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270317 Recovery methods employed after heavy exercise. (1/2)

270317 Recovery methods employed after heavy exercise.

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

Let us briefly discuss a few of these and the way in which they are applied during the recovery process. Use these various modalities between sets or between days of training. Experiment until you have found the ones that work best for you.

Use of the various means of recovery should be included as a part of the over all design package of your work out plan. You will find some that fit you very well, just as some exercise seem to be tailor made especially for you. However, keep varying the different modalities, as your body will soon accustom itself to those, which are applied most frequently. The benefits will diminish if they are over used. The bottom line on the issue is this: just as you change your exercise selections around each training day so must you change your recovery modes around.

The most intensive recovery methods are utilized after the heaviest workouts. Apply the recovery modes not just directly after the workout, but later in the day after your body has adjusted to the stress of the training session. Wait at least three hours before starting the recovery process. If you wait 6-9 hours, the recovery is made much more effective and will raise the work capacity higher the next day.

  1. Sleep is essential and having 7-9 hours increases the recovery rate by lowering the cortisol secretions. Growth hormones are secreted during the sleep periods but only nighttime sleep decreases cortisol and increases growth hormone secretions.
  2. Music with agreeable harmonies and with few changes in tempo has a tendency to calm, relax muscles and relieve anxiety, reduces the resistance in the respiratory tract and deepens the breath. After the heaviest work out, listening to this music for about thirty minutes before going to sleep is quite effective. During exercise, listening to music at about 40 decibels improves the mood and can be invigorating.
  3. Vibro massage and the regular massages afford the muscles, connective tissues and the nutrient feeding mechanisms the ability to be freed up of any constrictions. Massage is generally in the realm of a physical therapist or sports masseuse. Both of these specialties are highly knowledgeable in the use of massage to help the body restore itself after heavy exertion efforts.
  4. Ice massage is a very effective method and is accomplished by rubbing ice over the affected areas for 10-15 minutes after the exercise period is finished. The sensation sequence is cold, localized cold pain followed by numbness. At the numbness point, the massage is continued for several more minutes, being careful not to freeze the skin in the process.
  5. Contrast baths are a specific sequence of cold and hot water treatments. One that is commonly used is cold, hot, cold, hot, cold each lasting for about 5-6 minutes each. The theory is the cold slows down further degeneration of the tissue damage in the area. The hot then brings a great profusion of blood to the region, which then flushes out the waste products. More cold/hot repeats the process and so on.
  6. General Physical Preparation means the individuals level of physical preparedness. Is it up to performing the imposed volume and load? This portion usually implies a higher volume of training at a lower intensity.

060217 Pain and exercise

060217 Pain and exercise

Introduction

During the initial stages of an exercise program, a new trainee may not recognize what is a true and dangerous life altering pain and what is perceived but non-dangerous, pain. Certainly lifting weights can be quite the experience to uninitiated. However, there is dissimilarity between these different types of pain. One, the most dangerous, is from an injury and the other from the pain of fatigue, referred to as the pain of effort.

The pain of injury is the one to avoid and having a good coach is the key. Avoid this pain by lifting correctly, preventing contortions to move the weight,  not increasing the load beyond what the body can presently tolerate, following the correct rest periods, avoiding momentum, and preventing rapid shock load stresses on the joints.

As an example, a shock load stress to the knee results from an extremely fast drop to the bottom. The trainee does this in an effort to move more weight by letting the knee joint mechanically stop the downward movement of the bar in the hopes of creating an upward rebound effect.

Another example is when the bench press lifter lets the bar drop uncontrollably down, expecting the chest to first absorb the weight and then bounce it back up. Both of these examples, if continued, will generate an injury.

The result from this type of injury is the pain of injury. You will not soon forget this type of pain. It is immediate, painfully so, it will literally take your breath away; you may feel faint and have to lay down with your feet above your head. It feels like something has been broken, which it has.

If this injury is really serious, you will be unable to continue and probably will be seeking medical attention in a very short order to get it fixed.

In some cases, depending on the degree of injury, these take up to six months to recover from. This is a long time away from heavy lifting.

The other pain comes from fatigue. This is common with new lifters, those unaccustomed to the rigors of lifting and to the byproducts that show up in the blood stream during a moderate to strenuous lifting session.

An able coach modifies the workouts for these new trainees. These changes to their workout helps mitigate the after effects of the session and makes them less intense afterwards.

Recap

Pain of injury

Pain, from an injury, sets serious limitations on the ability to produce maximum effort or continue to lift heavy. This is a natural response from the body telling us that something is seriously wrong and whatever caused it must immediately cease. It is a strong signal that something is being damaged or soon will be damaged if the activity continues further.

Do not ignore this warning from your body because by doing so you risk potentially serious repercussions. No pain, no gain has no place in today’s lifting environment. Stop doing whatever is causing this pain from occurring or you will pay the price.

