Monday, August 29, 2011

Neural Changes With Training

I can't even begin to describe Mel Siff. It has been several years now since he has passed way and I am still amazed at the width and depth of his scholarship and accomplishments. He was an engineer, biomechanist, brain researcher, mathematician, and athlete among other things. It seems that I continue to find things he has researched and written. I first was exposed to Mel when he made a presenation at an NSCA Convention in the 80's. He reminded me of a tazmanian devil. He enjoyed entertaining as well as educating his audiences. With his South African accent and his habit of moving around and illustrating his lectures with with his own physical demonstrations, acting out his points, he kept us raptly attentive. I remember him talking about "core stability" and acting out the idea of sucking in the stomach and activating the transverse abdominus. He had us all  on the floor with laughter while he made his points with humor as well as science. He was a scholar, but also an athlete himself who never lost sight of the practical. A few years later I had the privilege of sharing a table with him and his wife, Lisa, at another NSCA Convention in Las Vegas. It was purely a random occurence. I was already seated with my wife when he rolled Lisa up and asked if they could share the table. He kept us all entertained the entire evening with his stories and comments. He showed a geniune interest in my wife and I, although we had never met before. He was a real gentleman and left a great impression on me. I was very sorry to hear that shortly afterwards he had passed away unexpectedly. Thankfully he has two books that are still available, "Supertraining" and "Facts and Fallacies of Fitness" as well as numerous articles still archived on various sites across cyberspace. Just type Mel Siff into any search engine and you'll get enough references to keep you busy for some time. Below is an article that came up again on another site that I found very interesting. While this is specifically inreference to lifting, it is easy to see the application to throwing and other activities as well.
Editors note: The importance of the optimal functioning of the central nervous system in athletic training is often either overlooked entirely or is relegated secondary status to the development of strength. And frequently even the type of strength training recommended is inappropriate. For example, in Olympic style weightlifting the spatial and temporal characteristics of the classical lifts (the snatch and clean and jerk) are such that explosive strength is a far more important functional indicator of success than absolute (or maximal) strength. Yet how often are pulls and squats with weights that bear little relation to what a lifter can actually snatch or clean and jerk recommended as being beneficial ? Also, inordinate amounts of energy are sometimes spent deadlifting (in various forms and fashions). What follows is an excerpt from the writings of a most distinguished sports scientist, the late Professor Mel Siff. The topic is "Neural Changes with Training" and the interested reader may find some of the results surprising.
Neural Changes with Training
The fact that neuromuscular stimulation is fundamental to all athletic training is emphasized further by recent findings that sensory experience results in enlargement and other changes in the cerebral cortex. Earlier hypotheses that the central nervous system cannot change after adulthood have now been proved to be incorrect. It was generally recognized that the young brain has a great capacity to adapt to changes such as injury or disease, but that neural tissue in the mature animal is unable to display this plasticity. Rosenzweig (1984) has concluded that the capacity for plastic neural changes is present not only early in life, but throughout most, if not all, of the human lifespan. These changes become particularly evident if one is exposed to a sufficiently rich environment providing novel, complex, and cognitively challenging stimulation, a finding which stresses the importance of not limiting one's training to simple, largely unchallenging repetitive patterns of training with exactly the same weights or machines. This is one of the main reasons why this text emphasizes the importance of planned variation utilizing numerous different means, methods and exercises which draw on integrative whole body disciplines. The work of Rosenzweig, Diamond and colleagues at Berkeley has not only revealed that neural changes occur in adulthood, but that these changes can occur easily and rapidly. Greenough at the University of Illinois found that these alterations in the central nervous system not only increase mass, but other structural changes such as the formation of new cell synapses and dendrites. These findings have profound implications for athletic training, particularly the following :
1) Athletic training not only causes physiological and functional changes in the motor and cardiovascular systems, but also in the central nervous system.
2) Strength training on machines that restrict the movements of joints involved in producing a specific sporting action can modify the circuitry and programming of the brain and thereby reduce the functional capability of many of the muscles used to execute that movement.
3) The rapidity of changes produced in the brain by repeated stimuli means that even short periods of inappropriate patterns of strength training can be detrimental to sporting performance. The importance of understanding the complexities of prescribing concurrent and sequential methods of training in the short and the long term then becomes obvious. This necessitates a thorough knowledge of phenomena such as the delayed training effect, the long term delayed training effect, and the conjugate sequence method.
4) Over-reliance on ergogenic devices such as lifting belts, hand grips, bandages for the joints, special shoe inserts, wedges under the heels for squatting and elasticized training suits can modify the neuromuscular system to such an extent that efficient of safe training without them becomes difficult.
5) The avoidance of certain exercises (such as those often condemned by popular fitness training organizations) and the use of compensatory muscle action can alter the dynamic balance between interactive muscle groups and alter neural programmes so as to reduce the capability of handling certain functional movements efficiently and safely in sport and daily activities.
6) If the likelihood of total rehabilitation of an injury is remote, than the teaching of compensatory muscular action can be valuable in maintaining a high level of functional capability.
7) The existence of individual style reveals that each person will program the central nervous system in subtly different ways, so that attempts to impose stereotyped, highly general patterns of movement may prevent an athlete from ever reaching his true potential.
8) Subtle differences apparently as insignificant as a change in grip, stance or head position in regular training can cause significant neural changes which control the way in which an athlete executes a given skill.
by Mel Siff edited by Jim O’Malley

