Friday, July 31, 2015

Olympic Weightlifting Motivation-Lift the Limit

Here is a little bit of motivation to end the month of July. Have a great August.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Arab female bodybuilder looks abroad for recognition

Here in the United States, in the state of Utah, we have just celebrated "Pioneer Day" which commemorates the settling of the area by the Mormons who were religious refugees. Pioneers are not limited to early settlers, there are many pioneers who blaze trails in their respective areas. This is a very inspiring article about a woman who has to overcome many cultural and religious traditions to pursue her goals. She definitely embodies the pioneer spirit.

Arab female bodybuilder looks abroad for recognition
AFP By Lynne aL-Nahhas
Dubai (AFP) - Flexing her muscles in defiance of the Gulf's conservative cultural stereotypes, bodybuilder Haifa Musawi has lost all hope of pumping iron for Bahrain so now is looking elsewhere for recognition.

The 32-year-old began working out a decade ago after finding a personal trainer to help her overcome obesity -- a widespread problem in the oil-rich region.

"I had a problem with obesity and I used to like bodybuilding," says Musawi, a square-jawed woman with curly hair pulled back in a tight ponytail.

As a young girl, she would seek out publications with articles and pictures about bodybuilding.

"At that age, I didn't have the experience or knowhow to become a bodybuilder," she recalls. "It wasn't easy... bodybuilding for women in our society is rare."

But "I was at the gym every day and to me it was more important than anything else".

Musawi's family encouraged her efforts to shed weight and despite worrying about the supplements she took as part of her training programme, she said "they finally accepted" what she was doing.

Ten years on, Musawi has several certificates from international fitness and bodybuilding associations and has been working as a weights specialist in Dubai, where she trains both men and women.

In June, she came sixth in the physique category of the International Natural Bodybuilding Association championships, a drug-free competition held for the first time in Dubai.

Musawi and a Jordanian woman were the only Arab female bodybuilders at the event.

She is now seeking a pro-card so she can take part in professional competitions around the world and join the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness.

But Musawi cannot represent Bahrain or any other countries in the Gulf, where there is no national bodybuilding team to represent for women, let alone competitions to enter.

In October she plans to travel to Portugal to obtain residency and represent the European country, with the help of her Portuguese trainer Andreia Sousa.

"This is my dream and I want to fulfil it," says Musawi. "If Portugal offers me my dream, then why not? But I hope to represent Bahrain" one day.

- 'Changed my life' -

Sousa, who has been Musawi's trainer for more than a year, says that "as an athlete I can understand the passion" and that it is "worthwhile to go on stage".

View galleryBahraini bodybuilder Haifa al-Musawi came sixth in …
Bahraini bodybuilder Haifa al-Musawi came sixth in the physique category of the International Natura …
"I think Haifa has a lot of talent and... possibilities," says Sousa, who oversees Musawi's rigorous fitness regime and diet, and acts as her manager.

While more and more Arab women are developing interest in the sport and some come to her, mainly seeking weight-loss training, many are still burdened by "social restrictions", says Musawi.

She says that many of her male clients also find her "strange" at first but they have slowly become more accepting.

"I have proved it to them."

Lifting weights at the same gym is Shaza Jamil, a British-born girl of Yemeni-Pakistani origin.

"Men usually ask me: 'Why are you building muscles? You're a girl. Why are you ruining your body?' But I am not. I love my body and this is why I do lifting," she says.

"Society has put in their heads that a woman should not have muscles."

A relative newcomer, Jamil has already won a silver medal in the bikini category of a British competition after only a year of lifting weights.

Like Musawi, she took to the sport after struggling with her weight and shape.

Her mother had first rejected the idea of her going on stage as a bodybuilder.

"We had drama at home but when she attended the competition and saw how happy I was and that I had won," she began to accept it, says Jamil.

"It is true we wear bikinis on stage but we do nothing wrong. We just show off our bodies that we worked so hard on," the brunette says, defending the sport which she says has "changed my life".

Friday, July 24, 2015


Orrin Whaley had to adapt to a wrist injury to eventually Snatch 105 kg. at a recent meet. This is his 95 opener. BDW 80 kg.

Found this posted on a friend's Facebook page. I couldn't agree more. Humans are living organisms and cannot be strictly programmed like machines. Of course a plan and direction is vital, but as the article states, the human factor cannot be ignored. Have a plan, then adapt to real life as you implement it.


