We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, August 17. 2018
It's Summertime. People like to get outdoors early to run, bike, or swim in the sea for an hour or so. It feels great, but, other than wholesome recreation and mental health, what is it good for? I will try to discuss these things.
Our posts about what I term Phys Ed are meant to be about general conditioning for relatively-healthy people of any age rather than training for specific activities. That's why we recommend 1/3 weights, 1/3 "Cardio," and 1/3 calisthenics. With that said, I'll review some general ideas and misconceptions (expecting arguments from readers). People use the term "Cardio" for many things, but we intend it to mean training of the heart muscle.
1. "Long Slow" exercise, often termed Cardio, is not Cardiac Training. Swimming a mile, jogging 3-5 miles, biking for a few hours, doing 45 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill doing Long Slow do not elevate your heart rate enough to challenge your heart. Ideally, you want to stress your heart because that is what Cardio is meant for. Intensity is more important than time from the heart's standpoint, same as with weight training.
That doesn't mean that those activities are a useless component of general fitness, just that they do not build cardiac strength. If you can run or jog 3-5 miles, you might not be fully fit but you are better than most slobs.
To strengthen your heart and increase your Cardiac Output, you have to push your heart muscle in the same way that you push other muscles with weights and resistance. That means basically heart rate stress. If you can work your way up to maintaining 80% of your max heart rate for 30 or 40 minutes, I'd say that is very good indeed. How to determine that is at the end of this somewhat lengthy post -
Still, we feel it's a better idea and more efficient to do HIIT cardio training which pushes your heart to as close to 100% for brief periods - 30-60 seconds followed by a slow recovery of 3X the sprints. 20-30 minutes of that once or twice a week is good. This can be on the road, elliptical, rower, in the pool, or on the treadmill or stair machine. Max effort, max sweat.
More below the fold -
Continue reading ""Cardio" exercise, endurance training, and "fat-burning""
Thursday, August 16. 2018
A birthday this week, and I am one year stronger, one year more agile, one year more energetic, one year looking fitter.
Calis are for your athleticism. The below may not sound grueling, but it is more exhausting than weight-training days if you minimize rest time. I do two hours of calis weekly, 1 calis class and 1 on my own. This was the mix I've been doing on my own recently:
Elliptical warm-up, 3 mins
Each circuit below 2-3 times, overall takes me about 1 hr with 1-min breaks between rounds -
Dead ball floor slams
Kettle bell lunges
Farmer's Walk - heavy kettles
And finish up with a round of heavy ball wall slams
Friday, August 10. 2018
It's a bit late in the year up here for this post, but beach wear is basically underwear. It exposes a person's condition.
We've pointed out that it would take about 2-3 hours moving speedily on a treadmill, elliptical, or stair machine to burn the calories in your breakfast bagel. But it doesn't work like that.
Our bodies preferentially burn glycogen (stored sugar, from carbs) for exertion. It takes over 40 minutes of higher intensity (eg running and the like) exertion to begin meaningful fat-burning.
It's true than a daily hour of some exercise (other than walking or slow pool laps) ups your metabolism for a while, but it's not really significant.
It's a downer for people, but the truth is that exercise is about fitness, while fat loss is nutritional unless you have 3 hrs.day to work out hard (probably not a good idea for people over age 35).
The reason doctors and everybody else talks about nutrition and exercise for fat loss is sort-of to fool people into getting moving and less sedentary because sedentary, regardless of body fat, isn't healthy. In fact, it correlates highly with early cardiac morbidity regardless of body fat %.
Sedentary can be defined, roughly, as less than an hour/day of sweat-producing exertion. Let's face reality: other than walks, most Western people prefer a sedentary, no-heavy-lifting comfortable life, and most do not wish to feel deprived of their appetites in these places where delicious things are in abundance. I get that, to each his/her own. We all have people we care about, though, who we'd like to stick around for a while.
