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Do you recommend a fitness program/weight lifting for homesteaders?

 
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Location: Abingdon, VA
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We are developing a fairly large and diverse homestead in SW Virginia, and it keeps us very active with plenty of physical labor (which I consider exercise). Before we moved here, we visited some regional woofing hosts and got input from them. One couple mentioned that, during the winter, they work out lifting weights, to keep up their strength from the coming season, and they found that it made a huge difference in their ability to handle the growing season labor. Personally, I just try to remain active in all seasons, since there are always physical tasks to do outside. However, I was wondering if others have found that a dedicated fitness program involving aerobic exercise or weight lifting has been helpful to develop core muscle strength and endurance.
 
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I abhor exercising for its own sake. There's got to be a purpose for it. I prefer activities that are centered around needs if possible. I do a lot of wood cutting. I do it all by hand with hand saws. No mechanical or gas powered machinery. Plus I will split up tree falls that are further away from camp just so I can pack it back on a backpack rack.

Keeping the above in mind, I also do a lot of hiking / exploring in the woods just for the fun of it. I put in and maintain my own trails, too. When I bought this property, I did so intentionally because there were no roads. It is boat access only. It is a 10 minute power boat ride, but I intentionally do not own a gas powered boat. Instead I paddle back and forth in a kayak (3 hour round trip).  

I would like to also find a cheap skull to take out rowing a few times a week and will alternate this with the hiking/trail work.

If I were forced into exercising just for the purpose of exercising, I would choose a bodyweight exercise program or a MovNat program. No gyms. No equipment. No specialization. Nothing that requires participation or teamwork. Solo endeavors only, thank you.

Isaac
 
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Hi David

Offering a science based view here. Physical work and efficient exercise are two different things. When it comes to efficient and effective exercise, you can go straight to your body's limits and beyond with intensity, thus incenting growth or at least maintenance of your muscle mass, respiratory capacity, cardiovascular capacity etc. When you don't go to your limits, your body has no reason not to reduce that muscle mass which eats that much calories, over the years. Physical work is very hard too of course, but will have different benefits and I guess also quite some wear and tear on your body.

From that point of view, it is very convenient to work out - it's your decision in the end. Just a head's up on some things you wrote:  

Aerobic exercise: does not exist. Every glucose molecule your body burns, passes first through the "anaerobic" reaction chain and then through the "aerobic" reaction chain. These reactions are serial, not parallel. There is no way of emphasizing one of them. Intensive exercise takes care of both.

Strength or endurance: More strength means more speed, more endurance, and - since these are the support systems of the muscles you use - a better respiratory capacity, cardiovascular capacity, metabolic efficiency etc.

Further reads:
Body By Science, author Doug McDuff (he teaches a short version of his book at the 21convention videos on youtube)
Any biochemistry book at university level (will teach about how the human body creates energy)
Follow Drew Baye at baye.com for specific weight lifting advice and body weight training programs

cheers
Lukas
 
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Lukas Rohrbach wrote:

Strength or endurance: More strength means more speed, more endurance, and - since these are the support systems of the muscles you use - a better respiratory capacity, cardiovascular capacity, metabolic efficiency etc.


cheers
Lukas



What you said is sort of true, but also somewhat misleading.  To reach high levels of strength or endurance, a person needs to train for that specific attribute.  I trained with world champion powerlifters, and I can tell you first hand, some of the strongest people in the world can barely make it up a flight of stairs without having a heart attack.  Many long distance endurance runners are no stronger than the average person.  Regardless, for building strength, a good basic weight training program will benefit most everyone.  I personally still train mostly using the Wendler 5/3/1 program or close variants.  Pavel's strength training books are also good.  
 
Lukas Rohrbach
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Hi Trace

Great input! I am not surprised.

a person needs to train for that specific attribute


Attribute as of skill? Agree. If you want to improve your marathon time, train marathon. Nonetheless, strength training will also contribute to improve your performace if done right and if it leads to strength gains. Ultimately performance is skill-specific.

some of the strongest people in the world can barely make it up a flight of stairs without having a heart attack


This surprises me. What might be the reason?

cheers
Lukas
 
Trace Oswald
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Lukas Rohrbach wrote:


some of the strongest people in the world can barely make it up a flight of stairs without having a heart attack


This surprises me. What might be the reason?

cheers
Lukas



Lukas, I think there are a number of reasons.  Many of the powerlifters I trained with did no conditioning training, just pure strength training.  Many trained with very low reps.  When I competed (and not at their level), I trained singles only, no reps other than on a very few warmup sets and then I never did more than 5 reps in a set.  That kind of training builds great strength, but little to no muscular endurance.  Additionally, many of the strongest guys carried extra body fat.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but body fat can help on squats and bench press in particular.  I'm certain that percentage of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers contributes greatly to both the fact that these men can lift enormous weights, and also have low muscular endurance.  Both strength and endurance can be improved greatly, but genetics plays a very large role as well.  I'm certain there are other reasons that I'm just not aware of.

