BodyWorks: Just Get Fit.

Why do anabolics appear to target more effectively the shoulders and traps?

At first blush, the assumption seems kind of preposterous: Do they? Why should steroids be more effective in these anatomical areas?

The available research literature says this assumption has a lot of traction and suggests that the answer lies in the surprising (at least to me) conclusion that the use of anabolic steroids appears to cause up-regulation at these sites more reliably than it does in other muscles like the biceps, triceps or vastus laterals.

It looks as if these chemicals do this trick by positively modulating the numbers of myonuclei in the muscle cells of the neck and traps, much more so than seen in the other muscle groups. In other words, there seems to be either 1) more receptor sites in these areas, 2) the targeted receptor sites possess an increased sensitivity or 3) perhaps it is a combination of both these characteristics affecting up-regulation.

The reason for this odd distribution and peculiar state of things has yet to be elucidated.

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What fraction of body mass do you actually lift when doing a normal push-up?

I won’t answer your question precisely, but as long as you’re satisfied with a “close enough”, we’re good to go.

Stay with me while I will attempt to reach back through the mist & vast spaces of time and rust…back to a very questionable command of a little high school trigonometry and Newtonian mechanics, nearly forgotten (unsure whether I ever learned it properly in the first place). Specifically Newton’s 2nd Law (Dear Mrs. Beeson, I do regret deeply all those wasted opportunities spent ditching your high school Latin & Physics classes. Yep, I’m paying dearly for the hard-learned lessons of my youthful crassness then, with my dumbness in dotage now).

I am also making a decision to spare myself the embarrassment and everyone else here the pain of calculation and proof.

So, assuming all things being equal (which they, in the real world, never are) and  we are likely to be doing a standard push-up at an even pace (1–2 count-up, 1–2 count-down) similar to the illustration above, unmodified in any other way: about 56% of total body mass is lifted by your upper body muscles. This will leave the remaining 44% of your body mass landing on or around your feet and toes.

Ok? Well, let’s now assume that you’re a strapping 100 kg. lad (or lass).

At this body mass you’d be doing roughly the equivalent of 56 kg bench press, along with a reasonable amount of associated involved core muscular work required to preserve good form thrown in as a bonus.

NOTE

If you are also the distrusting DIY type, which I recommend, and want to check this, get yourself a scale and do your push up with that. You don’t even have to do the push part, just hold the up and set your scale down on a level floor, position yourself in the standard pushup position, with your hands on the scale.

Then, just read the scale.

Why Squats Are A Desert Island Exercise: A Little Story.

There’s a powerful aphorism, I think attributed to Musashi, the great Japanese swordsman and mystic, for us gaijins it translates as something like:

Through one thing, know 10,000 things.

I remember leaving high school and starting out my bodybuilding career at the Santa Monica YMCA in the mid-1970s when it was all about “isolation” exercises. That was the catch-phrase and the way everybody at the “Y” trained back then. Also, at the time the famous (and equally infamously wrong) Food Pyramid was the accepted norm. But, most people go with what most people know, and unfortunately, I was no exception.

Not long after Gold’s relocated from its iconic Venice location on Lincoln Blvd. to 2nd Street in Santa Monica, I also made my move. Everyone left back at the old “Y” thought I was a very brave fellow, indeed. This Gold’s place seemed to make average people a little jittery. No one could work up enough nerve to go along with me into the scary Muscle-Never-Never-Land because, presumably, nobody normal ever returned from this strange place. It was only a few blocks away, but it might as well have been Alpha Centauri.

Anyway, for me it was necessary to move on, avoid becoming stagnant and remaining a puny little weakling. If I wanted to be a big dog, I guessed, then I’d just have to go where the big dogs played.

At the time, all the machines at Gold’s had been made by the original owner, Joe Gold. Compared to the enormous megalopolis that it is now, the gym was tiny. I think at the time, only 1400 or 1500 square feet. The equipment weren’t pretty but man, it were sturdy and built to last.

