July 16, 2009

Why contact lenses rather than glasses: eyeball Range of Motion and related eye care

A lot of geeks wear glasses.

If you wear glasses, you may want to think about moving over to contact lenses.


The muscles of the eye, focal length, and long term condition. Here's a few tips on how/why to think about each of these issues.

Continue reading "Why contact lenses rather than glasses: eyeball Range of Motion and related eye care" »

May 28, 2009

The Complete 1 Move, Once a Day, One Week Workout

If you have been toying with the idea of working out but don't know how to get started - here's a simple plan.

For one week, do one push up, once a day.

That's it.

If you can't do a full push up from the ground, no worries, do one from your knees.

If that's too much for you today, that's ok, too. Lean stand arms length away from a wall, and do a push up against the wall.

Again, that's it: one push up, once a day, one week.
WHen you finish week one, and have clocked one pushup a day, and only one, for one whole week, and want an idea for week two, shout.
Good Luck!
(Thanks to zhealth's (what's zhealth?) Eric Cobb for this Week 1 workout plan)

November 23, 2008

Rest Time as Key to Training Success

If you're doing resistance training - either with weights, bands or bodyweight (like pullups or push ups) - the rest time you take between sets of repetitions is just as critical as the weight and reps that you choose, and will have a significant impact on your success. Indeed, number of reps in a set, the weight of a set, the total number of sets, and the amount of rest taken between these sets are all related in terms of the kind of strength one's trying to develop.

I used to get impatient waiting around after a set - someone saying "you have to wait 30-90secs" just irritated me, and i'd just go when i felt ready. It's good to trust yourself, but it's also good to learn WHY that wait - and just that wait (waiting too long can also be an issue) is critical for the type of strength you're developing.

What kinds of strength are there, you may ask? Generally, there are several phases

Continue reading "Rest Time as Key to Training Success" »

November 19, 2008

Training Tip: Strong Side First

Fast training tip: when doing exercises with weights - or body weight exercises - working one side and then the other, work your STRONG side first.

This advice may seem counter-intuitive: shouldn't we work our weaker side first so we don't do more reps on our strong side that we can do on the weak side?

Here's a couple things: appropriate reps/weights/sets for goal and neurological patterning

Reps: except for very rare occasions*, work with a weight where you *can* do the same number of reps on both sides. granted one side may be more of a challenge than the other, but if there's that big a discrepency with a given weight, pull back and do more work with a weight both sides can manage till you get better parity.
*(for those who have heard about "going to failure" that's what we're talking about and unless you're body building, you can set that aside you will not be going there)

neurological training: the main thing about starting with the stronger side is that it kinda teaches the weaker side the proper way to do the move. Form is everything. According to both Gray Cook in his FMS training, and Eric Cobb in his ZHealth work, there's a neurological patterning that happens in the body, and happens very quickly. The stronger side is usually also the side that is more proficient at a move. Doing great reps sets the pattern for the body.

Neurological effect is another reason to quit before losing form, and it's another reason for picking an appropriate range of reps - doing only perfect reps to do in a set, and to quit as soon as form starts to slide. Once form starts to go, according to Cook and Cobb, we're teaching our bodies to do poor form.

A great approach to getting in good work, and gating rep patterns to maintain good form while building strength and not overreaching is Pavel's ladders (described in detail in Enter the Kettlebell). The ETK ladders approach is a great way to build up volume for strength and endurance, while ensuring perfect rep, and quitting way before form starts to slide. In the ladder concept, you might do one rep on your strong side, then one rep on your left side. Then a break. Then two reps on the strong then two on the weak, break, then three/three and so on, up to five. Pavel has a beautiful system of mixing up intensity and developing progress throughout a week: starting out may be three ladders of three, building up to five ladders of three, then moving up to four steps on the ladder for three ladders, etc. You can do a hard, med and light day this way by varying the number of ladders, too.

It's this pattern alone that makes Enter the Kettlebell (ETK review)a great training program: increase volume progressively, gradually, varying rest and ladder amounts. With a max of five reps, with a doable weight, that's avoiding failure, and keeping great form.

The main take away from this post: in exercises that work one side at a time, start with your strong side - let your reps be gated by your weaker side, but start with your strong side, using perfect form to teach your body how to execute well consistently.