I was never a big fan of strict yearly plans – it may be the Canadian in me, but I like the grey area more than the black or white area. I have developed a set of training guidelines that I use in my coaching. Those guidelines are ideas of what we should be doing in training in relation to where we are in the year and how far the next competition is from now. Add to that some recipes of how to fix technical or strength problems and you have got a good idea of what you should be doing in training. That is, my programs are very flexible – especially when it comes to weight selection. In my experience, I have found that this type of flexible programming produce more results than strict programming.

Autoregulation is the idea that volume and intensity are selected by how you feel and what kind of shape you are in. It should respect the general plan laid out – that is, the goal of the training cycle, where you are in the competitive cycle, and the rep/set scheme. Put simply, weights and sets should be selected according to what you can get out of you in a given day. N.B 1rm come after volume / strength cycles. Don’t turn training into daily maxes – that is not the point.

1. Strict programming does not account for the human factor

The biological system is complex and variable from day to day. Some days are better than others because of that. Add to that that many athletes are amateur (they work, go to school, etc.) and are not professional, it becomes easy to overload the body with stress and fatigue.

Many athletes have responsibilities outside the gym and not every athlete recover the same way. In my book, just because the program says to go heavy, I don’t see the point in doing it when you are tired/out of it/preoccupied with your life. Trying to do so can be dangerous and get athletes to feel unmotivated and make them feel like they don’t progress. Moods are everything in weightlifting.

Conversely, I don’t see the point in going light when you are having a good day. You might have planned a heavy day in a few days, but today might be the best day and if it works out, the benefits outweigh the cons. Those benefits are enhanced self confidence, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment.

2. Autoregulation develops constancy which is the most important quality for the competitive weightlifter

Missing weights should rarely happen and auto regulation is the key to not miss and develop constancy. You get to select the right weight for the rep/set scheme you are doing. By doing so, the athlete feels like he/she is doing their best, is progressing and they learn a lot about themselves and the shape they are in (and what kind of results they can get out of themselves when they feel like that).

Autoregulation is not an excuse to go to max and miss every weight. If you autoregulate your training and you are far from competition, you have to select weights that you can do with some challenge – but not miss. The closer you get to competition, the more important it is to lift some heavier weights.

3. Not everybody can lift heavy frequently or need to do so to progress

I have lifters that need to hit certain numbers on a regular basis in order to progress. On the other hand, I have lifters that can lift moderate weights and progress very well. I have an athlete that did not hit a single lift above 90% in his preparation for Nationals – yet he ended up making a 7KG total PR.

Some lifters can’t do heavy weights in training, they need the adrenaline of competition and the crowd. They should not train the same way training lions are. Training lions are people that can lift big in training all the time – some are able to do the same thing in competition and some not. However, when it comes to training, they are real lion and will attack about any weight.

A flexible program – based on an autoregulation principle – will allow any type of athlete to progress. Those that can lift heavy often get to do so and those that don’t need it/can’t stand it, get to do it their own way.

4. Autoregulation should be done by the coach

I usually ask that my athletes go to a baseline number for a given rep/set scheme and then we decide what we want to do given on how it felt and how it looks. If all is good, we will go up. If something is not right technically, we will stay there. If it looks good but feel hard, we might do some wave loading. The idea is to lift the best you can everyday – no matter what the number is.

5. This type of training is safer

As I hinted above, most injuries in weightlifting happen when you do something you should not have done (although there are some occasional accidents). Injuries happen when you go heavy when you should not have. When you autoregulate and your guideline is you go up but cannot miss, then hazardous events don’t happen. You also aren’t going heavy when you are not in the shape to do so.

6. Results happen when you feel like you are in control and in a good mood

This type of training allows the athlete to have control over what he/she does in training. Instead of following a generic plan, they can discuss and select weights with the coach. There are not many thing that you can control in weightlifting and having the possibility to have some control over your training makes you believe in your training and progress. Nobody progress by thinking they don’t progress or believe what they are doing is not good. Progress can only happen if you believe that what you are doing is worthwhile.

If you are use to making weight and know yourself pretty well (as this type of training develops), then any weight becomes possible in due time. If you are used to miss, and are scared of the weight because of you have missed it 20 times, chances are you won’t make it again. No boxer step in the ring thinking he will lose.

