Strong Tower – week 4

Session Four – Love the Lord with all your strength (part one)
Opening question:
What is the secret of your strength?
Read Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance…
Did you come to class naked today?
We are in the midst of a spiritual battle. In order for Christians to successfully stand up to the enemy, we must not rely on our own physical strength or will. We must put on God’s armor. The devil will try to strike at us unexpectedly, with cleverness and subtlety. He will attack with spiritual “swords” that cannot be fought by only using our natural strength. In the days of Paul, soldiers who were fully armed were virtually invulnerable to enemy attack – unless they panicked and broke ranks. Only when they stood firm would they be able to prevail in the long run.
We need physical strength, endurance, and flexibility to face the everyday challenges in our lives. It is important to keep our bodies in the best condition to face the stresses, illnesses, and pressures of each day. But more importantly, we need to get fully dressed each day to meet the spiritual battles we are to face. Only then will we be able to “stand firm” and “stand our ground.”
Ask for prayer requests and take some time to pray for the needs of the participants.

Protecting your muscles – Love the Lord with all your strength
• Begin the discussion on muscular strength and endurance by asking, “Why do we need our muscles to be strong and able to go for long periods of time?” Allow participants to respond. Make sure they have listed the following benefits: to perform most activities of daily living, to maintain a higher resting metabolism (muscle requires more energy than fat), to lessen the risk of injury, to prevent and minimize chronic low back pain, and to help a woman prepare for childbearing.
• Discuss the relationship between strength and metabolism. Define hypertrophy and atrophy. Ask if any of the participants have worn a cast. Point out that when the muscle is not used, atrophy occurs. Ask participants to tense the muscle in their right forearms by making a fist and drawing their hands toward their forearms. Emphasize the fact that men and women have differing results with muscular development and endurance activities. Many men exercise for muscular development for different reasons than women. Ask what are some of the reasons men/women exercise their muscles.
• Distinguish between strength training and endurance training. Clear up some of the common misconceptions of strength and endurance training (often called weight training) by posing the following questions to the participants. Encourage discussion and allow time for them to respond.

a. Will weight training make a difference in the way my body looks?
Absolutely! One of the first changes seen is in muscle firmness. This is because of the increase in muscle tissue due to regular exercise. It does not mean, however, that the individual will automatically turn into a “muscled-up” person. It takes time for changes to take place. For women, in particular, the layer of subcutaneous fat under the skin surface will prevent many of the muscles from being distinct. As a person continues to exercise, the muscle will eventually push the fat closer to the surface and not allow the “flabbiness” of the area to show. With cardiovascular exercise (swimming, jogging, cycling, etc.), the fat will begin to disappear, resulting in a much firmer body.
b. How long will it take for changes to occur?
During the first few weeks of a program, strength levels will increase rather quickly. Many of those changes are due to learning the exercises and teaching the body how to be efficient with exercise-related movements. For most people, it requires six to eight weeks to see significant changes in muscle shape and size.
c. If I stop, will my muscles turn to fat?
Muscle is muscle and fat is fat. One cannot become the other. As a result of exercise, muscles will become somewhat larger and firmer. The exact process is complex and requires time. If exercising with weights is suspended for an extended period of time, individuals may notice their muscles are not as firm or large as during regular training. This is because of muscle atrophy, or the shrinking of the muscle due to disuse. If, at the same time, an increase in food intake occurs without an appropriate amount of exercise, the individual will gain fat and that fat will be distributed around the body. This may include areas where muscles had been previously firm.
d. Can I train too much?
This is a difficult question to answer briefly. Much hard work is needed to achieve anything worthwhile; however, it is possible to over train muscles and cause damage from doing too much exercise. Overtraining occurs when a person has too many high intensity workout sessions without appropriate rest between those sessions. Symptoms of overtraining can last several days to several months and include fatigue, depression, and excessive muscle soreness. One way to determine if one is overtraining is to evaluate how long it takes to recover adequately from a training session. The individual may need to take more time between sessions or take a break altogether to let the muscles completely rest.
e. Will I become “muscle bound” with regular weight training?
If one follows correct weight training principles, the answer is a definite NO! The term “muscle bound” refers to the lack of flexibility of an individual due to large increases in muscle mass around a joint or joints. One of the fundamentals of weight training is to exercise through a full range of motion for a muscle. This will increase, rather than decrease, the range of motion. It is, however, much easier to become “fat bound” than “muscle bound”!
f. Can weight training cause health problems?
YES, for some people. Using proper weight training procedures will result in a very safe and effective program. High blood pressure is sometimes caused by weight training. However, this is usually attributed to individuals who hold their breath while performing exercises or put undo pressure on their heart by squeezing the handles and bars during exercise. Some individuals have also developed hernias through holding their breath and squeezing handles too tightly. Most people, however, will not suffer any health problems from weight training.
g. When is the best age to start weight training?
Children should NEVER be encouraged to train with weights before reaching puberty. The growth process can be severely hindered with weight training programs which are begun before the muscles are ready. Children should be encouraged to participate in a variety of physical activities and exercises. Weight training should not be one of them before their bodies are physically ready. Therefore, adolescence should be somewhat of a marker for beginning a weight training program.

