Muscular Fitness Information Page


Muscular ability is an important component of a fitness program for any ability and at any age. It is especially vital for athletes and for those who are older. Muscular fitness is both the strength and endurance in your musculature. Use this page to gain a further knowledge of muscular strength and endurance training and how to perform it properly.

Muscular Fitness 101

Key Point:

Muscular strength is the ability to elicit maximal force while muscular endurance is the ability to elicit force repeatedly. Muscular exercise training impacts you more than you think. In some cases it impacts your health more widely than other forms of exercise. It can be as easy as adding several exercises that span different muscle groups performed for one set at 8 to 15 repetitions on 2 or more days per week. (example: resistance machines in a gym or a class based dumbbell or band program or our simple exercise program ). The key is that when you train your musculature to go to momentary failure on the last couple repetitions and/or try challenge yourself when exercises and/or loads get easier.

How can you say that it can impact your health more widely than other forms of exercise?

Check out what the research says from this adapted article.

A 2014 study published in the research journal Obesity found that strength training is more effective at preventing increases in abdominal fat than cardiovascular exercise. This was a surprise. This fat, known as visceral fat, is a major culprit in heart disease as well as diabetes. Other research suggest that strength training improves blood pressure and triglyceride levels similarly to cardiovascular exercise, but it has even greater benefits on HDL, which is the good cholesterol. Another review published in the journal BioMed Research International shows that, in addition to building muscle, strength training also improves the muscle's ability to take in and use glucose, which has major implications for diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  A 2017 research published in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology, found muscle mass to be a strong predictor of cancer treatment outcomes. What they found was that muscle wasting is a common complication of cancer treatment and is associated with a higher risk of chemotherapy toxicity, faster tumor progression and lower survival rates. According to a 2015 review published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy strength training  increases the number and diameter of collagen fibrils in tendons to increase their strength and help prevent injury. A 2014 review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that using low to moderate weights can help with  anxiety. A interesting study in 2015 Journal of Extension study found middle-aged and older women, shows that consistent strength training improves body image and perceived physical appearance, no matter the actual aesthetic results. What an interesting study. Weight bearing activities where there is a load put on the body by an external force creates a strengthening of the muscle and retention or even formation of bone.  In a 2014 Journal of Family and Community Medicine study, just 12 weeks of strength training with squats increased lower spine and femur (thigh) bone mineral density by 2.9 and 4.9 percent, respectively.  In 2016 study in the Journal of American Geriatrics, when men and women ages 55 through 86 with mild impairment performed twice-weekly weight training for six months, they significantly improved their scores on cognitive tests. A 2015 study in The Lancet found that grip strength accurately predicts death from any cause and, according to a 2017 Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care study, compared to body mass index or BMI, where lean muscle mass better measures a person's overall health. These studies suggest that everyone can benefit from incorporating resistance training two or more days a weeks using exercises that work all muscles group either through isolation, compound, or functional exercises.

What is Resistance Training?

Resistance Training, weight lifting, and strength training are essentially the same thing. The difference is that weight training and somewhat strength training refers more to free weight exercises using barbells and dumbells.

Resistance training can be accomplished with traditional free weights and dumbbells, weight machines, body weight, elastic tubing, medicine balls, or even common household products like milk jugs filled with sand or soup cans. The choice to incorporate a certain type of resistance training exercise depends on level of physical fitness, how familiar a person is with specific exercise movements, and individual goals. For example, low fit individuals can focus primarily on machine-based exercises as they have been regarded as safer to use compared to more complex free weight exercises. The incorporation of free weight movementsand other more advanced exercises can be performed as a person increases his or her muscular fitness. For example, advanced individuals can perform multiple sets and heavier resistances using multiple-joint exercises, such as squats and deadlifts. Whichever form of resistance is chosen, multiple-joint, large muscle group exercises should be considered first and probably performed before single-joint, smaller group exercises. Program design recommendation will be mentioned at another point in this webpage.

What is sarcopenia?

Strasser et al. (2018) shows that muscular strength is an important component of physical fitness with an independent role in the prevention of many chronic diseases especially as one grows older.

Several epidemiological studies have shown that muscular weakness in middle-aged and older individuals is strongly related to functional limitations and physical disability.

A growing body of evidence suggests that muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other cofactors such as age, body fat, and smoking.