November 12, 2008

When you work out, stand up! or lie down - just don't sit

Just a quickie note for folks who work out at the gym and tend to head for the machines rather than free weights when doing resistance training.

Skip the machines, find a qualified trainer and learn how to use free weights, and when you use those free weights, don't sit down; stand up or get prone.

There are a few reasons for this free weight advice:

  • issues around sitting,
  • proprioception,
  • range of motion
  • compound and closed kinetic chain movements

Continue reading "When you work out, stand up! or lie down - just don't sit" »

August 24, 2008

Three Elegant Moves for Full Body Work: Turkish Get Up, Front Squat, Pull Up

/kidsClubs.jpgSome folks mistake strength for massive muscles, or take strength to be expressed as feats of strength, like tearing a phone book in half, or throwing a stone half way across a football field. But strength is our ability to contract our muscles to do work: to hold a pencil; to sit up; to roll over in bed. All of these movements represent the coordinated actions of muscles working together to support us moving against gravity in physical space.

While part of building strength is about building new muscle, Interestingly, a significant component of strength is about enhancing recruitment of muscle fibers to support a particular action. Strength is as much about building muscle fiber as it is about training these fibers neurologically to work together better.

Some exercises are particularly good at developing this kind of muscular development and coordination for strength. These are the Turkish Get Up , the Front Squat, the Pull Up. Each of these can be done either with added weight or "naked" - as bodyweight- only exercises.

Each of these moves has particular patterns of strength and movement it will challenge

Continue reading "Three Elegant Moves for Full Body Work: Turkish Get Up, Front Squat, Pull Up" »

July 3, 2008

Consider the Context as well as the Source: Caffeine, Carbs and Recovery

A day ago, new research was reported that said "Post-exercise Caffeine Helps Muscles Refuel" - from ScienceDaily (July 2, 2008)

Here's a summary of the findings:

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion

The researchers found the following:

* one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only

* four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

* throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin

* several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and plasma insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B (also called Akt), which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Now, as we've talked about before, workouts - heavy resistance, intense intervals, loooong (90min+ ) runs, deplete that fuel, the muscle glycogen, from the muscles. So getting that fuel back into the muscles effectively is a good an important thing. Insulin is a hormone that plays an important role in this work. So caffeine sounds like it could be a Good Thing.

Well, there are issues: the study used a big dose of caffeine and researchers say their next step is to check out smaller increments:

However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitteriness, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.
Hawley pointed out that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals. Indeed, while several of the athletes in the study said they had a difficult time sleeping the night after the trial in which they ingested caffeine (8 mg per kilogram of body weight, the equivalent of drinking 5-6 cups of strong coffee), several others fell asleep during the recovery period and reported no adverse effects.

The nutrition/recovery guru Dr. John Berardi posted this article on the Precision Nutrition Forum yesterday, so i asked him, given the above research, what should one be recommending to their athletes? and this is where context comes in. Here's JMB's reply:

Carbs + protein increase glycogen recovery by about 40% over 6 hours (vs carbs alone). So I'd say that the high dose caffeine isn't necessary. Just do carbs+protein.

Hence context: while one thing sounds like it's really great (despite the side effects), there may well be other strategies that are near as effective, based on good nutrition, without the side effects. A similar kind of issue has come up with different types of creatine: take this type rather than that because it digests faster (and costs more). Sounds good, right? but actually one takes creatine AFTER a workout for the NEXT workout, so rapid digestion really doesn't matter. As the ING commercials in Canada used to say "so save your money."

And if you want good recovery after an intense workout, take a protein/carb mix. For workouts in the gym that's usually 2:1(carbs/protein) (ref); for long endurance work that's usually 4:1 (ref).

May 28, 2008

The Bum as the Path to Svelt-ness & a Fast Metabolism (Part 1)

It's actually quite simple:

want to lose weight? work your bum

want to get strong? work your bum

want to become a more powerful athlete? work your bum

leap tall buildings in a single bound? work your bum.

buutt.jpgWhy this focus on the posterior? The bum, and this may be a surprise, is the biggest muscle in the body. It's called gluteus MAXIMUS for a reason. There are a bunch of other bits in the bum, collectively referred to as "the glutes" - the gluteus medius and minimus are there too. Suffice it to say, that this is the biggest muscle group in the body, and thus can produce tremendous power. You may remember the definition of power from your early physics classes as work/time We won't go into the nice points here, but suffice it to say it's about moving an object with some omf over a given distance in a given time. For our purposes, strong butt means higher likelihood of generating more power.

