311216 Fat-the good and bad of it

311216 Fat-the good and bad of it

Just what you wanted to know entering the New Year festivities. Sometimes guilt trips work…

A key component in assessing an individual’s health and physical fitness is knowing the body composition makeup. Obesity (excessive body fat relative to body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more) and becoming overweight (Adults with BMI between 25-29.9 kg/m2 or with children being in and over the 95th percentile for their age and sex) is at epidemic proportions in the United States and the trend is gathering momentum.

Right now we are at the top of the fat list compared to the majority of the nations in the world-an unfortunate but sad fact.

Being obese brings serious health consequences and reduces life expectancy by increasing the risk of developing serious diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, aka the silent killer, type 2 diabetes, obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and even certain kinds of cancer.

Just as too much fat in the body can cause problems, so can too little. Our body needs fat to operate in a normal physiological fashion. For example, the essential lipids such as the phospholipids are vital to cell membrane formation. The non essential lipids such as triglycerides which are found in the adipose (fat) tissue protect the body by providing a layer of thermal insulation. Fat tissue assists in storing metabolic fuel in the form of free fatty acids.

These same lipids are also involved in the storage and transport of the fat soluble A, D, E, and K vitamins and in helping to maintain the functionality of the nervous system. The menstrual cycle in females and the reproductive systems in both male and female rely on these cells, as does the growth and maturation processes of the pubescence child.

Thus, too little body fat as seen in those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, or someone with an exercise addiction or even certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis can lead to serious physiological health related consequences.

The best option is to be in the normal range for body fat, not over or under the recommendations if you desire to have good health.

Testing the body fat levels

The previous article briefly discussed the near crisis issue of being overweight and the staggering rise of obesity in our nation. Here we are going to look behind the scenes at the testing methods that determine fat or fit.

A classification of the level of body fat relies on the standard relative body fat percentages commonly used across the world. These classifications are in turn then broken up into age, sex, and activity body fat percentages at recommended levels. Across the scale women carry more body fat than males and younger people of both sexes carry less fat than older adults. This is due to the role women have in the reproduction of our species.

What are the body composition measures used for?

Body composition measures are useful in estimating a healthy body weight and figuring out a recommended nutritional plan. Both of these components are essential in designing an exercise program that will be beneficial to the trainee. Athletes who participate in weight bracket sports such as bodybuilding and wrestling need to know their ideal weight in order to be competitive. Pediatricians and other health care professionals make note of these measurements while monitoring the growth of children and to identify those who are at risk of being under or over weight.

The population of our country is getting older and the changes in body composition are important indicators of whether the person is remaining healthy or not. In each case, the assessment of body fat helps to determine the nutritional and exercise prescription intervention strategies that play a prominent role in charting a course of action to improve health and fitness levels.

Background on the measurement procedures

The body is made up of water, protein, minerals and fat substances. Most body fat identification procedures rely upon the two component model which divides the body into two sections: fat free and the fat tissue. The fat free is made up of all the chemicals and the tissues including water, muscle and the bones. The rest is fat. The testing methods separate the water, protein and minerals from the fat and then give a percentage of lean body mass to fat mass. Stay active and healthy in your life.

261216 A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the beginner

261216 A guide to determining sets, reps and rest periods for the beginner

Hypertrophy of the muscle fibers.

The recommendations here are nonspecific as to sarcoplasmic or myofibril hypertrophy. However, if you want to add strength to your muscles instead of just cosmetic size then stay on the shorter end of the rep ranges for this training cycle.

Do three to four sets of ten to twelve repetitions and rest between each set for approximately one minute. A shorter rest will be more along the lines of the bodybuilding programs, i.e. a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Whereas the longer one will help the muscles recover so more weight can be used thereby increasing the strength and size of the fibers and not the fluids in and around the cells.

For the strength and power training stick with four to five sets of three to five reps with longer rest periods between each set. The rest times during this training phase will be between three and four minutes. This allows the muscles to recover nearly 100% so they can continue putting out the effort necessary to push the weights the next set.

The strength sessions involve three to four sets of between six to eight repetitions with shorter rest periods than the strength and power cycle. Rest for pure strength is between two to three minutes.

