Heart health

This is important. One of the main adaptations of intense cardiovascular training is a lowering of the resting heart rate. The heart is a muscle. It’s job is to keep a steady consistent flow of oxygenated blood flowing through your body. The more powerful each beat is, the greater the volume of blood that is circulated PER heartbeat. A strong heart beats with greater power, and beats less often to do its job. A weak heart has to accomplish the exact same task, or you die, so if it can’t push a lot of blood per beat, it beats faster to get the same result.

A good analogy:
A strong man goes grocery shopping, and fills 5 heavy bags of groceries. When he gets home he grabs all 5 at once and walks up two flights of stairs to his apartment.

A weak man unloads his car of the 5 bags, brings them to his front stoop, and carries two bags up at a time. He has to make more trips to accomplish the same goal.

Now, imagine that both men had to accomplish that goal on the same amount of time, or they would lose the groceries to the other. Who would likely win?

We used to say that every heart has only so many beats in it. How true that sounds.

http://nyti.ms/ZxkvVf

NYTimes: Heart Rate as a Measure of Life Span

A higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality, even in healthy people in good physical condition, a new study suggests.

Reasons Not to Stretch – NYTimes.com

I’ve written about stretching numerous times, and the evidence has been steadily mounting against stretching as a warm-up modality prior to exercise, and these two real scientific studies add to that pile. The article is very well written and explains the studies clearly and why these studies are so compelling. The NY TIMES wellness blog continues its tradition of alternating excellent reporting with pointless and confusing filler; this piece being quite valuable. Read it.

This does not invalidate stretching as a legitimate form of exercise, however, and I’ll elaborate.

Almost all these studies; current and past; use real athletes as subjects. They are already well trained, fit, and lead an active lifestyle that helps keep their musculoskeletal system supple and more flexible than the average sedentary adult.

Inflexible muscles, muscular adhesions (muscles and connective tissue sticking together) and poor joint range of motion, can cumulatively impede your ability to move effectively and safely while exercising. Regular stretching can help alleviate and minimize these problems in many; if not most; cases.

So if you need to stretch, how do you incorporate it into your routine?

1. Stretch after your workout, never before.

2. If your muscles are super tight make stretching a separate workout altogether; do it on a day you aren’t doing any weight or cardio training.

3. Incorporate activities like vinyasa yoga or tai chi that focus on movement activities that force you to move through full ranges of motion.

4. Get deep tissue massage. It can really loosen you up. Again, only after a workout.

Read the post, linked below.
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/reasons-not-to-stretch/

Phys Ed: Can Pickle Juice Stop Muscle Cramps? – NYTimes.com

I’ve talked a number of times about the enduring mystery of muscle cramps. No real knowledge exists as to why they occur; only educated and uneducated guesses that have absolutely no research to rely on. Until now.

It’s been a highly accepted bit of exercise lore that pickle juice can reduce the duration of cramps, and I’ve suggested it to a number of clients and “spinners” over the years. Everyone assumes its the electrolytes, potassium and salt that helps, though I’ve repeatedly pointed out that the exercise science literature shows that perfectly hydrated people with excellent electrolyte profiles cramp with the same frequency as everyone else statistically.

Why it helps no one could say. Until now. Pickle juice has been specifically studied as to its efficacy in combatting cramps, and been found very effective. This, in and of itself, also gives compelling clues as to why muscles actually cramp, as well.

Of course, further studies need to be done. Read the interesting New York Times piece below.
.
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/phys-ed-can-pickle-juice-stop-muscle-cramps/

A recent Facebook conversation between trainers

Recently, I posted something on Facebook by a nationally recognized fitness educator and trainer named Nick Tumminello. I didn’t feel like elaborating on it, and hadn’t planned on making it a personal blog post.

He posted the following picture with a link to a piece he wrote on his blog about why most people and even most athletes should stick to basic exercises but do them as intensely as possible:

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This Facebook post led to a Facebook debate between a coworker and I, which I have copy and pasted for your entertainment. The coworkers name has been removed to protect my safety (he’s much larger than me! Haha).

Just to be clear, I fully endorse cross training, and circuit training when done intelligently, with forethought about the goals of the trainee in mind. Those methods of training can provide dramatic and full range fitness and health benefits. That is not what CrossFit, P90X, and their various offspring will do for you.