Note : autoregulation is only for weights and sets. You can’t skip useful and important exercises because you don’t feel like it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Brain possibly the biggest beneficiary of exercise

I don't think Chinese educators try to pretend that physical and mental development are not related.

Yet more evidence that mental and physical are not mutually exclusive! Doh! Of course we have always known this from actually experiencing it. But so many of the public school administrators in the United States still make plans as if there is no relationship between mind and body. Why is it so hard to notice that physical activity enhances mental processes? Anyway the article below does a nicer job showing the benefits across the span of life from infancy to old age.

Brain possibly the biggest beneficiary of exercise
Exercise has been shown to stave off memory loss associated with some forms of dementia among the elderly.

Chicago Tribune
Published: 13 July 2015 10:27 PM
Exercise tones the legs, builds bigger biceps and strengthens the heart. But of all the body parts that benefit from a good workout, the brain may be the big winner.

Physical fitness directly affects our mind and plays a crucial role in the way the brain develops and functions. Moreover, exercise is linked to brain changes throughout all stages of life, beginning in infancy and lasting through old age.

Babies, for example, need regular movement to carve out critical pathways and form connections in the brain. In children, research suggests exercise improves attention, focus and academic performance. And in the elderly, exercise has been shown to help stave off memory loss associated with some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“Physical activity is crucial to mind and body alike,” said neuroscientist Lise Eliot, who writes about the benefits of movement on the brain in her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain. “The brain benefits as much as the heart and other muscles from physical activity.”

Scores of studies suggest that what’s good for the body also is nurturing the old noodle. Exercise, it turns out, can help improve cognition in ways that differ from mental brain-training games.

“We’ve found exercise has broad benefits on cognition, particularly executive functioning, including improvements in attention, working memory and the ability to multitask,” said researcher Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In fact, an active lifestyle during childhood may confer protective effects on brain health across the life span, Hillman said.

How does exercise help the brain?

In the mid-1990s, Carl Cotman’s team at the University of California, Irvine, first showed that exercise triggers the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which helps support the growth of existing brain cells and the development of new ones.

With age, BDNF levels fall; this decline is one reason brain function deteriorates in the elderly, according to Cotman. Certain types of exercise, namely aerobic, are thought to counteract these age-related drops in BDNF and can restore young levels of BDNF in the aging brain.

“In a sense, BDNF is like a brain fertilizer,” said Cotman, a professor of neurology and neurobiology and behavior, and founding director of the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI Mind). “BDNF protects neurons from injury and facilitates learning and synaptic plasticity.”

Over the last two decades, researchers have learned that exercise acts on multiple levels in the brain. The brain’s wiring depends on the integrity of the brain cells or neurons, as well as the connections between the neurons, or the synapses.

As we age, the synapses are lost or break down. Cotman’s work has shown that in older rodents, exercise increases the number of synapses and also stimulates the brain to develop more neurons in the hippocampus, which he called “a critical region in learning and memory formation and a target of massive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Still, for those newly created brain cells, or neurons, to work — to help us learn and remember new things — they need to be plugged into the existing neural network, said Romain Meeusen, chair of the department of human physiology at the University of Brussels.

Exercise helps integrate the new neurons into the brain’s circuitry to help improve learning, Meeusen said.

Exercise increases the release of neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, called neurons, Meeusen said. “This could be one of the mechanisms of the anti-depressive effect of exercise. It also helps to train cognition and attention at all ages.”

Research also suggests that exercise improves blood flow to the brain and, as a result, enhances cognitive abilities. “The blood carries oxygen and feeds neural tissues, so you’re getting the benefits that come with that,” Hillman said.

The brain loves it when we move and will reward us handsomely if we do, researchers say. Here’s a look at how physical activity can be beneficial during three key stages of life.


Mobile children hit their cognitive milestones faster, said Eliot, an associate professor of neuroscience at Rosalind Franklin University’s Chicago Medical School.

When infants are awake, they’re in near-constant motion, which is critical for development, she said. This movement “strengthens their muscles and hones their neural circuits for smooth, purposeful motor skills.”

The process continues throughout life but is obviously most intense in infancy and toddlerhood, when children are mastering skills like sitting, standing, walking, running and jumping, Eliot said.

