270616 Strength training

270616 Strength training

Working out with weights does more than just build muscle and increase your bone mineral density. It decreases your chance of injury and helps promote better agility, balance and coordination.

Stronger bones help to forestall osteoporosis and decrease the risk of fracture if you happen to fall. Not only will strength training help make you better in your chosen sport or favorite recreational activity it also strengthens your ligaments and tendons thereby making your joints less susceptible to injury.

The development of greater strength makes daily life easier by helping to eliminate muscle weakness and muscle strength imbalances within your musculoskeletal system. Being stronger makes carrying the groceries and working around the house less strenuous.

Resistance trained legs will make that daily walk or those recreational runs you may have planned to enter this year more pleasurable to accomplish.

For those of you who have recurring back, neck or shoulder pain a strength training program can be a God send. Simply getting stronger in these over worked and over stretched muscles can often time alleviate chronic pain symptoms.

Where to begin?

Start out by exercising the major muscle groups at least twice a week. These groups include the shoulders, upper back, chest, lower back, arms, abdominal, legs hamstrings and calves.

Do two to three sets of eight to ten repetitions with rest periods of thirty to sixty seconds between each set of exercises.

260616 Getting ready for a joint replacement-part four

260616 Getting ready for a joint replacement-part four

According to the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which is a part of the National Institute of Health, there are over 1 million Americans having a hip or knee replaced every year. Research, over the years, has found that even if you are older a joint replacement will increase your ability to move around with less pain.

Once you are home, you need to notify your doctor immediately if:

  • The area around the surgical site looks red or begins to drain fluids. Examples include, bruising or nosebleeds.

You recognize one or more of these common signs of an infection.

  • a fever,
  • increased redness or swelling,
  • your skin feels hot,
  • more drainage from the site,
  • color changes in the drainage, or
  • more pain than before

Notify your surgeon of any new symptom, such as a pain that gets worse or refuses to go away with medication

Moreover, call them immediately if you experience any pain or notice swelling in your calf or have shortness of breath because this can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a clot forming in your lower leg.

If you notice any of these symptoms of a DVT, don’t massage your calf. Immediately call your doctor. Don’t wait, even if it is after hours, call so you can be examined and if necessary treated. You may have to go to the Emergency Room.

This is a serious condition, don’t treat it lately.

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the calf that gets worse when you pull your foot forward
  • Increased skin temperature in the area over your calf

Any pain or difficulty in walking after the joint replacement that has suddenly occurred should be a red flag. Your doctor needs to know about this especially if the recovery up to this time has been going smoothly.

It cannot be emphasized too much that you must listen to and follow your surgeon’s recommendations and guidelines.

250616 Older adult exercise guideline

250616 Older adult exercise guidelines

The previous adult guidelines apply to the older population but with a few moderate stipulations that are just for this group. If you are an older adult but are unable to do at least 150 minutes of medium intensity aerobic activity each week due to chronic health conditions then continue to do what you can do. It is far better to be a little active than none at all.

Let your physical abilities and health conditions guide your exercise response. Just don’t quit.

Exercises that help prevent falls by maintaining balance capabilities are essential to good health. Strength training keeps your muscles ready to prevent a fall should you find yourself losing your balance and beginning to fall. If you don’t have the strength to catch yourself then you will more than likely fall.

Schedule periodic discussions with your doctor to determine if the exercises you want to do are appropriate for your particular health conditions. Don’t delay going in if you have questions.

You can ride a stationary bike or use a hand device that allows you to pedal with your arms if you aren’t able to maintain your balance on a bike. Other options are to walk with a friend or joy a local fitness center.

If you decide to join a health center follow your gut instincts when it comes to the exercise program they put you on; if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it! Ask for clarification as to why you are supposed to be doing the exercises and then have the instructor demonstrate each one before you try it. If it hurts don’t do it, there are scores of other exercises that will provide a similar result.

If you decide to go it on your own plan on doing some cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance training two to three times per week for twenty to thirty minutes a day. The thirty minutes a day is a high end number. Don’t kill yourself in these workouts. They should be enjoyable and fun to do. If not then change your program.

Most professional strength coaches or personal trainers will be more than happy to assist you, if not, go to another gym, and find someone with a little compassion. It’s not always about the membership and the money you pay to be a part of the club.

200616 A beginning resistance training routine

200616 A beginning resistance training routine

A beginning routine is made up of large muscle group exercises featuring balanced applications of sets and repetitions for both agonist and antagonist groups. After a movement specific warm up where each exercise is performed ten to twelve times do eight to twelve repetitions at your workout weight for two to four sets. A set is one group of eight to ten repetitions.

Follow each set with a rest period of sixty to ninety seconds, depending on your present conditioning status and then begin the next set of the same exercise. Move through the list at a steady pace. You should not be in the weight room much longer than forty five to fifty minutes.