There were benches, there were weights and lots of them, there were cable flies, there was a vertical leg press, there was some shit-I-didn’t-evenknow-what-it-was and there were squat racks. Two of them.I remember running into a couple of bodybuilders, guys sort of famous at the time, Bill Grant and Ken Waller, who took me under their wings and gave me some advice. Their advice was old school, because way back then, in the Golden Age of the Dinosaurs, Old Skool was all there was.

The advice offered was minimal and crystal clear and went something like this:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Deadlift
  3. Squats, squats…and more squats.

The simplicity was Zen-like, it appealed to me.

Because at the time I recognized this advice for what it was, the intrinsic value that it held for me and the invitation that it represented. And what it represented was boundaries and it was discipline. It was the straight & it was the narrow. It allowed me the freedom from choice, presenting me with just one.

It was, you see, some beautiful advice.

The service it performed was to narrow my choice of options. It allowed me to stop dissipating my time and energy on frivolous isolation exercises that were of little use to me then, that I was not yet ready to benefit from. It made me see things a little more clearly, as they were.

Sometimes less is more. Much, much more.

Sometimes the only way to finish a painting and get it done is to put a frame on it and call it done.

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Today, it’s a fine day on the cerulean sea beneath an azure sky and you are embarked on your dream cruise to a faraway desert island. The ship hits a rock. You are going down and you’re going down fast. On the mad dash to the lifeboats, you only have time to grab one exercise.

Quick! which one do you take?

The Squat!

It is your ultimate Desert Island Exercise.

Which Training Schedule is Best: Whole Body, Split-Routine or Single-Body-Part?

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Base your training on the right foundation.

The right answer to your question will probably depend on how long you’ve been training and what stage of development you’re at.

In the early stages of your development (anywhere from 0–3 years training experience) it’s a good strategy to incorporate large, multi-joint exercises to stimulate overall growth and build a foundation for future refinement and detail.

With increased experience and fitness comes an uptick in your ability to generate and handle intense training and the self-knowledge required to estimate the recovery time and procedures required to ensure maximum growth with less risk of overtraining and injury.

When you’ve built your base foundation, gained experience, confidence & competence, sharpened your neuromuscular conditioning, endurance, stamina and power is the time to focus on the mindset and proper technical aspects needed to maximise the potential gains offered by singling out body parts for the intense training dynamic required to get the most out of isolation training.

  • Beginner Trainer (0-1 years): Whole Body
  • Intermediate Trainer (1-3 years): Split-Routine
  • Advanced Trainer (4+ years): Isolation/Single-Body-Part

 

What Exactly Is a Personal Trainer Supposed To Do For Me?

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Is it really necessary for me to hire a personal trainer, or can I do it some other way?

The answer depends on your current level of fitness, what your purpose in hiring one is and on what the quality of trainer that you’re going to employ is likely to be. As is true with most purchases, quality is a matter of paramount importance for your consideration because quality will vary, considerably.

1. A competent trainer will safely guide you through new territory and show you things you might not have otherwise noticed.

2. A knowledgeable trainer will assist you to navigate through this unfamiliar landscape and help you get the difference between what is important and essential and what is junk and not.

3. A good trainer can concentrate your focus on a clear objective while supplying your workout experience with some of the structure and backbone that it might otherwise lack.

4. A trainer worth his (or her) salt can offer some assistance in transforming you into the architect of your own fitness destiny. He/she will do this by using whatever knowledge, tools and smarts in their possession to open up opportunities for growth, self-improvement and personal fulfilment.

5. Although employing a trainer will undoubtably be an investment in your health and well-being that will repay itself ten-fold, it will necessarily involve hard work, sweat equity and quite possibly some pain and humiliation. Because, if it was all sweetness and nice lights, you would have already done it on your own.

6. A really talented and experienced trainer will accomplish all of these tasks efficiently and seamlessly. He will not make simple things more complicated than they are, nor difficult things more difficult than they seem.

7. Along with these features, an honest trainer will explain why the whole process won’t be cheap or easy. If it is either, it probably lacks some or all of the previous mentioned service points. In addition, this honest and forthright trainer will no doubt make sure that you have a good estimate and budget for the job at hand. He or she will help you ascertain that you understand the associated costs in time, money and sweat equity involved. So do make certain that you get a quote or an estimate for the job that needs to be done to get you to where you want to go.