A person starting out on a strength program will realize in a short time that these suggestions are the pathways to success.

241216 Building your squat strength by not squatting

241216 Building your squat strength by not squatting

Static exercises have not been given a great deal of attention in the recent past. In reality they “occupy a significant place in the training” of the (successful) weightlifter (1). This method of exercise enhances not only the muscles ability to produce strength but also increases the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system in both the junior and adult lifter. This is not to say that dynamic tension exercise has been placed on the shelf by this method but it does offer an extra training protocol from which coaches can draw upon to better prepare their athletes.

Coaches have long recommended maximum effort static holds of up to six seconds for sets of three to five repetitions ‘while holding the breath’ (2).Keep in mind the fact that strength is gained at or near the specific angle at which the weight is statically held. These are performed ten to fifteen minutes per exercise day by holding the tensions for five to six seconds each position.

Isometrics develop strength at the angle in which the muscles were tensed. Some literature states the angle varies by as little as 5° from the static held position. Thus the isometric transfer to full range of motion (ROM) is slight unless the full ROM is trained isometrically. Doing so will increase the chances of becoming stale in the exercise in only six to eight weeks time. Changing the position of the muscle angle every three to four weeks should prevent this stagnation from setting in.

The transference of the strength garnered from a specific joint angle is anywhere from 10% all the way up to 50% to other angles. This transfer is greater during muscle lengthening isometrics than during muscle shortening isometrics.

The outcome of these strong static holds is greater physical attributes in the individual which are manifested in their strength, speed and endurance outputs.

Even static tension that is 50-75% maximum power that is held for five seconds has been found to be beneficial in the training regimens of younger lifters.

True Isometrics are not meant for those athletes who are not past puberty. The most effective method of strength enhancement using isometrics is through the use of maximum muscle tension and prepubescent should not exceed 70% of one rep maximum.

Prior to 1992 Soviet strength researchers conducted an interesting study on 76 of their junior lifters aged 13-20 years old. These lifters were separated into two groups: an experimental group and a control group according to age and skill levels. This experimental study lasted for one full year and during this time the experimental group squatted once a week while the control group continued to squat twice a week.

The control group performed the normal squat, i.e. with weight on the back, sitting back on the heels with the shins in an upright position and going to 90-120 degrees flexion on each repetition. In other words these were deep contest legal squats (the kind everyone should be performing but generally aren’t).

When performing the static tension holds the experimental groups were instructed to execute the exercise under the following three conditions:

The athlete stands on two blocks, 30-40 cm tall, one under each foot.

The knees are bent to 90-120 degrees with the upper torso tilted forward ever so slightly.

The back is kept straight and the breathing remains normal under the exercise conditions.

A weight equal to 30-40% of the lifters 1RM is fastened to the waist belt.

In order to establish whether or not the static holds were useful pre-experiment tests were conducted on all participants to determine their one repetition maximum squats. Testing was also performed at the third, sixth, ninth and twelfth months.

The results were quite revealing, especially at the end of three months and then again with the tests conducted at the sixth and twelfth months of training. The experimental group, squatting once a week and performing static holds on the second squat session, were able to increase their back squat by 17.5 kg ± 0.7 kg when compared to the control group doing squats twice a week. The control added 14.0 kg ± 0.8 kg.

The most drastic improvements in the weight lifted, for both groups, occurred during the first three months of the training phase. And for the 13-14 and 15-16 year olds at the conclusion of the sixth and ninth months of the period under study, again for both groups of young lifters.

Additional training adaptations took place in the length of time these weight loads were statically held by the experimental section. The initial times to fatigue were in the 28.5 seconds range. At the end of the study these times were up to 34.5 seconds.

It was also noted that the younger lifters benefited the most from this type of training as they were able to hold the weight the longest when compared to their older counterparts of 15-16 years of age.

