311016 Keeping at it

311016 Keeping at it

Louie Simmons has many adherents to his methods in training his powerful athletes. One thing is certain; they don’t take many breaks in their training do they? It has been said time and again that consistent persistence counts towards becoming a superior athlete. These athletes train year round in order to remain at the top of their game.

Vacations from training are not beneficial to an elite athlete. A long break destroys physical fitness and sports performance.

Instead of a vacation from training, take an active rest by doing something else than your normal routine.

291016 Reasons to exercise

291016 Reasons to exercise

The benefits of regular exercise are well known in today’s society. It has been consistently demonstrated that it leads to a healthier more productive life. Being active lowers your risk of developing heart disease, adult on set diabetes, sometimes referred to as type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. It’s not only these benefits that result from exercise, others fall into place as well.

Those who are regular participants in moderate to vigorous activities have the ability to deal with the stresses of daily life and are less likely than non-exercisers to suffer from anxiety and depression. Longevity has a direct correlation to being active. The more active you are throughout your life the greater your chances of staying healthy and living a longer life.

Following a plan of regular exercise and eating healthy foods and fluids can lower the actuary[1] predictors of coronary heart disease and stroke. Exercising regularly often times means your critical health numbers will become lower. These numbers include your blood pressure, body weight, fat composition, blood triglyceride levels, and low-density lipoproteins (LDH).

The numbers indicating good cholesterol (HDL) rise with good exercise and a healthy diet.

Blood sugar tolerance, also known as glucose tolerance, is the ability of your body to regulate the level of sugar circulating in the blood. When this tolerance becomes lower, the amount of sugar in your blood becomes higher, which may lead to diabetes. Currently, about one in four older adults are at risk of developing type-2 diabetes in the US. The studies are clear in their findings: physically active people are less likely to develop this disease then those who are sedentary. Exercise improves the ability of the body to use insulin, which is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. This process maintains the blood sugar at the recommended levels.

The benefits of exercise far outweigh the time spent working out. Just of few of the reasons to exercise, include stronger bones and better mental health.

Improved bone density

Osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become fragile and fracture easily, is of concern to many older adults. This affects more women than men even though men still suffer from the disease.

Once osteoporosis has progressed to a dangerous level, even a small slip and fall can cause a broken bone, especially in the hips and wrists of a female.

Weight bearing exercise has been well documented in both medical and scientific literature to be of value in strengthening the skeletal bones. Strength training and impact exercises have a direct positive relationship to building stronger bones, particularly the long bones in the body. These types of exercises can help prevent further skeletal bone loss in those with osteoporosis.

Mental well-being is enhanced when you exercise. The release of natural chemicals into your body helps improve your outlook on life. They make the minor momentary pain of exercise feel good all day long. That’s not all there is to the role of activity and exercise in making your life batter. An added outcome of regular exercise is the ability to control your weight.

Less body weight means less stress and trauma on your lower torso joints, i.e. the hips, knees and ankles. It makes sense that the more you weigh the more these joints have to work to stay healthy. Too much bodyweight can damage the cartilage, which in turn fosters the onset of arthritis and osteoarthritis and leads to joint implants.

Remember you will never exercise your way to more lean muscle mass through a high calorie diet. Eating or drinking too many calories will not be exercised away, contrary to what the machines are telling you about the caloric expenditure for X-amount of time on them.

241016 It is never too late to strength train

241016 It is never too late to strength train

There are numerous studies showing that people who do resistance training have significantly improved their muscle strength and performance. These changes show up in as little as two months. This held true even with the frail and over age 80 population. Not only does resistance training improve strength it can also help prevent and treat sarcopenia.

According to an analysis conducted in 2010 by the Aging and Research Reviews, strenuous, intense workouts are the most effective. You can bet they did not use soup cans in these intense workouts. However, if you are seriously out of condition you probably will have to start out gradually. Find a qualified strength trainer, one with good credentials from a nationally recognized association, and get started.

In order to help prevent or treat sarcopenia, strength train regularly and make sure that you are getting enough protein and your system on a daily basis.

A basic strength program stressing the major muscle groups, consisting of three sets of eight repetitions, performed 2 to 3 times a week will show increases in strength and functionality within a short period. These targeted muscle groups should involve the shoulders, arms, upper back, chest, abdominals, lower back, the quads and hamstrings of the legs and the calves.

Begin with a warm-up with some sort of an aerobic exercise to the point where you are breathing heavier, your pulse is going faster and you have a slight sweat. Now it is time to start lifting.

