150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2 

There are different styles of Tai-Chi, some are more aggressive than others and involve faster paced movements. Those most commonly practiced utilize gentle slower motions that are suitable for everyone.

As with anything in life there are positives and negatives in the practice of Tai-Chi. The pros seem to outweigh the cons though in these respects:

  • The movements are self-paced and non competitive, which to a competitive person may be a negative attribute.
  • The physical space requirements are negligible as well as the attire. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy gear to take part in Tai-Chi. It’s easy to do; you can do it anyplace and anytime either alone or with others. Once you become accustomed to the activity and more proficient in the art then you can add in your own to make it even more individualized and specific to your needs.

The negatives are almost non existent but do include the usual warnings of possible soreness if the first few sessions are overdone beyond your current physical fitness levels.

Beginning a new activity starts with learning how to do it correctly. In the case of Tai-Chi this will mean seeking out a competent instructor who will guide you in the technical aspects of posture and movement. Pay strict attention to your breathing and body position throughout the training session. Develop the ability to perform the motions effortlessly and without conscious thought. Doing so helps avert muscle strains and damaged joints.

Tai-Chi classes are taught throughout the world. In the United States contact your local senior center, the YWCA or YMCA or check with the gyms in your area. You can even look it up on the internet; there are scores of sites listed.

130617 Exercise suggestions for increasing bone mineral density

130617 Exercise suggestions for increasing bone mineral density

Before engaging in any new exercise program consult with your primary health care provider.

To increase your lean body mass, add strength and power, follow these guidelines for the suggested group of exercises:

1. Full body resistance training program on a schedule of at least two times per week, with three times to optimize the results.
2. Utilize correct exercise technique at all times
3. Three sets of ten to twelve repetitions each exercise unless otherwise noted.
4. Work to rest ratio is 1:2, meaning if you work out for ten seconds you then rest for twenty seconds.
5. If you are able to add weight after completing the series three times, then do so the next session.
6. If you have added weight then do only ten repetitions and work up to twelve.

Warm up for 5-8 minutes
Squats
Calf raises
Dead lifts
Military presses
Shoulder shrugs
Abdominal work-15-20 reps for two sets
Bench presses
Bar bell rows
Barbell curls
Triceps extensions
Abdominal work again to end the session-15-20 reps for two sets

 

300517 The stimulus for new bone formations.

300517 The stimulus for new bone formations.

Minimal essential strain (MES) refers to the threshold amount of stress applied to the structure which is necessary to elicit growth of new bone material. A force exceeding MES is required to signal the osteoblasts to move toward the periosteum and begin this transformation. MES is thought to be 1/10 of the breaking force needed to fracture the bone. Training effects have a positive relationship to bone density just as sedentary living habits play a role in the loss of bone density.

Training to increase bone formation

Programs designed to stimulate bone growth, also known as bone mineral density (BMS), will incorporate the following characteristics:

  1. Specificity of loading
    2. Proper exercise selection
    3. Progressive overload
    4. Variation

Specificity of loading will see the exercise patterns emphasizing specific areas in need of assistance. New or unusual forces in varying angles of stress will enable your bones to adapt to the greater intensities. Military presses, bench presses, upright shoulder shrugs, push ups, chin ups, plus other similar exercises would help develop stronger upper body bones. Lower body exercises selections would be along the lines of these types of movement patterns: squats, calf raises, dead lifts, and straight leg dead lifts.

Exercise selection promotes osteogenic stimuli (factors that stimulate new bone formation) and will exhibit these characteristics: Compound exercise muscle movements consisting of multi joint, structural loading and varying force vectors. Such exercises are the squat, dead lift, military press and the bench press along with the Olympic style moves.

Progressive overload

Greater than normal loads force the body to adapt in a positive manner regarding new bone formation. This response is greater if the load changes are dramatic and repetitive in nature. Younger bones may be more receptive to osteogenic changes in the load variance than older bones.

