Muscle Strengthening and Growth
The Skeletal Muscles
There are 3 types of muscle tissue in our body: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal. Cardiac muscle cells are located in the walls of the heart, appear striated, and they work automatically, without our control. Smooth muscle fibres are located in the walls of hollow organs (stomach, bowel etc.), and they also work automatically. Skeletal muscle fibres can also be found in muscles which are attached to the skeleton to create movement; they are striated in appearance and are under our control. The moment a nerve cell activates a skeletal muscle cell, all muscles fire simultaneously ready for action.
How does exercise contribute to muscle growth and strengthening?
And why do we need strong muscles?
Subjecting your muscle cells to regular exercise followed by sufficient rest and nutrition makes them grow and become stronger, which is a response to the stress of the exercise. This growth takes place because during exercise, muscles fibres get damaged and the repairs and replacements of the damaged muscle fibres create bigger and stronger muscles.
Other than hypertrophy, muscle strength can also be boosted through neural adaptations that enhance interaction between the nerves and the muscles. This involves a process called synchronous activation, which is the ability to recruit more muscle cells, and consequently more power strokes, simultaneously. When you exercise, you also decrease inhibitory neural feedback, which is the central nervous system’s natural response to feedback signals that come from the muscle. This then protects your muscle from overworking and allows you to gain great muscle strength with minimal hypertrophy. This response is also responsible for much of the strength women and adolescents gain when they exercise regularly.
What is the importance of muscle growth and strengthening?
It will keep you looking youthful forever.
There is a widespread misconception that we have to become old. Becoming old and looking old is actually a choice, which we make early in our life. Poor health and decreased mobility that are frequently associated with being old are nothing else but lifestyle choices. Strong and flexible muscles can be maintained at any age and by anyone. The strength and flexibility of our muscles is what protects the skeleton from “crumbling” away and from us having joint problems, the posture of an old person, and reduced mobility. In fact, one of the fastest growing sports are endurance sports such as ironman, which attract a big number of 65 plus participants, and the oldest finisher is 85 years old. These “old” people’s bodies are built out of bones and muscles, and they have the posture of twenty-year-olds. Age is just a number if your muscles are strong and flexible, so start working them now!
Your muscles burn calories even when you sit, and this is a great protection against obesity, especially when you get older.
Your body size and composition affects how much calories your burn. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest. 10 pounds of muscle burns 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat burns 20 calories, simply because muscles have much higher metabolism. This means that if two people who weigh the same have different muscle content, then they will burn different amounts of calories, depending on the percentage of their body muscles. This also means that the less amount of muscles you have, the higher your chances of becoming overweight.
Muscle wasting that is widely spread among sedentary people is strongly linked to diabetes and obesity. Unfortunately, in the westernised countries, we have adapted the culture of “getting old is inevitable” and part of it is “to slow down” as we get old and to stop exercising. This mentality affects our quality of life, as shown by a study published in Obesity Research. The study found that the elderly who have muscle wasting and are obese had a hard time carrying out basic daily activities, such as bathing and dressing. However their problems were not related to their age but rather to the fact that they did not exercise, which caused their muscles wasting.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says that building muscle such as lifting weights can boost your metabolism by 15 percent, which helps you control your weight in addition to keeping you young.
It makes you more confident
It is not necessary the size of the muscles but the physical strength and fitness that greatly influence our self-esteem. Having strong muscles helps sculpture your body the way you like it, adding to the improvement of your hormonal status. It is inevitable that people who feel in charge of their body also feel much more in charge of their lives, enjoying a higher level of confidence.
It can help prevent diabetes.
A 2010 study published in PLoS One found a link between inadequate muscle mass and quality and impaired glucose metabolism and this independent of body fat. Growing muscles means also growing the number of mitochondria that burn the sugar in our body. Less muscles means less mitochondria and this means that having less muscles can increase your likelihood of developing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and eventually diabetes.
Muscular strength is good for your cardiovascular health.
A 2012 study that examined the effects of muscular strength on cardiovascular risk factors and prognosis points out that strong muscles can prevent the adverse cardiovascular profile of those who are overweight and obese. Even in case of patients with heart failure, muscular fitness can also have a protective effect on them.
Now that you have learned the importance of muscle mass and strength, why don’t you start working on them if you haven’t started yet? One way of building your muscles and making them stronger is through strength training. You can perform bodyweight exercises, such as squads, burpees, push-ups, pull-ups, and planks. Enjoy sculpturing your new great body!