8. Paperwork. Yes, I suppose diplomas, certificates and degrees are mandatory nowadays. Do they guarantee a good trainer who is worth the money that you are spending on him or her? No, not necessarily. The documentation in question just shows that the owner of their paperwork has gone to the trouble to spend a certain amount of his or her resources to get a document. The value of that documentation and what it really represents as far as experience, competence and expertise awaits confirmation. So, take note of a prospective trainer’s documentation, as it is one of the keys that will open the door onto your choice of trainer, but realise that it is one of several other keys required to land the job,

Does the casual little list above cover the whole gamut of aptitudes and skills that a Personal Trainer should have in his toolbox? Not by a long shot, only a few of the basic ones that can be considered important and need to be in there.Related image

Now, should you ever find yourself in the market for a PT, my hope is that you might have a little better idea of just what you are shopping for.

And if you are a personal trainer, or thinking about giving the day job up to ‘feed your passion & follow the dream’ and become one, my advice to you is to make sure that you create and maintain a ruthlessly optimistic mindset, are capable of a large quantity of bending before you break, and you know how to give value for money. Otherwise, make sure that you hold on to your day job.

In a nutshell, that’s it.

 

Eat The Whole Thing.

When I look back on my competitive days and just contemplate the truckloads of egg yolks that have slithered down the over-clogged drains in my life, the mountains of tasteless namby-pamby egg-white omelettes that I’ve scarfed down in accordance with the belief systems of The Cult Of The Low Fat, you know I could cry, I could just cry.

The wasted opportunities! What the hell was I thinking?

Well, what the hell I was thinking at the time was the exact same thing that every other bodybuilder that I knew worth his salt thought at the time:

Fat is bad-> egg yolks are mostly fat-> egg yolks are bad-> get rid of the yolks!

We all believed, in those days, that we really were on the cutting edge of nutritional science and that all those ridiculous whole-egg eaters were just ignorant dumbbells who were going to get fat, stay fat and die fat.

We were the ignorant dumbbells.

It was us who carefully threw away money, we who carefully wasted resources and needlessly deprived our bodies of some useful nutrients.

Why?

Because of the enigmatic power of of those two popular verities: “what everyone knows”& “commonly known facts”.

You have to sometimes stop and ask yourself, how does everyone so effortlessly find these facts out and seem to know so much about them? Well, I suppose that then one day you just wake up to that all-grown-up-inescapable-fact curled up like a cat on your face thatwhat everybody knowsisn’t particularly significant or very true. A handy conclusion for future reference.

Here is a short list of some of the nutrients that are wasted when you lose the yolk of an egg:

  • yolk proteins – ovalbumin, ovotranserin, ovucoid, ovomucin, lysozyme, as well as ovoinhibitor, vomacroglobulin, ovomacroglobulin and avidin have antibacterial activity and antihypertensive, immunomodulating, antiadhesive (=interferes with a key step of inflammation), antitumor, and antiviral activities (to find out what does what, check out Table 2from Kovacs-Nolan. 2005);
  • immunoglobulins– specifically immunoglobolin Y from egg yolk which has been shown to have antibacterial activity, antiviral activity, can reduce the incidence of dental caries, is used in anti-venoms, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and serves as a carrier for anti-cancer drugs (Mine. 2004);
  • other components of the yolk – including phosvitin, sialyloligosaccharides and sialylglycopeptides, as well as the yolk lipids, lipoproteins, fatty acids, and cholesterol have scientifically proven antioxidant and antibacterial activities, as well (Kovacs-Nolan. 2005).

I guess the message is loud and clear:

Nature is usually an honest saleswoman. She offers you the whole package, bells and whistles included, in the price; the mindlessly toying around with her many bountiful things often fails to improve them.

At least, when it comes to eggs.

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I Want To Do Some Bodybuilding. Are Supplements Really Necessary?

Uh-uh.