She said she worries that babies in the U.S. are spending too much time strapped in devices. Like adults trying to master a new sport, “young children need to practice to speed their neural pathways and select the optimal circuits to hone each milestone.”


In a new twist in the debate over physical education in schools, researchers are asking an intriguing question: What if exercise improves academic success?

Some research suggests it can. Hillman’s team at the University of Illinois’ Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory found that children ages 7 through 9 who participated in a 60-minute after-school exercise program had better focus, processed information more quickly and performed better on cognitive tests than children who didn’t exercise.

The researchers also found a dose effect: The more days the children attended the exercise program, the greater the changes in their brain function or cognition, according to the nine-month randomized trial, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014.

“We didn’t take low-fit kids and make them highly fit,” Hillman said. “We took low-fit kids and made them a little less low fit. These aren’t massive changes.”

The effects were seen only on tasks that required executive control, “which is related to attention, behavior and obviously germane to success in school,” Hillman said.

Late adulthood

Sadly, the hippocampus naturally shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia.

But research suggests aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus and increase levels of a protein that aids the growth of new brain cells, potentially holding off changes in the brain and improving memory function.

“Atrophy of the hippocampus in later life is generally considered inevitable,” said Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. “But we’ve shown that even moderate exercise for one year can increase the size of that structure. The brain at that stage remains modifiable.”

Julie Deardorff is a certified personal trainer and a writer for Northwestern University.

Lifting makes life better at any age.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Teach our children that computers have their uses, but cannot replace the feeling that comes from physical mastery.

No surprises here. As a public school educator in the United States I have seen the results of the increased computer usage among youth. Although I will admit to having dreams about being alone in a room full of computers with a sledge hammer, I am not suggesting that computers are inherently bad. They have made all of our lives more productive and most of us in the world today would have trouble doing what we do without them. The problem is not technology, but our attitude towards it. It should not make our lives "easier", but more productive. It is not ease that we should celebrate, but the ability to do more and do it faster. We need to teach our children, who are born into this "high tech" world, that they need to make time for physical challenges. We need to help them learn to control and use technology vs. letting it control them. This begins, as the article states, by not using technology as a "babysitter". Make time to enjoy physical activity with your children and it will become part of them.

Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.

Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.

While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.

In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a popular “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets and cellphones are gradually taking over.

“Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the Kaiser study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.

Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In preparing an honors thesis at the University of Rhode Island, Kristina E. Hatch asked children about their favorite video games. A fourth-grader cited “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” because “there’s zombies in it, and you get to kill them with guns and there’s violence … I like blood and violence.”

Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.

Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.

Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”

There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.

Lydia Valentin didn't master this by sitting in front of a computer screen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Indoor vs. Outdoor Exercise: Which Is More Productive?

Paul Anderson doing some lifting outdoors at the old Muscle Beach

I have always loved being outdoors. The article below supports what I have always believed, you get more out of exercising outdoors. Of course, as the article states, any exercise is better than none at all and even I will admit that there are some occasions when a stationary bike, stepper, or treadmill can be a real help. But in general, I would rather ride a real bike past some real scenery, run up a real hill, row a real boat, or push and pull a sled across a real field if at all possible. I much prefer that to gerbilizing inside of a sweaty box. Weight training outdoors is harder to accomplish, but I love to do that as much as I can. Luckily we have large, level concrete pad adjacent to our weight room which is outside and allows us to carry dumbells outside and once in awhile we even carry a barbell out for some work. I love the old "muscle beach" atmosphere. Although I never had the opportunity to actually train at that iconic place, I have tried to duplicate the experience when I could. At various times in my life I have done all of my training outdoors. My first teaching job was at the Alamo Navajo School in New Mexico. (New Mexico and Arizona have great beaches, we just lack an ocean) Our school was a series of portable buildings and we lived in a trailer. I kept some weights underneath the trailer and lifted outdoors all year round. The winters were short, but still very cold. I would lift in layers of clothes and wearing gloves. In the Summer it was really hot so I lifted in shorts and shoes only. I highly recommend getting outdoors as often as your circumstances permit. Take advantage of the Summer season (at least here in the Northern hemisphere) and get outdoors for some of your workouts.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Exercise: Which Is More Productive?
by Alina Gonzalez;
The Tampa Tribune (Florida)

People tend to lean heavily on the gym when it comes to exercise, even in places where summer is endless. The gym is just an easy concept: You go, the machines are right there, you get the workout done, and you leave.

