071117 Testing your training program

071117 Testing your training program

Do you think we are able to continually bring home world championships by not following a carefully designed workout schedule? The quick answer is NO. Every set, rep and selected exercise is considered based on the relationship to the ultimate goal-personal bests.

We use clearly established test days throughout the training schedule.

Once every four to six weeks a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of your schedule ought to be put into effect. Is your squat lift poundage actually going up or are you stagnated? Can you Military press more now than two months ago? Is anything better now? You will not know unless you test.

Without periodic tests, you are wasting your time and energy on a potentially non-productive workout schedule. In each training session, a set goal is established or should be established. At the end of the particular series of training sessions in the mesocycle, measurable results should be obtained. If they are not what was expected, then changes to the program are necessary for further progress to be achieved.

Building into the program regularly scheduled ‘test days’ gives these direct benefits:

  • It measures the validity of the strength program design
  • It clearly indicates a benchmark day; one that will give instant feedback.
  • It will provide incentive to go onto the next phase of the training.
  • It will put in a semi rest day of low volume.

Depending on the mesocycle we test on a regularly scheduled basis all of our lifts. Consider doing so in your program and see how you stand relative to your objectives.

250717 Sticking to an exercise program

250717 Sticking to an exercise program

There are those who exercise because they like it and those who exercise because someone told them they had to. Which one are you? If the latter, then perhaps you could benefit from a few tips on staying with it on your own.

Before doing any outside of normal activity see your doctor if any of these conditions exist in your background:

  • If you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50
    • If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma or are obese.
    • Are at a high risk for heart disease, particularly so if you have a family history of the disease or stroke of if you have any other health risks that should be considered and subsequently evaluated by a medical professional.

Getting moving

  1. Activity counts, no matter what it may consist of it is still movement and movement is what activity is all about. Choose something you like to do and stick with it. It can be as simple as walking around your property or neighborhood.
    2. Get a mechanical motivator like a pedometer to track how many steps you took at the end of the day. Go for at least 10,000 steps each day and you will soon notice the health benefits of doing so.
    3. Start a logbook. Once written down you begin a history of your activity and soon will be reluctant to miss a session.
    4. Hook up with a friend and exercise together. Both of you will make gains in your health.
    5. If you don’t have time to get a full session in then split it up into more manageable times. The current wisdom is ten minutes is about the shortest time that makes positive changes in your body and ultimately your health.
    6. Use the stairs at work or in the stores. Get that body moving. Don’t get lazy by taking the easy way out on the mechanical devices to get somewhere.
    7. Eat your noon meal on the go, get out in the fresh air by walking or doing something that gets your heart rate up.

Your body was built to move and not just sit on its butt.

180217 Bend like the willow

180217 Bend like the willow

Being faithful to your exercise and health programs is an admirable trait. But what happens when it starts interfering with your life and more importantly to the lives of those who love you? I’ll tell you. It’s time to reappraise the situation and make some necessary changes.

Most hardcore fitness enthusiasts exercise come hell or high water, no matter what they will find a way to get their exercise session in every day. I know a person who has not missed one single day in over twenty years.

Every day this person did something positive for their health and fitness; even while recovering from major joint surgery. They have pushed to get better by regaining their range of motion and doing isometrics to build the muscle strength back to its pre-surgery status.

Has this dedication caused conflicts in their life? I suspect so. Let’s look at how you can avoid these same issues.

Putting the check on the calendar

I call minimally doing something positive for yourself putting a check on the calendar for that day. The check on the calendar simply means you did something on this particular day to help improve your health in some small way. It doesn’t mean you went all out on the exercises; just that you did a little bit.

Suppose you were scheduled to max out on one of your lifts or run a faster than normal mile but your wife or child became ill and had to be cared for. No one in their right mind would consider taking time off to exercise as planned if a loved one needed their help. You are no different.

Abandon your schedule and help them out. There will be breaks in the day when you can get out the skip rope and hit it hard. Do as many pushups and sit ups as you can in one or more minutes. Do something for yourself, but not at their expense, during the time you’ve got before they need you again.

If you aren’t in good mental and physical shape it’s going to be much harder caring for someone else.

Sometimes it really is better to stop the head long pursuit of strength and high level physical fitness and smell the roses for a brief minute or two before hitting it again. Just don’t take to long…

Prescriptions for strength training

070117 Following the Pro’s Routines by Jon Miller

070117 Following the Pro’s Routines by Jon Miller

I liked this post so much that a long time ago asked Jon if I could use it on my site and he gave me his permission to do it. It is still valid, thus the posting here.

I thought about all the people who go pick up bodybuilding magazines and base all they do from the information they find there. It’s a very unfortunate situation. I say this because bodybuilding magazines do have some good information. However, not all the information is good.

The main items that are not good information are the pro bodybuilder’s routines. You know what I’m talking about. Every single issue has more than one of these.

“Yes, yes, I know what you’re talking about, Jon. But what’s so wrong with them?”