The decision to do them all at one time will be a personal matter, one that takes into consideration the time you have to exercise. The full body workouts are good at helping to improve your general physical conditioning. This schedule would be done on alternate days so you have a recovery period inter spaced between workouts.

If you make the decision not to do them all in one session then consider doing the upper and lower body exercises on different days. Following this exercise schedule allows you to exercise five days in a row with the weekend off for active recovery activities.

These are the essential ten and form the foundations of any strength program regardless of how you decide to do them.

  1. Military presses
  2. Chin ups or pull downs
  3. Bench presses
  4. Barbell rows
  5. Squats
  6. Dead lifts
  7. Curl ups or full range sit ups
  8. Back extensions
  9. Laterals
  1. Calf raises

Using the big ten exercises in your training program.

Start out with one set of eight to twelve repetitions and after a week or two add an additional set. Several weeks later add one to two more sets until you reach four to five sets of each exercise. Begin with sets of eight and as you get stronger and can tolerate the stress of lifting gradually add more reps until you’re at twelve repetitions for four to five sets.

After three to four weeks have elapsed on this schedule begin to dramatically increase or decrease the repetitions on one of the days each week. This will shake up your body and make it realize that every day will not be the same. This is how growth takes place.

Once at the five sets of twelve it will be time to drastically change your entire program. But that is not what this article is about so I won’t address it now. Suffice it to say this will be the time in your program that new exercises, new reps and set schemes and different work to rest ratios will be needed to up the intensity necessary to continue your steady progress towards greater physical fitness.

After the exercises have been completed it’s time to start the cool down phase of the session. This period allows your body to readjust back to its normal temperature, pulse and breathing rates.

Midway through this cool down process do one or two static stretches for the various areas you’ve just worked out. Avoid, if possible, doing the same stretches each time by selecting a different one from any of the vast movements that are available.

Several of my favorite books are the Stretching Handbook by Brad Walker, Stretching by Bob Anderson, The Whartons’ Stretch Book by Jim and Phil Wharton, Stretching for Athletics by Pat Croce and Sport Stretch by Michael J. Alter.

After you have cooled down then it’s time to replenish your muscles with fuel. Eat a protein and high glycemic carbohydrate snack to help get your muscles back into the positive growing zone.


Start out by learning how to do the exercises correctly, be consistent in your exercise sessions, maintain the intensity, stick with the basics and eat well.

There you have it; a full schedule to get you into shape safely and effectively. But don’t get in a hurry to leave the gym just yet because you still have to cool down

190616 Getting ready for a joint replacement-part three

190616 Getting ready for a joint replacement-part three

According to the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which is a part of the National Institute of Health, there are over 1 million Americans having a hip or knee replaced every year. Research, over the years, has found that even if you are older a joint replacement will increase your ability to move around with less pain.

After your surgery

After the surgery, you may have to stay in the hospital for a few days. The length of stay depends on the type of surgery, your age, physical abilities, and your surgeon’s judgment. In some cases, this is dependent on your abilities; you may have to go to a rehab center, which can take several weeks of rehabilitation before you go home.

During the time you are in the hospital, you receive painkillers, antibiotics, and blood thinners to help the healing process. Blood thinners are there to reduce the risks of clots. Make use of the painkillers effects on your body by moving around and doing what you can to exercise that joint (within your doctors orders). Get as much range of motion as possible back as soon as possible without destroying the surgically repaired area.

Frequently, after surgery you are going to be encouraged to get out of bed and start moving. The first time you do this is going to be scary especially if you’re standing on a new hip or knee joint. However, this helps keep the blood moving and again reduces the risk of a blood clot forming.

Physical therapy normally begins the next day after the surgery. The exercises the physical therapist will be giving you help to strengthen the muscles around the new joint, assists in regaining your flexibility and motion.

If your surgeon is competent then joint replacement is a relatively safe surgery with overall low rates of complications and mortality. By following your doctor’s instructions and adhering to the physical therapists schedule of exercises you should come through this in much better health than when you went into it. However, there are possible problems that can happen.

In some instances, problems such as blood clotting, and/or infection, and/or a loosening of, and/or a dislocation of the new joint may occur. The latter occurs more frequently in a hip replacement rather than in the other joint replacements.

180616 Adult exercise guidelines

180616 Adult exercise guidelines

Inactivity diminishes a person’s ability to lead a healthy productive life and living a long time doesn’t mean much if you aren’t able to enjoy it. Avoiding the sedentary lifestyle is easier than it may appear. Simply get moving.

You don’t have to be an elite world class athlete to reap the benefits of being healthy. As the saying goes, any amount of activity is better than none, but in my humble opinion, not much better.