 
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We do lift weights. I do not find the physical labor I do to be enough. It is something I'm always complaining about. For as much as I lift, dig, do, etc it's nothing compared to purposeful weight lifting.
 
pollinator
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Goats area great workout.  And sometimes they make you work out even if you didn't want to.  I used to keep fiber goats.  Shearing them 2-3 times per year was a workout.  I've never taken to using stanchions, so when I need to work on the goats I lay them down on their side (sounds easy, right?) and trim hooves, shear, and do maintenance with them on the ground.  It's always been great trust building with the goats, and a really good whole-body workout, especially when the goats weigh more than I do.  If you go out of your way to get the extra naughty goats that never stay behind a fence, they'll give you regular cardio workouts, too!
 
Trace Oswald
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Jen Fan wrote:Goats area great workout.  And sometimes they make you work out even if you didn't want to.  I used to keep fiber goats.  Shearing them 2-3 times per year was a workout.  I've never taken to using stanchions, so when I need to work on the goats I lay them down on their side (sounds easy, right?) and trim hooves, shear, and do maintenance with them on the ground.  It's always been great trust building with the goats, and a really good whole-body workout, especially when the goats weigh more than I do.  If you go out of your way to get the extra naughty goats that never stay behind a fence, they'll give you regular cardio workouts, too!



If only you could do it three times a week year 'round :)
 
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I recommend Autumn Callabrese

Katie used her program and lost quite a bit of weight. I teased her all through pregnancy that after she gave birth she would still have her baby weight on for awhile. She was so adamant about losing it, that she proved me wrong. She could not do everything Autumn did in her routines, because she had literally just given birth, but by watching what she ate, and doing exercise, she was down to her pre-pregnancy weight in 22 days.

(There was some stretches and squats she could not do, because she just had a baby, but otherwise kept up with the routine).

Here is a picture of Katie taken not long after she had the baby.

Mother-and-Child.jpg
Mother and Child
Mother and Child
 
pollinator
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I’m a big fan of occasional full range of motion exercises. My work carrying stuff around or using sledges or whatever are not really full range, and can bring injuries from repetitive motion. I’ve had to do some functional rehab for many years and it works, especially in hip/girdle postural exercise. It doesn’t take a lot of weight, it’s more range and variety that are important as I get older.
 
Travis Johnson
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At the local fair where I live, they have a He Man Competition and it is actually interesting to watch because the Body Builders sign up, and look impressive until about half way through the competition, that is when the scrawny farm boys show the difference between daily work, and repetition on a machine in a gym. I am not just bragging up the local farm boys, but the body builders just do not have the stamina that the competition requires.

If you look at the line up of winners over the years, you would shake your head, because you would never bet money any of them would ever win.

Even for me, I rely on Katie to help me because she is all I have here for help, and she has more brawn then you would think.
 
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At 66 my goal is to re-acquire the ability to rise from a sitting position without using my arms or any other assistance. My favorite method of daily exercise is using a rowing machine, in our case a water rower for it being quiet, well made (1,000 lb user capacity) and small storage footprint when standing on end). Rowing is said to exercise something like 80% of the body and when combined with pushups and simple curls using a weight bar we get something approaching a total workout. The rower can be paced at a lazy low impact session or a robust aerobic workout, but w/o any danger of landing badly on a knee or falling. Yoga stretches round out the program. These rowers are not cheap but used ones can be found and I’ve seen functional ones sell around $600-$800, but a newish water rower in good condition will go over $1,000. Some rowing enthusiasts prefer a competing design that uses air to create resistance instead of water because of the way the arms act while rowing, more like real life sculling I think, this being important for off season conditioning when the rivers and lakes are iced over).

A14E6C60-7269-477A-90E2-5E33D5955204.gif
[Thumbnail for A14E6C60-7269-477A-90E2-5E33D5955204.gif]
 