Begin with the weight that you can handle 10 to 12 times. In over the course of a week or so add weight until the last two repetitions of the set are difficult. Rest 2 minutes and repeat the exercise set again. If you’re able to complete three sets of eight repetitions with a specific weight then that weight is to light and more needs to be added to the bar.

On the days that you are not strength training, do some sort of aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes. Keep track of what you’re doing. You are going to notice improvements in your strength level and in your ability to move a lot easier in your daily life.

221016 Avoiding training injuries in the weight room.

221016 Avoiding training injuries in the weight room.

The short and sweet ways to protect yourself and others in the gym.

1. Keep the room clean and neat.
2. Maintain the equipment in excellent working order
3. Make certain to dynamically warm up before beginning to lift
4. Do not allow maximum weights to be used by a beginner.
5. Pay attention while using the free weights
6. Provide close and correct spotting to those under maximum weight
7. Avoid doing only mirror muscles by following a balanced strength program

171016 Exercise form

171016 Exercise form

Exercise is a way to live life to the fullest; however using poor form is a fast way of incurring an injury. If you are using free weights, which are highly recommended over any of the common machines, there are certain techniques to use in order to get the greatest benefit from them and avoid injury. In the next few paragraphs, we will briefly discuss some issues of exercise form to guard against.

The military press: stand tall, avoid a lower back, backward lean, and side to side lean when pressing up. Do the press in front of your face and not behind your head because this is harmful to your shoulders due to the extreme range of motion when the weight is coming down behind the head.

Barbell curls: For the most part, keep your hands close to your outer thighs. Don’t lean backward in an effort to move heavier weight. Keep momentum to a minimum. Keep the weight under control on the downward phase and not let gravity take over in the hopes you will be able to lift more.

Supine lateral raises commonly referred to as flyes: Keep the weight under control and don’t let it drop suddenly because your shoulders won’t tolerate this for long.

Bench press: The number one rule here is to keep your feet on the floor and not on the bench as shown so frequently in the magazines or on YouTube. You have minimal balance control with your feet on the bench.

Use the five-point stance: Both feet on the floor, buttocks on the bench at all times, shoulders and head on the bench. Keep the weight over your elbows by not hyperextending the wrists. Don’t allow the weight to plummet to your chest with hope of bouncing it back up.

Dead lift: Begin by squatting into the start position by pushing your hips backward and striving to keep your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Keep the natural lordosis in your lower back. Avoid lifting a weight that overpowers your ability to keep your back in the correct position.

Good mornings: Begin with the weight behind your head and on your shoulders (this is easier done in a power rack so you aren’t exposing your shoulders to an unnecessary injury-see the caution in the military press portion), flex your knees ever so slightly and bend over until your head is below your waistline. Don’t go fast on the down phase as this puts a lot of shock load on your lower back at its most vulnerable position in the lift. Instead, lift with control. There is that word again. Be in control of the weight by controlling momentum. You will get more out the exercise and perhaps even avoid an injury in the process.

Squat: Contrary to what many misinformed people may say this is the best lower body exercise in the entire encyclopedia of fitness movements. The things to avoid are rapid drops into the bottom position, knees coming inward on going back up, rounding of the back, not going deep enough, and in some cases, ego lifting with too much weight.

Some people think they are protecting their knees by not going into the full squat. They fail to realize that by not going deep they are exposing themselves to a sports injury when the need to exert force at the full range of motion is necessary to prevent an injury from happening.

Secondly, and more importantly, is protecting yourself in a fall when the leg is suddenly flexed to its extreme such as frequently happens during a fall on the stairs. If the squat is not deep enough then problems start to occur with such simple things a going to the toilet. A ninety-degree squat is not even deep enough to sit in most chairs.

There is strong evidence that at ninety degrees there is a tremendous high load on the patella tendon. If damage happens to this tendon, the individual with the injury is in for a long rehabilitation period. For example, a two hundred and fifty pound person doing a squat with two hundred pounds is putting over 600 pounds of pressure on their patella for an extended period due to the reversal of motion at this dangerous spot in the range of motion.

It is far better to go through this position, go deep and then come back up, than it is doing the high squat stopping at the magic ninety-degree spot.