Friday, August 26, 2011


In spite of our best efforts to live long and  healthy, stuff happens.

What is wrong with growing up and growing older gracelfully? Believe me, I am all for being physically active throughout the life cycle. I believe age is only a number and we are only as old as we feel. But I don't believe we should try to cosmetically, chemically, or surgically alter our natural progression. I am not afraid to age. I fight against every loss of strength, energy, and endurance with all of my might, but you'll never catch me dying my hair or considering cosmetic surgery or hormone replacement. I am grateful for what God gave me and I'm doing my best to use it wisely and make it last as long as possible. I am proud of my scars and wrinkles. I earned them. Below is an interesting article about how so many aging Americans are trying to buy time and youthfulness. They want to stay young and are willing to pay for it with money, but not with real changes in lifestyle. Great health cannot be purchased, it must be earned. You can't put a price on it. Like this article says, beware of those who try to sell youth. It is interesting that one of the doctors promoting this anti-aging commercialism is Robert Goldman. Yes, the same Bob Goldman that made waves back in the 80's with his "Death in the Lockeroom" anti-steroid books. While I am also anti-steroid, his books were a poorly done collection of emotional stories without the back up of real research. The fact that he was a doctor caused many to give his work more credence than it merited. Now that that topic has been exhausted, he has found a new cause dujour to make some money. It's a long article, but interesting.

NEW YORK – Baby boomers heading into what used to be called retirement age are providing a 70 million-member strong market for legions of companies, entrepreneurs and cosmetic surgeons eager to capitalize on their "forever young" mindset, whether it's through wrinkle creams, face-lifts or workout regimens.