CrossFit’s own website no longer touts it as an exercise regimen, but instead calls itself a “sport” and competition. However, since it uses exercises as its modus operandi, it has been and will continue to be, misused and misunderstood by the general public and seasoned “professionals” alike. You or I following or attempting CrossFit or ultimate cross whatever would be akin to watching an Olympic gymnast and then attempting to perform those same maneuvers the very next day.

The dialogue:
Coworker: Gotta love haters of extreme training. since most people do the basics in every gym, why hate on cross training?

Me: I love cross training. Cross fit and its brethren are not cross training. They are athletic training, sometimes “extreme” and sometimes not.
And if you think those pictures represent the “basics” you have a very different understanding of physical fitness than I do and we will leave it at that.

Coworker: Are you serious? Those pics are of Arnold doing massive weights. The whole point of this post is to say “stick with the bread and butter of power training cause doing “extreme” is bad. And since the squat and deadlift is in crossfit and are STAPLES of the sport, what are you getting at?

Me: Massive weights like that are the definition of “extreme”. As is the mental focus to push your lifts that hard. Since I’m heading to bed, I’ll leave it at this. Cross-fit type exercises simulate athletic style training camps mixed with powerlifting movements where certain skills are assumed. And none of the people in those videos developed their physiques doing cross fit. They came to cf already in extreme condition. Either young athletes or with years of intense training behind them. How many of your uxf’ers are already in extreme condition? How many are 18-24 and have the recovery ability of youth? How many have years of intense training behind them? None? How many will get there doing that kind of routine exclusively? None? Some of us are happy to be camp councilors. Me, I’m a fitness expert.

Coworker: way to be full of yourself. and alot of trainers here have extensive fitness backgrounds and certifications to back them up. everyone already knows that Cross-fit athletes come from different backgrounds. the whole point of the sport is to see which of those athletes are the fittest on earth. Also many others wasnt in extreme condition and got there by crossfit or other boot camp classes. There are several UXF trainers that ARE IN EXTREME CONDITION because some of them are current athletes. and nobody’s a “camp counselor”. we accept the fact that successful trends are needed for business to compete. Fitness is no different.

Me: Full of myself? Perhaps. But the Uxf trainers who are in extreme condition were in extreme condition before Uxf was even invented. Now they are skipping the steps to get in extreme conditioning with their clients in pursuit of entertainment and profit. Clients who will likely never achieve extreme condition because unlike those trainers and a few other exceptions, they will never adopt the extreme “lifestyle” necessary to achieve those ends.

And in case you were wondering:

The USMC recently funded a study into cross fit type exercise to replace traditional methods of strength and conditioning during basic training and concluded that it offered no increase in fitness over the duration of basic training compared to traditional methods, while at the same time increased the number of recruits unable to complete basic training DUE TO PHYSICAL INJURY 18% over the traditional methods. After 1 year of trials comparing units, the USMC has recommended that cross fit type exercises be banned from basic training. This was reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning special supplement on Tactical Strength and Conditioning.

Perhaps all those experts are full of themselves too.

The coworker did not respond after that.

We really do live and die this kind of stuff. Hope you got some insight into our “profession”.

Amino acid supplements and high intensity strength training

The critical role of proper nutrition with intense exercise use regimens cannot be overstated. The fitness industry is rife with myths, misinformation, faith based beliefs, inconclusive studies, and real hard science.

The role of protein supplements for strength and muscle building adherents is very well researched, and the abstract linked below published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning is further evidence that if your exercise routine places you in the above categories, you should supplement.

The human body is a giant chemical factory. Whatever you consume is broken down into its simplest chemical components before it can be absorbed and used by the body. All carbs are turned into simple glucose before they can be used. Pasta, bread, rice, apples, and broccoli, are all turned into glucose, and whatever micronutrients they contain (vitamins and minerals) before they are usable by our bodies.

Likewise, proteins are broken down, but instead of glucose, proteins are turned into amino acids (plus whatever micronutrients are present) before they can be absorbed. Some proteins can be broken down more quickly than others, just like some carbs can be broken down faster than others. Sugar is so close to glucose its almost instantly absorbed. Whey is so close to digestible form it to is rapidly broken down into amino acids and absorbed. Taking amino acids directly that the absorption, like sugar, is almost instant, allowing for precise timing for maximum benefit. With this introduction by me, read the science:

http://mobile.journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/_layouts/oaks.journals.mobile/abstractviewer.aspx?year=2010&issue=04000&article=00033

Body Building: beyond aesthetics

I’ve been lost with my workouts lately.  I haven’t had a clear-cut goal, instead basing my workouts on  general health, some notion of (obsolete) athletic needs, and boredom.  Without some competitive outlet, I find my workouts to be aimless and somewhat pointless.  General health and fitness is so uninspiring to me.  None of these has kept me training at the level of consistency and intensity I ought to be maintaining for both optimal physical fitness and professional reasons.

