Building a better body

Benefits of lifting weights extends to athletes and nonathletes alike
Sunday, January 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:06 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When Taelin Frasier started seriously lifting weights 11 years ago, he immediately noticed a difference in his energy level.

“You can just tell that your body is working better, and it’s great for self-image” Frasier said.

He lifts weights four days and runs three days every week at Body Basics Gym. He enjoys using the free weights at the gym, and when he can’t get there, he makes sure to use the Bowflex machine he has at home. His favorite areas to work are his shoulders and abdominal muscles.

But the benefits of weight lifting go deeper than keeping the body buff. Athletes and nonathletes use weight lifting to help endurance and promote healing.

Two days out of four days he spends at the gym, Frasier works with a personal trainer.

“When I’m by myself, I have a tendency to slack off and cut reps, so I get a much better work out when I have someone there pushing me,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he has had three knee surgeries, and his doctor was amazed at how quickly he recovered from the last one.

“Being in such good shape must have really helped me bounce back,” Frazier said.

Angie Connell, a physical therapist at Peter’s Rehab, said the better shape a person is in prior to an injury, the faster the person will heal. She said this is especially relevant for those “weekend warriors” who sit at a desk Monday through Friday, and then rake leaves or get other physical exercise on the weekend.

“It is very important to stay strong and active all through the week to reduce the risk of injury on the weekend,” Connell said. “Also, another benefit is that strong abdominal muscles can relieve lower back problems for people who spend a good part of their workday sitting in a chair.”

Connell said that weight training is not only useful in preventing injuries, but also in recovering from them. Lifting weights is part of the physical rehabilitation process.

“First, we take stress off the tissue and wait for the inflammatory process to end,” Connell said. “When the patient is ready, we start stressing the area again and building up the muscle.”

Connell said that patients can use the facilities at Peter’s rehab, or a gym of their choice, but the important thing is to lift weights correctly. She said incorrect lifting could make a pre-existing injury worse or even cause another to occur, so people should get proper instructions and not just watch what other people at the gym are doing.

“Just because someone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right,” Connell said.

Steve Ball, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at MU, also stressed the importance of safety. He said that anyone starting an exercise program should have a health screening first, just to make sure his or her body is ready.

Then, Ball said that it is important to start light and be consistent.

“Working out ‘here and there’ isn’t nearly as beneficial,” Ball said.

Ball went on to explain the health benefits that people can gain from weight-training.

“It used to be that cardio was prescribed for weight loss, but now weights are too,” Ball said. “Maintaining and building muscle mass speeds up metabolism and eventually changes body composition.”

Ball said weight lifting is especially good for certain subsets of the population. The elderly can benefit from increased strength and an exercise routine complete with weight training can greatly improve their mobility and quality of life. Women, on the other hand, can increase their bone density.

“There is an epidemic of low bone density occurring in younger and younger women, and weight-bearing exercise can help maintain and build strong bones,” Ball said.

Laura Wacker, the manager of Body Basics Gym and the Stephens College swimming coach, said weight training is great for just about everyone.

Jon Barfknecht, a certified athletic trainer at Columbia College, reinforced the idea of the importance of weight training in athletics.

One of the ways in which he helps athletes is by forming their exercise programs, which are then overseen by coaches.

“Weight training helps athletes use their muscles more efficiently, which improves performance and can help guard against injury,” Barfknecht said. He explained that when athletes lack strength, they are much more likely to use incorrect form and injure themselves.

Dane Pavlovich, basketball and volleyball coach at Stephens College, said it used to be taboo for basketball players to lift weights, but now it’s standard practice.

“The style of play has become more physical under the baskets and even on the perimeter, and the players have to be able to handle it,” Pavlovich said.

The coach said weight training is important to lessen the normal aches and strains that come with playing sports. He explained that lifting three to four days a week would be optimal, but there isn’t always enough time.

“At Stephen’s we only lift two days a week to make sure we fit in other things,” Pavlovich said.

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