Quest for a firm, trim physique knows no age limits

Quest for a firm, trim physique knows no age limitsHamburg - Many people yearn for a firm body, particularly in warm weather when everyone flocks to beaches and outdoor swimming pools and expose all their flabby parts.

A look at internet forums shows that emancipation from this yearning prevails, and men apparently worry about their figures only slightly less than women. It seems that the term "firm" is in fact subjective. For some, it means muscles so well defined they could have been carved by a knife; for others it means no flab at all.

Apart from the varying, individual starting points, gender-specific problem zones, the composition of the connective tissue and the question of when and how much fat should be lost - the fact is, strengthening the muscles is key to firmness.

"With dieting we always recommend an accompanying strength training plan," said Professor Wolfgang Buskies of a sports science institute at the University in Bayreuth. Otherwise, the body will lose not only fat, but also muscle. But what is the most suitable area to train?

"Basically, it doesn't matter what is chosen as long as a muscle group is trained and the training program is maintained," said Professor Klaus-Michael Braumann of the sports and activities department at the University of Hamburg. "Ideally, it should be a whole body training programme."

He encourages people to opt for the standard fitness programme offered by most gyms. These can be paired to individual needs depending on problem zones, for example, exercises that shape the belly, legs and bottom. The differences in the exercises are mostly minor.

"There's a broad range of programmes with many different names, but they are basically the same: Certain muscle groups are trained and the muscles become taut. This is the way to get a better contoured body," Braumann said.

People who have little time or patience can avail themselves of modern technology, for example vibration technology derived from astronaut training. The only system whose effectiveness has been scientifically proven is called Galileo. The individual stands on a board that vibrates the feet alternatively at a high frequency - up to 27 times per second.

"As you automatically try to balance, the muscles contract and relax in constant rotation," said Professor Dieter Felsenberg of the centre for muscle and joint research at Berlin's Charite hospital and medical university. This method encompasses many muscles in the entire body.

"The efficiency is considerably higher than with classic strength training."

Another way of increasing training efficiency is electrical power. Depending on the system, the individual puts on a suit or a small unit containing electrodes. By using light, electrical pulses muscle groups can be isolated and activated. (dpa)