h. Can you be too old to train with weights?
NEVER! The benefits of weight training have been shown to bring positive changes to individuals well into their senior adult years. Especially with the threat of osteoporosis, women, in particular, should be encouraged to train with weights to help strengthen their bones and help prevent bone injuries. Some of the “frailties” of age can be prevented with proper exercise.

• One of the benefits of strength and endurance training is the loss of body fat with the development of new lean muscle tissue. Have participants pinch the bottom of their forearms while looking at the top. They will notice their skin stretching and becoming firmer. This is what happens as they decrease their body fat through training.
• Emphasize the need to monitor heart rate during exercise and the necessity of starting slow. A cardiorespiratory warm-up would be advised before beginning these exercises.
• Discuss the components of beginning an exercise program using strength and endurance exercises. Some of the information which could be presented includes the following information:

As muscles are exercised, they produce a waste product, called lactic acid which is responsible for muscle soreness. This soreness is common in beginning exercise programs. As the body adapts to a program, lactic acid is removed more efficiently and soreness is alleviated.
Muscle tissue can contract and relax. These are the only functions of muscle tissue. There are three types of muscle contraction generally recognized in the field of strength and endurance training.
The basic principle to develop muscular strength is the concept of overload. A muscle must be placed in a state of overload (workload over a range of motion which is greater than normal activity) if it is to get stronger. The concept of overload dates back to Greek mythology. Milo of Crotona supposedly wanted to become the strongest man in Greece. When he was young, he began lifting a young bull every day. Each day, as the bull grew, he would have to lift a heavier weight until one day he was able to lift a full grown bull. This development in strength is known today as progressive resistance exercise. Once an individual can easily exert a force against a set resistance, the amount of resistance must be increased to allow for further strength gains.
Exercise using the same workload will not result in strength improvement if this workload is used continually over a long period of time. In order to utilize the principle of overload, one must increase the workload in order to increase strength. This is the principle of progression.

• Ask participants to list the four components of the exercise prescription (frequency, intensity, time or duration, and mode of exercise). Tell them this FITT formula can also be used for strength and endurance training. Using a discussion format, discuss these components and utilize pages 121-132 of the text to establish an exercise program for each participant.
• Read the following passage from Psalm 73:26.

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Indicate that exercise is a process. There will be times when the “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It is during these times individuals can rely on the Heavenly Personal Trainer to encourage them to continue in their efforts to make themselves healthy.
Utilize the following information for those who have a membership or are considering a membership to a fitness facility:
A survey of 3,000 certified fitness professionals by the American Council on Exercise yielded this list of the ten most common mistakes people make in the gym:
1. Not stretching enough – especially after aerobic activity while muscles are warm and pliable – to prevent injuries.
2. Lifting more weight than you can handle safely and with good form.
3. Not warming up before an activity.
4. Not cooling down after a workout.
5. Exercising too intensely for a short time, rather than more moderately for longer periods.
6. Not drinking enough water.
7. On a stair machine, turning the intensity so high that you need to lean on the handrails, which is hard on your wrists and back.
8. Not exercising intensely enough to work up a light sweat and get your heart beating in your training zone.
9. Jerking while lifting weights, which can lead to strain and injury.
10. Consuming high-calorie energy bars and sports drinks during moderate workouts. Unless you’re exercising more than two hours per day, ACE says, you don’t need them.
Source: American Council On Exercise

Discussion on flexibility
• Introduce the topic of muscular flexibility by asking participants who in the class is the most flexible. Allow them to determine how they decide who would be considered the most flexible. After discussion, distinguish between flexibility and warm-up. Many beginning exercisers confuse warm-up and flexibility exercises. Use the following information as a guide for presenting material on muscular flexibility:

One of the most neglected areas in weight training is that of the warm-up. The warm-up is not just a series of stretches, but a comprehensive routine to prepare the entire body for exercise. In order to achieve maximal gains in weight training, it is imperative to have an appropriate warm-up. The warm-up should consist of two parts: the cardiovascular warm-up and stretching for flexibility.
The cardiovascular warm-up
Simply put, the cardiovascular warm-up is an active effort to increase body temperature and blood flow to the body. Just imagine trying to immediately jump out of bed after a night’s rest and run a race! The body needs to have time to prepare for exercise. This is true of all exercise, but especially important for weight training. When the amount of force placed on the muscles during a routine is considered, a gradually adaptation to the exercise is warranted.
Any kind of cardiovascular exercise is recommended before weight training; however, the exercise should not be of a high enough intensity to take away from the weight training routine. Instead, it should enhance the ability of the muscles to function properly. Walking, stair climbing, rowing, cycling, and calisthenics are all appropriate exercises for the cardiovascular warm-up and should last between five and fifteen minutes, depending on the type of program.
Benefits of the cardiovascular warm-up include: increased muscle temperature and enzyme activity which increases skeletal metabolism, increased amount of blood and oxygen being delivered to the muscles, improved contraction and reflex time, and a decrease in the danger of inadequate blood flow to the heart which may by caused by sudden strenuous activity.

Stretching for flexibility

Flexibility is the range of motion around a body joint or group of joints. The types of activities a person does during a typical day usually determine the amount of flexibility a person will have. It is also determined by the particular shape of the bones and cartilage at the joint and the muscles that cross the joint. Therefore, flexibility will differ from person to person. However, the flexibility of a person is influenced by the amount of effort given to its development.
NOTE: People differ anatomically and it is not always easy to distinguish levels of flexibility. However, developing and maintaining good flexibility is an important fitness component that helps us accomplish physical tasks with less risk of injury.
• Discuss the factors which relate to flexibility. Emphasize that flexibility varies from one joint to another and from one individual to another. To illustrate this, have participants complete the following assessments for next week:

A. Standing-Bending Reach Test. This test measures flexibility around the lower back region. Have participants stand with both legs in the locked position and hands on the front of the hips. From the standing positions, participants should slowly slide their hands down their legs as far as possible. They should notice the final position they were able to obtain after several seconds and compare that to the norms in Appendix G.
B. Back Scratch Test. This test measures flexibility around the shoulder girdle. In a standing position, participants should take their right arm and reach behind their head, attempting to place the hand in the middle of the back. At the same time, they should take their left hand and attempt to grasp their right hand by starting at the waist and sliding the hand up the back. This assessment can be reversed by switching arm positions. Participants should have a partner help them determine their final position. Using this information, they can compare their results with the norms in Appendix H.
C. YMCA Sit and Reach Test. (This test is similar to the Standing-Bending Reach test, but it is completed in a different position.) Place a tape measure on the floor and tape both ends down to keep it secure. An additional piece of tape is placed at the 15 inch mark to indicate the starting position. Participants sit down and line up their heels (shoes off) with the 15-inch mark (approximately 5 inches apart) and their hips near the zero end of the tape. Their knees must be locked. Participants will slide their hands down the tape as far as possible, but must hold the final position for at least two seconds. Three trials are given and a partner will inform the participant of their final position. Appendix I is used to compare with norms for this test.
D. Trunk Rotation Test. Mark a vertical line on the wall. Stand with your back to the wall directly in front of the line, with your feet shoulder width apart. You should be about arms length away from the wall, though you may need to adjust the distance from the wall once you start the test. Extend your arms out directly in front of you so they are parallel to the floor. Twist your trunk to your right and the touch the wall behind you with your fingertips, keeping your arms extended and parallel to the floor. You are allowed to turn your shoulders, hips and knees as long as your feet don’t move. Mark the position where your fingertips touched the wall, and measure the distance from the line. A point before the line is a negative score and a point after the line is a positive score. Repeat for the left side with your feet in the same position. Appendix J is used to compare with norms for this test.
This is assignment number one for this week
• Summarize the idea that even though flexibility is joint specific and varies by each individual, everyone needs to develop flexibility overall to receive the health benefits related to muscular flexibility. Ask, “How flexible are you when it comes to God’s instructions?”
• As participants stretch their muscles, they may spend time in prayer, Scripture memory, listening to Christian music, or reflecting on the goodness of God. Ask, “How is flexibility like patience?”
• Taking the time to focus on God will help them to relax their muscles and fulfill the Biblical mandate of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

