121217 Balance out your exercise program

121217 Balance out your exercise program

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

Weight training helps build strong bones.

Bone density responds directly to increases in intensities of load and site specifically to the greater pressures required to move the load. Adaptations take place within the structures of the bone that make it more resistant to the imposed loads and thus stronger.

Women in particular need this load bearing weight on their long bones, the spine and hips to stave off and help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from occurring. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that progressively decreases the bone density which in time leaves them weakened and vulnerable to fracture.

 

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

Flexibility

Getting stronger helps in other ways too. The strength to recover from a slip may prevent a bone damaging fall. Postural muscles that are strengthened through weight training inevitably lead to improved posture and a reduced potential of lower back problems. Even though strength training is high on the list of maintaining a strong fit body other pieces of the equation are important too. For instance being flexible enough to tie your shoes or even scratch your back is an important part of living a full and healthy lifestyle.

Work the joints normal range of motion each day by following a stretching program. But be cautioned that static stretching performed before a strength training session has been found to lower the power output by as much as 8%. If you are a sprinter, thrower or recreational handball or tennis player stay away from these at the start of your activity. The proper place for a static stretch is at the end of the workout when the muscles are warm and receptive to change. Doing so before hand, is an invitation to injury.

Find a good stretching book; read up on the proper way to stretch and start applying these to your exercise program. Brad Walker’s Stretching Handbook or Bob Andersons Stretching are two of the premier ones on the market and each one has stood the test of time. Even though flexibility is important it is not the end of the line. Maintaining your balance becomes harder as we age.

Balance

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

Bodily balance. A physical state or sense of being able to maintain bodily equilibrium

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.

100417 Acute Hormonal Responses to Varying Protocols in Men and Women

A recent study by William J. Kraemer and associates showed the hormonal response benefits of three separate types of maximum heavy resistance training protocols. This group examined the response effects from the bench press, sit up and bilateral leg extensions exercises based upon percentages of the maximal ten repetition, five set scheme with a two minute rest between each set.

The three exercise program variances were:

Heavy maximal 10 repetition maximal (10 RM) loads of five sets of ten repetitions with a two minute rest in between the sets.

Submaximal heavy resistance 70% of the 10 RM.

Maximal Explosive resistance of 40% 10 RM

The results were pretty clear after the study was finished as to which protocol released the greatest amount of growth hormones. There was a significant increase in the serum growth hormone after the heavy maximal ten rep/five sets were completed. And, this was true in both men and women, but more so for the men than the women. Serum testosterone significantly increased in the men, but not the women and only while engaging in the heavy maximal sessions.

Since these two substances are critical to long-term adaptations of strength and power this study may help in the long-term process of inducing greater muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength development.

Adapting the heavy loading hypertrophic type of exercise sessions appears to foster growth in the muscle mass for men if they use the heavy maximal load for ten reps and five sets with the suggested two-minute rest in between sets. These hormonal responses seem to be related to the amount of muscle mass activated in the exercises. Using the submaximal and the explosive maximal loads did not elicit increases in the release of these hormones, as it was not strenuous enough to the organism.

Neural control and the achievement of higher rates of force development are fostered, at least in the men, with the explosive maximal loads. Whereas in the women the responses after exercising with explosive maximal weights did not seem to be that clear cut. For women it would seem best to train with the explosive maximal and the heavier maximal loads.

200317 Fluid replacement-Water and the body-why we need it (2/3)

200317 Fluid replacement-Water and the body-why we need it 

In the book Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (page 247), it states that a fluid loss of around 1% of body weight will increase core temperature with a disproportionate rise in heart rate. These increases in temperature causes further fluid loss and the cycle repeats itself.

Plasma volume becomes reduced when sweating causes a fluid loss of 2-3% body mass. The blood thickens, which makes the heart work harder at pumping it through out the body. As dehydration progresses and plasma volume decreases, peripheral blood flow and sweating rate are reduced and thermo regulation becomes progressively more difficult. (Page 509 reference #1)

A 5% dehydration of the body mass significantly increases rectal temperature and decreases sweating rate. There is 25-30% decrease in stroke volume from the heart that is not off set by a higher heart rate so the system output and arterial blood pressure decline. For each liter of sweat loss, the heart rate increases by about eight beats per minute, with a corresponding decrease in cardiac output. “The primary aim of fluid replacement is to maintain plasma volume so that circulation and sweating progress at optimal levels”.

In Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, it (page 247) states that at 7% body weight loss a collapse is likely. Obviously, this is a serious condition if left unchecked.