A hammer isn’t absolutely necessary for driving in a nail, but it’s helpful.

You might also use a wrench, a nearby rock or mum’s prized rainbow begonia to do the job…with various utility outcomes.

But you know, a hammer sure does work a treat when it comes to a pesky tenpenny nail needing to be planted solidly into that piece of 2-by-4. It’s actually what it was designed for.

Therefore broad questions like yours have to be satisfied with broad and general answers like mine.

So, what are supplements really?

Basically, they’re tools, not the finished job. And like all tools, they can be handled with or without the tacit knowledge required to make them work to their full potential for a given task.

The problem seems to be ignorance. Just good, old fashioned ignorance & greed. Greedy vendors selling otherwise useful supplements in dishonest and bogus ways to a naive and gullible consumer base who won’t take the time or make the effort to try to match expectations to goals and learn how to choose or use the right tools properly.

And then, of course, that consumer base tends to get upset when they’ve spent their $5 and don’t magically transform into Arnold overnight…as promised by the guy with a fake tan and bleached white teeth. The general public become disillusioned & cynical. Which is understandable, but avoidable as long as they don’t expect the hammer that they buy to fly them VIP over to Disneyland.

So, to take the analogy a little further, although the right tools for a particular job don’t, in themselves, ensure a predictable outcome (genetics, experience, knowledge, skill and luck also have something to do with successful results) they increase the opportunities & chances for success.

In short, for the average Joe (or Jane) who is lucky enough to be under 30, doesn’t really push it in the gym or on the track, is not particularly interested in excelling in a chosen sport or activity and possesses reasonably gifted genetics along with rather random expectations…a well thought out diet should suffice.

For the rest of us, the ruthlessly-optimistic-steely-eyed-overachiever types who only occasionally have time to shop and meal prep? Those OCD individuals, who want more than anything, to get up on stage in their bathing suits and hold the rapt attention of thousands of people for more than 5 seconds?

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Match the choice of tool to the job that needs doing.

Training In The Gym: What Are The Most Neglected Muscles?

In physique competition parlance, back in The Day when there was a little more attention paid to the principles of aesthetics, symmetry & balance as well as mass and size, these were the incidentals.

Called incidental, with some tomgue-in-cheek irony aimed at the civilians, punters and hicks (anyone who wasn’t a real bodybuilder) who never really seemed to notice these muscles, let alone waste much time directly training them.

  • Calves: gastrocnemius, soleus & particularly the tibialis;
  • Abs (everyone knows a 6-pack, but how about the rest?): Obliques, intercostals & serratus;
  • Forearms: brachialradialis and all the other little pronators and supinators;
  • Neck: platysma & sternocleodmastoid muscles.

Which is Best: Flat or Incline Bench Press for Pec Development?

The answer is as OldSkool as it is short & sweet—Flat Bench Press.

As the angle of incline increases, less and less of the major pectoral muscles are used and increasingly the burden of the lift falls on other muscles like the triceps, delts, supraspinatus, trees, rhomboids, etc.

These two exercises are essentially different versions of each other. How different? This will really depend on the angle of the incline used.

But be advised, do not stop doing your incline movements, more excitement is in the air as, in effect, there are a whole spectrum of angles available to you for your lifting pleasure and bodybuilding profit here. Every time you change an angle of your press, you change the emphasis that the exercise will have on muscle groups. So the previous exercise that you did at 0 degrees (flat), at a 30 degree angle morphs into another exercise that puts stress on different muscles or different parts of the same muscle group.

Therefor, a simple pressing motion possesses the potential to produce a cornucopia of potential movements. Voila, it’s Christmas! Your gift? A Swiss Army knife and multitool for bodybuilders…a bench press that can be performed in a variety of ways at an unlimited number of angles.

You can also change the way the fundamental drivers interact by switching back and forth from barbell to dumbbell configurations.

Afterword:

The thing about weightlifting is that it tends to be a rather traditional and conservative activity. Participants usually do specific exercises in traditional ways that have been handed down to them randomly, by word-of-mouth: a father, uncle, friend, acquaintance or perhaps just some big guy in the gym. They don’t usually think about the physical engineering or kinesiological aspects involved in a movement, or even if it is an appropriate one and makes sense to do a particular exercise for a desired goal.