Several studies have shown that muscular strength is inversely associated with the incidence of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension, metabolic syndrome or hyperinsulinemia, and type 2 diabetes as well.

As we age we tend to lose lean muscle mass, which is a condition known as sarcopenia. Resistance training helps maintain and combat the loss of muscle mass by increasing muscular fitness.

On top of that muscular fitness tones your body making you feel and look better by improving posture, sculpting muscle, and losing body fat.

Sobering Research: Human skeletal muscle inevitably undergoes remarkable changes with aging, characterized by a decline in muscle mass and strength of about 1% per year from the age of around 40 years. 46% of 80+ year olds can not lift more than 10 pounds-CDC Functional Research

How Much Muscle can you Gain?

How much muscle you can gain is much less than what some trainers and supplement companies tout. It is limited to a great degree by your genetics. There are many other factors such as age that you started training. When puberty starts through early adulthood is the time when you will see the most gains in both males and females. The longer you train the greater likelihood of increased muscle mass, but there is a plateau that is reached usually after the first year of training where gains are much harder thereafter. Through proper training, good nutrition and adequate rest, a person can maximize their genetic potential, but they cannot exceed their genetic limitations. The fat-free mass index (FFMI) which is a calculation similar to the Body Mass Index (BMI) and is determined when we do body composition measures is used to identify the proportion of a person’s lean body weight in relation to their height. Studies reveal that a male cannot achieve an FFMI greater than 25-26 without using steroids, while this number is greater than 22 for females. Some researchers suggest muscle gains in men when both training and nutrition is ideal is between 1 to 2 pounds of month and those gains slow after a year in those who are not using performance enhancing drugs. One researcher suggest that it is highly unlikely that a male could put on more than 18 to 20 pounds of muscle within a year through drug-free means. While women rarely bulk up as dramatically as men because they have lower testosterone levels, some women build muscle more easily than others. The exact amount of muscle a woman gains as in men depends on her age, fitness level, body type, diet and program.

How Do You Gain Muscle?

The simple answer to this is that muscle(s) needs to be challenged beyond what it is use to. There is also a suggestion that there needs to be slight damage to the muscle so that when it repairs it builds bigger and stronger tissue. There are different strategies in doing this, but one of the best ways is through resistance training which use momentary muscular failure and resistance that is brought through both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) motions through several or more repetitions (upwards of 12 to 15) for more than 1 set. Combined with this approach is the need for rest. Therefore 48 hours of rest is needed between training days of a muscle group. If a person continues to work a muscle that has recently been challenged, it will not have time to repair and grow. Therefore, a muscle should not be worked two days in a row.

According to the ACSM as well as many other source to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. So for a 150 lbs male that could be as little as 75 grams which is about several ounces of chicken. In other words protein is important but not large amounts like many think. See this great blog from the ACSM (link).

What is the difference between body building and strengthening?

The major difference is about volume. Volume is the number of exercises that you do times the number of sets times number of repetitions. Body builders tend to do much more exercises, sets, and reps. Example: a competitive lifter or athlete may do the bench press that works the chest and triceps. This may be the only exercise that impacts the chest directly that they do. A body builder would do the bench press as well as other chest exercises like flys, crossovers, dips,  dumbbell presses off a flat or incline bench etc. The competitive lifter or athlete will do the bench press for 4 to 6 sets using different pyramid repetition protocols like 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 going up in weight by 5 to 10% each set with a recovery set of 10 at the end. A body builder would do the bench presser 3 to 6 sets but the reps would fall between 8 to 12 reps. A body builder is looking for a pump, fatigue sensation while the competitive lifter and athlete is looking for an all out effort of explosive power. The goal of a body builder is muscular size throughout the body while that of a competitive lifter and athlete is strength and explosive power that translates to the athletic field or strength meets.