It was firmly established that static tension holds are an additional valuable training tool to the normal eccentric/concentric lifting modalities. Try it and see for yourself, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

(1) Weightlifting and Age (Scientific and pedagogical fundamentals of a multi year system of training junior weightlifters; Static Tension in the Training of Junior Weightlifters, Dvorkin, L.S. 1992 Sportivny Press, Livonia, Michigan, USA
(2) Ibid

191216 Moderation is NOT the key to getting stronger

191216 Moderation is NOT the key to getting stronger

Moderation in all things in life has been the advice of many a parent over the years. It is almost a certainty that you have been exposed to this as you grew up. In most cases the saying has merit but not when it comes to getting stronger. When it comes to getting stronger, throw moderation[1] out the window. Your muscles don’t act in a moderate manner, so why should you?

Now just because I said to throw moderation out the window I did not say to throw caution out with it. Use your head while you train or suffer the consequences of your imprudent actions.

The all or nothing theory of muscle activation

Before we move on let’s review the all or nothing theory of muscle activation. This states that when a specific set of muscle fibers within a motor unit reaches its threshold of activation either all of the fibers in that unit fire or none do. There is no such thing as a ‘maybe firing’. This is similar to a woman being pregnant; she either is, or is not…there is no middle ground.

Once this concept is understood it’s time to consider what happens when the motor units are all firing to move the weight. Without something to protect the body from excessive loads it would be possible to damage the integrity of the joints.

The protective joint sensors

The body has built in feedback loops to help protect it from harm. The most significant are the Golgi tendons and the muscle spindles. Both of which are ultra protective of the joints. Resetting the levels of activation for these protective mechanisms may be the key to greater lifting achievements.

The muscle spindles are located, actually intertwined within the muscles themselves and can sense when the muscles are being stretched (lengthened) rapidly. When this happens a signal is sent to the spinal cord which then tells the motor neurons to tighten up, i.e. to ‘reflexively contract’. (Strength Training, Brown, L. E. et al 2007). This helps prevent the muscle from being over stretched to the point of injury. However this only works during rapid lengthening of the fibers. A fiber that is slowly stretched doesn’t receive the signal to contract and is thereby susceptible to damage. The opposite reaction to the muscle spindle comes from its counterpart in the joint protective association; the Golgi Tendon.

The Golgi tendon, located at the junction of the tendon and muscle fibers intersection, senses when there is high tension on the tendon. When this sensation of excess is noted a signal is immediately sent to the spinal cord to inhibit further contraction of the muscles attached to the tendon. Additionally another signal is sent to the antagonist muscles telling them to contract. Here in lies the problem of moderation.

It may be that the Golgi tendon response is set too low. Readjusting this could be the answer to greater strength outputs. But this is dangerous territory as injury is just around the corner if the limits are pushed to far upward and the joint is damaged by a disproportionate, in relation to training experience, weight. The question before us now is how can we make these two seemingly incompatible protective devices work for us, and not against us, in our training.

The relationship between strength training and muscle activation

Since we know that the smallest and lowest threshold muscle motor units activate first we have to figure out a way to bypass this process. Secondly we have to figure out how to reset the Golgi Tendon response so more weight can be lifted. Is this a possibility? Yes to a certain extent it is. The answer is through proper training practices.

Periodization of the training load intensity, volume and rest to work ratios will allow this training effect to take place. Remember only those motor units that are recruited to lift the weight are trained. If they aren’t activated they won’t be exposed to the stress of the training. Recruitment of the type two fibers is the goal for the strength athlete.

The order of recruitment is thought to be genetically fixed however this may be altered by using heavy weight and/or placing a high power demand on the muscles. Variations in the recruitment order and small changes in fiber type composition are also thought to be possible through a well designed training program.

A competent strength coach will be able to design strength program for you that meets the needs of the prior discussion. If you are interested and motivated enough to follow through with the plan you will reap the benefits.


Resistance training, i.e. strength training can be a valuable asset in your sports activity program. These strength cycles will generate changes in the physiological make up of the body if they are properly planned. Moderation is not what will elicit these changes. Only maximal training effort will lead to maximal change in the muscle fiber recruitment and composition. The plan should involve periodization principles for the greatest effect and outcome.

[1]] Moderation is a relevant term in this context. Don’t be stupid with your weight training or you will get hurt.

