Explosivelyfit Strength Training

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260917 Recovering from an exercise session

260917 Recovering from an exercise session

Exercise is a way of life for many people; they stay active longer into their lives while remaining mentally and physically sharper than their non-exercising friends. An active lifestyle requires a firm dedication to living a healthy life through good food choices and exercise. Sometimes being active brings with it a few aches and pains.

There are moments though when, especially after a particularly hard training session, soreness may occur. Even though this may be a cause for concern, there are strategies that may be used to relieve some of this discomfort.

Use a cool down after your session is completed. These few minutes of less vigorous activity help your body to return to its pre-exercise status by lowering your breathing, heart rate, and temperature back to near normal numbers. This time aids in the recovery of the muscles and cardiovascular systems.

Static stretching after the initial cool down gives the muscles a chance to relax and gives you a moment or two to improve your flexibility at the same time. Stretches are particularly effective now because the muscles, tendons and ligaments are all warm and flexible; just what is necessary to be productive.

Athletes generally weigh themselves before and after training sessions. This is to ensure they are staying properly hydrated. A recreational athlete might consider doing the same for the same reasons because a loss of fluids causes a loss of mental and physical sharpness. The rule of thumb is a pint a pound. Therefore, for every pound you lose exercising you need to drink at least 16 ounces. The exception to this is for an extreme endurance athlete or the salty sweater (1), not only is water important but so are the electrolytes.

Give your muscles the nutrients necessary to repair themselves after the session. Low fat chocolate milk is ideal in this situation because it has a good balance of carbohydrates and protein in each pint. Drinking one of these within ten to fifteen minutes pushes the glycogen back into your muscles and this helps them recover faster meaning a quicker return to your favorite activity.

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190917 Special strength and the athlete

190917 Special strength and the athlete

We all know that not everyone is born with the same capabilities to display awesome strength. It’s a fact of life that some of us just don’t have the right combinations of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers. However, each of us can make a difference in our strength levels through proper training schedules. How we go about setting up these training regimens is the topic of this article.

There are minute differences in each muscle fiber type, and these differences make up the ability to run long distances or to lift heavy weights. Some are nearly all fast twitch with nary a hint of a slow twitch characteristic in them. At the other end of the spectrum are the slow twitch fibers with an amazing ability to keep on keeping on. Somewhere in the middle lay the in-between fibers the type two ‘a’ and ‘b’. Not quite all out fast twitch and not fully slow twitch either.

Determining the precise ratio of fast to slow twitch fibers is in the realm of the scientists but a few easy to follow tests may give an astute coach a clue as to the direction the training program would realistically follow. Dr. Fred Hatfield, also known as Dr. Squat, came up with a useful gauge for program planning based on the individuals’ fiber makeup. Here’s the test.

Determine the one repetition maximum, without equipment, in the lifts of your choice. Now take eighty percent of that one rep max. Do as many repetitions as possible with this weight. If you are able to do four to six repetitions, and no more with good form, then you are more than likely genetically gifted with a larger amount of type two fibers-the fibers that produce high force but wear out quickly due to their lack of endurance. These fibers operate within the rapidly consumed ATP/CP energy sphere. They fatigue easily, have fewer mitochondria and few capillaries supplying them with fuel.

If on the other hand you are able to do more than fifteen then you probably, have an abundance of type one fibers. These contain a greater percentage of mitochondria, a higher aerobic enzyme capacity and much more dense capillary concentrations. They allow you to go longer but the force output possibilities are lower.

In the middle of these two extreme rep ranges, we have the seven to fourteen ranges. These individuals will have predominance of in-between fibers. Not that many fast twitch and not that many slow twitch fibers.

So what do you do with this information once you’ve found it out? If you know your trainee is a fast twitch sort of person then design the program around this aspect. Keep the reps low and the sets higher. Two to six reps for ten to four sets respectively. Keep in mind that performing four sets of six reps will be physiologically harder on the system than doing twelve sets of two reps.

If they lean more toward the slow twitch end of the continuum then have them doing higher repetitions and fewer sets.

Now that you have a brief idea of the direction you will be going with your training plans, don’t forget to add in a few higher and intermediate reps and sets schedules for those who have the majority of fast twitch fibers. Take advantage of your trainees’ strong points but don’t overly neglect the rest of the points either.

