How to Resistance Train

Because of the pros and cons of training for muscle mass vs. training for activities of daily life, we must use them both in order to achieve the most benefit.  Since the concept of training for muscle mass is typically more familiar to most individuals, we’ll use that as our starting point.

However, I need to point out that this writing is almost entirely conceptual.  I’ll make other resources later that explain further how to actually apply these concepts.

Training for muscle mass

Since this book is directed towards the general population, and the general population mainly desires a form of bodybuilding (which is gaining muscle, losing fat, or both), we’ll focus on the concept of bodybuilding rather than using these same exercises for the purpose of strength or power.

According to the NSCA, hypertrophy(muscle growth) is stimulated by using 8-12 repetitions with a 30-90 second rest period between 3-6 sets.  However, the key in exercise selection is that the exercises must be stabilized in order to work only a specific group of muscles rather than the full-body.

In the name of simplicity, we’ll divide the muscle-groups into three major functions.  First, the upper body push.  Second, the upper body pull.  Third, the legs push.  The legs don’t pull because most of us haven’t figured out how to pick up that barbell using our toes yet.

Upper-body pushing includes anything that involves moving an object farther away from you.  It doesn’t matter if that object is a barbell, dumbbell, or resistance band.  As long as you are stabilizing your body and putting yourself in the strongest position to move the resistance, then you are training the upper-body pushing muscles for muscle growth.

Some examples of these upper-body pushing exercises for muscle growth would be things like the following:

1. Bench press (

2. Incline bench press (

3. Decline bench press (

4. Dips (

5. Military press (

All you’re doing is pushing away from you at different angles (pushing straight out, pushing out at an incline, pushing out at a decline, pushing down, and pushing up).  That’s all there is to it.

Upper-body pulling is exactly the opposite of upper-body pushing.  Now, you take an object that’s away from you and pull it towards you.  Once again, the type of resistance isn’t a huge deal when you’re training for health.  An athlete would have to customize their training in order to make it as close to what they would encounter on the field as possible, but for general health it just becomes a matter of preference.  So, a barbell, a dumbbell, or a resistance band are all valid methods.  And once again, the objective of this is to stabilize your body in order to emphasize your upper-body pulling muscles rather than involving the entire body.

Some examples of the upper-body pulling exercises for muscle growth are things like the following:

1. Bent Over Rows (

2. Dumbbell Rows (

3. Lat Pulldowns ( )

4. Seated cable rows (

5. Upright rows (

The idea is simply to pull at different angles.  You pull an object from above, from straight out, from below, or any angle in between.

Lastly, training legs for muscle growth is fairly straight-forward.  You just have to find different ways to push down into the ground.  Also, it’s imperative that you create a strong base of support by using both legs rather than one.  In doing so, you increase your stability and are able to put more stress on the primary muscles in the legs rather than taxing their stabilizers.  The variations of these exercises are mainly just where you hold the weight.  For squats, it’s on your back.  For front squats, it’s on your chest.  For deadlifts, it’s in your hands.  In all of these variations, the legs still just take you from a bent-leg position to a straight-leg position.

Some examples of the leg exercises for muscle growth are the following:

1. Two-legged back squats (

2. Two-legged front squats (

3. Two-legged leg presses (

4. Two-legged Romanian Deadlifts (

However, be advised that you need to have very good supervision if you’re attempting deadlifts.  Many trainers don’t understand how dangerous the deadlift can be without proper supervision.  If you don’t have an ACSM or NSCA certified trainer, you may be at risk.  In addition, some strength coaches are coming out and saying that back squats can be dangerous as well.  Once again, due diligence is necessitated for that exercise.

If you desire to keep things as safe as possible for whatever reason, it’s almost always advisable to start with bodyweight squats (squats with no weight added).  In my personal opinion, you should be able to do at least fifteen bodyweight squats going down to about a 90 degree angle in your knees before you start messing around with weights.  If you attempt to progress too fast in anything in exercise, you’re likely to get injured.  Take things slow and focus on the long-term.

Training for Activities of Daily Life

Training for Activities of Daily Life is essentially the opposite of training for muscle growth.  As we went over earlier, activities of daily life don’t allow us to isolate a muscle group.  We have to train the muscles of the entire body to work together.  Consider this.

Muscle groups involved in a bench press:
1. Protractors of the scapula
2. Horizontal flexors of the shoulder joint
3. Extensors of the elbow joint


Muscle groups involved in a pushup:
1. Protractors of the scapula
2. Horizontal flexors of the shoulder joint
3. Extensors of the elbow joint
4. Flexors of the trunk
5. Flexors of the hip
6. Extensors of the knee
7. Plantarflexors of the ankle

As you can see, the bench press involves three major joints which is good for its purpose of muscle growth.  However, the pushup involves seven major joints which is good for its purpose of teaching the body how to move as a cohesive unit rather than just training one part at a time.  This results in much greater motor control and injury prevention.

Now we move on to the meat of the subject.  According to Juan Carlos Santana, we have four pillars of movement.  Firstly, we have locomotion.  Secondly, we have level change.  Thirdly, we have pushing and pulling.  Fourthly, we have rotation.  He believes that if we follow these four tenets, we’re able to train the body in a manner that prepares us for our natural environment of 360 degrees of motion, gravity, ground-reaction forces, and momentum.

Locomotion is simply moving along a horizontal plane.  So, it’s more or less the process of walking.  How do we do train that?  Anterior reaches.  (

Next, level change is moving along a vertical plane.  It’s when we move our center of gravity up or down.  We train that with squats.  (

After level change, we have to deal with pushing.  The same definition of pushing that we defined in training for muscle growth applies.  Pushing is simply moving something away from you.  However, the application is different because in this case, you are using your body as the weight rather than moving a barbell.  So, pushups are ideal.  (

Next, pulling is a necessary component in order to train for activities of daily life.  We do this in a manner that prepares us for everyday life by doing recline pulls.  (

And lastly, in real life, our bodies always have to deal with rotation.  Although sometimes our movements look linear, they are not.  While we walk, our core is constantly stabilizing our bodies as our legs and arms swing to create and control the movement known as walking.  Our core is highly involved in the activities of daily life.  The most introductory way to train rotation is through woodchop exercises.  (

One of the major tenets of the philosophy of training for activities of daily life is that exercises should eventually be progressed to single-legged.  And although it will take longer to build up the strength to do single-arm movements, that should be the goal for the upper-body movements as well.  This is because just as we only use one leg at a time to walk, we often only use one arm at a time as well.  We need to train the body for the manner in which it is used.

Continuing the thought process of training the body for how it is used, we should focus on using contralateral movements.  Contralateral means, “on or relating to the opposite side”.  For instance, walking is contralateral.  When you step forward with your left foot, your right arm will swing forward to act as a counter-balance and keep you going in a straight direction.  If you try walking with your left foot and left arm forward at the same time, you’ll swing off to your left.

Essentially, the concept is that since we walk contralaterally, we should train contralaterally.  For instance, when performing an anterior reach exercise while standing on your right foot, you should reach forward with your left hand.

For the rest of “The Simplified Science of How to be Healthy” go here.