171216 Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

171216 Sport and lifestyle activity-range of motion exercising

Your joints and muscles are meant to function within standardized degrees of movement, commonly referred to as the range of motion (ROM). The stronger you are within these ranges, the better protected you will be in preventing injuries from occurring. Therefore when doing your exercise routine keep in mind the following two guidelines:

1. You gain the most strength within the range of motion (ROM) at which you exercise.

2. The smaller the range of motion you in the joint, the less will be the carry over strength throughout the rest of the movement.

The basis of every quality strength training or fitness program relies, in part, on these two premises. As an example, let’s look at the squat while explaining these principles.

Many lifters do short range squats, known as high squats, in the gym. They get into a machine or in rare cases under a bar and drop down a few inches and call it good. In many instances this isn’t even to a parallel position, let alone below parallel where they should be before starting back up again. Depending on the load of the bar or on the machine, strength may be increased within this small range of motion but its unlikely this will happen.

This range of movement is too little and does not support normal living activities such as sitting down in a chair and then getting back up. If the strength is not developed within a range that is vital to living an active lifestyle then it is not useful. This group of fitness enthusiasts would be better served by going deeper in their squats, thereby getting a transfer of useable strength into their daily lives. This naturally leads in to the second principle.

An individual or strength athlete will become stronger when training the full range of motion. This expands the strength curve and transfers more useable muscle activity across greater degrees of the joint angle. Greater degree angles of strength protect the joint from injury, especially at the far ranges of motion.

The take home message is don’t cut yourself short with limited range of motion exercises.

121216 Fitness 101-starting out on the right track

121216 Fitness 101-starting out on the right track

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assisi

For many years now it has been the experience of fitness trainers that certain steps must be taken in order to ensure a successful transition from a sedentary life style to a more active healthy one. These progressive measures include ensuring the fitness program considers the individual’s medical background.

Once the background information is gathered it’s up to the trainer and the individual to sit down and map out a plan that will meet the expectations of the trainee. This will include, at a minimum a cardiovascular component, a flexibility piece and a strength element. Not all will be worked each session; instead they will be incorporated over time as adaptations to the regimen take place.

Many a person has started out training with a bang, only to drop out because their enthusiasm overwhelmed their body’s ability to keep up. Discouragement sets in and pretty soon one session after another is skipped. It doesn’t take many of these missed sessions before the person gives up.

On the other side of the coin is the person doing too little to make much of a difference. Each exercise session must be challenging enough to elicit positive physical and mental adaptations; otherwise it is simply wasted time.

A person who exercises far below their capacity, regardless of training experience, will only generate frustration with the lack of progress.

The degree to which your central nervous system is involved in the training plays a big part in determining the success or failure of achieving your goals. The more stimulation, up to a point, the more you get from the training.

Intensity and persistence are the keys to achieving your fitness goals.

101216 The benefits of resistance training

101216 The benefits of resistance training

A lifestyle of activity provides ongoing lifelong benefits for many people. Amongst these favorable side effects are reductions in high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using our muscles helps in staving off osteopenia and osteoporosis by engendering positive changes in bone mineral density. This, along with a higher level of lean body mass leads to healthier body composition figures, i.e. more lean muscle and lowered adipose or fat tissue in the body.

For those who are finding it difficult to stay at a healthy body weight, strength training may be another method of control. It has been noted that muscle is more metabolically active than fat which means more calories are burned if you have more muscle mass compared to fat tissue.

A greater percentage of lean muscle mass brings with it increased feelings of self esteem, greater self confidence and certainly contributes to a much more positive body image.

Now that a few of the recognized benefits have been listed, it’s time to get started planning your strength training program.

Misguided, but well intentioned, people go out and buy an expensive, supposedly multipurpose machine. Those who do generally find that it doesn’t fit them, is uncomfortable to use, is too big, too cumbersome or worse yet hurts them. Simply put they would have been better off spending their money on a set of free weights, a bench and knowledgeable coach to guide them along for a few months. A small set of weights consisting off a couple hundred pounds, a sturdy bench and coaching sessions would set them back less than the high priced ineffective machine that ultimately will end up in the garage or basement and then in a garage sale.