It adds up to potential bonanza. The market research firm Global Industry Analysts projects that a boomer-fueled consumer base, "seeking to keep the dreaded signs of aging at bay," will push the U.S. market for anti-aging products from about $80 billion now to more than $114 billion by 2015.
The boomers, who grew up in a culture glamorizing youth, face an array of choices as to whether and how to be a part of that market.
Anti-aging enthusiasts contend that life spans can be prolonged through interventions such as hormone replacement therapy and dietary supplements. Critics, including much of the medical establishment, say many anti-aging interventions are ineffective or harmful.
From mainstream organizations such as the National Institute on Aging, the general advice is to be a skeptical consumer on guard for possible scams involving purported anti-aging products.
"Our culture places great value on staying young, but aging is normal," the institute says. "Despite claims about pills or treatments that lead to endless youth, no treatments have been proven to slow or reverse the aging process."
Its advice for aging well is basic: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don't smoke.
"If someone is promising you today that you can slow, stop or reverse aging, they're likely trying hard to separate you from your money," said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago's School of Public Health who has written extensively about aging.
"It's always the same message: 'Aging is your fault and we've got the cure,'" Olshansky said. "Invest in yourself, in the simple things we know work. Get a good pair of running or walking shoes and a health club membership, and eat more fruits and vegetables."
But such advice hasn't curtailed the demand for anti-aging products, including many with hefty price tags that aren't covered by health insurance. These include cosmetic surgery procedures at $10,000 or more, human growth hormone treatment at $15,000 per year and a skin-care product called Peau Magnifique that costs $1,500 for a 28-day supply.
Another challenge for consumers is that many dietary supplements and cosmetics, unlike prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, aren't required to undergo government testing or review before they are marketed. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission do crack down at times on egregiously false anti-aging claims, but generally there's little protection for people who don't get hoped-for results.
Mary Engle, director of the FTC's division of advertising practices, said her agency focuses on the cases that could cause serious harm, such as bogus cancer treatments that might prompt an ill person to forgo proper care.
She said the agency lacks the resources to crack down comprehensively on ads with exaggerated claims that exploit customers' hopes for better looks or more energy.
"Often it doesn't rise to the level of fraud," she said. "There are so many problematic ads out there and we really have to pick and choose what we focus on."
In contrast to the caution of mainstream organizations, there are many vocal promoters of anti-aging products and procedures, including the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. It hosts annual conferences in the U.S. and abroad, and claims 22,000 members, mostly physicians.
In its mission statement, the academy says the disabilities associated with normal aging "are caused by physiological dysfunction which in many cases are ameliorable to medical treatment, such that the human life span can be increased."
One of the academy's co-founders is Robert Goldman, a doctor of osteopathic medicine. He contends that much of the resistance to the anti-aging movement comes from sectors of the health and pharmaceutical industries that feel threatened financially — for example by the surging use of over-the-counter nutritional supplements.
"It all has to do with who's controlling the dollars," he said.
Though many anti-aging interventions are expensive, Goldman said people on tight budgets still can take useful steps such as drinking purified water, taking vitamins and using sun screen.
"People should be healthy and strong well into 100 to 120 years of age," Goldman says in a biographical video. "That's what's really exciting — to live in a time period when the impossible is truly possible."
Olshansky, who over the years has been among Goldman's harshest critics, believes there will be scientific breakthroughs eventually, perhaps based on studies of the genes of long-lived people, that will help slow the rate of aging.
In the meantime, Olshansky says, "I understand the need for personal freedom, the freedom to make bad decisions."
A look at some of the major sectors in the anti-aging industry:
Hormone replacement therapy:
Numerous companies and clinics promote hormone replacement drugs, including testosterone for men and custom-mixed "bioidentical" hormones for women, as a way to slow the aging process.
Many consumers have seen ads featuring muscle-bound Dr. Jeffry Life, now 72. He used testosterone and human growth hormone in his own bodybuilding regimen and recommends hormonal therapy for some of the patients patronizing his age-management practice in Las Vegas.
The FDA has approved hormone replacement drugs for some specific purposes related to diseases and deficiencies, but not to combat aging.
"Finding a 'fountain of youth' is a captivating story," says the National Institute on Aging. "The truth is that, to date, no research has shown that hormone replacement drugs add years to life or prevent age-related frailty."
Dr. Evan Hadley, director of the institute's Division of Geriatrics, says hormone replacement drugs can have harmful side effects. He said there is a need for more research, such as an institute study of testosterone therapy, to identify the potential risks and benefits.
"There is indeed potential that people can be healthier in old age," Hadley said. "But it still requires evidence about what's going to help and what's not."
Hormone drugs can be expensive. HGH shots can cost more than $15,000 a year, according to the institute. A hormone-based dietary supplement known as DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), a precursor of estrogen and testosterone, is marketed online for $12.95 per capsule by Utah-based NutraScriptives.
Some proponents say over-the-counter DHEA supplements can improve energy and strength, boost immunity and decrease fat. The institute says there's no conclusive scientific evidence of any such benefits.