Variations of exercise selections

The body adapts quickly to imposed loads per the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Loads) principle. In order to prevent accommodation the exercises need to be varied on a periodic basis. There are many individual differences in the same exercise. As an example the squat has at least seventy variations! And these variations do not include any machine versions.

230517 Adaptation of Bone to Exercise

230517 Adaptation of Bone to Exercise

By Danny M. O’Dell, MA.CSCS*D

Background information-briefly stated

Bone is considered a connective tissue that when stressed, deforms and adapts as a result of the load. To meet the strain imposed upon the external structure caused by the bending, compressive, torsional loads and the muscular contractions at the tendinous insertion point’s osteoblasts migrate to the surface of the bone.

At the point of the strain, immediate modeling of the bone begins. Proteins form a matrix between the bone cells. This causes the bone to become denser due to the calcification process occurring during the growth response to the load.

The new growth occurs on the outside of the bone to allow the manufacture of new cells to continue in the limited space with in the bone itself. This outer layer is commonly known as the periosteum.

Adaptations take place at different rates in the axial skeleton (skull/cranium, vertebral, ribs, and sternum) and the appendicular skeleton (shoulder, hips, pelvis and the long bones of the upper and lower body-essentially the arms and legs). This is due to the differences in the bone types- trabecular (spongy) and cortical (compact) bone.

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.

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.

200816 Getting stronger

200816 Getting stronger

It may come as a shock to you but you don’t need a lot of fancy machines, stability balls, balance pads or hundreds of dollars worth of supplements each month to get strong. What you do need, along with a plan, is the desire and persistence to keep working out with weights -that’s all. Pure and simple isn’t it?

While there may be a bit more to the equation than offered up above it’s still a lot simpler than most commercial training facilities will have you believe. Take a look at what you already may have in your training arsenal:

  1. If you can walk, jog, run or ride a bicycle then you have your cardio component covered.
  2. If you can bend over or move in various directions the flexibility portion is available and
  3. If you have a set of barbells from one to three hundred pounds the resistance piece is in place.

Each of these three parts is essential to a well rounded fitness program and neglecting any one of them will make your efforts at becoming fit unbalanced.

For example, if you are able to run miles on end but can’t carry your groceries from the car to the house then all the cardio work you have faithfully performed over the years is wasted. You need strength to maintain a healthy living from day to day.

Further more if you are unable to bend over and pick up the newspaper from the walk or have a hard time tying your shoes because you can’t reach down that far then your flexibility is in dire shape and needs to be addressed.

Spring time in this great Country of ours is a time for renewal, a time to get away from the winter doldrums and start going again on your fitness aspirations. You do want to be in better shape don’t you?

Here is a quick and down to earth training program that most anyone will be able to follow. If in doubt though check with your doctor and run it past them. In most cases you will be able to do this program without much difficulty.

At the get go this program will take up approximately five minutes of your time each day. I realize that five minutes is not much but the idea is to get used to doing something for yourself every single day. Pick a time that you know you can set aside every day. It can be five minutes as soon as you wake up or just before going to bed. Some people find that by exercising just before bedtime that it keeps them awake. So you might want to take this into consideration.

Once you have decided on this particular time slot stick with it. The first time you make an allowance for not exercising in ‘your time slot’ the next excuse for missing soon appears. It won’t be long before you are no longer exercising. This is the slippery slope of foregoing a session.

The five day per week program will change the training emphasis every week. During the first week you do your strength training three times, your cardio twice and your flexibility every day. On the next week do cardio three times and strength training twice with flexibility every day. Keep a work out logbook.

On the strength days work the major muscle groups, i.e. shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back, legs arms and abdomen for two to three sets of eight to ten repetitions. Work quickly and keep your heart rate up in the target zone for your age.

When working on your cardiovascular choice of exercise add only ten percent to the time or distance every other week depending on your progress.

Emphasizing your range of motion at the end of each training session will result in noticeable range of motion increases. Hold each stretch for around ten to fifteen seconds but not in positions of pain. Mild discomfort is the lesson to be learned here.