Sept. 23, 1983 / Montrose Voice
By Harvey Thompson, M.D.
With so many of us interested in improving our personal appearance, there has
been a rapid increase in the number of
gyms and athletic programs aimed at people who are more interested in the cosmetic improvements of exercise, instead of
the competitive aspects. With that
increase has come a good amount of misinformation. Let'B consider some of the more
common questions about weight-lifting
that crop up for the amateur.
Q. Is a special diet needed for weight-
A. Probably not. The body is adept at
transforming fats, carbohydrates and proteins from one form into another. Calories
are a more important consideration. Body
mass is determined by this formula:
INTAKE (calories) equals ENERGY
EXPENDITURE plus CHANGE (in body
The equation may seem simple, but it is
frequently misunderstood by the obese,
the underweight, the athlete and weigh-
tlifter. Any one of the variables influences
the other two. For example, if more calories are consumed while energy expenditure remains the same, body weight will
increase in anyone with no disease and
good health. However, if less food is eaten
while energy expenditure remains constant, body weight will drop. Amazing as
it is, there are still patients who exclaim,
"But Doctor! I don't eat anything, and I
still gain weight!" That's obviously impossible. ,
Q. When you stop lifting weights, does
muscle turn to fat'
A, No. Fat rells «"■ from endoderm.
Muscle cells are from mesoderm Th<
not transform themselves from one to
another. Probably, the number of fat and
muscle cells are "set" at birth and don't
change. Obesity is not an increase in the
number of fat cells, but a change in their
lipid content. Muscle cells hypertrophy, or
enlarge, with exercise, but don't increase
in number, either.
Q. Does weight-lifting increase your life
A. Maybe not. As unreasonable as it
may seem, there is not good proof that
exercise protects against heart disease.
However, one positive benefit of exercise
has been seen in a study of longshoremen;
their heavy physical activity Beemed to
protect against "Sudden Death Syndrome," a type of heart attack.
Q. Will situps reduce the size of my waistline?
A. No. Most large bellies are fat. To get
the waist size down, one must depend on
weight reduction, either through less
intake or more energy expenditure
through exercise. The exercise will work
an allover reducing benefit; spot reduction, aimed at melting away fat in a specific exercise area, won't work. The waist
vibrators and wide rubber belt gimmicks
were fads of the 50s.
Q. Is weight-lifting better for you than
jogging or aerobic dancing?
A. No. Weight-lifting is mostly cosmetic.
It looks healthy, but it's not a real cardiovascular conditioner.
Q. Is it better to work out with weights
every day or a few times a week?
A. Doing workouts can be boring and
time-consuming. A daily workout is necessary for the weight-lifting pro, but the
amateur who wants a body that's "a cut
above the average" will find an altemate-
day-of-the-week regime productive
enough, as well as a more efficient use of
time that's more likely to be followed than
Q. What are Lats? the Pecs? Biceps?
Triceps? Deltoids? Hamstrings?
A. All are different parts of the muscular
anatomy. Knowing those parts is invaluable in setting up a sensible workout pattern for each muscle group. For example,
the biceps in the front of the arms are developed by "curls." Dips or benches develop
the triceps in the back of the arms. Bench
presses are pretty standard for the chest
pectorals. Shrugs build the trapezius* of
the shoulder. Arm extensions (front and
side) are for the deltoids, situps for the
abdomen. Quads and leg curls done on the
stomach are for the hamstrings in the
back of the thigh.
Q. Didn 't you say situps don't reduce the
A. They don't. They help build muscle
but will not reduce specific area fat.
Q. How many repetitions? How many
A. Three sets of the maximum weight
that allows you to perform six to ten repetitions for each exercise. If you're looking
for definition and not more bulk, use a
lighter weight with more repetitions.
Q. How about steroids?
A. Steroids are NOT approved by the
FDA for muscle building because of their
numerous Bide effects. Be careful with
them if you have high blood pressure, liver
disease, fluid retention, diabetes, etc. Professional lifters insist they work, but there
are no good studies to compare users
against non-users with regard to strength
and size. Some steroid users admit they
get meaner, more aggressive and hornier
on these male steroidB.
Q. Aren't gyms intimidating? Will they
make fun of me because I'm gay?
A. More and more straight and gay men
are lifting weights together without hassle. It may require some discretion in
small towns; straights don't appreciate
being stared at, and you may have to hold
back on conversations about gay liberation or AIDS. Stay on the weights and
leave other hi'; nr later.
Stonewall Features Syndicate.