“Resistance Is Futile”
Or so we are led to believe by the flame-haired, cyborg aboard Star Trek’s distant Voyager vessel. However, this could not be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is that the human being has been designed to last for twenty-five decent years. After that, disease and old age are supposed to kick in and finish us off. But by the power of modern science, much thanks to the discovery of antibiotics and advances in dentistry and medicine, the human race has managed to drastically extend our life expectancy. Unfortunately, the changes we go through after a quarter century can have a drastic toll on us as we defy nature and limber on. Resistance training is absolutely necessary to nullify that effect, and here are the reasons why.
So what’s the problem?
Our species reached an evolutionary peak about 10,000 years ago. We became sexually active in our teens, and were expected to have started families by the age of twenty. At that stage, it was probably ok if we lived a few more years to see our rugrats out of the cave door, but for all intents and purposes, the human species had no further use for us. The human body up to the age of 25 supplies us with a hormone called ‘somatotropin’ from our pituatory gland. Also known as ‘human growth hormone’, this substance stimulates cell growth as well as regeneration. After 25, the production of HGH starts to tail off, which is one of the reasons that cuts and bruises take much longer to heal as we get older. The upshot of this is that the muscular development that we take for granted up to the age of 25 starts to reverse. We can lose up to 1% of our muscle per year in a natural process called, ‘sarcopenia’. This also leads to a reduction in our metabolic rates, which can result in a gradual rise in body fat. So what is the answer?
Human Growth Hormone
One solution that has been seized upon to solve this problem is direct treatment with courses of HGH. However, this is quite a controversial avenue to go down. For a start, we haven’t worked out how to synthesise HGH, so have a guess what our number one source is for HGH? We get HGH from dead bodies. Nasty, huh? Not only that, but courses of HGH retrieved from corpses have been linked to the transmission of ‘Creutzfeldt Jakob disease’ or CJD as well as HGH being a possible cancer accelerator. Despite this, HGH is still used within the body-building community, but as far as professional sport is concerned, it is generally considered to be a banned substance. You may well live longer with a $1500 a month HGH course, but what state would you be in? It’s starting to sound like a super hero origin story. You really are rolling the dice with this one!
So What Else?
Want to avoid being frail in later life? Well you need to reverse the affect of sarcopenia with exercise. The bad news for some (including me) is that cardio-vascular exercise does not cut it. In fact, an increase in cardio will have the opposite effect on your muscle mass, as I found out doing marathon training in 2010. Cardio REDUCES your muscle mass. As much as you may hate the idea of hanging out with narcissistic, sweaty gym-heads, the simple answer to maintaining muscle mass is resistance training.
What Are The Options?
The good news is that in order to do resistance training, you have a lot of options. Hopefully, you can pick something that suits you.
- Bar bells and dumb bells: the old skool Arnie-esque solution
- Multigym: machines focusing on specific muscles and muscle groups
- TRX: a cable suspension system enabling you to train using your own body weight
- Circuit Training/Military Training: classes including combinations of resistance exercises
- HIIT: interval training that forces you to push your anaerobic limits
- ViPR: a tube system encouraging you to strengthen through rotational exercises
- Kettle Bells: resistance training via swing weights
- Body Pump: a class to music involving the use of weights
Personally speaking, I don’t find that there is anything more effective than just using plain old bar bells and dumb bells, but you will hear praise being heaped on many of the other options. Well, best of luck in your life-long fight against sarcopenia, and one day, when all your associates have waned away into tiny elderly creatures, you’ll still be kicking it.