Nonetheless doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise will lead to substantial improvements in your health. Healthful results accrue by doing 75 minutes of higher intensity exercise such as strength training in the 80-100% of your one rep max or with aerobics keeping your heart rate within the 75-80 target heart rate (THR) range.

Combining these two methods of exercise on alternate days provides an ideal scenario for success. If you can’t find twenty to thirty minutes a day at a time, then do your exercises in ten-minute spurts. The results are the same according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Just spread these episodes of intense movement throughout the week until you reach the time necessary to realize the benefits of the activity.

Strength building is an important aspect of leading a healthy life. Without the strength to move your body, do the daily chores or help prevent a fall from happening you are opening yourself up for an injury.

A good exercise program consists of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise spread throughout the week on a consistent basis. Not hit or miss, but everyday. Consistency counts in maintaining exercise discipline just as it does in everyday life when it comes to achieving your goals.


130616 Using target heart rate zones to improve your fitness

130616 Using target heart rate zones to improve your fitness

Exercising in different target heart rate (THR) zones will affect how your body adapts and ultimately responds to the demands placed upon it. No matter what your fitness objectives may be, from preventing a chronic disease, to improving your cardiovascular health, losing weight or preparing for competition, your chances improve greatly by working out within certain THR zones that are specific to your individual capabilities.
The zones represent percentages of your maximum heart rate (MHR) which is the fastest your heart rate should beat for your age and fitness level.

There are several methods used to find your MHR. One of the most common is subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 20 years old your MHR is in the area of 200 beats per minute (b/m). If on the other hand you are 60 years old, your MHR will be around 160 b/m.

Once you have figured out what your maximum heart rate should be then it is time to start taking percentages of this maximum heart rate. Using a 20-year-old and their MHR of 200 b/m as an example, the following calculations will show the percentage range that will improve their fitness. 200 x 70% = 140 b/m. For the 60-year-old training for competition their calculation would be 160 x 80%=128 b/m. Both of these calculations were based on the lowest percentage in that zone.

To increase the intensity and value of the exercise session each of these people would want to use higher percentage figures in their calculations.

Once you have figured out what your maximum heart rate should be then it is time to start taking percentages of this maximum heart rate. Using a 20-year-old and their MHR of 200 b/m as an example, the following calculations will show the percentage range that will improve their fitness. 200 x 70% = 140 b/m. For the 60-year-old training for competition their calculation would be 160 x 80%=128 b/m. Both of these calculations were based on the lowest percentage in that zone.

To increase the intensity and value of the exercise session each of these people would want to use higher percentage figures in their calculations.

After you have figured out the intensity zone that matches your goal then it is time to begin the warm up. A warm up does just as it says; it raises the pulse rate, increases the speed of breathing and nerve impulses, warms the muscle tissue and generates a slight sweat. A warm up of five to ten minutes will be sufficient for most activities. The warm-up ends with the first set of your workout session.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thirty to fifty minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise each week will improve your overall physical health.

Here are the training zones.

  • Daily activity is generally within the 50 to 60% maximum heart rate zone.
  • Improved weight control lies within the 60 to 70% zone.
  • Increased physical fitness becomes more of a reality between the 70 to 80% zones.
  • Competitive athletes work out within the 80 to 100% maximum heart rate zones.
    • This even holds true if you are a strength athlete because the better conditioned your heart, the more you are going to be able to lift the heavy iron without getting so winded after a heavy set of squats.

When you exercise, find your pulse on your wrist by placing your index, middle and ring finger, not your thumb, over the artery. Count for one minute to make either mental note or written note of how fast your pulse was moving.

Periodically during your exercise session, monitor your heart rate so you stay within the exercise zone you have selected.

These zones are not set in concrete. If you have the ability to increase the intensity, you will derive greater health benefits from the session.

120616 Getting ready for a joint replacement-part two

According to the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which is a part of the National Institute of Health, there are over 1 million Americans having a hip or knee replaced every year. Research, over the years, has found that even if you are older a joint replacement will increase your ability to move around with less pain.

The days leading to the surgery

Prior to your surgery, you will get a very thorough health questionnaire. In this questionnaire will be a multitude of questions concerning your present health status, including many of the following.

Your surgeon is going to want to know what type of medications you are taking, including any type of vitamins and herbal supplements. Some of these may interfere with your blood’s ability to clot. In fact, your doctor may want you to stop taking any drug such as warfarin or a supplement that has this effect on your blood. Some of the more common supplements are garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, and ginger.

The surgeon is also going to want to know about any allergies or earlier adverse reactions you may have had to certain drugs or anesthesia. As mentioned earlier, now is the time to notify the surgeon whether or not you have a tendency to be nauseous after surgery due to the anesthesia used.

