Roger Schwab

In order to arrive at a meaningful conclusion of our topic, we must first try to define the word "exercise". The most appropriate definition might be "movement against resistance". The exercise, which yields greatest potential benefits, involves progressive resistance that provides an overload to the involved musculature and stimulates a response, an improvement in overall functional ability-strength, endurance (both muscular and cardio-respiratory) and flexibility. While different types of exercise are capable of stimulating different responses, progressive resistance strength training is the most effective and efficient, delivering more "bang for the buck" in every instance.

Exercise, in itself, "produces" nothing of value, though improperly performed exercise can instantly produce injuries. Rather, exercise properly performed "stimulates" a response from the overall system. It is the sufficient rest after the stimulus that allows that response. Strength training has the potential to make major inroads into the body's overall system (muscular skeletal system, the heart, lungs and even the vital organs). If not given adequate recovery (rest) from intense exercise-allowing sufficient time for the body to repair and replenish-there is the real chance to stimulate but not allow any positive response. Many people are willing to do literally any "amount" of exercise; will workout daily if necessary to achieve their goals! Instead, we should seek the least amount of exercise, which stimulates the desired result. If performed with the appropriate intensity, such efficient exercise will stimulate a response in functional ability without the orthopedic cost of over training and overuse. Understanding this "cause and effect" of exercise is the key to functional and structural benefits including stronger bones, connective tissue and muscles. (Please keep in mind that if the mention of the word "muscles" turns you off, be very clear that forgetting aesthetics, the real importance of muscle is to move the body and support the skeleton!)

Progressive resistance exercise (strength training) addresses bone enhancement in a safer manner than traditional "weight bearing" exercise. Weight bearing usually refers to impact loading exercise such as walking or running, which exercises do have the potential to adequately strengthen the bones but also have the inherent risk to test the bones to destruction. Some people have the structural integrity to withstand these impact forces subjected to the bones, others do not. Though as a rule, we cannot meaningfully alter the forces we encounter daily, we can improve structural integrity. And the best and safest way is to strengthen the bones through the muscular system while simultaneously increasing muscular mass and the related connective tissues. Properly performed exercise will strengthen the muscular system and should never damage the skeleton or hasten degenerative change.

This overall improvement in functional ability is the goal to which each of us should strive to attain. It is this result, which may keep us active and vibrant throughout our lives.

Unfortunately, enhanced functional ability is rarely why most sincere (often misinformed) trainees begin an exercise program. Many people of both sexes commence exercise programs to improve their appearance. Men and women strive for a "hard", "taut" and "lean" look. While progressive resistance exercise is the "guiding light" to aesthetic goals, these goals are somewhat limited to individual genetic potential (i.e. fat storage, muscle size). And, some people have greater potential than others. It is counter productive to compare one person to another. It is always best to compare yourself to only yourself at different time intervals. Suffice it to say, that if you are training wisely-briefly, intensely (using slow smooth repetitions) and infrequently (twice a week) as appropriate to your age and conditioning level and if you are eating wisely-in most cases less quantity, sensibly and balanced-you are doing everything necessary to realize your own individual potential, both structurally, functionally and aesthetically. And if you think about it, that in itself is an accomplishment of which you can be quite proud.