What is the difference between isolation and compound exercises? Adapted from

Isolation exercises work one muscle at a time. Some examples might be the bicep curl, tricep pushdown and leg extension/curl. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Compound exercises usually involve movements such as pushing, pulling, squatting and deadlifting. A great example of a compound exercise is the squat exercise, which engages many muscles in the lower body and core, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutei, lower back, and core. Isolation exercises work only one muscle or muscle group and only one joint at a time. Examples of isolation exercises include the biceps curl or the quadriceps extension. These exercises are often performed with the commercial weight machines found in health clubs. Isolation exercises are frequently used in physical therapy clinics and rehab centers in order to correct a specific muscle weakness or imbalance that often occurs after injury, illness, surgery, or other conditions. For healthy athletes who are trying to get the most out of a training program, compound exercises are generally recommended. Many people preferred compound exercises because they translate to common movement patterns and work more muscles at once. Compound exercise allows you to get a full-body workout in less time, keeps your heart rate up offering cardiovascular benefits and generally burns more calories. Because it simulates real-world movements, it helps to build strength for everyday living. Isolation exercises are often recommended to correct muscle imbalance or weakness that often occurs after an injury. Isolating a specific muscle is sometimes necessary to get it to activate and increase its strength. After an injury, a muscle often becomes weak and other muscles compensate for that weakness. If you never retrain the injured muscles to fire properly again, it may set up a biomechanical imbalance that is difficult to correct. Even if your weakness isn't noticeable because other muscles are compensating, imagine how much stronger you would be if all the muscles were firing at maximum contraction. That alone is a good reason to occasionally do isolation exercises. Another reason to perform specific isolation exercises is to increase the size or bulk of a specific muscle group, which helps in metabolism and blood glucose control. Most healthy athletes will use compound exercises for the majority of a training program and use isolation exercises to complement the program as needed. Both compound and isolation exercises have their place in a well-rounded workout regimen. If you are interested in getting a complete, efficient and functional workout, doing predominantly compound exercises during your training is ideal. But there are times when isolating a specific muscle, muscle group or joint is necessary and recommended.  See list of exercise - I like to use a combination of both when training people. Everyone should also consider additional functional exercsies.

What is the difference between traditional strength/resistance training and functional training?

Traditional strength/resistance training focuses on building strength, size, and or definition in one or more muscle groups. It includes circuit training machines that isolates one or more muscles (some consider these the safest and/or easiest to start with) as well as one joint isolation free weight exercises like the curls. Some consider the compound lifts like the olympic lifts, squat, deadlift, row, bench press, and shoulder press as traditional exercise, while some might argue as these exercises being functional. Functional training focuses on large body positions and movements that stabilize specific muscle groups while other exercises mimic moves that are common to activities of daily life and sports. Functional training in most cases utilizes ones own bodyweight working against and with gravity as well as against itself. Most exercises require multiple body parts to work together. Functional training also incorporates a wide variety tools that include barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, TRX, resistance tubes and bands, cables, medicine balls, sandbags and more.

Key elements in functional training is physical endurance, agility, balance, core strength, proprioceptive awareness, and neuromuscular coordination, which is different from traditional training of strength and power.

A common traditional fitness based workout using weight machines and cardio sessions on treadmills, bikes, or elliptical trainers tend to isolate muscle groups and challenge them with one plane of movement. These workouts fall short of training the body for the multidirectional movements required for many common life activities, but they do offer a great deal of metabolic and fitness benefits as well as being very safe and easy to learn. It is therefore not uncommon for someone fit who has been doing these exercises to experience significant soreness after a weekend of yard work or sport. Therefore it is prudent to incorporate functional training into a traditional fitness program. In other words it is not one or the other it is a combination.

The ability to perform movements with skill and efficiency is essential for health, fitness, and performance. Movement efficiency not only helps reduce the physiological burden of performing activities of daily living, job tasks, and sports skills, but also reduces one’s likelihood for certain types of musculoskeletal injuries. From ACE

Want more details read on

Building Strength and Size

For those Fitness Nerds here is the Position Stand From the ACSM on Strength and Muscle Building (link). According to the ACSM optimal characteristics of strength-specific programs include the use of concentric (CON), eccentric (ECC), and isometric muscle actions and the performance of bilateral and unilateral single- and multiple-joint exercises. In addition, it is recommended that strength programs sequence exercises to optimize the preservation of exercise intensity (large before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises, and higher-intensity before lower-intensity exercises). For novice (untrained individuals with no RT experience or who have not trained for several years) training, it is recommended that loads correspond to a repetition range of an 8-12 repetition maximum (RM). For intermediate (individuals with approximately 6 months of consistent RT experience) to advanced (individuals with years of RT experience) training, it