120917 Engram development; the vital component to success

120917 Engram development; the vital component to success

Exercise technique is something most professional trainers preach. But does anyone ever wonder why? After all it is common knowledge that more weight can often times be lifted if it’s ‘cheated’ up, and more reps can be performed if some of them are ‘cheated’ at the end of the set. So what is the big deal about technical proficiency? The big deal is this: ability, longevity, and injury free movements result from learning and practicing good habits.

Instructing and practicing proper form in all aspects of exercise will enhance an individual’s ability in the long term. Technically correct exercise movement patterns decrease the risk of injury due to poor body mechanics, and improper muscle substitutions.

‘Practice makes perfect’ only if it is truly perfect, consistently, time after time. With proper instructions from the coach/trainer, the activity should become more accurate as the athlete makes the adjustments in form. The effort used to complete the movement tends to decrease and there is “less chance of overflow to the wrong muscles”(1) in the process. However, this pattern must be repeated many times to establish the neuromuscular pathways.

A technically correct and repetitive exercise movement effectively develops a pattern of movement called an ‘Engram’. By definition, “an Engram is an effect or performance that is imposed upon the Central Nervous System through repetition.”(2) The advantage of developing these pathways translates into the activity becoming an automatic unconscious process.

Exercising under a heavy load without having to think about ‘how to lift’ allows the subconscious to take over when the going gets rough. The athlete no longer has to think where their feet are placed, how to begin the move, when to breathe, which muscles to tighten and which ones to loosen in order to make the lift.

It is automatic IF the Engram has been previously developed.

(1) Therapeutic Exercise for Athletic Injuries Houglum. P.A. Human Kinetics 2001

(2) Ibid

050917 More benefits of exercise

050917 More benefits of exercise

Exercise has been cited as being beneficial for avoiding, lessening, and mitigating a vast array of diseases in the past. Now, new research is confirming even more of these exercise related benefits for those who choose to follow this path to better health.

According to a recent report from Duke University, working out directly affects your heart. You may reduce your risk of developing heart disease up to 25% by doing 750 minutes of high intense minutes each week. By doing 300 minutes of intense exercise you lower your risk of heart disease by 20% and exercising 150 minutes per week lowers the risk by 14%.

Despite scientific research and the medical expert’s advising exercise to manage the pain of arthritis, up to 90% of those with arthritis fail to meet even the standards of 150 minutes of exercise per week. Of this 90%, nearly half get no exercise at all. They are inactive.

Boost your memory with movement.

Aerobic exercise pushes the rate of circulation up and this helps to increase the flow of oxygen rich blood into your brain. A study of almost 300 older people found that of those who walked at least 72 blocks, about 4 miles and 880.0 yards, each week had more gray matter in their brain than those who did not walk or exercise each week. Those who were walking each day cut their risk in half of developing memory problems.

Achieve a calmer state of mind with exercise

Regular aerobic exercise tends to reduce an individual’s level of stress hormones, and decreases the amount of fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure when under duress. Some of the recommended ways of aerobically exercising are walking, running, swimming, biking, or any other activity that keeps your heart rate up and within the target range for up to 20-30 minutes a day.

Equally effective is resistance circuit training. This method involves doing a series of exercises without stopping for 3-6 times around a circuit-thus the name circuit training. It is most effective with the large muscle groups such as legs, chest, and back. As an example, when doing an intense lower body circuit, the series could look like this: do each exercise for 1 minute. Do this 3-6 times, if you are able.

  • Skip rope
    • Squats
    • Skip rope
    • Calve raises
    • Skip rope
    • Dead lifts
    • Skip rope

Obviously, before beginning any of these exercise suggestions consult with your doctor.

290817 Moving the curve

290817 Moving the curve

Power is developed according to the formula which is the mass moved divided by time it takes to do it. If, for instance, you are moving a two hundred pound barbell from point A to Point B in one second during your early training phase and you decrease the time it takes to move this the same distance then you have increased your power output.

This is important to any lifter as the ability to move massive amounts of weight depends on rapidly and almost instantaneously increasing the force necessary to move the bar from the starting position. This is termed moving the curve to the left. It is also one of the most basic concepts in developing a powerful athlete. You must apply all of your possible force immediately against a heavy weight or an opponent if you expect it to be influenced to any positive degree.