Pain of effort

Now I am not belittling anyone who is suffering from the pain of effort, as it can be real to them at the time. However, experience tells us that soon the body becomes accustomed to this type of pain and it begins to use it as a guide to the amount of effort going into the session.

This type of pain refers to each individual’s ability to tolerate exercise and the discomforts arising from doing the exercise or exercises. It is used consistently in monitoring the intensity of cardiovascular exercise. A prime example is working out in the target heart rate zone for X amount of minute’s per day.

This same type of rating scale can also be applied to endurance or strength training efforts.

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

230117 General Upper Torso Stretches

Shoulder front

Standing upright with good posture put your hands together behind your back, keeping your arms straight raise them slowly upward to the rear. Hold for a moment then lower back down and begin again.

Shoulder rear

Continue standing with good posture in an upright position. Take one arm and hold it horizontal and parallel to the ground. Now move it across your upper chest so the hand is on the opposite side. With the opposing hand hold the elbow of the horizontal arm and begin pulling in a gentle manner toward your chest. Hold the stretch for a moment and release then repeat.

Favorite shoulder stretch

Stand facing a wall with outstretched arms. Lean into the wall and rest on your hands now look between your arms and lower your head toward the floor. Feel the nice stretch in your shoulders. This can also be done by placing your fully extended arms onto a bench or chair and leaning downward toward the floor.

Floor stretch

Get on your hands and knees. While keeping your arms straight set back on your calves with your buttocks touching them. Put your head between your arms and touch the floor with your head.

Towel stretch

The old standby for working the shoulder range of motion is the towel stretch. Starting with a bath towel or dowel rod slung over your shoulder and dropping toward the floor hold the top with one hand the bottom with the other in your other hand. Now you can go one of two ways: either pull down with the back hand or pull up with the hand at the top. In both instances, the pull should be gentle as your shoulders are in a vulnerable position and easily damaged. A soft pull is what you are looking at achieving, just enough to stretch the shoulders. The ideal is to be able to touch your hands together in the middle of your back. This may be nearly impossible if you are heavily muscled.

Chest
In a standing position interlace your fingers on top of your head. Now move your elbows and hands to the rear.

Chest favorite

Standing next to the wall, a door frame or better yet a power rack, reach behind and hold onto the surface. The stretch begins as you turn your shoulders and upper torso away from the wall, door or power rack. This works really well with the power rack.

210117 Aerobic exercise do’s and don’ts

210117 Aerobic exercise do’s and don’ts

If you are using a pedometer, keep in mind that step counts are not particularly accurate when it comes to high-intensity exercise measurements or of the quality of this type of exercise. You will be far better off getting a good heart rate monitor to track your exercise intensity. Once you have the monitor then set your sights on getting the necessary amount of minutes each day of cardio exercise.

The current recommendations of aerobic training are five days a week of moderate paced exercise for thirty to sixty minutes a day or at least one hundred and fifty minutes a week. On the other hand, if you are already doing this amount then up the ante and go for twenty to sixty minutes a day of vigorous-intensity exercise for at least seventy-five minutes a week.

140117 Maintaining range of motion

140117 Maintaining range of motion

Strength training and stretching go hand in hand towards increasingly better fitness levels. A loss of flexibility brings with it a loss of functionality in daily living activities as well as in the weight room.

Stretching is not meant to hurt unless you are in the active stages of recovering from a surgery to one of your joints or muscles. In which case the stretches will hurt, but a successful outcome depends on regaining the lost range of motion.

This involves loosening up the areas around the surgery and daily motion of the joint or muscle. It should not swell afterwards because if it does, then you have pushed it too far, too fast. Back off and get the swelling under control and then work the movements again being careful not to cause swelling again. Ice and compression are important tools to use after surgery and after exercising the area.

Prevention of the loss of joint range of motion depends on following a pattern of stretches that follow these minimal guidelines.

1. Static or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation general stretching programs involving the major muscle and tendon groups such as the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and the legs.
2. Do your stretching two to three times a week or after each strength training session.
3. Hold each stretch to a point of mild discomfort unless working past a surgery limitation then it will be a bit tougher and deeper into the discomfort zone.
4. Each stretch needs to be held a minimum of ten seconds for each static stretch and up to six seconds for each PNF contraction and then immediately followed by the assisted stretch.
5. Perform each selected stretch for three to five times each.

A little bit each day will produce amazing results in a very short time.

020117 Neurons and sarcomeres

020117 Neurons and sarcomeres

In the neuromuscular system, the neuron provides the link between the nervous system and the muscles. Without this interaction, no activity would take place.

The sarcomere is the smallest and most basic muscle unit. It contains all of the contractile and regulatory mechanisms necessary to function as part of the muscular system.

Muscle fibers contain hundreds to thousands of sarcomere. The muscles themselves are made up of numerous fibers.

Listening to your body

Your body tells you what is going on…if you pay attention to it. Sometimes it is obvious; a muscle tweak or worse, an injury. Often it is just a feeling that you can’t quite describe or put your finger on. In the latter case, it’s the status of your homeostasis being disrupted. You know it on a subconscious, internal sensation, level.