Life says he's a staunch advocate of exercise and healthy eating, but insists that hormone replacement therapy, under a doctor's supervision, is a crucial addition for some men, and that includes him.
"There's no way I could look and feel the way I do if all I had done the last 13 years was exercise and eat right," he said. "Even if you do everything right, if you have a deficiency in testosterone, you will lose the fight."
Life acknowledged that the cost of testosterone replacement, probably more than $5,000 year and not covered by insurance, could be daunting for some. But he contends the investment pays off in more vitality.
"It's hard to put on price on good health," he says.
Cosmetic Surgery:
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 13.1 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures performed in the U.S. in 2010, a 77 percent increase over a decade.
One notable trend is increased preference for less invasive procedures that enable patients to get back to work and social settings without a long leave of absence.
The most popular of these is treatment with the wrinkle-smoothing drugs Botox or Dysport. They account for 5.4 million procedures, averaging about $400 per treatment. Other popular noninvasive procedures include soft-tissue facial fillers, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
More invasive procedures come at a higher price. Face-lifts can run from $6,000 to $15,000; the plastic surgeons' academy reported performing 112,000 of them in 2010.
Dr. Peter Schmid, who runs a cosmetic surgery practice in Longmont, Colo., says his field is flourishing because of evolving attitudes among appearance-conscious boomers. A recent Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 1 in 5 boomers either have had or would consider cosmetic surgery.
"Cosmetic surgery has become table talk at home. There's a lot of satisfaction and acceptance from people who've had it, friend to friend, word of mouth," Schmid said.
While the noninvasive procedures cost less than a face-lift, the effects won't last as long and repeat treatments might be needed several times a year, Schmid said. He advised patients to calculate carefully which type of procedure makes the most sense for them financially.
Schmid, who is on the board of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, cautioned against any rush to try new procedures that get a burst of publicity.
"There's a certain vulnerability because everybody's looking for that quick fix, that fountain of youth," he said. "Many people will shop emotionally instead of objectively, before something has been tried and tested."
Some critics of the anti-aging industry are supportive of cosmetic surgery, provided the patient can comfortably afford it.
Professor Robert Binstock, an expert on aging at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine, told of a recently widowed friend whose spirits lifted after getting the bags under her eyes removed. "If you feel better looking in the mirror in the morning, fine," he said. "I have no objection to people being narcissistic."
Skin care:
One of the industry's booming sectors is anti-aging skin care, featuring wrinkle creams and facial serums. By some estimates, the U.S. market for cosmeceutical products — cosmetics with medicine-based ingredients — is approaching $20 billion a year.
The FDA, which oversees cosmetic safety and labeling, doesn't require manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of cosmetic products before they go on sale, and many ads make claims which critics say are exaggerated or unverifiable. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends consulting a dermatologist on what skin care products have been proved safe and effective in human studies.
Consumer Reports has ventured into the realm of anti-aging cosmetics several times recently, using high-tech optical devices and other scientific methods to assess the products.
Last year, the magazine tested nine face serums, available at drug stores for prices ranging from $20 to $65 and all claiming to reduce wrinkles.
"After six weeks of use, the effectiveness of even the best products was limited and varied from subject to subject," according to the review. "When we did see wrinkle reductions, they were at best slight, and they fell short of the miracles that manufacturers seemed to imply on product labels."
Earlier, the magazine tested wrinkle creams.
"Even the best performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 percent, a magnitude of change that was, alas, barely visible to the naked eye," it said.
Its top-rated product, Olay Regenerist, cost about $19 at the time of the testing. La Prairie Cellular, the most expensive at $335, was rated among the least effective.
Similar conclusions were reached in testing 16 over-the-counter eye creams.
"Even among the best-performing products, wrinkle reduction around the eyes was generally pretty subtle," the magazine said. "After six weeks of daily use, none came close to eliminating wrinkles."
It said the most expensive, Perricone MD at $95 a jar, was no better than cheaper drugstore brands.
One recent development in anti-aging skin care is the use of stem cell technology. ReVive's expensive Peau Magnifique is among the new products, claiming to "recruit adult stem cells into brand new stem cells."
Neither Consumer Reports nor the FDA has conducted any specific assessment of Peau Magnifique's effectiveness. On a Web site called Makeupalley.com, some customer reviews raved about it; others trashed it as a waste of money.
National Institutes on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov
Federal Trade Commission: http://ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/health.shtm
American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine: http://www.worldhealth.net
Professor S. Jay Olshansky: http://web.mac.com/sjayo/SJayOlshansky/Background.html
Dr. Jeffry Life: http://www.drlife.com
American Society of Plastic Surgeons: http://www.plasticsurgery.org
American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery: http://www.cosmeticsurgery.org
Dr. Peter Schmid: http://www.theaestheticsurgeon.com
Professor Robert Binstock: http://www.case.edu/med/bioethics/facultystaff/rhb3.htm
American Academy of Dermatology: http://www.aad.org
Consumer Reports: http://tinyurl.com/3hby2sv
Makeupalley: http://www.makeupalley.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Recipes For Your Blender