With proper nutrition, anybody can lose 8-12 lbs/month easily, with or without exercise. In fact, with difficult exercise (ie heavy weights) it can be a bit harder to lose weight due to the nutritional requirements for muscle repair.
The youth have it easy. It can be difficult for the young (under 30 or 35) to gain weight even if they want to. To gain good athletic weight, the youth have to eat big and work out hard with weights.
Wednesday, August 8. 2018
The point of "finishers" at the end of your hour of cardio, calis, or weights is to ensure that you finish having exhausted your strength and energy completely. These two finishers are total body exertions.
- Since we aren't musclemen, we use kettlebells for Farmer's Walks, as heavy as possible. Chest up, shoulders set back, and walk around with them. Squeeze the handles hard. Grip is the weak link with this so they are forearm exercises - but everything else too. Often, a quick reset permits going further. I am up to 28 kilo kettlebells now, which is nothing great but better than a year ago for one-minute walks.
- Around 3 sets of Kettlebell Swings are on our list of biweekly calisthenics. Correct form is essential for benefit. The swing is exerted by a hip thrust of your "power zone." Arms should do no lifting - they are just hooks for the weight. After one or beginning swings, get the bell up to near eye level, with the weight trying to pull you forward a bit. Never lean back - let the weight try to pull you forward.
High-rep, light-weight swings (one-minute sets like in a cardio class) are aerobic cardio/calis. Medium-weight, lower-rep kettlebells (like 20 reps/set) are more for power and tend to go anaerobic. High-weight, lower-rep (eg 10) kettlebell swings are pure power-builders. Do them all, mix and match. About Kettlebell Swings.
Friday, August 3. 2018
Since our physical fitness posts here are oriented towards building and maintaining general functional fitness and athleticism, we tend not to get into the weeds of strength-building.
For general conditioning, we view strength (weights) as about a third of the program. 2 days/week, with heavy powerlifts etc. However, the strength component is crucial even if 2 hrs/week will not produce an Arnold physique.
Speaking of physiques, we are genetically programmed for a body type (even if we cover that up with layers of fat). Certain body types were built for running, some for lifting up dead mastodons and elephants, etc. One aspect of that is our muscle cells. We are born with a life-long number of them, and a predetermined distribution of Type 1 And Type ll muscle cells which in part determine where our athletic potentials might be. Strength-building can build up the fibers inside those cells when subjected to serious demand. At the same time, a significant part of muscle bulk is blood supply.
But getting to the point, the rapid improvement in strength during the first 6-10 months of lifting is attributable to neuromuscular development and efficiency. That's the first step in strength conditioning, and when progress is most gratifying.
After that initial phase, progress slows and that is when the real slogging begins.
A reader sent in this technical essay on neuromuscular training: Neuromuscular Efficiency (NME). A little basic Bio helps.
Wednesday, August 1. 2018
It's not either-or. Low-rep (1-5) high weight is for strength. High-rep (8-12) with lower weight is for muscle endurance, but we would never suggest more than 10 reps for any powerlift set.
A typical powerlift sequence is a warm up set with very light weight, then 4-5 working sets advancing to your day's target. For example, lately I have been doing, say, with deadlift (most important exercise, I feel), warm-up set of 5 at about 100, 5 reps at 155, 5 reps at about 180, 1 rep at 200 and another rep around 225. Like I say, I am not a big strong guy. Everybody is different. My one-rep max is probably 245, but I don;t know for sure. My goal is 300.
Many fitness people do a week of high rep every month or two. "Lower weight" is around 60-70% of your one rep max. "Higher weight" is around 80-90% of your one rep max.
As always, there are exceptions, mainly for accessory exercises. For example, for curls or tricep cable push-downs, 10-20 is fine to keep those things "toned".