But maybe that's the point/problem. Is it better for your body, health, and fitness goals to work out outdoors, where terrain varies and nothing is as smooth as the treadmill belt or class floor?

It depends on so many factors, but the short answer is yes: Science says it is, in fact, better to exercise outdoors.

There are variations depending on the workout you're doing. Take running, for example. In a study that looked at runners who covered the same distance on a treadmill and outdoors, the group that ran inside expended less energy than the outside group. This is because of terrain changes and wind velocity, which you don't face in the controlled climate of a gym. You get more bang for your buck running 3 miles outside than running 3 miles inside.

Your body has to work harder to do so, and thus you burn more calories. Running inside also doesn't enable you to run downhill, a movement that flexes and engages different muscles. The same has been shown for biking, with regard to wind resistance outside, downhill movements and turning.

There's another consideration that makes exercising outside more strenuous, whether you're running, biking or hiking: temperature. In most gyms, unless you're taking a hot yoga class, the A/C will be blasting to keep you cool and comfortable. More pleasant? Yes. But does it mean you're expending less energy (aka calories) and sweating less than you would if you were doing the same activity in the great outdoors? Also yes.

Additionally, a systematic study on the effects of physical activity outside in a natural environment versus indoors showed that among people doing the same activity, the outdoor exercisers showed greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement; decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression; and increased energy afterward. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date - i.e., they were more motivated to work out again.

All that said, working outside has its limitations. From inclement weather to safety concerns, it's not always an option. And although working out among trees, fresh air and the sun offers more beautiful and stimulating surroundings than the walls of a gym, the gym provides variety in the form of options, from the weight machines to Zumba or boxing.

The bottom line? Switch up your workout and get outside as much as you can for its physical and mental health benefits, but don't sweat it (pun intended) if the gym is a more practical choice for you. Doing any workout is amazing for your body and health.

July 4, 2015
Franco Columbu hanging out with Arnold and another unidentified fitness enthusiast at the old Muscle Beach.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Benefits of Exercise Go Way Beyond the Muscles

Don't just see yourself as great, learn and do what it takes!

Below is yet another article stating the obvious to us with the Warrior spirit. Exercise (movement) needs to be an integral component of our lifestyle. Resistance training is also vital and not just a nice thing to do if one has time. As this article points out, most "programs" designed to promote increased fitness fail miserably from the start. Most Americans are looking for a pill rather than a significant life change, and their just ain't such a thing. As this article points out, view a health display then step on an escalator.
It reminds me of a parable I use in my coaching when I see a lack of understanding of the meaning and application of practice drills.
A groups of turkeys saw their cousins, the Eagles, soaring high in the sky. They also wanted to learn to soar so they approached the Eagles and asked them if they could teach them how to fly like that. The next day they reported to the Eagles and the spent the day teaching them the mechanics of flying. They taught them how to spread their wings and catch the wind, when to flap, and how to ride the currents. The turkeys enjoyed the practice and their new skills. When the day was over, they all walked home.
I have coached way too many turkeys in my day. Kids who can do a turn drill in the ring, but when they do a full throw, quit turning their foot. Or who can execute a pretty good straight pull, but then continue to loop the bar when they do a full lift.
Moral of the story? Don't be a turkey. Pay attention and use the skills and information that you practice and study.

The Benefits of Exercise Go Way Beyond the Muscles
WebMD Health News

By Brenda Goodman, MA

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

June 22, 2015 -- Every year, John Thyfault snaps the same photo, and it makes him a little sad.

Thyfault, PhD, is an associate professor at Kansas University Medical Center, where he studies the health effects of exercise. Each year, he travels to the American Diabetes Association’s annual scientific sessions. The meeting attracts roughly 18,000 people and is held in massive convention centers that span the distances of several football fields, their floors connected by long staircases and humming escalators.

Conference organizers pick a prominent set of stairs and lay down a decal with the logo for their “Stop Diabetes” campaign -- a hand with a drop of blood on the fingertip. It’s meant to remind attendees to take the stairs instead of riding the escalator.

Each time they put the sign up, Thyfault stands at the foot of the stairs and whips out his smartphone. The stairs are nearly empty, but the escalator is packed. To him, it’s a picture worth a thousand pills.

