Fitommerce: Good morning Dr. Westcott. You have a long and illustrious career as a strength training researcher and author, what got you into this field of study in the first place?
Wayne Westcott: My interest in strength training began with my personal weight lifting program in high school that seemed beneficial for my track performance but was strongly discouraged by my coaches. I decided to learn more about the outcomes of resistance training and how to best develop a safe, effective and efficient program of strength exercise.
FC: From your high perch during the length of your career, what were the major seminal events that advanced our view of strength training?
"Our research has shown almost equal and very impressive improvements in both boomers and seniors…"
WW: The three key influences on my direction in the field of strength training were the exercise protocols promoted by Drs. DeLorme and Watkins, who initiated sensible strength exercise in the United States in the late 1940s; Dr. Richard Berger, who studied various combinations of sets and repetitions in the early 1960s; and Arthur Jones, who advocated brief, high-intensity strength workouts in the early 1970s, and designed specialized equipment (Nautilus machines) to facilitate the strength-building process.
FC: There are many general fitness training methods out there, some promoting aerobics, some strength, some even anaerobic, each claiming to be optimal, it gets confusing. How can we sort through it all to determine which are most beneficial to whom?
WW: Unfortunately, fitness is more specific than it is general. I believe that the most practical way to improve cardiovascular fitness is through basic endurance exercise, such as running, cycling, stepping, swimming, rowing, etc., for about 30 minutes per session, at a heart rate of about 70 to 80 percent of maximum, 3 to 4 days per week. In my opinion, the most practical means for increasing muscular fitness is through standard strength training, using progressively heavier resistance to perform one hard set of exercise (8 to 12 repetitions with approximately 70 to 80 percent of maximum weightload), 2 to 3 days per week with proper technique and controlled speed. Such a workout requires about 30 minutes, which combined with 30 minutes of endurance exercise requires only 1 hour of physical activity, 3 days a week, and should be acceptable for most individuals.
FC: O.K., now about your latest book, Building Strength & Stamina with the notable subtitle of "For a stronger, leaner, and fatigue-resistant physique". What prompted you to take on this particular theme of simultaneous "strength and stamina" through I presume one exercise routine?
WW: Although you can combine strength and endurance exercise into a highly effective circuit training workout, I actually prefer doing these activities separately. Strength training is anaerobic activity that requires high-effort exercise for relatively brief duration (about 1 minute), whereas endurance training is aerobic activity that requires moderate-effort exercise for relatively long duration (20 to 30 minutes).
FC: This is also your second edition, what is the delta add-on with this re-printing over the first?
WW: Major additions to the second edition include 7 more years of research studies, much more information on free-weight training, new protocols on progressive strength exercise for both beginners and advanced participants, a definitive chapter on circuit training, new endurance exercise programs, more attention to high-intensity training and a variety of updated materials throughout the text.
FC: One of the many challenges that fitness directors face is how to show fairly appreciable results to newcomers to exercise before they get disgruntled and drop out of the program; the procedures you advocate in your book claim to be "exceptionally time-efficient", can you explain to our readers how that is so?
WW: Most people who do not exercise regularly give time constraints as their main reason for avoiding physical activity. The book provides numerous sample training protocols for both strength and endurance exercise, all of which are very time-efficient. This is accomplished by single-set and high-intensity strength training techniques that eliminate lengthy rest/recovery periods necessary in multiple-set training programs. The interval training protocols presented for endurance exercise sessions also provide more cardiovascular effort in less time by alternating higher and lower effort bouts of aerobic activity. The book also presents combination circuit training routines for the really time-pressured person who must perform concurrent strength and endurance exercise.
FC: In your book you give equal time to both free weights and machine training, most notably circuit training. Can you talk to how circuit training is consistent with the theme of your book?
WW: Circuit training is an excellent means for maximizing your strength development while minimizing your exercise duration. By performing a hard set of one exercise (e.g., leg extension), then doing a hard set of a different exercise (e.g., leg curl), you can address all of the major muscle groups in relatively short order. This is possible because you do not need to rest between sets, as each exercise works a fresh muscle group. Training without rests is also beneficial from a "fatigue-resistant" perspective, as your cardiovascular system works at a relatively high level for the entire exercise session.
FC: Can you explain the benefits of "High Intensity Training" and in particular, why it may be better to get away from multiple sets to say, "breakdown training"?
WW: Two sets of the same exercise is fine, but you essentially work the same muscle fibers twice. With breakdown training, you work additional muscle fibers in an extended set that forces you to reach a second and deeper level of muscle fatigue. Although it may be easier to do repeat sets to the same level of muscle fatigue, it may be more productive (and certainly more time-efficient) to perform high-intensity training techniques that fatigue more muscle fibers and provide a greater strength building stimulus.
FC: You mention the importance of stretching in the routine, what is in your latest research that supports this?
"Our latest research on stretching has shown that beginners who combine strength training and stretching exercise experience almost 20 percent greater strength development than those who do not stretch"
WW: Our latest research on stretching has shown that beginners who combine strength training and stretching exercise experience almost 20 percent greater strength development than those who do not stretch. You may do a 20-second stretch immediately following each strength exercise for the muscles just worked, or perform all of your stretches together right after your strength workout.
FC: Fitness center managers are trying to attract and retain boomers and seniors, can you talk about variants of your findings for the boomer and senior segments?
WW: Our research has shown almost equal and very impressive improvements in both boomers and seniors who do a basic and brief program of strength and endurance exercise. In a study with almost 1,200 participants, those between 41 and 60 years added 2.3 pounds of muscle and lost 4.4 pounds of fat after just 2 months of training, less than an hour a day, 2 or 3 days a week. Remarkably, the subjects between 61 and 80 years added 2.4 pounds of muscle and lost 4.1 pounds of fat following the same training program. Both age groups increased their muscle strength by approximately 50 percent during the 8-week training period.
FC: In particular, what is the best way to start boomers on their new strength programs so that they can realize some measurable benefit and thus stay with the program?
WW: I recommend that boomers perform a basic fitness assessment (as presented in Chapter 4) before and after two months of the exercise program to verify their progress and reinforce their training efforts. Beginning with just 3 key exercises and adding 2 exercises each week (as presented in Chapter 9) is a most sensible method for introducing new participants to a progressive program of purposeful strength training. Those who follow the exercise guidelines will notice some improvements in as little as 2 weeks.
FC: Are you planning any books in the near future and what might that new research be geared toward?
WW: We have recently conducted a considerable amount of research on a pervasive problem encountered by most women, commonly called cellulite. Our studies have shown considerable success through a sensible combination of strength training, endurance exercise and reasonable caloric reduction. The new book is titled No More Cellulite and should soon be available at all bookstores.
"The unfit market are much more responsive to short and simple fitness programs consisting of basic strength training and standard endurance exercise that they can easily blend into their busy lifestyle"
FC: And for our last question, what future changes should fitness center managers be prepared to face in this next decade?
WW: In my observation, most fitness centers are geared for exercise enthusiasts who enjoy new, challenging and complex training programs. Unfortunately, the 90 percent of Americans who do not frequent fitness facilities are far less comfortable with what they consider complicated and time-consuming exercise protocols. They are much more responsive to short and simple fitness programs consisting of basic strength training and standard endurance exercise that they can easily blend into their busy lifestyle. To reach the unfit market, we need to place more emphasis on chocolate and vanilla, and spend less time on 50 mix and match flavors, at least initially.
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