The title of this post is misleading but I really didn't know what else to title it. I don't have any recipes. I don't even believe in recipes, only concepts. Maybe it's a result of speaking the Navajo language, but I just can't see the world as a rigid, static place.

In the English language we describe things as being here or there, pretty much giving a place to everything. There are grammar rules that must be learned and conformed to in order to speak "good" English.When we speak in Navajo, everything is in motion and we describe the type of motion. It is very free flowing without a lot of grammar rules. In fact there really aren't even words in Navajo in the way there are in English.

In Navajo there are segments of meaning that are combined as one speaks to form words. No wonder Navajos are so creative and artistic. The Navajo language can only be used with creative thought.

Well, anyway, that is my approach to preparing food (And writing training programs for that matter). It's not a cup of this and a teaspoon of that and then bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.... It's more like let's throw in some of this and add some of that and mix it or cook it until it's ready. It's a concept, not a recipe.

   So it here goes with some of my favorite blender drinks. I like fresh fruit. I like to get bananas when they are really ripe and marked down at the store. I get all of them and throw them into the freezer. When I am ready to make a shake I take a couple frozen ripe bananas and hold them under hot water for a few seconds and then the peels slide right off. I break the bananas into a few pieces and then put them into the blender. I also like to add apples to most of my shakes. They add pectin, fiber, and some sweetness. I usually just core a large apple or a couple of small ones and throw them in skin and all. 

Then I take whatever fruit is in season and available. It could be strawberries, peaches, pineapple, grapes, oranges, mangoes, or anything else I may have available. I may use them stand alone or in combination. Often I freeze the fruit when it is in season and use it later. Frozen fruit blends well and gives the shake an ice cream like texture. 

For protein I often add cottage cheese, maybe some Greek yogurt that matches flavor wise with the fruit, and some whey protein. I like to use vanilla flavor whey protein for the fruit shakes. I usually add some non-fat milk, but whole milk or half and half can be used for weight gainers. Soy or almond milk can be used for the lactose intolerant.
Another great variation that I really like is bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate whey protein. Cottage cheese and apples can also be added to this. If my fruit isn't frozen I add a few ice cubes to give it a cold ice cream-like texture.
I may never be the next FoodNetwork Star, but take these concepts, adapt them to your resources, tastes, and needs; and give your diet a real boost. Who knows maybe I could be a FoodNetwork Star. How does "Blend It Like Whaley" sound? Probably not!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Power of Food

It's no secret that the nutritional supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar business. From antler velvet to zinc, everyone is selling the tonic that will cure your ills and make you strong and healthy. Aggressive marketing leads us to think that we can reach our dreams from a bottle. While I will be the first to admit that there is a place for  certain supplements, there is no substitute great eating habits. Anything that a supplement can give you can be found in food. When you obtain the essential nutrients from food, they are in the appropriate context. ( meaning proper balance and with the other synergistic nutrients and substances for optimal benefit) It just takes a little extra knowlege and effort, but really isn't that difficult.

Following is an excerpt from and article I saw recently. Food is really the best medicine in many cases.