“Exercise and physical activity is not something that you just do extra in your life to get extra healthy. Rather, it’s something that’s absolutely necessary for normal function,” he says.

Thyfault hopes to make more people aware that exercise benefits the body in ways that go far beyond muscle tissue and burning fat.

“We were meant to exercise quite a bit every day to survive, and now we’ve taken it away, and we’re actually causing dysfunction,” he says.

Exercise and Blood Sugar
He’s passionate about exercise because his research has shown again and again how critical it is to health. He says when he’s tried to cause disease, for example, by feeding rats or mice high-fat diets, he can’t do it as long as the animals are exercising.

“Inactivity is the foundational piece that has to be there for these diseases to develop,” he says.

In one experiment, for example, he took healthy people who were walking at least 10,000 steps a day and asked them to walk less -- around 5,000 steps a day, about as much exercise as the average American gets.

Thyfault quickly saw changes in how well their blood vessels worked and how well they could control their blood sugar after meals. The study participants looked like they were on their way to getting type 2 diabetes.

“What we think is that if that level of activity continues for a prolonged period of time, disease develops,” he says.

In fact, a long-running study sponsored by the government, called the Diabetes Prevention Program, tested this. It split more than 3,000 overweight adults with prediabetes into three groups. The first group got a lot of help to eat better and exercise more, with a goal of 150 minutes a week. The second group took the drug metformin, which helps the body respond better to the hormone insulin. The third group took placebo pills.

Exercise and a healthy diet worked better than the pill. After 4 years, compared to the placebo group, the people who ate better and exercised cut their risk of getting diabetes by about twice as much as the group taking medication -- a 58% reduced risk of getting diabetes compared to 31% in the medication group.

Exercise and Fat
Laurie J. Goodyear, PhD, is a senior investigator at Joslin Diabetes Center and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She is studying the effect of exercise on fat, specifically the layer of white fat that sits just under the skin.

Most people know that exercise burns fat. It’s the reason most people hit the treadmill in the first place.

But fat isn’t just a place we park extra calories. “The tissue has a lot of other properties,” she says.

“Exercise really makes fat healthier and helps it burn more energy.”

Specifically, she says, exercise shrinks the size of individual fat cells, and the cells develop more energy-producing parts called mitochondria.

That means that fat tissue is burning more calories, even at rest, Goodyear says.

In one experiment, she took white fat from exercise-trained mice and transplanted it into inactive mice. Nine days later, those mice had better blood sugar control and their bodies responded better to insulin than mice that got fat from other inactive mice. What’s more, transplanted fat from exercised mice completely reversed the negative effects of eating a high-fat diet.

“What we’ve realized is that fat isn’t simply storage,” she says. “We see about 4,000 genes in fat tissue change with exercise. It’s not just that fat cells get smaller.”

Exercise, Blood Vessels, and the Brain
Exercise also affects the lining of blood vessels, a layer of tissue called the endothelium that’s just a single cell thick. When this layer of tissue is damaged, it’s easier for dangerous blood clots to form.

Michael D Brown, PhD, a professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has discovered that when the body is inactive, the cells in the endothelium get sluggish and don’t sit in the vessel wall properly. But exercise, which causes blood to flow more swiftly and under greater pressure, realigns the cells.

About 12 hours after a single bout of exercise, the cells have repositioned themselves to be in line with the flow of blood. This helps blood vessels work better, keeping them open and elastic, rather than stiff, narrow, and clogged.

In the brain, recent studies have shown that physical activity makes the brain more connected by bulking up the white matter, the wiring that transmits signals between nerve cells. And older adults who exercise have more gray matter in areas of the brain responsible for self-control, memory, and decision making.

Exercise also beats medication for some ailments. In head-to-head tests, it works as well or better than pills for depression. In other conditions, like Alzheimer’s and arthritis, it’s been shown to delay disability.

It’s enough to convince anyone to lace up. Or at least it should be.

Yet that message seems to be falling on deaf ears. This year’s survey by the Physical Activity Council found that 28% of Americans say they are totally inactive. It’s the highest level of physical inactivity measured by the survey since 2007.

Thyfault takes this personally. His 42-year-old father died of a heart attack when Thyfault was just 3. He has two young sons of his own, and he doesn’t want to leave them prematurely.