Let them know if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COP), hepatitis, HIV or any other disease.

Now this just may be a quirk of mine but whenever I have had a surgery, I used a permanent marker and wrote near enough to the joint so the surgeon could read it but far enough away so it did not interfere with the surgical preparations or the surgery, these words:

  • On the non-affected joint, I wrote “NOT THIS ONE.”
  • On the joint to be operated on, I wrote “THIS ONE.”

Granted, this may seem odd but I don’t want to wake up after surgery and find out that the wrong joint has been operated on. Writing on my body prior to the surgery gives me a little bit of extra peace of mind and also lets the surgeon know which limb he or she is supposed to be operating on. They will ask you multiple times which limb will be operated on before you go under the anesthesia.

In your pre-surgery consultations with your surgeon, ask them if they have any suggestions concerning what you can do to prepare yourself physically for the surgery. Also, ask them what types of exercises you are going to be doing after surgery. If you are unfamiliar with any of these exercises, ask for a demonstration or speak to your physical therapist. It’s going to be a lot easier on you if you know how to do these exercises in a semi-healthy state rather than all stitched up after the surgery.

If you drink alcohol, don’t use any for at least 48 hours prior to your surgery.

One last reminder going into your surgery: If you smoke cut back, or better yet quit. Smoking alters patterns of the blood flow, which delays your healing process and will slow down your recovery from the surgery.

110616 Accommodation

110616 Accommodation

Using the same loads and the same exercises time after time leads invariably to a decrease in performance gains. Accommodation in the strength field is NOT a good thing to have happen during your training.

Accommodation is one of the natural laws of biology and can be best described as the response ‘to a given constant stimulus decreases over time’.(1) ‘By definition accommodation is the decrease in response of a biological object to a continued stimulus’ (2).

Taking heed of this biological law of nature would preclude following the same program for an extended length of time. The program must vary for progress to take place.

Variation parameters in the program must at the same time keep in mind the specificity of the sport. Thus the exercises chosen need to be kept as closely related as possible to the actual sport joint movement patterns and angles; to the velocity of movement and the coordination and physiological demands of the activity.

The transfer of training to the sport will occur at the highest rate if the exercises chosen are the most relevant and specific in nature to the sport. However in designing programs that are as specific as possible a glitch appears. Variability in design planning avoids accommodation but this tenet conflicts with the stability requirement needed to meet the specificity challenge demands of the activity.

Avoiding or decreasing the negative effects of accommodation while planning a program means modification of the schedule in a periodized fashion. This happens in two ways:

1. Quantitatively
2. Qualitatively

Training loads, i.e. the total weight lifted in the session represents the Quantitative half of the formula, whereas Qualitative changes means replacing exercises during the training sessions. Periodizing the schedule, varying the load and replacing accessory exercises will help avoid accommodation from occurring. In other words, don’t do the same thing all the time.

(1) Science and Practice of Strength Training Zatsiorsky, V.M. Human Kinetics

(2) Ibid

060616 Getting the most from your breathing (1/3)

Getting the most from your breathing 

Breathing, as we all know is an important function of life. It is just as important knowing how to breathe or not breathe, while lifting. Surfing through the internet will be a roller coaster ride if you are looking for helpful directions in the proper way to breathe. Some say, in fact most are saying to breathe out as you lift the weight. Unless there is a medical reason for breathing out as you enter the concentric phase of the lift don’t do it.

Breathing out works as long as the weight is light, insignificant, and puny because your body doesn’t need to stabilize itself as much. However, once the load increases up to a level that will make a difference in your strength levels, you will automatically hold your breath near to, at, and through the sticking point. Try and see for yourself.

Now I am not so naïve as to think some of you will not force yourself to consciously breathe, during the heaviest part of the lift just to show that you can do it. However, if you (or your partner if you have one) are truly paying attention to your breathing patterns, you will notice that you hold your breath during the heaviest part of the lift.

This is similar to trying to achieve muscle isolation; with light weights it may work. But once again, with heavier weights your body will reach out for assistance from surrounding muscles to complete the lift. The body does what it has to do to complete a task, whether it be recruiting other muscles or breathing adjustments.

Regarding breathing, you can make these adjustments to enhance your ability to move heavier weight. It will take a conscious effort on your part to successfully change a previous non-helpful habit such as forcing yourself to breathe out throughout the concentric portion of the heaviest part of the lift.

Instead, some coaches disregard the prebreathing phase altogether and recommend using a modified version of the Valsalva maneuver throughout the lift[1]. As previously stated, you will automatically hold your breath during the heaviest part of the lift—this is normal. What is not normal is using it throughout the entirety of the lift. Problems may arise when using the Valsalva maneuver.

[1] Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is performed by attempting to forcibly exhale while keeping the mouth and nose closed.