151016 Paying attention to the red flags of pain

151016 Paying attention to the red flags of pain

Pain is your body telling you something is not right. Maybe it’s simply a little ache that quickly goes away, but what if it is excruciating. Some pain signs are serious red flags that need to prompt attention by a medical professional. Carefully consideration of these signs may be the step that is necessary to prevent further deterioration of a manageable condition. An emergency pain signal, one that should get you moving to an emergency department, is one or more of the following symptoms:

A sudden onset of severe pain that is unrelated to an accident or some other situation that commonly would constitute an accident

Upper abdominal area or chest pain or pressure

Having difficulty in breathing or suffering from shortness of breath that is not normal to your situation

Dizziness, fainting, weakness, particularly if the dizziness and weak condition comes on suddenly

Sudden severe headache or a change in your vision

Difficulty in speaking or understanding others

Confusion or sudden changes in your mental status, a loved one or someone close to you may be the first to notice this change

Uncontrolled bleeding

Persistent and severe vomiting or diarrhea

Coughing blood

Vomiting blood

The major categories of pain-acute and chronic

Acute pain is normally the result of an illness, some sort of injury or occurs after surgery. This type of pain causes the body to automatically stop what you are doing in an effort to protect the body from further harm. This is due to the tissue damage that causes the pain receptors to respond.

Unlike chronic pain, acute pain can be pinpointed. You know exactly where you hurt and can put your fingers in the area where it hurts. Fortunately, this kind of pain generally subsides with time and gradually goes away.

Chronic pain by definition usually lasts six months or longer. It may stem from a chronic joint condition caused by arthritis, peripheral neuropathy or it could be the residual effects of an accident, infection, tumor or surgery that has damaged the nerves. In other cases, the cause of the pain is not understood because there is no evidence of a disease or damage to the tissues that would trigger it.

Changes in pain

Typically, your pain will gradually subside over time with the proper treatment. If this does not happen then a revisit with your doctor is in order just as it would be if the pain changes in character. For instance if your pain moves up the scale from mild to severe or greater then call your care provider and follow their suggestions. A more serious change would be an onset of new symptoms such as tingling or numbness; both demand a consult with your doctor as soon as you can get in to see them. Your doctor should revaluate these changes in the pain characteristics. They will conduct an examination and either eliminate a possible serious threat to your health or change the directions of the present care program.

Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most commonly reported health issues.

Throughout one’s life, there more than likely will be at least one episode of low back pain. The cause can be muscle strains, deconditioning of the body brought on by a sedentary lifestyle, spinal disk damage from accidents and the degenerative diseases of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In some cases, the pain escalates into an unbearable situation and must be aggressively dealt with by the medical professional.

In the present case of low back pain, serious red flags that appear need to be heeded and promptly attended to by a medical professional. If you experience the following, it is time to seek outside help.

Fever or chills and or night sweats

An inability to empty your bladder

Incontinence of your bladder or bowels

Weight loss that you cannot explain

Pain that cannot be relieved with rest and relaxation

If you are awakened at night by your pain

The inability of positional changes to alleviate your pain symptoms

Numbness, pain weakness in your legs, either one or both of them

These signs or symptoms could indicate an undiagnosed condition such as an infection, compression fracture of the spinal column due to osteoporosis, nerve root or spinal cord compression, a kidney stone or stones, an abdominal aortic aneurysm[1], spinal cancer or a tumor that may have started elsewhere and spread to the spine. In the case of the latter, these are especially true in the case of prostate, breast and lung cancers. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and don’t let these signals pass without an examination by your doctor.

101016 Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

101016 Gaining muscle with electrical impulses, fact, or fiction

Periodically one sees an advertisement for an electrical device that supposedly builds muscles or helps someone to lose weight. Without a doubt, some types of electrical stimulation are beneficial, however; the gains in the muscles are miniscule. The medically approved electrical stimulation devices used in a physical therapy setting or after a surgery to control pain work well. The tens unit comes immediately to mind.

The repeated low intensity shocks produced by these electrical devices can force rapid contractions of the muscles. This repeated stimulation does cause a certain amount of growth in the muscle fibers but even the best of these devices, as used in the medical field, can do only so much. They help to partially stave off muscle atrophy during the rehabilitation.

In order to gain muscle size, strength, and to burn enough calories to lose weight, exercise is a critical part of the equation. Without exercise, these devices are practically useless, especially the ones seen on TV.

One popular, regularly advertised, model found that the stimulation of the major muscles of the abdomen, arms, and legs for up to 45 minutes, three times a week for a full two months produced no significant changes in the participants strength levels, body fat ratio to lean muscle mass, weight , or their overall appearance.

The recommendation from most astute observers is to regularly exercise and follow a sound nutritious diet because getting stronger, bigger, and losing weight does not come with an electrical machine. You actually have to be active and watch what you eat and drink.

081016 Studies that have benefited strength athletes

081016 Studies that have benefited strength athletes

As far back as 1985, scientists were examining the force-velocity curve and its effect on maximizing muscle power output.

In one such study scientists in Finland examined the neural activation relationship between isometric force and relaxation time of the human muscle fiber characteristics in eleven males who were accustomed to strength training.