From healing spices to the impact of improved diet on professional athletes, T&C.com takes a look at recent nutrition studies and headlines affecting athletics.
There may be a new hope for tendinitis sufferers. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich have shown that a derivative of a common culinary spice found in Indian curries may provide relief in the treatment of tendinitis. In a paper due to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers found curcumin, which also gives the spice turmeric its trademark bright yellow coloring, can be used to suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in tendons.
"Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis," Dr. Ali Mobasheri of the University's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who co-led the research, told Science Daily. "However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition. Further research into curcumin, and chemically-modified versions of it, should be the subject of future investigations and complementary therapies aimed at reducing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the only drugs currently available for the treatment of tendinitis and various forms of arthritis."
Meanwhile, new research from England's Nottingham Medical School suggests that the levels of carnitine, which plays an essential role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, is lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters. Researchers also found that vegetarians excreted less carnitine than non-vegetarians and had lower concentrations of it in their blood and muscles, as well as lower levels of the transporter messenger and protein expressions.
"The results of this study confirm Lonza's position that vegetarians can benefit by adding supplemental Carnipure L-Carnitine to their diets ... " said Kevin Owen, Nafta head of technical marketing and scientific affairs at Lonza, which supplied its Carnipure L-carnitine for the study (L-carnitine is the biologically active stereoisomer of carnitine). "A good supply is important for active people providing the energy they need. After heavy exercise, vegetarians may get a functional L-Carnitine deficiency, meaning that there is a lack of available, free L-Carnitine in the cell."
Owen added that vegetarians may take supplements of L-carnitine or opt for vegetarian foods fortified with the nutrient, like soy burgers or soy hot dogs. Carnitine is found mainly in foods of animal origin, and over 95 percent of the human body's total carnitine is stored in skeleton muscle tissue.
A nice story from the Arizona Republic on food making a comeback as the ultimate performance enhancer and the importance of sports dieticians are to helping athletes make solid food choices. The article talks to Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns about how adjustments to his diet has lengthened his career and improved his on-court performance.
"The one thing that is not emphasized enough in the world of sports is diet," Suns forward Grant Hill told the Republic. "Maybe it's a bad analogy, but you don't want to put regular gas in a high-performance car. But for some reason, nutrition has never been a priority."
The article features viewpoints from T&C contributor Dave Ellis, President of the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association. "There are three big benefits," said Dave Ellis. "There's less down time. People don't get ill as often or as easily. Those missed man days are huge setbacks to teams.
"The next big thing is energy," Ellis added. "Athletes who don't know what they're doing with their diets can come to work and put in a mediocre day. Physically and mentally, their coach-ability is down. Too many of those days, and you lose."

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Training & Conditioning

I really think an athletes best friend in the kitchen is a blender. You can put almost anything in one and blend it up into a palatable and nutritous drink. Here is a good one.... take some fresh spinach, kale, and whatever other greens you can get, add some seedless grapes, a little water and some ice cubes and blend it. It is full of nutrients and enzymes and tastes great. In the weeks ahead we'll give you some more great blender ideas.
Make your own "magic formula" form real food that is available in your area.

Modern day snake oil salesman. Get rich sellling it to your "friends". Or better  yet, your opponents.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Junk Food Baboons

I found this posted on the late Mel Siff's Supertraining site. Very interesting.

Taken from

Robert M. Sapolsky is Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at Stanford University. For over a decade, he has been spending his summers in the Masai Mara National Reserve in the Serengeti Plain of Kenia, studying the relationships between social behavior and dominance rank in wild baboons, the amount of social stress they experience, and how their bodies react to stress.

According to Robert Sapolsky, "an average baboon in the Serengeti spends 30 to 40 percent of each day foraging – climbing trees to reach fruit and leaves, digging laboriously in the ground to unearth tubers, walking five or ten miles to reach sources of food. Their diet is spartan: figs and olives, grass and sedge parts, corms, tubers and seedpods. It's unusual for them to hunt or scavenge, and meat accounts for less than 1 percent of the food they consume. So the typical baboon diet teems with fiber and is very low in fat, sugar, and cholesterol. "

A few years ago, a garbage pit was digged in the middle of the territory of one of the baboon troops studied by Sapolsky, where the garbage produced by tourists was dumped. Food left overs at the garbage dump included fried drumsticks, beef, fruit salad, fragments of pies and cakes, custard pudding… "processed sugars, fat, red meat, and cholesterol, our modern Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" as described by Sapolsky himself.

