All You Need to Know About Men’s Fitness

The way men and women tackle fitness and exercise is often different in a few crucial ways. Men have an abundance of testosterone, so most men tend to differ from women in their strengths, weaknesses and fitness goals.

We’re going to take a look at the best way for men to achieve and maintain fitness on all levels. Whether your goal is weight loss, building muscle or preparing for sport, we’ll give you the knowledge and advice to get you on the right track.

What is Men’s Fitness?

Being fit is about more than having huge muscles or being able to run super-fast. Sure, these are ways we can measure certain levels of fitness, but they aren’t the whole picture.

Being a fit, healthy man is about improving across several areas, including:

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Body composition
  • Flexibility

Let’s take a look at how to improve these aspects of men’s fitness and why it’s a great idea to do so.

Cardiovascular Endurance

What is it?

Your cardiovascular endurance relates to your heart, lungs and blood vessels. It’s all about how effectively you’re able to pump your blood around and deliver oxygen to your body when you exercise. Good cardio endurance means your heart can pump at a high level and for an extended period of time while you’re working out.

Why is it important?

For one thing, cardio endurance means you can exercise harder and for longer without puffing or sweating too much, and without over-heating. Very importantly though, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

How to improve it

Take part in aerobic endurance activities like running, swimming or cycling to elevate your heart rate for sustained periods. Start off slowly and increase the intensity of your activity gradually.

Muscular Endurance

What is it?

Good muscular endurance is measured by how well your muscles are able to face repeated resistance for extended periods of time. Having great muscular endurance often results in having more lean muscle and makes us better at repetitive activities, such as running, cycling or swimming and also any sport or activity that requires you to lift things a lot.

Why is it important?

Muscular endurance training improves stamina, increasing your ability to perform sustained tasks or sports. It also increases bone density, leading to a lower risk of osteoporosis. And it strengthens the connective tissue between muscles, decreasing your likelihood of injury in any other sports and activities you take part in. That’s why 12WBT’s running programs include strength-training days in their Exercise Plans.

How to improve it

Bodyweight resistance training is an excellent way to build up muscular endurance. Exercises such as push-ups, tricep dips, lunges and sumo squats are all ideal. Weight lifting in sets of 12 to 15 reps is another great way to boost your muscular endurance, and you can even combine bodyweight exercises with weight lifting in a circuit session.

Muscular Strength

What is it?

Having strong muscles means the ability to exert force during an activity. Tempting as it is, being strong doesn’t just mean blasting your guns at the gym. Strength comes from building different muscle groups.

Why is it important?

Muscular strength is a big part of men’s fitness. The stronger and larger your muscles are, the more calories they’ll burn all day long. Numerous studies have shown that building strong muscles is also important to help combat age-related muscle loss, maintain bone density and regulate your blood-sugar levels.

How to improve it

Take up resistance training such as weight lifting to work your muscles. Weight training for strength requires very low reps (between one and eight per set) using heavy weights.

Body Composition

What is it?

Your body composition is about what’s going on inside – your bone, muscle and fat. Taking body measurements regularly with a tape measure and calipers, using body fat scales or by having a DEXA scan can be useful ways to assess your body composition. Some methods are more accurate than others - at present, a DEXA scan is generally the best way to measure how much fat you’re carrying compared to lean muscle, but it’s also relatively expensive.

Why is it important?

Having a good body composition affects everything you do, from your performance in your workout routines to going for a run and having a fast metabolism. Monitoring it also tells you whether you’re gaining the wrong kind of weight (body fat) or the right kind (lean muscle).

How to improve it

If you’re starting a fitness program, like one of those offered by 12WBT, you’re onto a winner. Try to get a reading of your current body composition using one of the methods outlined above. Then it’s just a matter of following our expert advice about nutrition, exercise and mindset.

Flexibility

What is it?

Being flexible means that you have a good range of movement in your joints. After all, there’s no point in being able to lift heavy weights or cycle for hours if you then can’t move properly for a week afterwards.

Why is it important?

Flexibility improves your ability to perform FROM (Full Range of Movement) fluidly. This generally decreases your risk of injuries and can increase your quality of life if you suffer from stiffness and pain. But be warned: some people can become too flexible, with studies showing this can lead to over-lengthened muscles and injuries such as lower-back pain.

For most of us, however, it’s important to make sure we maintain adequate levels of flexibility.

How to improve it

Stretching is the best way to improve your flexibility. Incorporate some stretching into your workouts (especially if you’re doing something like running, which can shorten and tighten the tendons) and get involved in activities like yoga or Body Balance classes. True, these may not seem too ‘manly’, but your body will thank you for it.

Men’s Fitness Mistakes

Now that we’ve looked at the facts, it’s time we put some men’s fitness mistakes to bed once and for all. Here’s a quick look at what not to do:

Don’t spend too much time at the gym

Working out your muscles and pushing yourself to the limit creates a great rush. We get it! But three hours a week of intense training in the gym will be enough to stimulate fantastic growth. Rest and recovery are a crucial part of stimulating your muscles, so make sure you’re getting adequate sleep. And adding some cardio into the mix in the form of a run or a bike ride is a great way to boost your overall fitness.

Don’t ignore your weaknesses

OK, so you can run a kilometre in five minutes or do 30 push-ups in a minute. That’s awesome. But how is your form? Are you ignoring that twinge in your knee? Make sure you exercise with the correct technique. 12WBT Members have access to our comprehensive Exercise Index, with videos and detailed explanations of how to perform each exercise. Or you can ask a personal trainer or fitness instructor to show you the correct technique for any exercises you’re unsure about.

Learn to listen to your body and figure out what it’s telling you. By dealing with problem areas, you’ll build up your strength and skills, and prevent injury.

And never hesitate to seek help from a professional such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath if you think you may have hurt yourself - even if it feels relatively minor. In many cases, nipping injuries in the bud will save costly and time-consuming treatments further down the track.

Don’t show off

Well, not too much anyway. Try not to lift more than you’re able to. If a weight is bigger than your car, the only thing that’s going to get a good workout is your ego. Avoid injury and work your way up to higher weights slowly. It’s one of the top men’s fitness rules: practice patience in order to reach your goals.

Men’s Fitness Goals

One of the best ways to boost your fitness is to set SMART (Specific Measured Achievable Realistic Time-based) goals and stick to them.

  • Find out how fit you are
  • Think about how fit you want to be and what that would look like
  • Find out the safest and most effective way to achieve it
  • Plan how you will make it happen
  • Go for it

It’s really that simple. When you sign up for 12WBT, you’ll discover how to set SMART goals and apply them to your health and fitness. Take a look at our fitness tests if you want to get an idea of where your fitness levels sit right now, and then look at which areas of physical activity you want to work on.

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