Explosive force is separate from starting strength

220817 Movement and heart health

220817 Movement and heart health

Your heart’s abilities to function start diminishing with age. We all know this but the vast majority of our population still refuses to do anything about it. Aging adversely affects the communication capability of the regulatory nerves in the heart telling it how fast to beat. Gradually, as we age, our maximum heart rate (MHR) declines.

However, with regular exercise this typical transformation in max heart rate is less noticeable.

Not only does the MHR decline with age but the ability of the heart to relax and fill up again decreases as well. This is especially true for those with hypertension.

In addition, as we get older, the major blood vessels of our body lose some of their natural elasticity. This in turn makes it more difficult for the blood to pass through them, thereby increasing the load on the heart and making it harder to transfer oxygen throughout the body.

The good news is age related changes such as these are less dramatic with daily exercise. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following activity levels for adults up to age sixty-four.

We all know that a little bit of activity is better than nothing, however, if you’ve been in active for any length of time be better for you to gradually increase the level of activity. This can mean that as little as 10 minutes a day of moderate exercise will garner health benefits. After you’ve been at it a while this this length of time is going to feel easy.

The benefits to your health increase with higher intensity activities. Again, 10 minutes of time exercising is the minimum amount necessary to push up your fitness levels. In the case of higher intensity vigorous exercise, you will need at least one hundred and fifty minutes a week at a level where you can only say a few words at a time without stopping for a breath.

Up to a point, higher amounts of activity will produce the most in health benefits. In fact, the literature states unequivocally that exercising 6 to 7 hours a week will result in the ideal level of health benefits for the majority of the population. At this level of activity per week, you are probably going to be doing six or seven hours of moderate to vigorous intensities of exercise.

080817 Heart Rate Calculation Options

080817 Heart Rate Calculation Options

By Danny M.O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Effectively training in your target heart rate zone will result if greater physiological adaptations within your body. Knowing which formula to use in figuring out the best heart rate zone depends on how accurate you want to be in the calculations.

Here are three options to consider.They range in difficulty of using them from easy to slightly less easy.

The most commonly used formula is to subtract your age from 220. This supposedly results in your maximum heart rate (MHR). However, this can be off as much as ten percent plus or minus beats per minute in the final figure. Once you have figured out your MHR multiply this answer by 60-80% and you will have your exercise target heart range. As an example if you are 30 years old your MHR would be 190 beats per minute (BPM). Multiplying this by 80% will set your target heart rate at 152 BPM. The majority of your training time will be spent at this heart rate.

  1. Bear in mind the reason this formula will not be accurate as the same calculations are supposed to be used by both the elite as well as the sedentary. To even the most causal observer this will not be in the best interest of either person. In the first case the heart rate may fit the elite but be far in excess for the couch potato. My advice is to learn and use one of the following.

The Karvonen formula is a better option to use and it is figured out in the following three step formula:

  1. Age predicted maximum heart rate (APMHR). Figuring this is the same as before, i.e. 220 minus your age equals APMHR.
    c. Maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate (taken as soon as you awake) equals heart rate reserve (HRR).
    d. Now take the heart rate reserve and multiply it by the percentage of exercise intensity, 60-80%, add the resting heart rate to this figure and you will have your target heart rate for training.

The most precise target heart rate formula is the one devised by Tanaka:

a. 207 minus 70% of your age will yield your maximum heart rate.
b. Maximum heart rate minus your resting heart rate equals your heart rate reserve.
c. Heart rate reserve multiplied by 70% plus resting heart rate will result in the target heart range for your exercise period.

010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods

010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods 

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Most everyone has heard the saying that if you want a ‘big bench then you have to think big’. Just ‘thinking a big bench’ is NOT going to cut it. Instead, you have to analyze your current bench technique. Look at the strong points, the weak and the in between ones as well. Examine how the bar is traveling. Is it fast and sure or slow and tentative? Where does it go fast and where does it go slow? Is it going straight up or angling back toward your head? Where are your elbows when the bar slows or is moving quickly? Where does your strength lie? Is it in your pectoralis major, your anterior deltoids, your triceps or maybe in your upper back? Once you have closely examined the way you lift, then you have the information necessary to chart a course of improvement.