The group of baboons moved to the trees surrouding the dump, and their typical activity pattern changed in such a way that they would only get active at the time of arrival of the garbage tractor. Of course, their usual diet was completely modified as they were now on a "Westernized" diet.

An "average wild baboon eating a natural diet had cholesterol levels that would shame the most ectomorphic triathlete" and more than half the total cholesterol is in the form of high- density lipoproteins, i.e. the "good" cholesterol. But when Sapolsky studied the Garbage Dump baboons, a different picture emerged. "Cholesterol levels were nearly a third higher, and most of the increase was attributable to a rise in damaging low-density lipoproteins, the type that builds up plaque on artery walls." But not only that, "levels of insulin were more than twice as high in the Garbage Dumpers as in those eating a natural diet. This hormone is secretedby the pancreas in response to eating, especially eating rich, sugary food, and its function is to tell cells to store glucose for future as energy. If insulin levels rise too high, however, cells become inured to its message; instead of being stored, glucose is left circulating in the bloodstream.

It's this state of affairs that can eventually lead to adult-onset diabetes, a distinctly Western malady. Since the Garbage Dumpers came from gene stocks similar to those of the natural foragers, genetic differences couldn't account for their much higher insulin levels. The most likely suspect was their junk food diet and their relative inactivity."

Sapolsky, RM. The trouble with testosterone: and other essays on the biology of the human predicament. Touchstone: New York, 1997.

Moral of the story?
If you want your baboons to be healthy, keep them out of garbage dumps.
Garbage is not good for you either!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Some Success Principles

John Grimek was a legend, strong, athletic, and aesthetic. He trained consistently and smart over the course of his lifetime.

Here is an article I saw awhile ago and it rings true. It definitely takes some brains to train properly, but it's not as complex as many "gurus" try to make it seem. Smart training is working hard, but listening to your body and adapting on a daily basis. It is not blindly following a program. Stick with basic heavy movements and keep your life in balance. The mantra that there is "no such thing as overtraining" does not hold up for most of us with "normal" genetics and no "medicinal support". Having said that, there are also some who don't really understand what hard work is and don't push themselves enough. A simple rule that I follow is push through the muscular discomforts, but listen to your joints. Muscles regenerate but joints degenerate if we aren't smart.
Things to think about for success.....

There are things in life that need to take place in proper sequence for them to work. Squat to poop, propose to marry, eat to live, read to learn, gravity to fall, strength to stand, and a hand to shake. There are some things in training that must be done in order for you to succeed and for you to keep your mind off the so-called contrived rules.

•Practice what you preach. This is number one. Be the example.

•Keep it simple. What can we do that will provide the greatest effect to the body in the least amount of time.

•Lift or press something heavy. I learned this from Jason Ferrugia. Perform 1–5 sets of 1–5 reps on the main lifts followed by 6–15 reps on the assistance lifts, pushing to a density style training. Finish in an hour to an hour fifteen minutes.

•Training should be instinctive, not always planned. Listen to your body. If you randomly hit a set of deadlifts because your co-worker had 225 lbs on the bar and it feels like a piece of cake, work up to a heavy triple and call it. Don’t just say, “Well, I squatted two days ago and I shouldn’t deadlift” or better yet, “Even though my shoulders feel horrible, I’m going to try to bench.”

•The conjugate method is handy when…you understand it and have athletes under your guidance for multiple years, not two months.

•Do not buy into what others say is the next best thing. Folks, TRX is not a godsend and neither is a Bosu ball or kettlebells, although kettlebells are pretty useful. Look up Dan John.

•Warming up is great and so is stretching.

•Stop BSing yourself. If you don’t like the way you look, change it.