Since I really don’t pursue any specific athletic avocations at this point in my life, training athletically is not only pointless, but also counter productive considering the physical impairments I keep exacerbating: sciatica, arthritic pain in my ankle and left hand digits, shoulder pain from years of over-use and abuse, to name a few.

The level of exercise I need to accomplish to maintain general health is likewise so easy for me to achieve I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything.

And boredom leads to demotivation and general lack of interest in my own personal fitness.

To remedy this I’m going to begin a good, old school, body building routine.  Nothing fancy.

Nothing overly athletic or complex.  Just basic body building and strength training, done with gradually increasing intensity over a period of weeks.  I’ll target different parts of my body on different days, using a three-day split routine.  The same exercises every week till I reach a strength and development plateau, and then I’ll redesign the routine to reach a new plateau, and so on.  The goal is simple: get specifically strong in certain exercises, and to generally strengthen every skeletal muscle as much as possible.  In addition to my other posts, I will log these workouts here, and post them, so that all my readers can see what I’ll be doing, and the challenges that I either overcome or succumb to, just like everyone else in the exercise community.

My split will be as follows:

  1. Chest & Back Monday and Thursday (DB bench press, Incline DB press, cable fly’s, Pull-ups, cable rows/long pull, cable high row)
  2. Lower Extremities Tuesday and Friday (squats, dead lifts, jump step ups, leg extension, prone leg curl)
  3. Shoulder, Arms, cardio Saturday (standing military press, db lateral raise, Standing e-z bar biceps curl, db incline biceps curl, dips, cable triceps pulldown, spin 30-45 minutes)

Light to moderate cardio will also be done on chest and back days, depending on energy levels, and on any other day energy, motivation, and time permit.  Abdominal and core work will be done at the end of every workout, depending on soreness.

Hopefully, you will find this log of my own workouts to be motivating, and heartening to see that we all face similar challenges, regardless of which direction we come from in this exercise community of ours.

Superior Training Tactics

There are so many fitness fads these days it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all, but it’s my profession, after all and I’m going to go through a number of the more popular ones after talking about why these fads and scams keep coming back.

Over the last 30 years, the general exercising public and competitive athletes have been on separate training trajectories. Prior to the 1980s, most athletes didn’t spend a lot of time in the gym lifting weights. Tennis players played tennis, did tennis drills on the court to practice strokes, footwork, and techniques, and maybe did some cardio work to improve aerobic capacity, but none hit the weight room. They were afraid it would make them bulky, slower, less agile, and muscle-bound. Basketball and baseball players followed the same logic. So did track and field runners. a marathoner ran miles and sprinters did wind sprints and middle distance sprints. Maybe shot putters lifted weights as that has a strong strength component, but that’s about it. NFL linemen, linebackers, and running backs always lifted weights, but the “finesse” positions of Quarterback, wide receiver, corner backs, punters and kickers, almost certainly did not.

Meanwhile, the gym industry started its major growth faze, with Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s https://i0.wp.com/assets.schwarzenegger.com/uploads/images/index/Arnold-Classic56.pngrising star leading the way, picking up the baton Jack LaLanne started with in the 1950’s and 1960’s.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/6/64/Jack_LaLanne_51b.jpg/220px-Jack_LaLanne_51b.jpg

These men were about physical fitness and; LaLanne especially; physical health and well-being. They might’ve performed athletic events (Schwarzenegger was a competitive power lifter before he became a body building champion, and LaLanne performed feats of strength and athleticism to highlight what physical fitness made possible. Interestingly, when Arnold was 19 he participated in a publicity strength challenge against 54-year-old LaLanne and LaLanne kicked Arnold’s ass!

Unfortunately, there were few female icons involved at this stage. LaLanne tailored his pioneering TV show to housewives, and did frequently showcase his wife. As a matter of fact the most popular professional female body builder of the 1970s and early 1980s was Rachel McLish, but the vast majority of female gym goers thought she was way to muscular and unfeminine to be considered a role model. To male body builders, she was hotter than a Playboy Playmate.