is recommended that individuals use a wider loading range from 1 to 12 RM in a periodized fashion with eventual emphasis on heavy loading (1-6 RM) using 3- to 5-min rest periods between sets performed at a moderate contraction velocity (1-2 s CON; 1-2 s ECC). When training at a specific RM load, it is recommended that 2-10% increase in load be applied when the individual can perform the current workload for one to two repetitions over the desired number. The recommendation for training frequency is 2-3 d x wk(-1) for novice training, 3-4 d x wk(-1) for intermediate training, and 4-5 d x wk(-1) for advanced training. Similar program designs are recommended for hypertrophy training with respect to exercise selection and frequency. For loading, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 1-12 RM be used in periodized fashion with emphasis on the 6-12 RM zone using 1- to 2-min rest periods between sets at a moderate velocity. Higher volume, multiple-set programs are recommended for maximizing hypertrophy. Progression in power training entails two general loading strategies: 1)

strength training and 2) use of light loads (0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises; 30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises) performed at a fast contraction velocity with 3-5 min of rest between sets for multiple sets per exercise (three to five sets). It is also recommended that emphasis be placed on multiple-joint exercises especially those involving the total body. For local muscular endurance training, it is recommended that light to moderate loads (40-60% of 1 RM) be performed for high repetitions (>15) using short rest periods (<90 s). In the interpretation of this position stand as with prior ones, recommendations should be applied in context and should be contingent upon an individual's target goals, physical capacity, and training status.

How do you measure strength?

Muscular strength is defined as the maximum force your muscles can develop in a single contraction. Essentially, you want to know the heaviest weight you can lift once. This measurement is referred to as "1RM," for "one repetition maximum.” But finding your exact 1RM can be difficult and dangerous. For this reason, sports science researchers have developed a number of formulas that you can use to estimate your muscular strength that I feel are helpful to use. First pick your exercise to test. Generally, a bench press is used to test upper body strength, and a leg press is used to test lower body strength.[ If you want to test specific muscles, use different exercises. For example, you might use curls if you want to test your biceps strength specifically.

Choose a weight you can lift several times. To estimate your 1RM, use a weight lighter than the maximum you could lift once. However, it should be heavy enough that your muscles would fatigue in 10 repetitions or less. If you don't lift weights often, or haven't lifted in awhile, it may take you a few tries before you find the proper weight to use. If you have to try more than once, rest for at least 5 minutes in between tries.

Lift until you can no longer lift with proper form. Prediction equations work best when you get as close to your maximum weight as possible. Count your repetitions to fatigue, abbreviated "RTF." This is the number of times you can lift the weight before you can no longer perform the exercise properly or at a consistent rate. Others use numerical values of repetition maximums (RMs). Example: 10 RMs is the maximal amount of weight that you can lift 10 times. I use that a lot to estimate clients strength and it is very helpful..

Plug the weight and number of repetitions into a prediction equation. A simple prediction equation to estimate your 1RM is (0.033 x RTF x load) + load. In this equation, "RTF" is the number of repetitions you completed, and "load" is the amount of weight you lifted. For example, if you lifted 50 kg for 9 repetitions, your equation would look like this: 1RM = (0.033 x 9 x 50) + 50 = 14.85 + 50 = approximately 65 kg. When using this equation just adjust for pounds when doing the calculation. Attempting to lift a larger load than you can handle could strain or tear muscles or tendons. Never try the 1RM test on your own without a spotter to assist you. A 1RM test typically isn't suitable for beginners who are just getting started lifting weights. It would be suitable to use a lift a weight till fatigue and then do a calculation to determine a 1 RM.

Master List of Muscular Training Machines, Exercises, and Options

Never Complete Always in Development

Consult with us to determine what muscular exercises are right for you OR you can determine your own muscular ability by taking the muscular ability self tests as mentioned. It is also good to do the functional ability tests, especially the deep squat test before attempting advanced exercises (see functional self tests). From the test results you can determine what muscular fitness exercises you should attempt: beginner-green (for those just starting or who had difficulty doing some of the tests), intermediate-orange (for those who could do all the tests properly without pain but did not meet the benchmarks), or advanced-red (for those who could do all the tests properly without pain and met or surpassed the benchmarks).  

(click on link for complete list)



Are You Muscular Fit?

To Understand Your Muscular Fitness you have to understand your muscular endurance and strength..In order to do more Advanced Functional training you should pass these tests first.