjected to constant friction or pressure. The body doesn’t just repair the area with the same kind of skin. It overcompensates by developing slightly harder and firmer skin so you won’t get hurt anymore. The more friction is applied, the more your body responds to protect your skin by making your callus bigger and harder.

The body does the same thing when you lift a weight that you are not used to. If you keep doing it regularly, the body will “wake up” muscle fibers that have not been previously used. After a period of time and if you keep increasing the weight, the body will start making the individual muscle fibers thicker.

When you are training aerobically, the body will overcompensate by increasing the number of mitochondria (a cell structure where aerobic energy is produced) and capillaries and by making the heart stronger so it can pump more blood per beat.

Reversibility
This is also called the “use it or lose it” principle. It is the opposite of overcompensation. Calluses disappear when you stop applying friction (with a little help from a pumice stone or chemical remover). It is the same with exercise. When you stop, your body will revert back to its original fitness level. This will not happen right away but you will eventually be back to where you started. The body is very efficient. It will only compensate for what it needs. If you don’t lift anything heavier than a coffee cup and don’t push anything bigger than a computer mouse, then your body only needs muscles strong enough to do those activities. So all the muscular strength you achieved from past workouts will disappear together with additional benefits like firm shapely muscles. It is a sad but true observation that it is much easier to “lose it” than it is to “use it”.

Individuality
When it comes to exercise programs, one size does not fit all. Even if you and a friend follow the exact diet and exercise program, your bodies will respond differently. Human beings are similar in the sense that everyone has one heart, one liver, two arms, two legs, and all the other obvious similarities but we each have a unique genetic history that affects the way we respond to exercise or diet.

Some people have such responsive muscles that a few weeks of weight lifting is all they need to start seeing definition and firmness. Others need a few months before seeing any type of aesthetic results. In an experiment done in Quebec University by exercise physiologist Claude Bouchard, 47 young men were put on an exercise program for five months. Some of the men showed 100 percent improvement in their fitness levels compared to when they first started. Some showed no change at all.

Even metabolism can be different from person to person. Obesity researcher Eric Ravussin proved this when he measured the resting metabolic rates (the amount of energy needed at rest for basic body functions) of 500 subjects. He found that some people burned 3,000-plus calories a day while others burned only 1,000-plus.

Some people are genetically predisposed to being good at aerobic-type activity and become champion marathon runners. Others are genetically inclined to succeed at power-type activities and win medals in powerlifting. Others have the natural strength and flexibility to excel in yoga. This is why you cannot compare yourself to anyone else and also why you can’t just blindly follow the exercise program of your fitness idol and expect the same results. He or she has different parents and grandparents.

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