The take-home message here is that the lifting of weights is not a passive, hoary old tradition steeped in myth and superstition, it is a dynamic and fluid activity of aggression and imagination and should be carried out with this in mind.

My Friends tell me that, after a certain age, it is pointless to try to maintain muscle mass, let alone gain it. Fact or fiction?

Getting old ain’t for sissies. Bette Davis

Oh, really? What age would that be, then?

Here is the kind of question that strikes a deep, darkly dissonant cord somewhere deep within me, along with delivering a cold, sharp silver of terror to my heart.

It’s a myth.

A myth based on stubborn rationalisation and the inherent laziness of a large majority of the human population. It is just a garden variety pessimistic fatalism just mixed in with some good old fashioned pig ignorant stupidity. It’s bollocks on a stick.

Boy oh boy, are there boucoup people out there looking for sorry excuses to fail, or worse…easy reasons profound enough sounding so that they don’t even need to try. So, I suppose that not being 20 years old is as good as any of the others.

I want to use the question to address in a more general way the commonly held but mistaken belief in a supposed law which goes something like : when you reach a certain number of years all progress halts, growth stops and it becomes time to throw your hands up and call it quits as life is no longer worth the investment…it is so done with you. This broad comment will also, of course,  include the question of maintaining and increasing muscle mass as you age, because muscle is intimately involved in ameliorating possible age related functional decline.

I am not going to go about prettying up my reply with the scientific method. Do not expect me to furnish studies and proofs of research here.

My point of view is grounded in the simple experiences of a long and eventful life where vast quantities of iron have been pumped and many physical injuries overcome. I have soon gotten past the pathetic emotion of feeling sorry for myself at the unfairness of it all, of the shocking fact of recently hitting 60 (I’ve been bodybuilding pretty much nonstop since 18). Afterwards, I took close inventory of the state of my physical characteristics, attributes, damage, strengths and weaknesses. While certainly not ideal, I appear to be rather better off than expected at arriving at an age with such a big number clinging on to it.

Popular culture does the standard sign-off with regard to old people. Basically, they are under contract to give up their youth and beauty in return for experience, wisdom and perhaps, if they are lucky, some sort of financial recompense and comfort. They are then further obligated to slowly and painfully serve out the short remainder of whatever is leftover of their miserable lives as sick, fat, ugly, decrepit, asexual, annoying , wrinkled, fossilized bags of wind, piss & vinegar blindly plodding through vast stretches of dark bleakness toward the certain sentence of a doom of no consequence.

My opinion? Uhm, screw that, a sucker is born every minute, this is not a fair trade.  I’ll just take a miss on that offer, thanks. Hopefully, the photo supplied above goes a fair way as proof of this refusal to accept the status quo. But otherwise, I still wake up every day and renew my refusal of the trade proposal. I don’t expect to grow old gracefully, I wasn’t all that graceful in my youth.

It is certainly true that the aging process increases the risk of age related disease, inflammation and conditions of decline. Things like sarcopenia, degenerative disc disease and arthritis are all too common paybacks for a strenuous life of activity and risk. To not take these issues as matters of grave concern and food for creative thought is the careless partaking of the mission in question as a fool. One is always urged to exercise good common sense and pay attention to reality based experiential and scientifically proven fact when dealing with the necessary undertakings of a long and fruitful life.

Yes, of course you might one day not be able to make a move from that antique rocking chair waiting for you out there for you on the veranda in the winter of your dishearteningly short number of years on this planet without emitting some sort of ridiculous click, creak, fart, groan, shriek or worse. But so what? That day is still a ways away.

But if you exercise both your brain and spirit as well as your body, if you take care in what you eat (maintain a high protein Mediterranean type of diet along with the right mix of other supplements & nutrients), adjust and modify your lifestyle, maintain an attitude of relentless flexibility and unflagging resiliency, that day will not be today or tomorrow…and with any luck…no time soon.