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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.

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