•Don’t hop around doing randomly implemented programs. The best way to find out what works best in attaining your goals is to stay with it. A hybrid of programs could work well such as 5/3/1 with three assistance exercises followed by a fat loss/Tabata/Strongman circuit. Just commit to it. Stop trying everything or better yet, stop doing nothing.

•Learn from others. Be humble enough to realize that you don't know everything and never will. Good ideas are all around us.
•Perform squats. High rep squats work well for putting on mass. Don’t believe me? Look up Tom Platz repping out 500 lbs 23 times butt to grass. Allow for sufficient recovery between bouts.

•Do hill sprints and/or sled work. These are the best exercise second to clean eating for fat loss.
Matt Brown, BS, CSCS, is 25 years old and recently competed in his first powerlifting competition in Santa Barbara, California. He strives to be an example to others and realizes life isn't all about lifting but rather seeking to become better a little at a time even if it means throwing in the occasional drink with friends

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.....

and a video has to be worth at least 10,000.  Below is a collection of some great clips I have seen in the past few weeks, and a few that leave me scratching my head. The world is a big place and I guess whatever makes you happy is your business, but I have to wonder what some people are thinking.

Amazing Snatch, power personified.

He can Jerk as well.

I guess this is what they call a "hip lift". I have used belt squats over the years with great results when injured or for a change of pace for a time. I don't see alot of value in this "movement" (or lack of).

Interesting form of pulls. I have done some of these also from time to time as a way to maximize explosiveness and rate of force development.

Not sure what this is about. A lot of weight for sure. Starting from the bottom is extra tough, no doubt, but it looks like a great way to crush your lumbar discs. Not sure why this guy is doing this. Why not take it from the rack and step back?

Russian version of dancing with the stars? Lol You'll never see a western lifter with this kind of notoriety. Looks a little stiff, but go for it comrade Klokov.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If It Ain't Broken...........

Mario Martinez, one of the all-time great American lifters had a "flaw" of pulling with bent arms.

We have all heard the old cliche, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it," and in general it is good advice. Below is a blog post by Vern Gambetta that falls under the "I wish I had said that" category. We have posted his ideas many times and he presents good common sense. I have to agree, that in my experience, I have arrived at the same conclusion; not every error needs to be fixed, and you can't fix everything at once. Of course if an athlete is dong something dangerous, that can lead to injury, it needs to be fixed. An example might be lifting from the floor with a rounded back. Some athletes seem to be able to get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later it will lead to injury as cumulative microtrauma will eventually wear the discs out. While some athletes can persist longer before it happens, eventually it will. Other faults like pulling with bent arms may seem to be a poor choice, but don't lead to injury. Mario Martinez, an Amercian lifting champion that we have featured in the past is a prime example of this. It takes a sound knowledge of  biomechanics along with experience to know what and when to correct in the execution of a movement. There is no "one size fits all" text book approach that is right for every athlete.

Living With Functional Flaws

By Vern Gambetta

When examining mechanical flaws in an athlete's movement skills, it's important to also identify their signature movements and recognize what it is that gives them their athletic identity. When weighing how to improve their efficiency and performance, the question becomes: What should you coach and what should you leave alone?

Each individual has a unique individual way that they solve movement problems. Whether it's something simple like running gait or complex like pitching a baseball, individuals can achieve the same result while looking quite different doing it.

These days, I am not as quick to intervene or to try to change a movement pattern as I was earlier in my coaching career. I learned the hard way that cloning movements created robots, took away instincts, and didn't allow the athlete to solve movement problems effectively.

Instead, I have progressions that I use to teach movement skills. These progressions have evolved and are adaptable to the situation and the athlete. They go from programmed and rehearsed and progress to random and chaotic. The steps in the progression are based on observation as to how they solve the increasingly complex problems I present to them.

Different athletes progress at different rates and they look different doing it. That is the art of coaching. I coach what I need to coach to help the athlete achieve proficiency and enhance their physical literacy.

If it looks connected and coordinated then it is right for that athlete. As coaches we need to give the athletes the tools to express their athleticism and then let them go with it.

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.

Mario pulls with bent arms, but what would be the point of trying to "correct" this?