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Resistance and Cardiovascular Training Basics - Phase 1

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Prabhat Bhama



UM Medical School






Physical fitness and well-being are contingent on many factors such as genetics, physical activity, and nutrition. As of yet, manipulation of one’s genetic makeup to encourage fat burning and lean tissue synthesis is not possible at typical workout facilities. Fortunately, we can alter our physiques to some extent by engaging in regular, effective physical activity, and making intelligent food choices. The purpose of this article is to help introduce the aspiring fitness buff to resistance training and cardiovascular exercise. This article is directed to non-medical professionals; however, medical explanations for the principles suggested are explained in small-type italic. Other explanations are provided in other articles on our website.

When discussing exercise, it is often helpful to divide physical activity into two main categories based on how they create energy: anaerobic and aerobic. Aerobic exercise refers to exercise in the presence of oxygen, whereas anaerobic exercise occurs without oxygen present. This distinction is helpful because fat is largely burned in the presence of oxygen, whereas carbohydrates are largely the fuel of choice during anaerobic exercise1.

Fatty acids are not effectively utilized in anerobic condictions due to inbibition of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. Specifically, acetyl-CoA is the breakdown product of ß-oxidation, which is shuttled into the Citric Acid Cycle to be combined with oxaloacetate and form citrate. If oxygen is not present, then cytochrome C oxidase (in the electron transport chain) can not be oxidized by oxygen. Thus, the electron transport chain shuts down, resulting in a buildup of NADH (which is normally oxidized by NADH oxidase in the ETC). The buildup of NADH subsequently inhibits the Citric Acid Cycle (which produces NADH). This results in a buildup of Acetyl CoA, which will then shut down ß-oxidation2.

Weight training is considered by most professionals to fall in the category of anaerobic exercise, whereas activites such as jogging, light swimming, light biking, and speed walking are considered aerobic. In order to obtain the most benefit from your workout routine, it is best to participate in both anaerobic and aerobic exericise.

Although weight lifting is anaerobic, it does have some potentially aerobic properties. Specifically, if adequate rest periods between sets are taken, it can encourage optimal oxygen utilization to synthesize pyruvate from lactic acid produced during anaerobic fermentation. This process can prove to be aerobic, but we will still consider weight training anaerobic.


These days, it seems as if the most difficult part of exercising is not the physical labor itself, but actually finding a workout regimen that fits your lifestyle and training goals. With all of the bizarre workout equipment and dieting fads that are available today, it is often overwhelming for even the seasoned athlete to decide how to exercise. This series will introduce a training and nutrition schedule that can apply to most individuals who are beginning an exercise program, or to those who are looking to change their current program. In fact, I have trained many of my clients in the past using a blueprint similar to the one presented in this article. The basic goals here are to lose fat and build muscle.

Firstly, I would like to clear up some misconceptions and elaborate on some basic ideas:

#1. The concept of “Toning”

- In my experience, most individuals have told me that their primary goal is to “tone up” their muscles. Upon further questioning, what they really wanted was to make their muscles more visible. There are two obvious methods to do this: burning the surrounding subcutaneous fat (basically fat beneath the skin, but above the muscle), and making the muscle itself larger. This program will utilize both methods, thereby maximizing fat loss and achieving the most “cut” appearance possible.

Moreover, the traditional belief that doing large numbers of repetitive lifts will tone the muscle is not entirely correct. A muscle basically has two options: to hypertrophy (increasing the mass of the muscle by increasing myofiber/muscle cell size – NOT the # of muscle cells), or to atrophy (the opposite). If a well-nourished individual stimulates a muscle beyond its normal baseline, it will hypertrophy. If the same individual stops using a particular muscle, it will atrophy. In this program, we will try to complete 8-12 repetitions of each exercise. This means that if you can do 13 repetitions, you need to increase the weight the next time. Conversely, if you can only complete 7 repetitions, you need to reduce the weight for your next round on that exercise.

#2. “Spot reduction.”

- The idea that performing large numbers of crunches will burn the fat around your abdomen, thereby giving you the “ripped abs” appearance, is quite misleading. Basically, when your body burns fat, it will burn fat from the last place it was stored. Therefore, if the last cookie you ate was stored in your buttocks, that fat will be burned first; regardless of the type of exercise you perform. Performing endless numbers of crunches will only stress the abdominal musculature more, thereby stimulating muscle growth and endurance, not.