Beginning with a baseline test these eleven males started the training protocol. The intensities varied from 70 to 120% 1RM of the leg extension. I know I can hear you all saying “what a useless exercise”, but for scientific purposes, it has its place, so bear with me on this.

The first twelve weeks of intense training

The fast twitch fibers became larger during this period and the athlete’s strength grew by 26.8% over their tested 1RM. This strength increase, correlated with higher electromyography[1] readings indicating greater neural input into the active muscle fibers.

The second twelve weeks of detraining

There were no hypertrophic changes to the muscle fibers during this phase of the experiment. However, there was a slight tapering effect noticed for a short time after beginning the detraining portion of the study. This was short lived and the usual after effects of detraining soon became apparent.

It was found during the time span that maximal strength declined greatly as did the EMG readings. In retrospect, this should have been expected because the cross-sectional area of the muscle fibers decreased during the twelve weeks of detraining.

The scientists concluded that strength improvements may be attributed to neural factors during high intense training. Even though a certain amount of hypertrophy took place the conclusions were this greater muscle mass may have limitations in the long run for highly trained athletes.

[1]Electromyography (EMG) is a test that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles

031016 An introduction into strength and power training for all ages

031016 An introduction into strength and power training for all ages

It turns out there are effective actions you can do to positively alter your health. They can help improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, help improve your mood, make you stronger and more powerful, and at the same time make your bones stronger to help ward off fractures.

These are not the only benefits these actions, not by a long shot.

They can potentially help you avoid disability, frailty and retain that precious independence we all want to have as we age.

Strength training can do all of this.

It is a well-known fact that strength training offers all of the benefits previously mentioned, in addition to many others such as are listed in the following section from the Harvard Medical School.

“Practically any regular exercise benefits your health. Strength training specifically helps in the following ways:

Strengthens muscles

Strengthens bones

Prevents falls and fractures by improving balance and preserving power to correct missteps

Helps to control blood sugar

Relieves some of the load carried by the heart

Improves cholesterol levels

Improves the body’s ability to pluck oxygen and nutrients from the blood stream

Boosts metabolism even while sleeping and thus helps keep weight within a healthy range

Prevents or eases lower back pain

Relieves arthritis pain and expands limited range of motion

Raises confidence , brightens mood, and helps fight mild to moderate depression

Wards off loss of independence by keeping muscles strong enough for routine tasks”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there is now a heightened awareness of the benefits of strength training. There is also the fact that only a small percentage of the American population have actually started a strength training program. This percentage is estimated at just slightly under 22% for men and 18% of the women in our nation who are strength training twice a week on a regular basis.

This percentage figure is way below the U.S. governments Healthy People 2010 goal of 30% of the adults in America who make strength training a part of their exercise program.

If you’ve never lifted weights before or done any type of resistance training the biggest barrier to starting may be knowing where to begin. This may be your situation, if so all you need to start is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing. Adding to this, a solidly built chair, a few dumbbells and if you’re able to skip rope, a skip rope. This is all you need to get started. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it?

Since the health benefits of strength training are founded on its ability to protect against the onslaught of frailty, while at the same time making everyday tasks easier and more manageable it is essential that you begin sooner rather than later. The longer you wait the more your muscle tissue, bone density, and strength dwindle. If you don’t do something about your strength and power abilities you will soon find it difficult to walk upstairs, get up from a chair, carry groceries, and fend for yourself as an independent person.

Not only will you find it difficult to do the aforementioned tasks but also lacking strength leads to falls and that can mean incapacitating fractures. This in turn further compromises your ability to lead an active life. Strength training has a wealth of research backing its ability to effectively slow down and possibly reverse these life altering events.

Even if you are in your 70s, 80s, 90s and above, research has shown a dramatic increase in strength, power, agility, and mobility within 10 weeks of lifting weights 2 to 3 times a week. Now you have to admit that this is not a tremendous time commitment, especially considering the benefits to your health.

011016 Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

011016 Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Strength training has lived and breathed progressive overload for many, many years. Today, strength coaches may use any of the three following methods for just a few days out of the year. Even used during this limited amount of time, they serve their purpose and that is to recover from an injury or to act as an active rest in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

In 1948, DeLorme and Watkins devised the first progressive strength training system. This protocol was used for quite some time with the rehabilitation of military personnel. In 1951, Dr. Zinovieff, working in England’s United Oxford hospitals revised the DeLorme program and then renamed it the Oxford technique. Both of these overload systems were still being into the latter 1900’s, in this case, 1985. In that year, the Daily Adjusted Progressive Resistive Exercise (DAPRE) technique arrived on the scene.

