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Unhappy with Your Weight Muscle Up

By Dr. Scott E. Rosenthal

Where does the fat hang out on your body? Are your thighs and rear-end an irresistible rest stop? Does your fat love your love handles? Your belly… or chin? Imagine that your chubby areas are like full gas tanks. Now, imagine that you have a choice of two vehicles at your disposal to burn up your fuel storage. You can choose either a Prius or a Humvee. If maintaining your optimum weight is desired, the choice is obvious!

Too often, calorie restriction is overemphasized when it comes to weight loss programs. It is true that many Americans consume too many calories (please read the article OVEREATING? archived at for more information), but taking the time to consider your engine size or fuel-burning capacity is vital in the race to maintain your optimum weight. As your body's fat storage area equates to a fuel tank, your lean muscle mass relates to your engine size. Larger engines, not bigger tanks, burn more fuel!

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy used each day at rest- think of the gas used when a car is idling while stopped at a light. As you age, your BMR decreases. A portion of the slowdown is due to the loss of muscle mass. Starting in your mid 20's, the average person loses about half a pound of muscle per year. By the time you are in your 40′s, you have about 10 pounds less of muscle- a smaller engine! You may be a Humvee at age 20, but you have become a Prius at 40!

Considering that one pound of muscle burns about 6-10 calories per day, the loss of 10 pounds of muscle can cause weight gain over time. With the loss of muscle, at age 40, you would have an extra 60-100 calories each day available for fat storage. Since it takes about 3500 calories to make a pound of fat, you will gain a pound of fat every 35-60 days. This is why, as you age, maintaining your preferred weight can feel like being stuck in reverse.

How do you protect your engine from being downsized? Before the answer makes you jump into your Prius, roll up the windows, and lock the doors, keep in mind that exercise (yes, I said the word) becomes less a bumpy road and more like a drive through the country in a short amount of time. Once you get past the first few transitional months, the growing pains of a new routine will become a comfortable and enjoyable part of your life! Yes, you too, can learn to love resistance exercise as much as fat loves to accumulate in the area of a person’s spare tire.

Aside from protecting the muscle you DO have, consider the other benefits of resistance training. It is sure to make you engine purr and your body shine:

  • Your muscles are largely responsible for your outer appearance and shape. Greater mass of muscle and better tone creates a more attractive physique!
  • Increased strength adds protection to your joints. Loss of muscle mass and lack of use makes you more prone to injury, aches and pains.
  • Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. The additional calories burned each day, by the extra muscle mass, can add up over the year and contribute to weight loss.
  • Performing activities that help muscle mass remain utilizes calories (up to 100-200 calories depending on the workout session).

As always, check with your doctor of chiropractic or other health care professional prior to starting an exercise routine. If you are new to exercising, please consult the trainer at the gym.

My favored routine involves a 10-15 minute dynamic warm-up. Start with five minutes on a bike, an elliptical machine or a moderately brisk walk. Follow that with performing gentle movements such as forward bends and standing abdominal twists while holding a light weight (a medicine ball works well). Then, perform each resistance exercise that you will later use, but at a VERY low setting for 8-12 reps. A dynamic warm-up prepares your body for the intense workout to follow and helps protect you from being injured.

I then like to use weights to perform supersets. A superset is two exercises completed back to back with no rest in between other than the time it takes to adjust the weight. Perform 8-12 reps using a level of weight that causes you to barely get the last rep completed. The two movements will usually be antagonistic to each other, such as a pushing exercise followed by a pulling one. Once you are complete, follow with a 60-90 second rest prior to doing a second set or moving on to the next two exercises. Use large muscle groups as the foundation and add smaller muscles if you have time and an adequate energy level (being careful not exhaust yourself).

Perform the minimum for a complete workout:

  • Vertical push-pull superset (example: an overhead press then a lat pulldown)
  • Horizontal push-pull superset (example: a bench press then a seated row)
  • Abdominal and a back superset (example: side planks then back extensions)
  • Lower body such as a leg press (can be performed alone without a superset)

It is also recommended that you conclude your workout with a cardiovascular interval session. A full description of this component of the routine (essential for those interested in weight loss) can be found in the article Is Your Exercise Making You FATTER?- also archived at

The entire routine takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many sets you decide to perform. Just two or three sessions per week will make a huge difference. Take a day off in between workouts in order to allow your body to recover.

This routine is not designed to make you look like Arnold in his prime, but for the average Joe or Josephine to be healthier and achieve a more optimum weight. Please do not get overly obsessive with the scale! Muscle adds weight to the body and can offset some of the fat loss. Please think of exercising more for health… after all, weighing less or just being skinnier does not always equate to being healthier. Your goal should always be based on fitness and health!

If you desire to be healthier and maintain an optimal weight as you age, an exercise routine that includes resistance training can help you achieve success. It is fun, makes you feel great, and you’ll love the way it will make you look! A Prius motor may be better for the Earth, but a Humvee-sized engine is superior for your health and waistline!

Dr. Scott Rosenthal provides quality chiropractic care to patients in Wilmington, Delaware. He also writes a monthly column in Living Well Magazine. Whether you're searching for effective pain relief or a way to boost whole body wellness, Rosenthal Chiropractic can help.

Call our office at (302) 999-0633 for an appointment today!