My take on heavy weights: Pull-ups are heavy weight. Push-ups are just calisthenics. If you can do 20 pullups bravo to you and put some weights on you to be more efficient. I won't do barbell bench or barbell squats without trainer or partner. Without those, I'll do dumbbell bench and kettlebell lunges or squats instead. If no weight station is free, I'll do kettlebell deadlifts or trap bar instead of regular. It's all good as long as it is HARD and makes you want to cry or spout 4-letter words.
Since I only do half of my powerlifts one day, and half of them another day (not ideal for strength but ok for fitness), I fill in my weights hours with accessory lifts to get a full workout. But to be more precise, I also do pullups twice/wk and one day of dumbell bench and another day barbell bench because I want to focus on those right now. There's only so much time to fit in weights, calis, and plain cardio. If a week had 8 days, I'd do another day of weights. It doesn't fatigue you like calis, but it kicks your ass and kicks your mind.
Wednesday, July 25. 2018
For general fitness/conditioning, probably not necessary and especially not if you do 2 hours of calis or calis classes weekly along with your 2-3 hrs/wk of mostly powerlift work.
What are typical accessory weight exercises? Things like curls, calf raises, cable pulls and pushes of all sorts, leg press, lateral raises, leg curls, and many gym machine activities which target specific muscle groups.
Typical compound-movement powerlift work (deadlift, rows, pullups, barbell squat, military press, bench press, maybe dumbbell lunges) strengthen pretty much all skeletal muscles - and your core too- and are more functional than isolated muscle exercises. (Most people do not do Olympic lifts but if you want to try them, go for it. With a coach, please.).
There are a few exceptions. 1.Beginners often need accessory exercises for a few months before moving forward 2. Some accessory exercises can help ramp up your powerlifts. For example, I work on overhand curls and kettlebell Farmer's walks for my grip strength because that can be a limiting factor for my deadlifts. I have weak forearms. 3. Another exception is for bodybuilders who choose to focus on developing good-looking specific muscles. (That's not really about functional fitness, though - more about looking great naked.)
We stand by our Fitness For Life recommendations for women and men of any age: 2-3 hours of mostly heavy weights, 2-3 hrs of calisthenics without heavy weights, about two half-hours of HIIT cardio, 1 hr of endurance cardio (replaceable with a 5-6 hr hike, bike ride, etc). Not counting hikes, a total of 6-7 hrs/week is sufficient - but no less than 2 hrs of real lifts with some accessories if needed to complete the hour)
Sunday, July 22. 2018
Probably 50 years old, petite but not skinny, cute face, tight body. Perhaps a bit of facial youtherizing. Out of the corner of my eye while I was going through my jump-rope routines I watched her place a high box under the bar, jump up onto the bar and proceed to perform 12 chin-ups. I thought she would never finish. After a rest and some water, two more times. She is doing fitness-maintenance.
No visible muscles, just toned. Watching her proved several things to me that I knew anyway: Regular non-athlete women can develop good upper-body strength, people can be very strong and fit without notable muscle, and I suck at pull-ups as I do at many life challenges.
Watching three skinny wiry guys, my roofers these 2 weeks, carrying two packages of 80 lb. shingles (each) on their shoulders up high ladders. That is not just strength, it is balance and agility too. In other words, athleticism. Worthy of admiration and envy.
If nothing else, God and nature and life teaches humility every day. Like it's their job. Maybe it is. Sometimes I wonder whether humility is a psycho-vitamin which, like Vit D from sunshine, we obtain from investing in life challenges. On the other hand, no rewards, however modest, from our efforts are dispiriting instead of healthily humbling. That is a drag for sure.
Thursday, July 19. 2018
Can you crack a coconut between your thighs?
It makes sense to divide conditioning efforts into anatomical categories like Lower Body: Legs/Lower back; Upper body: Chest/Upper Back/Arms; and Core, even though most exercises use some of everything.
It is obvious that legs with strength and endurance provide and maintain basic functionality for men and women regardless of age, so let's use Legs/Lower body as an example for applying the Maggie's 3-category fitness model (resistance, calis, and cardio).