To keep himself healthy, he tracks his own steps every day.

“I’m kind of obsessive about it,” he says.

If you're ready to get going but not sure where to start, Thyfault recommends three levels of fitness.

He says level one is just to walk and keep track of your steps. You can do this with a trendy fitness tracker, but even an inexpensive pedometer or a smartphone app will do the trick. Your goal should be at least 8,000 steps a day.

Once you’re hitting that goal on a regular basis, level two is to do three to five defined exercise sessions each week, with a goal of 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic activity -- like running or pedaling on an elliptical -- each time.

Level three is to add a couple of days of resistance training each week.

Goodyear agrees and says getting more exercise will make a difference you can feel.

“I always feel that if I’m consistently exercising I have more energy. People sleep better when they exercise routinely, and then your body just becomes more efficient,” she says.

SOURCES:John Thyfault, PhD, associate professor at Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, KS.Michael D Brown, PhD, professor of kinesiology and nutrition, the University of Illinois at Chicago.Laurie J. Goodyear, PhD, senior investigator, Joslin Diabetes Center; associate professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston.American Diabetes Association, 75th Scientific Sessions, Boston.

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Two Things I Learnt About Strength Training

I like simple principles. It is my opinion that the simpler something is, the better it is, especially when it comes to training. In this article, Josh Bryant, an accomplished strength athlete, gives us two simple components of effective training. I heartily concur.

Strong men throughout history have struck a chord of admiration amongst men and desire in the hearts of women.

For millenniums, human beings have been fascinated by the acquisition and display of strength!

To add icing to the cake, strength is the basis for all athletic endeavors and human movement.  If the goal is surviving or thriving, strength is at the nucleus.

Because strength so important, it behooves me how few people understand how to appropriately train for strength.

Having been one of the strongest in the world and currently training a number of the strongest men in the world, across multiple disciplines, I want to share with you two things I have learned about strength.

Train More Sets & Less Reps

Unless you train in a judgment-free zone at Planet Fitness, your strength will be judged by your one-repetition max (1 RM).

Endless miles of road work won’t get you ready for the 100-meter dash; similarly, endless repetitions of an exercise won’t optimally prepare you for a 1 RM.

To get strong for one rep, in training, you need more first reps; so instead of thinking three sets of eight reps, think of eight sets of three reps. This equates to the exact same amount of volume, but you get over three times as many first repetitions, the one you’re strongest on.


More sets equal more first reps and more practice to build and display the skill of strength. Furthermore, laboratory settings have demonstrated this type of training allows for greater force and power production.

Make sure to explode maximally on each rep and set and watch
strength gains sky rocket.

Warm-up Properly

Besides the flat earth society and a few fringe HIT zealots and Arthur Jones hold overs, folks in the iron game acknowledge the fact that higher volume protocols catalyze greater gains in size and strength.

One of the best ways to increase training volume without adding time on to your workout is with warm-up sets.  Instead of riding the bike for 15 minutes and then doing a 15-minute dynamic warm-up, do more warm-up sets.


This is far from a pre-exhaust technique, it’s an activation technique.  Strength is a skill, warming up with lighter weights with proper form will help build that skill. Recent studies have confirmed what seasoned iron game veterans have known for years, the best warm-up is the actual exercise with submaximal loads.

If your specific goal is to get stronger, nothing beats the specificity of warming-up with the exercise you are training to get stronger in.

Josh Bryant

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Poor fitness is a bigger threat to child health than obesity

Get kids lifting!

Great article on the real issues of children's health. This is from the U.K. but I see the same things here in the U.S. It makes a great point that the BMI and weight measurements by themselves are not accurate. There is no way around the fact that activity levels have the biggest impact. In order to be truly "fit" one has to move. Move a lot and move often. Our current culture of sitting is every bit as, if not more, dangerous than poor diets. Get those children moving and keep them moving throughout their lives and it will make a huge difference.

The least fit ten-year-old English child from a class of 30 in 1998 would be one of the five fittest children in the same class tested today. These are the worrying findings of a new piece of research that has crystallised the need to focus on a sharp decline in fitness levels, not obesity, when it comes to improving children’s health.