Many bench press practitioners are relying on the false belief that simply by doing more benches their lift will become stronger. Clearly, there is an error to this premise. If it were as easy as this, the world would be witnessing more 800-pound benches.

Making your strong points stronger and improving upon the weak portions of your lift by practicing variation in exercise selection is the key to progressive development toward heavier loads. If you have difficulty in locking out the weight then more triceps work is needed. If you cannot stabilize on the bench and remain in the groove then more upper back work is evidently necessary. In time, using the same exercise becomes stagnant and unresponsive to your needs. Variety truly is the spice of lifting progress.

Just as the palate becomes tired of the same food so does the body become tired of the same tools of exercise. If you consistently use the barbell as the single training instrument, your nervous system will eventually quit responding to the training and you will have reached the infamous ‘plateau. Use dumbbells in place of the barbell for a change. Use bands or surgical tubing for added speed or resistance elsewhere in the strength curve. Begin doing various types of push-ups (see the Push up power for more ideas) and you can positively stress your bench press muscles in a variety of different ways.

The use of stability balls, asymmetrical loading and camber bars adds even more dimension to the exercise options just as will changing up the range of motion (ROM). Instead of a full ROM, do fast partials from three to four inches below lockout. Or, from three to four inches off the chest to the lockout. Use dumbbells to increase the ROM but be very careful in using this method as it will be extremely stressful on your shoulders at the low (below chest level) point. Floor presses and board presses are also very handy to practice when going for the big bench press.

The utilization of these exercises at differing times in your training schedule will elevate the strength and power throughout the entire curve.

Stress placed at the natural sticking point will eventually change the position of that particular point of resistance. It will not eliminate the sticking point. It will only move it elsewhere up, or down, the path. Adding chains, bands or tubing will change the sticking points depending on the attachment points selected.

For example, attaching a band to a point above the bar will reduce the load off the chest, thereby making the ‘starting strength’ weight lighter. This in turn helps to improve the speed of the push off the chest. Additionally, the high band attachment will help to contribute to the overload during the explosive strength phase of continually increasing the force production on the bar.

Conversely, attaching bands at a point lower than the bar will develop starting strength and further change the location of the sticking point lower into the movement pattern. It also contributes to helping increase the top end of force the production strength curve due to the added resistance on the bar resulting from the tension of the stretched bands.

To learn more about how to increase your bench press you may want to consider getting your copy of the Ultimate Bench Press Manual. It is jammed full of incredible information designed to get your bench up where you want it to be!

An instant download version is available here at Amazon for your eReader device.

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.

180717 Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

180717 Stable and unstable surface bench pressing

Research scientists in Norway examined the electromyographic activity of the muscles used in the bench press on both stable and unstable surfaces. They compared 6 repetition maximum loads on three different surfaces. One series on a bench press bench, another on a balance cushion and a third on a Swiss ball. Admittedly, the volunteer numbers were small, at only sixteen; however, the results showed that a more stable platform insured greater EMG activity, which relates to greater strength development.

The EMG probes monitored the biceps brachii, deltoid anterior, erector spinae, oblique external, pectoralis major, and the rectus abdominus muscles.

In relation to using the stable bench, this 6-repetition maximum was approximately 93% greater than when doing it on the balance cushion and approximately 92% greater than for the Swissball. In fact the contribution of the pectoralis major was approximately 90% using the balance cushion and only 81% using the Swissball, triceps activity was approximate 79% use the balance cushion and only 69% using the Swissball.

The relationship to the balance cushion, the EMG activity of the pectoralis major, triceps, and erector spinae, when using the Swissball was 89% and 80% respectively. However, the activity of the rectus abdominus showed more involvement when using the Swissball when compared to both the cushion and stable bench.

The researchers concluded that the stable bench produced a greater 6 repetition maximum than was achieved with either the cushion or the stability ball.

Unless there is a specific medical reason to be doing bench presses on a cushion or stability ball you are going to get more out of it on a stable bench than a cushion or stability ball. If, however, you insist upon using unstable surfaces to bench on, the next best option is the cushion with the stability ball being used as a last resort.

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