What can we do, in each of our exercise categories, to push our lower bodies towards further strength and endurance? Basic lower body-related routines are below.
Rule #1: IF IT ISN'T HARD, IT ISN'T EXERCISE. Our deplorable inner lazy-ass quitter is our enemy in life.
Heavy resistance for lower body strength:
Lower body-oriented Calisthenics for muscle application and agility (many or most of these are included in typical cardio/calis gym classes)
High Step-ups (with or without kettlebell)
Mostly lower-body Cardio and HIIT Cardio for endurance:
Longer Jogs and short sprints. Nothing long enough to promote arthritis. 20-30 minutes with jogs + sprints is enough. It's the sprints that build endurance anyway.
There are many other things and variations to do but we try to keep it simple.
Saturday, July 14. 2018
As I have confessed, I am a small-boned (now 5'11", once 6', 165 lb) late-middle aged guy who imagines he is still 25, without the genes for a mighty physique, with the genes for a dad bod - ie sloppy gut tendency effectively-resisted, but blessed with the genes or temperament for perseverance. I'll share my fitness goals for the next 5-6 months:
- Dead around 275-300 one rep
For some, those might be modest goals, but not for me.
What are your 6 month fitness goals?
Thursday, July 12. 2018
Leave your ego at the door. Two good guys discuss weight lifting, whisky, and the confidence that comes from physical fitness. (h/t, reader)
Wednesday, July 11. 2018
There is a darn good reason why people avoid heavy lifting, whether they are cardio fitness nuts or just people looking for work. Heavy lifting is stressful, unpleasant - other than facing the challenge.
Many people avoid stress, some to the point of avoiding life itself. The thing is, painful stress, whether emotional, physical, or intellectual, is what builds strength and effectiveness for life.
If you lift enough, at some point that 60 lb. bag of cement mix will feel light as a feather. Same goes for all other stressors.
Friday, July 6. 2018
Why do people with any fat stores ever feel hungry, or eat anything at all, considering they may have 1-5 month's worth of energy stored as fat? (We term the hunger experienced by overweight people "False Hunger," because it is.) Except in the truly malnourished or extremely fit, low body-fat athletes, hunger is rarely a signal of an energy deficit or of any nutritional need.
Think about it. Even normal-weight (neither overweight nor underweight) people carry 8-10 weeks of energy stored in fat if they can only access it.
You can consider appetite in the pudgy or overweight, not to mention the obese, to be a design flaw based on the hunting and gathering, and, earlier, just plain gathering condition of human existence, same as the other great apes who only become overweight in captivity. Agriculture and food abundance, along with sedentary life, exposed the design flaw for people who overnourish themselves. Of course, physical inadequacy is another side effect.
Here are a few issues (below) -
Continue reading "Why do overweight people ever feel hunger?"
Thursday, July 5. 2018
Whether you are doing an hour of weights, calis, or HIIT cardio, I think most of us ordinary exercisers reach the point in a given effort when something says "OK, I'm done," but a better voice says (in my case) "Don't be a pussy - push through and do more." I find that self-insults work well for me, as do either insults or encouragement from others.
Distance runners talk about hitting "the wall," but persisting through the wall and finding more energy on the other side. These experiences are both mental and physiological, having to do with the energy sources your muscles or your heart are using and the amount of power your body can enlist.
Yesterday I did elliptical semi-HIIT, semi-long slow on the elliptical (because Wimbledon) on TV. When I do this on elliptical (always using arms too to make it full-body) I do 30-second sprints with 60-second slows, or for variety, I will keep a steady RPM pace while upping the resistance from 1 to 10, increasing every minute and then dropping back down the same way.
After 35 minutes of low-resistance 30-second sprints, I was done. Or thought I was. I called myself a wimp, took a minute slow on level 1, and then got right back in the game to complete the hour going up and down the resistance levels. I have similar experiences in my calis classes.