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I think today, she would be almost considered perfect. Back then, most women recoiled in horror at her overly muscular physique! Click on her picture to see even more of this “unfeminine” woman (I always thought she was a true ideal)

Getting back to the point, with these two men as the inspiration, Americans started going to the gym in increasing numbers and lifted weights. Around this time another pioneer, Dr. Kenneth Cooper (Cooper Aerobics Center)of the US Air force published studies he did on servicemen showing the benefits and importance of cardiovascular fitness. He is called the father of Aerobics, and in fact coined the term “Aerobics” in the first place. A number of books by runners came out and the running boom began. This was all serious training. Logging long hours doing miles of running and hitting the gym to lift serious weights (subjective to the individual, of course) and this was work.

The problem was, most people don’t want to do hard physical work, and like any business, the fitness industry wanted to make more money, and that required more bodies in the gym. How do you make grueling, dedicated hard work fun?

Enter the age of recreational fitness, and STEP and Jazzercize were its first and second offspring. Originally, step was a very good workout, and very aerobic, as the choreography was simple and required very little skill to master. You made it harder by increasing the number of risers, and by moving faster. But slowly, creative impulses and waning attendance demanded change to keep the masses coming back. Choreography became more dance like (fun), more complicated, and required increasing levels of skill to perform without pause. Eventually, as much of the class time was spent watching and learning intricate choreography as actually moving vigorously. The class would be standing still the instructor breaking down the moves in slow motion, then having the class perform the single move back repeatedly, then learning another step, and so on, as if they were getting ready to put on a dance show. Half the hour is spent doing nothing physical at all, and steps had to be much lower to perform the complicated choreography.

Moving forward in time, athletes and their coaches started realizing that being physically stronger enhanced just about every athletic endeavor, and they slowly but surely incorporated traditional strength training into all their routines. Even the best swimmers now spend hours every week lifting weights to get physically stronger.

Meanwhile, in the consumer health club, men were dropping out of organized group fitness classes faster than raindrops fall during a tropical storm, and everyone who remained noticed they weren’t losing weight anymore. The public, looking at their athletic heroes, noticed how hard the athletes bodies looked and concluded it was all that athletic training that the athletes did, and group exercise classes got a second wind. Members started participating in all kinds of sports conditioning type classes; boxing, kickboxing, cardio kick boxing, sports conditioning, yoga, ballet workouts, P90X, Crossfit™, TRX™; while the athletes themselves spent ever greater time lifting boring old weights. Click on either Crossfit or P90X above to read a journal article about the research, but here’s the conclusion of the study:

In summary, though ECPs (extreme conditioning programs) such as CrossFit and P90X are very popular, this popularity does not appear to be warranted. There is little evidence from peer-reviewed studies that ECPs are safe and/or effective, particularly when compared to established training programs documented to improve military task performance. Though much more research needs to be conducted, ECPs do not seem, at this time, to represent training programs likely to improve military readiness.by Guy Leahy, Med, CSCS,*D

Club members aren’t looking any fitter, by and large, but are, according to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning and the Journal of the American Medical Association dealing much higher frequencies of exercise related injuries. Athletic Performance has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with winning at all costs. Is this your goal? Is this important to you? Have you even thought about it?

Ask yourself why you go to the gym. Is it to get healthy, fit and strong, and to improve your appearance? Is it to improve your athletic performance in competitive or recreational sports? Is it recreational for you, in and of itself? All are valid, as far as I’m concerned, but you must be willing to match your reason to your method.

In conclusion,

If you’re trying to get healthy, fit, and strong to improve the quality of your life, be careful about’ training athletically! You will get hurt. Repeatedly. and 10, 15, or 20 years later you will feel every one of those injuries for the rest of your days. If you’re training because you’re a recreational or competitive athlete, make sure you pick a training style that transfers well to your sport of choice, and lift weights to enhance your physical abilities and reduce your risk of injury because you have a strong musculoskeletal foundation that can better withstand the stresses of athletics. If going to the gym is, in fact, your favorite form of recreation and entertainment, in and of itself, make sure you have a daily plan that minimizes your risk of injury so that you can continue for the long-term. Overtraining and improper form from overly complicated skill drills will have you convalescing at home far to frequently otherwise.

 

 

NYTimes.com: Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups

This is one of the good articles.  It’s actually accurate.  I myself have helped train 5 women over 28 years to be able to perform a pull up.  Sadly, that’s a statistic I’m proud of, since I know the extreme disadvantages women have in upper body strength.  Anyway, read and enjoy.

The New York Times E-mail This
This page was sent to you by: scott.salbo@gmail.com Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups
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