In order to recognize these inputs, you must practice paying attention to them. This observational attitude has to be developed. It is not easy, but can be done with practice. Notice how your body responds to different stimulate, or how the bar feels in your hand as you lift. How does it feel or what is your body doing during these activities that are creating these sensations?

With practice, you will become more and more aware of these ambiguous signs from within your body. You’ll be amazed at the detail provided by the movement and postures that take place during the exercise.

Learn to listen to these vague signals. You will be the recipient of valuable lessons and information. This will enable you to grow stronger and more powerful, both in body and mind.

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.

Summary:

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.

121116 Exercise suggestions for those with limited equipment

121116 Exercise suggestions for those with limited equipment

Make a space to work out in that is easy to get to. Get all of your gear in one spot so it is available for immediate use without moving a lot of stuff around each time.

Equipment

  • Bicycle
  • Dumbbells
  • Treadmill
  • Stability ball

Set up the dumbbells in 5, 10, 15, and 20 pound sets. Make sure the collars are on tight and the weights are centered on each one.

The warm up

Begin on the treadmill or your bike at the low end of each of the times. Start out at a walk for 1-2 minutes. As your pulse becomes faster increase the speed and work up to a fast walk or slight jog for another 2-3 minutes. Now slow to a walk for another 1-2 minutes. As you become stronger these times will seem awfully low, once that happens then add 10-25% more to each of them. At some point you will find the ideal warm up time that just feels right for your needs.

Leg rotations

Move your legs in giant circles, forward and backward and then out to the sides. Hold onto something sturdy if you are unsure of your balance. Gradually you’ll want to do these without support to enhance your balance capabilities.

Shoulder series

Do each one of the following 15-20 times each.

  • Wide clockwise circles with outstretched arms.
  • Wide counter clockwise circles with outstretched arms
  • Arms straight to the sides with palms facing the body moving out front and back over head without bending them
  • Arms bent at 90° and then extended rapidly to the front and back to the 90° starting position
  •  Arms bent at 90° and then extended rapidly to the front and back to the 90° starting position

The exercises This is just a minute fraction of the ones that are available.

Column one Column two Column three Column four
  • Dumbbell Military presses
  • Chin ups or pull downs
  • Dumbbell floor presses
  • Dumbbell rows
  • One arm dumbbell rows
  • Dumbbell bench Squats
  • Wall squats
  • Dumbbell dead lifts
  • Dumbbell good mornings
  • Dumbbell side bends
  • Leg Raises
  • Straight leg/stiff leg dead lifts
  • Dumbbell curls
  • Dumbbell Triceps extensions
  • Dumbbell Wrist curls-flexion and extension
  • Thors hammer wrist deviations

.

  • Dumbbell Calf raises
  • Abdominal exercises of your choice

The schedule

Work out five times a week for fifteen to twenty minutes a day. Each day will be a different series of exercises that you choose to do. Start out by doing two sets of eight repetitions with a rest of 30 seconds between each set. Gradually increase up to four to five sets of eight as your conditioning improves. Work quickly but without throwing the weight around. Let your muscles do the work instead of momentum.

Keep your pulse up in the 70-80% target heart rate (THR) range as you exercise. This is found by taking your age from 220 and multiplying the result by 70-80%. Although this is a very common method of finding your THR it is also somewhat inaccurate because the outcomes may be off by as much as 10 percent plus or minus.

Begin your exercise session with the warm up, move onto your choice of exercises from columns one, three and four and then cool down with a few selected static stretches.

The second day of exercise begins again with the warm up and your selections from columns two and four. Follow this with your cool down and you are done for the day. The week ends can be days off or walking for fun sessions. Add weight as these become easier to do each day. The heavier you lift, the stronger you’ll become. The greater your muscle mass the higher will be your calorie expenditures each day.

Schedule sample

Day one from column one, three and four

  •  Dumbbell military presses
  •  Dumbbell curls
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day two from column two and four

  •  Dumbbell bench squats
  •  Dumbbell good mornings
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day three from column one, three and four

  •  Dumbbell military presses
  •  Dumbbell curls
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day four from column two and four

  •  Dumbbell bench squats
  •  Dumbbell good mornings
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day five from column one, three and four

  •  Dumbbell military presses
  •  Dumbbell curls
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Week end off

Day one from column two and four

  •  Dumbbell bench squats
  •  Dumbbell good mornings
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day two from column one, three and four

  •  Dumbbell military presses
  •  Dumbbell curls
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day three from column two and four

  •  Dumbbell bench squats
  •  Dumbbell good mornings
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day four from column one, three and four

  •  Dumbbell military presses
  •  Dumbbell curls
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

Day five from column two and four

  •  Dumbbell bench squats
  •  Dumbbell good mornings
  •  Abdominal exercise
  •  Calf raises

You will notice that each week emphasizes more of one part of your body by doing either upper or lower torso exercises three times instead of two sessions per week.

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.

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