On the other hand, we all have real limits and it is amusing and educational to confront them in regular life and in physical exertion. Well, depressing too. All we have to do is to check whether it is a real limit or a mental determination speed bump.
On my 5th set of deads this morning (increasing weight and decreasing reps for each set) I found I could not get 3 reps at 245. Genius trainer said "Quick, reset your grip and go again." I think I engaged all my will and force but the goddam thing felt glued to the floor. With a minute's rest, I could have done the third, but that's not the way it works. For you strong guys and gals, this would not be too difficult but I am not you. A fit, skinny, no-bulk gal I know does 3 reps of 300. She is only 35, though.
I think it was a true physical limit at that point in my dead routine, because I engage everything so as not to disappoint my trainer's expectations and demands. However, for that moment, I am fairly confident that I was done. Sucks to disappoint a mentor.
When I think about it, I most frequently encounter genuine limits in jump rope and in pull-ups. Also, the sprints on the combat bike. Even the f-word just doesn't help at all.
I wonder how our readers feel when things go from manageable to tough to hard to painful to walls to breakthoughs to actually confronting real limitations.
Sunday, July 1. 2018
Pic is my medicine ball on our Cape Cod driveway. Garbage cans out - a decorative touch.
If you have invested time, money, sweat, and tears into a fitness regimen, it is depressing to learn that your level of conditioning will deteriorate measurably within 7-10 days if all you do is walk around for hours. Many people go for morning jogs but there are plenty of other morning calisthenics that can be done anywhere.
I have done it all, in hotel gyms, in the sandy driveway on Cape Cod, and elsewhere all over the place. Even in Maine. A light protein and banana shake after. There is no more invigorating way to begin an active day outdoors.
One observation: We Americans are fitness nuts by comparison to the rest of the world. It's cultural and, to some extent, class-related We (frequently) overweight Americans try to stay fit and vigorous until something strikes us down. In Europe, not much. In Asia, very little. How often do you see gyms or street runners in those places? An exception might be Switzerland, where I am told gyms are sprouting up on every corner in every town. Especially in Zurich, or course, because Zurich is like a mini-NYC but without the charm.
For a business meeting, a business speech, or a job interview, there is nothing like an hour of calis to prepare.
A few ideas below the fold -
Continue reading "Staying Fit on Vacation"
Use it or lose it. Strength and power diminish measurably after 7-10 days, cardio fitness after one week without stressing your heart hard. The older you are, the quicker the loss.
Tuesday, June 26. 2018
They say "Curls for Girls" and "Sun's Out, Guns Out" because, for guys, strong arms are a sign of vigor, health, and fitness to females, and of dominance to males. For gals, toned beats flabby all the time as a sign of health. It's primitive, but physicality matters because we are animals.
Biceps (and brachialis) are a bit more about vanity than functionality, but we want all of our skeletal muscles to be firm and fit. Triceps are much more functional, but what the heck. Good to be strong all over.
I tend to do one or two sets/week of curls more as "maintenance" than as strength-building. Can't do everything in the allotted time, and curls are "accessory." Furthermore, all upper body exertions stress arms so there is no real need to mess with them.
My point here is to mix overhand curls (whether dumbells, straight bar, or crooked bar) with the usual underhand grip. The overhand grip stresses the heck out of your forearms, so it's a good mix.
Grip (ie, forearm strength) tends to be the weak link in many exertions (ie, deadlifts). Another good forearm stressor is max-heavy Farmer's Walks (squeeze those kettlebell handles like your life depended on it). We like functional multi-muscle group exercises, and that darn Farmer'sWalk stresses everything from legs to forearms and everything in between.
Tip for curls - lower you arms to a count of 3 or 4. Don't just let gravity do it. The "negative" is as important as the pull. That applies to most weight work.
