Weight training:”We’re gonna pump you up.”

What do Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jordan all have in common (besides having tons of money)? Several times a week, they all work out using progressive resistance training. Or to use the more popular terminology, they “pump iron.”

Weight training (also called body-building) is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Fifteen or 20 years ago, weight lifting was seen as an activity that produced uncoordinated, muscle-bound men with no necks and with thighs the size of tree trunks. Although these monster men were acknowledged as strong, they weren’t necessarily considered fit, well-conditioned athletes.

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Today, the stereotype of a body-builder as a muscle-bound, inflexible hulk is disappearing. Serious athletes in every sport and millions of Americans who just want to get in shape include weight training as a part of their total fitness program.

Fitness for all: the eight-time Mr. Olympia’s Bodybuilding, fitness, and sports extravaganza

When the sequined bikinis, posing suits, and board shorts start appearing in Atlanta this Halloween, it won’t be the office Halloween party that folks are prepping for. Instead they will be lining up for eight-time Mr. 0 Lee Haney’s 2015 Physique and Fitness Games at the Georgia International Convention Center.

For the Physique Games portion, Haney is promoting an NPC national qualifier for bodybuilding, figure, bikini, and physique competitors. However, the Fitness Games are not an NPC-related event-don’t expect a fitness division contest on the schedule. Instead, the Fitness Games are a continuation of the Sports and Fitness challenge that Haney launched in 2005 at the GNC Show of Strength.

The event grew into a yearly fitness challenge intended to engage participants of all ages, in activities for the younger set-among them the Fit Kids Obstacle race course, Kids Gym Gymnastics, and the Navy SEAL-designed BattleFrog Indoor Obstacle Course. Besides the NPC contests, adults will also be able to enjoy the American and North American Strongman contests. FLEX caught up with Haney to talk about the Physique and Fitness Games.

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Q It has been almost a quarter century since you retired [after holding the O title from 1984-1991]. How has bodybuilding changed? When I won the Nationals in 1982,1 weighed 212 pounds. And that was enough that I was able to think that maybe I could look like the best, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robby Robinson, and Bill Pearl. It was a realistic goal.

Fitness for every body

Fitness for Every Body

The starting gun fires. The track star propels himself from the starting block. He sprints around the track. He breaks the tape with his chest as he crosses the finish line.

No argument here: Everyone agrees that sports celebrities are physically fit. What you may not know is that you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy the benefits of fitness.

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Forty years ago, fitness tests measured only athletic skills. Participants were scored in such events as the 50-yard dash and the standing long jump. If you weren’t a star athlete, you wouldn’t rate well–but you might have been fit by today’s more accurate standards.

The Big Three

Today, experts test fitness levels by looking at three major components that contribute to good health: strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Strength is the amount of force the muscles can exert. Strength is what lets you lift a barbell or do a pull-up. However, you don’t have to do weight training to build strength. Any weight-bearing activity–walking, gymnastics, or exercises such as push-ups, for example–will make you stronger.

Endurance is the ability to exercise over a period of time. Endurance keeps you going in a cross-country run; it lets you swim another lap after you’ve already done 10. Aerobic exercise–exercise that increases the body’s consumption of oxygen and improves both the respiratory and circulatory systems’ functioning–develops endurance. Swimming, walking, and bicycling are examples of aerobic activities. So are dancing, jumping rope, and running. Aerobic exercise makes the heart and lungs work harder, which, in turn, improves the capacity to work longer and harder. Experts say that you need about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week to be physically fit.

The heat is on!

From surfing to summer skiing, here are 12 ways to keep your cool.

cheap parking

Whether you’re taking a cross-country road trip or can’t get enough of the Grand Canyon, for just $50 the new National Parks Pass offers unlimited access to all 379 U.S. National Parks for an entire year. More than 80 percent of the fee benefits wildlife protection, trail maintenance and research.

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gorge yourself

From July 8 to 15, Hood River, Oregon (just east of Portland), is home to the Subaru Gorge Games, an annual outdoor adventure competition and festival. You can admire the moves of 2,000 top athletes, including kite-boarders, windsurfers, kayakers, mountain bikers and rock climbers, then dance to live music till dawn. If you’re looking to get soaking wet, sign up for a free kayaking clinic–taught by Shannon Carroll, the 1998 winner of the Gorge Games Extreme Kayak Race–at www.gorgegames. com. Can’t make it? Watch the action September 3 and 10 on NBC