Free weights provide endless opportunities to exercise. They create greater strength gains because of increased muscle fiber recruitment brought on by having to maintain the movement of the bar in its path instead of allowing the machine do it for you. Using free weights permits full range of movement during the exercise. This motion is unencumbered by the limitations of a machine and makes for unimpeded progress. Using free weights increases the range of motion helps to maintain flexibility in the joints.

Additional benefits of free weight set ups are greater personalized accommodation to individual body structure differences such as height, weight, torso types, limb length and joint mobility. Free weights mandate greater skill development in balance and coordination which are vitally important to leading an active life.

Probably one of the most important reasons to strength train is the fact that it will help to decrease fatigue brought on from daily living activities.

As we age the sense of balance gradually diminishes along with our agility, coordination and overall body awareness. All of which are leading causes that contribute to falls, injury and fractures. A healthy body plays a significant role in preventing injury and if injured then in the rehabilitation of that injury.

Many individuals who participate in sports find the stronger and more physically fit they become, the better their athleticism on the field.

If the choice is made to buy your own weights and get started, then it incumbent upon you to get a medical check up and discuss this exercise option with your doctor before starting out on your own to greater fitness.

Remember to have a spotter for over head, on the back or over the face lifts such as the military press squat or military press exercises. Of course if you decide to perform heavy lifting then a spotter should also be an essential part of your lifting program. Always use correct technique, lift safely, sensibly and smart.

051216 A start up routine

051216 A start up routine

Warm up: Skip rope or jog in place on the black mats.

Gentle overall body stretches.

Each exercise will require a movement specific warm up, generally 50%-60% of your projected peak weight for the day. Example if you bench 100 pounds your warm up should be in the area of 50-60 pounds. Thus, your weight sequence would be along these lines of progression. Keep a log.

Warm up 50-60





Maintain good form and technique on all repetitions. Technique first, increased weight addition next. Add in intensity on each set and you have a winning combination for success. If you have questions at any time ask a certified trainer.

Do the exercises one after another. Number 2 immediately follows number 1. Then rest 60-90 seconds and begin the sequence again, continue until the particular series of exercises have been completed.

Military presses 8 reps for 3-4 sets, increase weight on each set, followed immediately by…

Lat pull downs same reps/sets as military press. Now rest for 60-90 seconds as you change weights for the next set. Complete 3-4 sets and move on to the next double combination series of exercises.

Bench-press 8 reps for 3-4 sets. Keep both feet solidly on the floor, buttocks, shoulders and head all on the bench; this is referred to as the five-point stance. Follow this with the…

Bar bell or dumb bell rows 8 reps for 3-4 sets. Same rest period as in 1 and 2 above. Keep a good solid arch in your back.

Barbell curl 8 reps for 3-4 sets followed by…

Crunches on a bench or floor mat. Place your arms on your chest, curl your head up to your chest continue by curling your upper back and shoulders off the mat until up about 4-5 inches then slowly uncurl back to the mat and begin again until you reach the required number of repetitions. Same rest period as above.

Squats “the king of all exercises”! 8 reps of 3-4 sets. Use perfect technique; make certain you and your spotters know what to do. Maintain a solid arch in your lower back at all times. Begin with your buttocks and set back to slightly below parallel then back up again. Follow this by doing…

Stiff Leg dead lifts 10 reps of 3-4 sets.

Standing calves 10-15 reps for 4 sets followed by

Seated calves 10-15 reps for 4 sets.

Cool down by walking around doing gentle overall body stretches.

031216 Body weight physical fitness standards

031216 Body weight physical fitness standards

Males should work toward accomplishing one set each of the following exercises.

80 push ups
20 chin ups
20 one leg squats
40 dips
20 pull ups

Females should work toward accomplishing one set each of the following exercises

40 push ups
10 chin ups
10 one leg squats
15 dips
5 pull ups

In my opinion, the previous standards, as seen below,  are set far too low and should be raised as suggested above here. I hope this last sentence made sense to you, just so you know,  it barely made sense to me. If it is confusing, then do the top series for male and female.

53 push ups
15 chin ups
15-20 one leg squats
26 dips
10-15 pull ups