Wednesday, June 20. 2018
For whatever reasons, there are people who refuse to move weights in the gym and who refuse the tedium of cardio exercise (which, in my view, should never be tedious with the right amount of sprinting intervals).
Everybody benefits from heavy weights, but moving weight is hard - not fun at all.
For those people who refuse weights I recommend 5-6 one-hour calisthenics classes weekly. These classes have all sorts of labels, and some are more challenging than others. However, for general fitness, they are good and highly stressful. The stress is necessary. While we prefer the Maggie's formula of 2 days weights, 2 days calis, and 2 days cardio, for those who will not do that, the cali classes are a good alternative. More variety, group enthusiasm, jolly people, stupid "music", all that. My group is a jolly but very focused and determined team. Everybody does his/her best and, for some of us, it's not impressive.
These classes are not for building strength. They are for building energy, building cardio, building endurance, building agility, and putting all of your muscles to work. Since they tend to be free with gym membership, lots of people do them daily, before work. The classes I do are 50/50 sex -wise, and 50/50 over/under 45 years old. Yes, there are pretty gals to look at but you can't because you are just trying to keep up. Are sweaty gals sexy? Totally.
You can tell the newbies from the veterans. 45-60 minutes is exhausting. I was once a newbie. The people who struggle through it for the first few months at 5-6 days/week and stick with it show remarkable fitness gains. Most newcomers do not stick with it because it seems like too much at first. It can be, at first.
It really might be all anybody needs if muscle- and bone-building are not your goals. I happen to love-hate my weights days and my cardio routines but I get a kick out of the challenge of classes and look forward to them. Cali classes do enough HIIT cardio for anybody's cardio needs, really.
Best part? When the hour is done. Everybody applauds the trainer and then you can collapse on the floor in your puddle of sweat.
Wednesday, June 13. 2018
Do many adult humans reveal, in their behavior, a preference for a life with minimal exertion? Some days I feel that preference, some days I don't. That's why I need to apply some force to myself to consistently measure up to my expectations. I don't know about you, but I tend to despise myself when I disappoint myself, make excuses for myself, or rationalize. That's the Yankee way, harsh conscience and a reasonable dose of self-contempt.
People vary a lot in their innate energy and vitality, but I do know that hard exercise increases them for everybody. I'll offer readers a tip: Just Do It. Some mornings at 4:15 I feel "too tired" to face a hard workout at 5. After a cup of covfefe or two while checking Drudge, and then a 5-10 minute warm-up, I'm ready to challenge myself for 60 or 80 minutes. Another tip: An exercise partner or a trainer to push you is a yuge help. I can always do more with a bit of encouragement. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak...and vice-versa.
If you are considering making a commitment to exercise (which I prefer to term "exertion" because "exercise" can mean anything other than sleeping or sitting, while exertion implies pushing the limits to stress, discomfort and sometimes pain), the first step is to define one's goals. The goal(s) determine the path.
Common exercise goals include the following:
- Weight loss
I'll take Weight Loss off the list, because the only exertion for that is using your right arm to stop your left arm from opening the door of the ice-box.
Each goal requires a different approach. Our fitness posts on Maggie's are all oriented around General Conditioning for Life because it is what we know something about.
More below the fold -
Continue reading "Exercise Goals, Exertion, etc."
Thursday, June 7. 2018
Can you run 1.5 miles in under 12-13 minutes? From the Mayo Clinic, "good" fitness levels for non-athletes based on age and sex.
Those test levels are quite modest for active people. Everybody can aspire to better, but the doctors have learned to be modest in their expectations of us.
My only objection is to their including BMI on the list, which is a bad index for excess body fat. Is your waist size an ok measure of your body fat? Yes it is. Your waist size is not your belt size or jeans size, especially if you wear them on your hips which most people do these days. Your waist is above your belly button, the narrow space below your rib cage and above your hips (if you have a narrow space there).