Back in 2009, we reported an 8% decline in fitness of ten-year-old children from the borough of Chelmsford, Essex. At the time this was twice the global rate of fitness decline. The story got a lot of media attention and then chief medical officer Liam Donaldson proposed the introduction of fitness assessments to monitor children’s health. But unfortunately he resigned his post soon after and following a change in government, nothing happened and all went quiet. Until now.

This year, the trade body UK Active published its Generation Inactive report which contains five recommendations to improve children’s health through physical activity. One of these is a repeated call to use fitness measurements to follow trends in physical activity, evaluate trials and tell us more about our children’s health.

The next day our follow-up to the 2009 study was published. By testing another 300 ten-year-olds six years later, we confirmed two things. First, there simply is no obesity epidemic – at least not in the schools we visited. Less than 5% of pupils were obese and the average body mass index (BMI) was below 1998 values. This might have been a good news story if BMI was all we had measured; but our fitness test results told a different story.

Thinner, but less puff

A drop in BMI tells us only that the children are “thinner” but tells us nothing about what caused this change. BMI could be lower due to decreased energy intake (food), due to increases in energy expenditure (exercise), or both. One thing we do know is that children with a lower BMI usually do better on the 20m shuttle run used to test their fitness in this experiment because being lighter makes it easier to run and turn. Based on their BMI, we predicted that our 2014 sample would out-perform the relatively heavier children we had measured six years ago.

Yet despite a lower BMI, the 2014 children still couldn’t run as fast as their classmates from 2008. The overall rate of decline was 0.95% per year; faster than the 0.8% per year decline from 1998-2008.

Fitness has been declining even faster over the past six years than in the decade before. Girl’s fitness fell at twice the global average but our data showed boys' fitness is declining three times faster in England than it is in the rest of the world.
Analysing pupils’ actual test performance (how many shuttles they run) shows just how big the fall in fitness from 1998 to 2014 is. In 1998, the average boy ran 60 shuttles (1.2 km) before stopping; in 2014, they ran only 33 (660 m). To put this in context, in 1998 the average boy could run a mile in 7 minutes 50 seconds but it would take boys today 9 minutes and 40 seconds. That’s nearly two minutes slower. Girls are also 1 minute 40 seconds slower than in 1998, and it would now take the average girl over ten minutes to cover a mile.

Our fitness data also told us why the BMI had gone down. By process of elimination, it could not be that children were expending more energy by being more active as this would have improved, or at least maintained their cardiovascular fitness. Instead, combining our BMI and fitness findings told us that children are eating less and doing less exercise.

Low activity levels won’t come as a surprise: national surveys repeatedly show an inactivity pandemic; however, the idea that children are eating less might. We purchase around 30% fewer calories today than 20 years ago and there is evidence we’ve been eating less and less since the 1970s. Given the current hysteria over sugar it’s worth mentioning that as well as eating less, the percentage of calories children get from sugar has also declined since the 1990s

BMI isn’t everything

English childhood obesity figures reported in the press mostly originate from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). The way these figures are reported artificially inflates the obesity problem for two reasons. First, the NCMP itself uses a rather out-dated definition of obesity (which is not even allowed in some scientific journals). Second, headline figures usually combine “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories. Overweight is not a health problem, there is growing evidence that adults with a BMI classed as overweight are the most healthy.

Our study has shown that this continued reliance on BMI as the lone measurement of child health is not working. Yet again, we find ourselves calling for a rethink on how we monitor children’s health.

We agree with UK Active that there is an acute need to increase the physical activity levels of young people. Yet activity itself is notoriously difficult to measure. Fitness is the single most important indicator of someone’s health and can be measured safely and objectively in the general population. Perhaps most importantly, and unlike weight or BMI, fitness is very sensitive to changes in physical activity behaviour. You may know (or be) someone who has found it hard to lose weight, but have you ever met anyone who didn’t get any fitter when they started exercising?

The UK spent just nearly £9 billion on hosting the 2012 Olympics hoping to “inspire a generation” but we have no idea if this has had any effect on children’s health or fitness. The government is currently investing £150m annually through the primary school PE and sport premium but again, no one is evaluating whether this is going to have any impact on children’s health and fitness.

Six years since it was first proposed, the need to systematically assess children’s health-related fitness seems greater than ever. The need to drastically increase children’s physical activity levels is even more pressing but it is only through measurement and evaluation that we can see what works. UK Active has put it better than I ever could:

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

They'll love it!