To put it bluntly, the articles are full of crap. First of all, we have probably never seen one of these articles that lists a pro’s real training routine. I have even spoken with a few different people who told me of their days in California where people would look at magazines and say things like, “I know that’s not how he trains, I have trained with him before!”

The problem is that most of these articles are written by ghost writers. These ghost writers create the articles. Then the pro bodybuilder (who is under contract with the specific magazine publisher) is credited with the article. They throw in a few pictures, put their name at the end and voila! And the mags sell like crazy. Please believe me, I’m not making this stuff up. This is common knowledge in the bodybuilding world.

The main problem with these training routines is they will over train you big time. For example, a shoulder routine will usually consist of 12-16 sets of exercise for one muscle. Way too much! You could make it work by using 2 of the 3 or 4 sets per exercise as warm-ups, but most people do not know this. They just go into the weight room and start pumping out 12-16 hard sets (usually after too few warm-ups, if any at all). It will take no time at all until a person becomes over trained and probably injured. These routines would be able to hurt you even if you were pumping yourself full of illegal steroids.

Another problem is that now days these articles are written more to advertise some nutritional supplement products. Many times it’s more like an advertisement with a little bit of horrible training advice thrown in. People see that this huge guy claims to take this product and follow this routine. “Look, he’s huge; I better do it, too!” Yep, I’m sure there’s not a big money industry behind all this…

So, since I have ripped on these magazines, I will say that there is some good information in them as well. Usually the diet information is good. They push the idea of eating smaller, more frequent meals. They always tell the importance of high protein and moderate carbohydrate intake. Some are even getting better about accepting fat into diets. Just get past each magazine pushing its own product and you can see good information to use.

The point is to remember these magazines’ main objective. Keep a close eye on them. Remember that the articles are almost always just another ad for their products and/or their professional bodybuilder. Look past the stuff that you know is junk and absorb only the good basic information. Keep this in mind, enjoy the pictures and be on your way to a strong healthy life.

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.

261116 Beginning fitness and health exercise guidelines

261116 Beginning fitness and health exercise guidelines

Often times an activity requires specific equipment be available in order to participate. Advanced fitness and strength training methods fall into this category. However a beginner with the desire and motivation to get moving will do well without any specialized gear. Just the basics are necessary.

Clothing that is comfortable and even a bit loose fitting, paired up with a quality cross trainer athletic shoe can be a beginning. Place the accent on quality when making your purchases; they last longer and in the long run you get more for your money. Once you’ve got the clothing it’s time to begin.

Start out with an overall general warm up prior to any intense exercise, the exception may be for those of you who like to jog. In your case just start out on your run but go slower until you are warmed up sufficiently to move faster. Notice that I am not advising you to stand like a stork and pull the other leg up to your buttocks. This is a waste of time and can cause injury to a cold muscle.

Exercise at an intensity level high enough to produce results. Aerobic benefits appear shortly when exercising within your target heart range. Stay away from the low intensity nonsense-get going. And for you strength athletes lift in the two extremes of your one repetition maximum. One day will be at the 30-60% for speed and the other at 85-100%.

Train at a level of intensity that allows you to carry on a conversation with your friends. If not, then you’re overdoing it a tad unless you are getting ready for a contest.

Keep yourself hydrated. The days of toughing it out without water are long gone.

The cool down is as important as the warm up. One of the most effective cool downs is to simply walk around until your breathing and pulse return to near normal levels.

If you happen to be a little under the weather, health wise, it’s best to skip your session for the day. Get well and then hit it again.

Having a good time while you exercise means you’ll more than likely stay with it longer and staying with it means making steady health progress.

191116 Samo samo

191116 Samo samo

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over then expecting a different result each time. This may not be the actual definition of insanity but the concept certainly fits those who are exercising the same way and not seeing the results they want to achieve.

We had supper the other night with a long time friend of twenty-three-plus years who mentioned she was working out. When she told me what she was doing it turned out to be a pretty aggressive combination of cardio and strength training with a heavy emphasis on the cardio portion.

Most people who know me realize that once the fitness and strength topics come up I will have a comment or two about the subject. My wife just rolls her eyes most men would take this as a clue but being a bold person who can stand the wifely heat I plunge right in and put in my dollars worth of opinion.

In some cases, the person may actually be on a good program but most of the time the program has far outlived its usefulness. The reason for this is your body demands a challenge. If this isn’t present then there are only two directions it will go; stagnate or slip backward, neither of which is what any fitness enthusiast want to see happen to their hard-earned gains.

In order to make good progress each session, a change is needed to your routine. And one of the ways to make these changes is to keep track of what you’re doing every time you exercise. It is really easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same thing every time you hit the gym. By looking at your logbook you’ll soon see these patterns developing.

Your body physiologically adapts to the stresses of exercise in this manner. First to the repetitions, next to the sets performed, then to the exercise itself. A variation in any of these three will create a whole new exercise experience, one that will keep you on the positive track to successfully achieving your fitness or strength goals.