Tuesday, April 27, 2010

how to organize an exercise session

every trainer has his or her opinion on this matter, and every athlete still wonders: which exercises should i do first, and in what order do you plan your routine? typically, the novice goes with the flow - whatever's available in the gym, or whatever muscle group he wants to build, regardless of what he did yesterday or the previous workout, whichever came last. the more experienced typically follow some fuzzy order based on the most recent article in the body building mag or some pseudo-health/fitness magazine. trainers, i've noticed, have their preferred exercises - i have mine, too - and often put them in early in the routine without much consideration, if at all, to what the client needs let alone wants. i know i usually do an upper-lower, or lower-upper routine although i do have some clients with specific needs and goals for whom i'm more precise in my planning. however, the issue i often take seriously is whether or not to go big muscle group to little, or other way around.

much research has been done on this and an abstract from the NSCA annual meeting in july 2009 adds weight to the accepted norm: if you want to build big, start large and go down. if you want to supplement building big, occasionally go small to large.

Influence of Exercise Order on Maximum Strength and Muscle Volume in Nonlinear Periodized Resistance Training
Roberto Simão, et al.

The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of exercise order on strength and muscle volume after 12 weeks of nonlinear periodized resistance training. The participants were randomly assigned into three groups. One group began with large and progressed toward small muscle group exercises (LG-SM) while another started with small muscle group exercises and advanced to large muscle group exercises (SM-LG). The exercise order for LG-SM was bench press (BP), machine lat pull-down (LPD), triceps extension (TE), and biceps curl (BC). The order for the SM-LG was BC, TE, LPD and BP. The third group did not exercise and served as a control group (CG). Training frequency was two sessions per week with at least 72 hours of rest between sessions. Muscle volume (MV) was accessed at baseline, after six weeks and 12 weeks of training by ultrasound techniques. One repetition maximum strength (1RM) for all exercises was accessed at baseline and after 12 weeks of training. After 12 weeks both trained groups showed significant improvements in all exercises (1RM) as well triceps and biceps muscle volume improvement in relation to the control group; however, differences were not see between the training groups. Effect size data demonstrated that differences in strength and muscle volume were exhibited based on exercise order. Both training groups demonstrated greater strength improvements than the control group, but only bench press strength increased to a greater magnitude in the LG-SM group (ES=1.74 ) as compared to the SM-LG (ES=0.90). In all other strength measures (LP, TE, and BC), the SM-LG group showed larger effect sizes. Triceps MV increased greater in the SM-LG group; however, biceps MV did not differ significantly between the training groups. In conclusion, if an exercise is important for the training goals of a program, then it should be placed at the beginning of the training session, whether or not it is a large or a small muscle group exercise. In this approach, the immediate need of the client receives greater emphasis in program design than the traditional large to small muscle exercise sequence. Because weaknesses in smaller supportive muscles can limit the performance of more complex exercises, increased focus on those smaller muscles (if they are found to be a limiting factor) early in an exercise session would be expected to have a positive impact on the performance of complex exercises over time.]

it's almost a no brainer but for most of my clients, it's important to consider seriously.  since most are here for pure health and simple function - that is, not for getting cut or performing at hi levels competitively - going large to small makes more sense on a variety of levels. for one thing, you burn more calories, bumping up the metabolic rate both during and after the session. that's important. for another, esp for post menopausal women and all older (you define older) folk, building big muscle groups adds to bone density to those areas often measured - hips, spine, wrist. furthermore, the exercises that do this, esp the lower bod exercises, improve balance. third, the neurological benefit of moving multiple joints and muscles leads to better transfer to activities of daily living. finally, tho i'm sure there's more, few can show the benefits of toned arms or legs because most have too much subcutaneous fat, so why bother. this is not to say some exercises of these smaller groups are not necessary. it's simply to suggest that, as a priority, go big to small, but include at least one set of the smalls to ensure better bigs....just as the article suggests.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

more healthy news

this article discusses research that shows wt loss reduces pro-inflammatory events and substances that contribute to heart disease: http://www.healthcanal.com/immune-system/7192.html

what's cool about the study is that it also demonstrates that fat, your personal body fat, may be a better predictor of how well you'll lose wt if you have bariatric surgery, but who knows? maybe even just basic wt loss measures such as eating less and exercising more: “We also showed that the activation status of immune cells found in fat predicted how much weight people would lose following a calorie restricted diet and bariatric surgery. Those with more activated immune cells lost less weight. It’s the first time this has been described and is important because it helps us understand why some people lose weight more easily than others...."