Ultimately, the strain on the circulatory system impairs the thermo regulation of the body. (Page 507 reference #1)

Thirst is not a good indicator of hydration level as it normally lags behind the body’s needs. Each adult requires from 2-3 quarts of water/fluid daily, less than that, will gradually result in a dehydrated state over a period.

Indicators of the need for more fluid in the body that are relatively simple to monitor are (Page 247 reference #2)

  • Dark yellow urine (unless excessive vitamin intake has occurred)
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Decrease times of having to urinate
  • A rapid resting heart rate
  • Muscle soreness that lingers longer than normal

Normal urine loss for an adult is about 4 times per day for a total of about 1.2 quarts. This means the elimination of 8-10 fluid ounces about 4 times per day. If a person is drinking over and above the normal requirements bathroom breaks could occur more often. If this is not the case, and you are not drinking excessively, perhaps a check for diabetes is in order.

300117 Starting a weight training program

Starting a weight training program.

Are you just beginning to lift weights? If so, then seeking out a knowledgeable coach to guide you along may be the first and most important thing you should consider doing. Check their credentials. Are they certified by a recognized organization such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)? Do they care about you or just your money and the gym membership? Ask them for references. After all, it truly is a buyer beware situation when you are trying to get stronger and are paying out good money for the results you desire.

Maximum lifts are to be avoided in any new weight training program. If this is the case then how are you expected to lift heavy if you don’t know how to lift in the first place? The answer is you can’t. So don’t be intimidated into adding more and more on the bar in your first sessions. Learn how to lift, build up a base and then gradually start adding the weight.

Excessive initial loads contribute little to becoming stronger but do expose you to an increased likelihood of injury. A new lifter will do quite well with a load varying in the range of 60-80% of a muscles force generating capability. You may be wondering how this is determined. One of the safer ways is to simply estimate a conservative load and try it out.

Another more frequently used method is to do a set amount of repetitions, i.e. ten, five or three, and then use commonly available charts to determine the percentage weight to use based on the outcome of the multi repetition test. Once the percentage has been figured out then the sets and reps will be a matter of professional knowledge and experience for your coach.

Using lighter weights for more repetitions is generally wiser for the inexperienced lifter. Selecting loads that allow ten to fifteen repetitions for two to four sets in each exercise helps build a strong base to continue future training. This repetition and set scheme will not place an excessive load on the bones, ligaments, muscles or tendons of the new lifter. More importantly it will not cause negative disruptions on the nervous system.

Certainly if the lifter is able to easily lift the selected percentage load for the chosen repetitions then more weight can be added the next session. A minimum of twelve repetitions is the determining factor in this decision to go to a higher load. This process will be trial and error for the first two to three sessions unless the coach is highly experienced.

Once the weight has been figured out then it’s time to set up the training load schedule in one of several ways: Progressive, over load, or step loading.

Progressive is effective for the new lifter for a short time then becomes less productive. The schedule will appear in this fashion. Three to four sets of various loads with a certain number of repetitions. For example, a warm up followed by one set of eight reps, then one set of six and finally one set of four. This schedule is followed for the rest of the training time.

The overload scheduling scheme leads to over training which in turn will lead to staleness, lack of interest and even injury. Many coaches like this as they believe the athlete benefits from the extra work. Not so. The athlete becomes disinterested and fatigued. In this system the load progressively increases every week or even every session. There is no rest built into this loading program and the constantly increasing intensity quickly leads to overtraining and its attendant problems.

The step load seems to be the best alternative for the new trainee in that one load is used throughout the entire sequence of one exercise. In the step load the warm up is completed and then one load is chosen which has been determined by the previous testing. This load then remains for three to five sets until it is no longer a challenge to the lifter. This is co-determined by both the lifter and the coach’s observations of the lifters speed and bar path.

An able coach will also start out the exercise session with a dynamic warm up such as riding a bike, skipping rope (my favorite warm up exercise) or some other active motion type of movement. If your coach starts out with static stretches then it’s time to find one more knowledgeable in the field.

Depending on the sessions some will begin with the larger muscle groups first and gradually work their way to the smaller ones such as the arms or calves. On other occasions the exercises will begin with the targeted muscle groups and work from this point onward.

One final note or two; keep a log of your progress in the weight room it will show you how well you’ve done…or not. If the or not is taking place it’s time to find another coach and begin to make some progress.

280117 Maximum power output

Maximum power output, as many strength athletes already know, results from using loads in the intensity ranges of 30-40 % one repetition maximum. But the maximal coefficient of reactivity will be obtained by utilizing weight loads in the 30-33 % ranges.

Strength training will increase explosive power. But training cannot be confined exclusively to strength regimens, some of it must be in the power percentages.

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.