As noted earlier, it is essential to incorporate both cardiovascular (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) exercises into your regimen to obtain optimum benefit. When making your workout plan, it is often helpful to think of each type of exercise through the “F.I.T.T.” principle, which stands for: frequency, intensity, time, and type. We will start with the cardiovascular aspect of exercise since it is quite basic. However, in practice, it is best to perform your resistance training first, and then proceed to the cardiovascular exercise (if you plan on doing both in one day). For a metabolic explanation, please see the article “Exercise Physiology.”

Make sure that you perform a good warm-up for 5-10 minutes prior to performing any exercises. The warm-up should be light cardiovascular activity, such as walking, or slow biking, and should elevate your heart rate and possibly help you break a sweat. Your workout should also be followed by a 5 minute cool down, to help bring your heart rate back to its normal baseline. Stretching is also recommended after your workout to help relax your muscles and speed recovery. Make sure to stretch in slow, controlled motions. Fast, bouncy (ballistic) stretching is not recommended.

Cardiovascular Program For Amateurs

Frequency: 3-5 days/week (start slowly)

Intensity: At a sufficient rate, your heart and respiratory rate should be elevated, and you should be able to hold a conversation with some difficulty. You should be sweating as well.) If you are using a heart rate monitor, then shoot for 50%-70% of your maximum heart rate (Maximum heart rate=220-age) if you are a beginner. Aim for 70%-85% of your MHR if you are in good shape.

Time: 10-20 minutes to start (building up to 30 minutes) of continuous exercise. (i.e. no breaks in between machines)

Type: Whatever it is you enjoy doing. Lower-impact exercises are recommended if you have fragile joints (i.e. elliptical trainers, swimming, recumbent bicycle). Running and other sports are also included, as long as they are continuous. For instance, doubles tennis is probably not as effective as jogging for this particular program. In addition, make sure that the exercise is dynamic (not isometric), rhythmic, and capable of creating the proper training intensity.

Resistance Training Program For Amateurs

Frequency: 3-4 days/week (start slowly), with at least 48 hours of rest between workouts of similar muscle groups.

Intensity: At a sufficient intensity to perform between 8-15 repetitions of each exercise. If you can do only 7 repetitions, you need to decrease the weight. If you can do 16, you need to increase the weight. Begin with 1 set (8-15 continuous repetitions) of each exercise for the 1st month, and then build up to 3 sets per exercise, continuing to perform 8-15 repetitions per set. Rest for 1 minute in-between sets.

Time: You should be able to finish the following program within 45 minutes easily.

Type: Resistance training against free weights or machines. Use of free weights should be restricted to more advanced individuals, in order to prevent injury and ensure proper form.

Take 2 seconds on each concentric (positive) movement, and 4 seconds on each eccentric (negative) movement. Breathe out on the concentric movements, and inhale on the eccentric movements.

For beginners, you may workout your entire body during one 45 minute session. More advanced techniques will be discussed in further articles.

Begin by using your largest muscle groups, and moving to the smaller ones last.


The workout (in order):
Each of the following exercises should have a machine corresponding to the particular exercise at your local workout facility. Conduct the exercises in the following order, following the instructions given above. The name of the exercise is given in normal text, the primary muscle groups being exercised are given in italics and the concentric and eccentric motions are labeled in parenthesis, in that order.

1.) Leg press – quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus (straightening knees, bending knees)
2.) Leg extensions – quadriceps (straightening knees, bending knees)
3.) Leg curls – hamstrings (bending knees, straightening knees)
4.) Lat pull-downs – latissimus dorsi, biceps (pulling bar down, releasing bar upwards)
5.) Chest press – pectoralis major, triceps (straightening elbows, bending elbows)
6.) Shoulder press – deltoids, trapezius, triceps (straightening elbows, bending elbows)
7.) Tricep press/dips – triceps, pectoralis major (straightening elbows, bending elbows)
8.) Bicep curls – biceps, wrist flexors (bending elbows, straightening elbows)
9.) Abdominal crunches – rectus abdominus muscle (sitting up, laying down)

This basic workout should take you no more than 30-45 minutes to conduct the resistance training portion of the workout. The cardiovascular program will vary on the length you desire to exercise. But remember to start slowly to avoid injury. It is essential on any fitness regimen to make smart food choices, or you will sabotage your hard work in the gym. As always, please consult your physician prior to beginning any nutrition or exercise program. Good luck, and have fun in the gym!


1)Wahren, J. Glucose turnover during exercise in man. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1977; 301:45.

2.) DiMauro, S, De Vivo, D. Diseases of carbohydrate, fatty acid, and mitochondrial metabolism. In: Basic Neurochemistry, Seigel, G, et al (Ed), Raven, New York, NY 1989. p.647.

3.) Braun, Lynne T and Douglas M Peterson. Patient information: Exercise. Up-to-Date. Online. © 2004




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