• Present a mini-lecture on the components of beginning an exercise program using flexibility exercises. Some of the information which could be presented includes the following information:

Muscle stretching
There are three distinct ways to stretch skeletal muscles. The best method in which to improve flexibility is known as slow-sustained stretching. Slow-sustained stretching is the gradual lengthening of muscles and tendons. Assume a stretching position until tightness or tension is felt. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds for a warm-up or cool down. Hold 20 to 30 seconds to improve flexibility. If pain is experienced, stop and back off. The pain sensation signals that the stretching is too intense. This can be completed several times a day if desired.
Athletes occasionally utilize passive stretching. Holding your leg up with your hands or moving into a “splits” position would be examples of passive stretching. One type of passive stretching is known as Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF stretching. Participants work with a partner or a piece of equipment like a towel or rubber tubing to allow a safe stretch which cannot be achieved without the additional help. Partners need to be cautious not to push an individual beyond what he/she is able. This may result in injury.
One type of stretching is NOT recommended. It is ballistic stretching. It involves bouncing or bobbing to achieve a greater range of motion. This method may result in overstretching and injury. Once again, because of the risk of injury, this type of stretching is not recommended.
(Demonstrate each of these stretches and allow participants to GENTLY try the PNF stretches if desired. Illustrate ballistic stretching, but encourage participants NOT to use this kind of stretching on their own. )
• Using the FITT components, have the participants write out an exercise prescription using flexibility exercises. Emphasize each of the components and have students list the exercises they would use to increase their level of flexibility.
(This is Activity 2 for next week)
• Present a mini-lecture on back care. Discuss ergonomic positioning, posture, and the importance of regular exercise in the prevention of low back pain. Have participants demonstrate good back bending and lifting. Utilize the information from the BackCare website:

o Lifting and carrying
Wherever possible, avoid lifting and carrying as these can cause back pain. If you do have to lift something, bend your knees not your back. Keep your feet wide apart to help you feel stable. In this way, you are using your strong leg muscles and not straining your back. Carry the object against your body (so that its centre of gravity is close to yours). Bend at the knees to put the object down.
o Basic Back Care at home
There are a number of ways that we can do jobs around the house to limit damage or further damage to our backs.
 Try a rolled-up towel or jumper in the small of your back to help support the natural curve (‘Lumbar support rolls’ are available from some shops)
 Stand your washing up bowl on the draining board so that you don’t have to slump over the sink, straining your lower back, sit down to prepare vegetables etc.
 Check the suitability of your mattress with a simple test. Lie on your back and slide your hand (palm down) into the small of your back. If there is a large gap, the mattress is probably too hard. If you have to squeeze your hand in, then it is probably too soft. If your hand slides in fairly easily, the mattress is probably just right.
 If you have neck pain, try making a butterfly pillow. Tie a bandage or stocking around the centre of the pillow and place your neck in the middle.
 When vacuuming, keep your upper body upright, and with the cleaner close to your body use short sweeping movements.
 Only iron essential items. Make sure your ironing board is at waist height (most people have the board too low).
 When making beds, kneel down to tuck in corners rather than stooping.
o Out and about
Try making several short trips over the week rather than one big supermarket shop. Use the tall, waist-high, shallow-sided shopping trolleys, many stores now offer. Try to use one of these instead of carrying heavy items in a basket. For the journey home, if you do not drive, a rucksack, used over both shoulders, is useful for carrying tins, leaving your arms free for lighter goods like cereals. Try to carry goods in both hands so that your load is balanced.
o In the office
Try not to slouch, keep your chair unlocked most of the time and make full use of the chair movement (especially when reaching behind you or for the phone). Try to alter your position when using the keyboard for long periods of time, move your feet forwards and behind. Make the effort to adjust any other chairs you sit on in the office so that they are comfortable for you. If you are uncomfortable, move. Changing your posture and taking frequent breaks from your desk will help keep your muscles working. Operate your keyboard when it is directly in front of you and have your monitor square on so you don’t have to turn your head to look at it. Use a document holder so that your work can be closer to you and try to minimize glare on the screen. Re-arrange the items on your desk according to the frequency that you use them – things used often kept closest, least often furthest away. From:

Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body,”
Ask, “How is your body a temple unto God?” How does strength training and flexibility fit in with this concept?


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