How to Measure Your Waist
Sunday, June 3. 2018
HIIT is for cardio conditioning and general fitness. It builds energy and endurance, not strength. Why endurance? Because if you can do sequences of sprints, any cardio stress of lesser intensity becomes easy.
We have mentioned High Intensity Interval Training frequently in our fitness posts. The Times notes that not only is it a more efficient and effective approach to cardio fitness training but it is also more satisfying. It is not boring.
Athletes have used HIIT for decades for cardio conditioning. The Times correctly notes that you hate it while doing it (it burns, it hurts, you are winded, your eyes are blinded by sweat, you want to give up), but after a session you are glad you did it.
HIIT in the form of calisthenics or plain cardio means anaerobic sprints of any sort with max effort from 20-60 seconds interrupted by 30 seconds to 3 minutes of active recovery. Re cardio, we also include one hour of aerobic endurance cardio in our plan as an "active recovery" day from your week's efforts. Even that should not be "slow," though - should be pushing it aerobically.
The now-famous Maggie's General Fitness Program (2 days heavy weights or other strength training, 2 days cardio, 2 days calisthenics) includes HIIT in some of the calisthenics and some of the cardio sessions. Calisthenics with an HIIT format kills two birds with one stone.
As we remind interested readers, the Maggie's 6-7 hr/wk program has to be worked up to gradually for people over 40.
Some examples of HIIT calis and HIIT regular cadio below the fold -
Continue reading "The New York Times discovers HIIT Cardio"
Wednesday, May 30. 2018
The two "ups" are the classic back exercises. The other basic upper back exercise is bent-over rows. (Arms, pecs, and shoulders are secondary for both.) You can consider pull ups calisthenics because they are body-weight, but, approached right, they are strength-builders. Like push-ups can be. I do them on calisthenics days, once or twice/week.
Few fitness beginners can do many, or even one, pull up, and having excess weight makes it even harder. That's why gyms have assist machines, and bands for the pull up bars. Check your ego at the door, because we all suck. You begin with assists, and gradually reduce the amount of assist. (Pull-down cables are ok for upper back maintenance, but pull ups are the gold standard for fitness.)
If an ordinary guy over 35 can do 10 unassisted pull-ups, that's pretty good. Most gals need to use the assists, due to less upper-body muscle development. Some fit guys strap on weights to make their pull ups more challenging, but that ain't me. I see guys in their 70s doing a few sets of 10 as part of their strength rotations. That's cool. Some people will not give up on vigor and strength because they are part of the basic American values. In Euroland, people do not work out like Americans, but my pal in Switzerland tells me gyms are growing like weeds in Zurich where everybody has a desk job.
Funny thing about those 5 a.m. guys in their 70s is that after their workouts they shower and dress and leave for work in their suits and ties at 6:15 am, looking magnificent and powerful. It's a positive attitude towards life and I intend it for me. Not quitters. Quitting is not the Yankee way, not the Yankee ethic for men or women.
Mentally, the way to think about these ups is thrusting your elbows down rather than focusing on your arms. Best way to work on pull-ups (or chin-ups) for strength? Determine the amount of assist you need to do 5 - not quite 6 - good reps. With rests, do 5 sets each session. Over time, reduce the assist, still doing 5 sets of 5. When you can get to 5 sets of 5 with minimal assist (say, 20-40 lbs), work up to 8-10 reps. Then quit the assists and work up to whatever you can do. Nobody wants to be a twink.
If you're doing something like the Maggie's general fitness program, you will not have time to work on this more than once or twice/wk. A good challenge, though. We all need challenges or we decay.
This below is a bit technical. For me, sometimes pullups and sometimes chin ups. Doesn;t matter to me.
Trigger warning: these two guys have damn little body fat so they might make you feel bad about yourself. Too skinny, in my opinion, but clearly strong and healthy. What makes them useful specimens is that you can see the anatomy.