The butt is not only strong just by itself, but it's also well connected with some other powerful muscle groups: the hamstrings (back of the legs) and the quads (front of the legs) and the lower back, well ok, and the abs - and other stuff too through the entire "posterior chain." For our purposes, the key deal is when we move that major muscle group, the butt, other big muscles, like the upper legs, come into play. When we move the butt right, all those other "core" muscles we keep hearing so much about come into play too.

So what, you may ask? What's the big deal in moving all these muscles?

In the first of this two part series on the magnificent glutes, i'm going to talk about WHY moving the butt is such a powerful aid to fat loss in particular (a nice side effect is increased strength, but right now, fat loss).

Continue reading "The Bum as the Path to Svelt-ness & a Fast Metabolism (Part 1)" »

November 20, 2007

Intervals - options for fitness and performance

Recently i was asked "how do you do intervals"? as in, with what piece of equipment. This question assumes that doing intervals is a good thing to do - we've touched on this before. It doesn't matter what your sport or activity is: interval training, or timed piece of intense work followed by a time piece of recovery, is a good supplement to any activity program, whether you go for walks in the park, play squash or weight train.

Continue reading "Intervals - options for fitness and performance" »

November 18, 2007

Goals and Measures

If you say to yourself "I want to lose weight" or "i want to get strong arms" or "i want to bulk up" - that's great to have a desire. If that expression is not followed by a plan - a real, stick to it plan - that desire will not materialize. It's that simple.

Part of the process of getting fit/healthy is understanding clearly where we are now and where we want to go so we can build a path to get there. Two parts of this process are pretty simple: one is to have a clear goal, the other is to have clear ways to measure progress.

Sounds obvious, right? Well very few people i've spoken with about health/fitness actually have either a clear achievable health goal or a set of measures to know if they're making real progress. This post talks about a few ways to approach these basic parts of a health path.

Continue reading "Goals and Measures" »

Free Weights vs Machines

Sagital, transverse, frontal.

These are the formal names for the planes of motion that the body moves through when engaging in free motion. Such motion is natural. Such movements engage multiple parts of the body for the action itself and to support the action.

The more muscles involved, the larger the muscles involved, the more opportunity for fuel/fat burning. So this post is a wee meditation on why you might want to consider moving from that weight stack over to the squat rack; away from the pec deck and over to the dumbbells.

Continue reading "Free Weights vs Machines" »

A call to WOMEN (and men) who want to get trim: Lift HEAVY. Go ahead, pick something up!

This post is about going to the gym where folks either treadmill for awhile and then go do some sets on some weight machines or just use the machines or just use the cardio:

If you want to get fit / lose weight, skip the treadmill, skip the machines and
Think HEAVY; think BIG and think LESS is MORE.

if you've been a treadmill/elliptical/stair climber person in the gym, either now or in the past, ask yourself this: are you happy with the results?
Do you look in the mirror and say gee whiz i look great and feel great?

If you said "yes" - skip the rest of this post. Otherwise, hope you'll keep reading.

Continue reading "A call to WOMEN (and men) who want to get trim: Lift HEAVY. Go ahead, pick something up!" »

Intervals: taking the treadmill or elliptical or walk in the park to the next level

if you love your stationary bike or elliptical, here's how to make it work for you to have a MUCH improved effect not only while you're on the thing but once you get off it - yup, it will keep burning calories after you stop pedaling or stepping or running IF you follow a simple protocol.

The protocol is called "intervals"

Intervals are designed so that you balance hard effort with recovery for repetitions. For instance, 60secs of hard effort balanced with 30 seconds of lighter "recovery" effort.

Continue reading "Intervals: taking the treadmill or elliptical or walk in the park to the next level" »

More Fat Burning More of the Time

Here's a quick idea for getting more fat burning:

if you usually spend an hour doing cardio, think about finding a way to split your workout in half so you do 30 mins at one time of day and 30 mins at the other.

Why? Double recovery!

Continue reading "More Fat Burning More of the Time" »