The DAPRE is a more complex way of exercise programming when compared with the other two. It is also a highly effective method of strength training for the dedicated new trainee.

An obvious difference between the previous two strength progression programs and the DAPRE system is a number of repetitions used for the three sets. DeLorme and Watkins and the Oxford technique both use 10 repetitions for the three sets. The DAPRE begins with 10 repetitions on the first set at 50% and lowers the reps to six on the second set at 75%.

The reason for bringing this up is the percentages for a 10-repetition maximum are on a continuum between 30 and 75% with a heavy intensity of effort expected on each set. Since there was no mention of the length of the rest periods between each of the sets, common sense would lead one to believe that thirty to one hundred and fifty seconds would be appropriate.

You might notice that none of the reps or set combination recommendations coincides even in the slightest to Prilephin’s table. Therefore, these three program designs may best be used during an active recovery phase for probably not more than two or three days. Once these three days have passed then it would be best to get back onto a powerful strength-building program.

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Let us look at each of these programs in a little more detail.

DeLorme and Watkins

DeLorme and Watkins developed their strength program by using a 10-repetition maximum (10RM) as the final goal of the trainees. This is a pretty simple set up. They recommended doing three sets of each exercise and then doing 10 repetitions each time. By today’s standards, it would be difficult to develop maximum strength using the system and you will soon see why.

After an overall body warm-up, you do your first set at 50% of the 10-repetition maximum. The second set follows at 75% of the 10-rep maximum. The final set is another 10 repetitions at 100% of the 10-repetition maximum.

Even a casual glance at this schedule reveals the difficulty in achieving a true 10-repetition maximum on the third set. Nevertheless, in a therapeutic setting this was years ahead of what they had been doing prior 1948. Dr. Zinovieff identified the inherent disadvantages of the DeLorme and Watkins progressive system and modified it. He renamed it the Oxford technique.

The Oxford technique

As could be expected, once a trainee who was following the DeLorme and Watkins program reached the third set they were in a fatigued state and were probably unable to finish the repetitions. Dr. Zinovieff reversed the number of required repetitions and the percentages by starting at 100% with 10 repetitions for the first set. He then followed with the second set at 75%. The final set was 50% of the 10-repetition maximum.

This seems to make much more sense in that the first set of 10 is done when you are in a rested state. As you progress through the following two sets, with fatigue beginning to set in, the percentages are lowered to accommodate the declining physical ability.

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

Daily Adjusted Progressive Resistive Exercise (DAPRE) technique

This system is now more frequently used than either of the prior two. It is a complex program of exercising six days a week. This may seem like a lot but it is designed to meet each person’s ability to bear the increased resistance based upon which set is being performed in the schedule.

The important part of this program is realized in sets three and four, but before getting there, we still have to do sets one and two. Set one is 10 repetitions at 50% of the anticipated 100% 10 repetition maximum. The second set is six repetitions the 75%.

The third set is as many repetitions the individual is capable of making at 100% of the 10 repetition maximum. The fourth set is again as many reps as possible. This is based on an adjustment determined from set number three.

The adjustment guidelines are somewhat complicated so here is a brief chart for you to look at and decipher at your leisure.

Guidelines for the fourth set

Number of repetitions from the prior set

Fourth set load based upon set three repetitions

Next day training load adjustments based upon the fourth load set


Lower the weight and redo the set

Lower the weight and redo the last set performed


Lower the weight by at least 5 pounds

Keep the same weight


Keep the weight

Increase the weight by 5 to 10 pounds


Increase the load by 5 to 10 pounds

Increase the weight 5 to 15 pounds

More than 13 repetitions

Increase the load by 10 to 15 pounds

Increase the weight 10 to 20 pounds

Three, ultraconservative, exercise progression systems

As can be seen by looking at the chart it is not as simple as just performing 50, 75, and 100% of the 10 repetition max load. To me, this repetition scheme makes sense, especially if you are coming back from an injury. This program is both conservative and aggressive at the same time.

The determining factor for improving strength rests solely upon the trainees’ shoulders. Highly motivated trainees are going to do as many repetitions as possible in sets three and four, whereas the less motivated will do just enough to get by. The latter will pay a price later on for not pushing themselves to get the strongest possible during the process.

Research conducted in 2003 , compared DeLorme and Watkins with the Oxford technique, concluded that it was unclear which technique was more effective at developing strength. However, there was no mention of active recovery, which each of these three programs could do very well at fulfilling.

Adapted from Therapeutic Exercise for Athletic Injuries and chart based on Knight, 1985

Comparison of DeLorme with Oxford techniques. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2003;82:903-909.