this suggests the possibility that wt loss alone may be sufficient to alter one's inflammatory milieu thereby affecting one's overall health status, and hints at the possibility that exercise without wt loss may be insufficient to alter one's health status.

it hints, too, at what is more and more becoming truer and truer - wt loss is healthier than being, note i said, BEING overwt. in other words, don't try lose just to lower inflammation, only if you have lots of excess wt. as to how - well, bariatrics is one possibility but there are easier, safer, and healthier ways to go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

vertical core exercise

now why didn't i think of this name? damn it - i've been promoting it since 1992 when i first got hold of a newfangled exercise toy, the elastic band with handles. i call it the torso rotation when you hold one end in your clasped hands directly in front of the sternum and rotate at the hips away from the anchor at the other end of the tube (the tube is the elastic implement). this works the obliques, the glutes on the side opposite the direction of turn, and the lumbar erectors and rotators on the side to which you are turning. it can be done in all kinds of stances, sitting, kneeling, on balance devices, even lying down; isometrically, isotonically (technically tubing can't be isotonic but let's use that term to imply dynamic), and even ballistically (like a plyometric); and it can be done at all angles of pull. but all i could do was name it torso rotation; what a dummy. at the recent fitness conference of the ACSM, someone came up with vertical core exercise and i hand it to that person. now you can read more about it here: http://www.healthcanal.com/life-style-and-fitness/6990.html

the only thing this article doesn't do is explain the movements it describes in enough detail to be able to replicate them. if you figure it out, please let me know. thanks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

wt loss in older adults

traditionally, physicians have been reluctant to encourage older adults - those over 75, for example - to lose weight since studies have shown that older adults who lose weight tend to have unnoticed medical problems. in other words, wt loss that occurs in this population is often due to disease, not desire. a recent study demonstrated that intentional wt loss via exercise and diet more than doubles your chance of survival over the next decade compared to your old-age peers: http://www.healthcanal.com/life-style-and-fitness/6856.html

why is this such big news? because wt management, esp wt loss if obese, is beneficial at all stages of life. we've discussed these issues from many directions since i started this blog and can honestly state that there's no one perfect way to change your wt without 2, no, 3 things: eating fewer calories; exercising; and most of all, motivation. if you think you can do it for a few weeks or months and get to your goal wt, you're kidding yourself. once you establish a new set point - a wt achieved by making these lifestyle changes - your body adapts by needing fewer calories. therefore, to continue losing you must buckle down and not only stick to what you've been doing but also do more of it - caloric restraint and physical activity. it's not until you've achieved a very low body fat - not body wt, can you let up a bit and eat.

so, tell your parents or grandparents that it's now ok to start living healthfully and to cut wt. that way, they'll more likely be here to see what 2020 looks like.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

when or if to see a doctor

if you're an athlete, or even a weekender, or even an around-the-house piddler, and you incur a new or recurrent ache or pain, you might dismiss it for a few hours....but then get concerned when you try to get back into whatever it is you have to do. the ache or pain increases, or simply does not subside, and you start thinking maybe you should see a doctor. but, as this article points out, quoting doctors, this may not be a good idea. besides the fact it's going to cost you time and money - and getting a red flag for your future insurer to tag you with - some of these may simply go away with that time-honored time-related thing called "relative rest." what is relative rest? it's that which takes you away from what it is that is causing the pain but not from other, generally less intense, activities. so, if your knees hurt from jogging these past few beautiful spring days, maybe you simply did too much too soon - the usual script. all you may need to do is take a bike ride or walk on a treadmill instead of pound the pavement. if the knees still hurt by the end of the week, you could conclude that running's not good for you...or that you just jumped into it too fast....or your shoes, the ones you wore last fall, need to be replaced. HOWEVER, if the knee is keeping you from doing ADLs - your activities of daily living, like sitting at a desk or walking down the corridor - and if it's causing swelling or weakness or instability, then go to your sports med doc ASAP. this article gives you some insight as to how to make the determinations, and why, but i can tell you this from my experience: most docs, esp general practitioners, don't know much about sports injuries and will generally prescribe a pain killer, anti-inflammatory, and rest. the pain killer is often overkill; the anti-inflammatory is sometimes counterproductive to the healing process, and rest is, well, rest is something you can do for yourself, so give it a try:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/fashion/01best.html?ref=nutrition