Saturday, May 26. 2018
Bulldog and I are planning a bouldering day for the near future. Well, full-day rough hiking with enough challenging bouldering and rock scrambling to keep everybody on our local hiking team happy, challenged, and entertained.
Friends and family. No ropes required but a positive, can-do attitude is required. I am planning the routes and want to make it as fatiguing and stressful as possible.
To keep the wives happy, we'll throw in a brunch at Mohonk. One hour, only, is what we guys will permit because we want to move, not sit and eat oysters, filet, halibut, Kobe beef, Nantucket scallops, fine wines, and a hundred other decadent delights.
Why get in shape if you don't use it to the max? Rock scrambling is great fun, and sometimes scary and that is what builds character. Or so my Dad said. "Face all of your fears. That's how you become a man." Like his beloved Shakespeare, he viewed fearfulness as a kind of death.
He was in two wars but he never spoke of it. Never once. US Army.
Wednesday, May 23. 2018
Lifelong exercise can slow aging of heart, blood vessels
"Conditioning" is the process of forcing your body (including brain and central nervous system) to adapt to new or greater physical demands. The other term, "training", typically refers to working towards a more specific goal (eg sprinting, tennis, or body-building).
Everybody knows what "good condition" looks like: looking good, moving well, trim physique, decent muscle-development, high energy and vitality, good athleticism and agility, good posture, cheerful eagerness to take on any sort of physical challenges, etc. But what is it made of?
When we posted about Fitness for Newbies, we tried to emphasize the gradual nature of advancing a fitness program. The body responds positively to good, graduated stresses at any age, but adaptation is slow so if you get over your skis it will be counterproductive in all sorts of ways. Worse, adaptation is slower at 40 than at 20.
The reason it is slow is because it is so complex on the cellular, anatomical, and biochemical level (not to mention the psychological level which is often the most formidable hurdle). The sort of program we endorse demands adaptation - change - at multiple levels: neuromuscular connections, cellular energy production and other aspects of metabolism, endocrine, muscle and tendon construction, bone strengthening, cardio-pulmonary from capillary construction to increasing cardiac output, perhaps fat loss, and so on. To learn about it is an education in basic physiology. Very interesting to me. There's a section in the textbook.
Another reason it's complicated is because each form of exercise (resistance, calisthenics, plyometrics, anaerobic cardio, and aerobic cardio) has a different and sometimes conflicting effect on the conditioning processes in the paragraph above. For one example, conditioning for endurance (aerobic) cardio conflicts with strength-building processes. This is why training for specific athletic activities/sports varies so much from sport to sport (at the higher levels, anyway). Our Maggie's program is for Fitness for Life and recreational activities in general - and might be wrong for specialized athletes (until they retire). Thus we aim to override any conflicts and just include every component of fitness and athleticism.
Four other points about Conditioning:
- Consistency is essential in a conditioning program. That's why we say 6 days/wk of workouts is ideal. Physical condition decays much more rapidly than it accumulates. You can't put it in the bank.
- Gradually stepping up the variety and intensity of challenges is essential. When upping the challenges stops, conditioning processes stop. Conditioning processes do no more than is demanded of them. For example, jogging 3 miles every day will do nothing more for you than to maintain your ability to jog 3 miles/day. That is one-dimensional fitness just as only lifting is one-dimensional.
- The right nutrition matters. Has to be right for your goals. We have discussed this ad nauseum.
- Decent rest is essential for physical recovery from high exertion. That means sleep - and one day/wk without high-intensity exertion (hiking and recreational sports are fine). The exertion stimulates the conditioning processes but the rest times are when those good growth and repair processes occur. Every several months, a week off from exertion seems to be fine or even good but in my case a week away from hard exertion feels terrible mentally and physically so I hate it. However, a day off, say, with just a hike or light cardio, seems to leave me full of beans the next day and ready to kill my deadlifts.
Basic tests for physical conditioning for ordinary people below the fold -
Continue reading "What is "Physical Conditioning" and why is it so slow?"
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