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As Lukas said, physical work and fitness are very different. Physical work by itself cannot substitute fitness. I am not really good at explaining, I am also an open water swimmer, so let me give a try.
Basically, in every movement, there are the main group of muscles that do the work, and there are other muscles that keep them in check. Your biceps might be doing the work, but it doesn't mean your back muscles are sitting and waiting for their turn. If they are weak, you will have problems (your posture won't be right, more strain on some joints, etc). There are also many smaller muscles that keep bigger muscles and joints hold their shape during and after activity. They stabilize the whole system. If they are weak, you can easily hurt your shoulders, back or knees. So you really need a balanced physical activity to keep each one of them in check. Physical work doesn't give you that. Let's assume you are going to use broadfork or pickaxe. Same activity over and over again. You will burn some calories for sure, but it has a potential for back pain, hernia, shoulder pain and such. That would be my main concern. Increasing your aerobic capacity is sure helpful because it will also increase your psychological threshold, but that will not be my very first focus.
The web (youtube, Instagram, etc) are full of many, many and many wrong -just plain wrong- recommendations and videoes. It is pain to find a useful, reliable and preferably free resource. I can recommend Darebee.com webpage. There are many programmes over there, which are targeting various fitness levels all programmes. Download the pdf, print them out, and stick with the plan. It is all free, they accept donations though. They also have a youtube channel where you can watch and learn how certain movements are done.
I would recommend to begin with baseline programme webpage-baseline-program. Follow it with totals webpage-totals-program. If you want to lose weight cardio trim is a good one webpage-cardio-trim. If you feel good enough, try to follow two programmes, such as totals+cardio trim. If you get over certain weaknesses or you want extra-challenges, there are challenges to follow webpage-challanges. Don't do solely challenges though, you want to keep the balance.

I have to disagree with James about indoor rowing. Even though it is good and very beneficial; if your posture is wrong, you can mess things up badly. Water-rowers are expensive also. I hurt myself with other types of rowers in the past, so I would not even consider magnetic, hydraulic rowers. Rowers are hard on shoulders and lower back (you won't realize it at first), I don't think they are the best for the beginner or even intermediate levels.
I recommend jump-rope. It is cheap, you can do it anywhere you want, and will shed a lot of fat and, well, works the whole body. I would start with 30 jumping jacks and go up to 100 non-stop. Following a week of break, I would start jump-rope. 50 times is a good start. After 3 months, you can either jump for 200-250 times and have a break (walk for 2-3 minutes) and repeat 3-4 times or jump rope fast for 1 minute, have a break for 1 minute and repeat 1+1 for 4-5 (or 10) times. In 6 months you will be able to follow guys at youtube (jump rope dudes and such). Posture is very important. A lightweight jump rope will focus on the lower body, heavier ropes will focus on the upper body.

Try to do exercise 3-4 times a week at first. Don't overdo it. Also, remember that you do not need to eat extra for this level of exercise. You will feel hungry, but that is your body tricking you to eat. You can increase your protein intake a bit (1-2 eggs more). Include bone-broth (collagen type 1-2-3) in your diet (for your tendons). Try to build a baseline muscle tone in the first year and then work on it.

Hope it helps!

Edit: Forgot to say, yeah I do! Do it!
 
Lukas Rohrbach
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Thanks Ayalp for the backup

Reading your and other posts, I might not concur completely in some respects.  

No physical activity makes you loose weight. What makes you loose weight is calory deficit, which is notoriously difficult to achieve for many people with exercise since exercise makes them hungry. A strong mind will help. Further, you need to generate a hormonal environment that allows your body to burn his own fat. Usually such hormonal environments are low in insulin, aka low-carb ketogenic diets (I know that they are controversial, but they seem logic to me). And take care of your insulin (in-)sensitivity by doing intense exercise. In this regards, weight lifting until you reach positive muscular failure, is said to do the job.

Cardio does not exist. There is no exercise that targets the heart muscle specifically and exclusively. The heart muscle accelerates or decerelates as a function of your activity level. If you take your muscles to their max, you will take your heart to the max. Passing slightly the maximum will induce adaptations in both.

For @james whitelaw ,

At 66 my goal is to re-acquire the ability to rise from a sitting position without using my arms or any other assistance.



I was looking for that scientific article I found some years ago for strength training, but am not able to find it. They basically put some 85 to 95 year old people in a retirement home into a strength training schedule, which included what I described above: High Intensity Training, in the sense of taking your target muscles to failure (note the absence of "interval", which is again different). I remember they described effects like the one you are looking for, and others like an increase in walking speed of +500% for a particular person.
 
Trace Oswald
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Lukas Rohrbach wrote:

Cardio does not exist. There is no exercise that targets the heart muscle specifically and exclusively.



That first statement would be true if the sentence following was the definition of "cardio", but it isn't.  The commonly accepted definition of cardio exercise is exercise that elevates your heart rate.  It isn't exercise which elevates your heart rate exclusively.  By your definition, you may as well say there is no such thing as strength training, because all strength training causes an elevated heart rate, so all strength training is really cardio.  People differentiate between cardio and strength training because different types of training focus on more or less on each of them.  Weight training focuses primarily on strength, but it is impossible to lift weights without elevating your heart rate.  Brisk walking focuses on cardio vascular training but it is impossible to do without muscle fiber involvement.  There will always be overlap, but that doesn't mean that calling a type of training cardio or strength training is worthless.  It simply shows where the focus is.  
 
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