Thursday, September 25, 2008

Supplements: Multivitamins

First in a series

Like everyone else, I do read the muscle building and men's topical magazines. I am reading them less and less, though, because of the infinite amount of advertisements in each magazine. (That's a whole different story.)

Because of these ads, I am getting more and more questions on supplements, so I decided to do a series of articles on supplements.

Normally, I believe we should receive all our nutrients from natural food sources, with few exceptions. With all of the ads I see and client questions I have been fielding, I figured it was time to take the plunge and see for myself.

So I thought I would share my experiences, but first you need to know what I do to work out. My schedule varies week to week but I normally get in swimming, walking, running (when my calf allows), Pilates, tai chi, and lifting on at least alternating days. The cross-training changes daily, along with my schedule.

I do use and recommend a multivitamin every day.

We have a tendency to eat the foods we like more than what's good for us and not eating enough variety of fruits and vegetables; therefore, we don't always get the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals in our system.

I decided to try a different brand of vitamin (based on a salesperson suggestion). Now, keep in mind this was one store of a national chain of health stores. After a few days, I found myself so tired and worn out I had to take breaks during the day in order to sleep in my car. I did this for a couple of months and was very frustrated. Here I was working out at least once a day -- sometimes twice -- and I was putting on weight because my metabolism completely crashed.
My workouts were not very productive, either, because I was just going through the motions, my body was just to tired to lift properly. I stopped taking the offensive vitamins and a week later, I started to feel better and the weight started to come back down.

So, what did we learn from this? Stay with a name-brand vitamin. If that is to pricey, compare bottles while you are in the store. I think you will find a generic version very close to a name brand.

One last note: RDA recommendations are the amounts you need in order to avoid most diseases.
For example: According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the RDA for Vitamin C is 75 mg for adult women and 90 mg for adult men. These numbers climb slightly if you are a smoker: 110mg for women and 125mg for men. That means to prevent scurvy or other Vitamin C deficient diseases, this is the recommended dose.

Visit NutritionData for more information on vitamins and minerals.

Next: Hydroxycut

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Okay, You Have Gotta Be Kidding

I am still in shock, and I am not sure where to begin.

Finally I have seen the worst, most dangerous variation of an exercise to date.

Picture this if you will: There is a young lady on a stair stepper machine (not a stair climber; those are much wider). She is holding a 30 pound barbell on her shoulders.

First of all, the balancing act on the machine with a barbell is unsafe enough, but to make matters worse there is a person to her right and her left. If she had fallen, she would have definitely taken someone else out with her.

Depending how you use this machine, you can be anywhere from three to eight inches off the floor. This doesn't sound very high -- however, turn your ankle the wrong way, keep your hands full and add weight to your shoulders and you are heading for disaster.

Now let's add a couple of people around you, and you get the picture.

C'mon, people -- please use your heads when working out. Ask yourself: is what I am doing safe? Is it safe for others in my immediate vicinity?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Great exercise

After seeing negative stuff at the gym all day, usually I come home and blog about it. So today for a change I want to tell you about something I saw that was really worthwhile.

There is a young guy who works out at one of the gyms I work at. He too worked at this gym at one time. I watched him do a great variation of an old exercise.

Normally, you would hold a dumbbell and curl it to the inside (in front of your chest) in order to work the lateral head of the bicep. This is a great exercise for getting better definition between the middle deltoid and the bicep.

Try this variation next time you are in the gym, and let me know what you think:
  • Take a the double-braided rope with the knobs on the end (usually used for tricep extensions or tricep pulldowns) and place it on the bottom of a cable cross machine.
  • Pull up, then out, at the top of the movement.

Training a muscle from all angles is extremely important to be fit and have great definition.

This particular exercise may be off the beaten path, but it may be the odd angle you have been looking for.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Achieve More Power in Fighting

All martial arts do have a few similarities, which I have discussed in earlier blogs.

For all external martial arts, true power is gained by four principles:
  • flexibility
  • core focus/strength
  • speed
  • technique/follow through
Lets take a look at each principle separately, starting at the top of the list.

Flexibility -- If I throw a straight punch, I need to follow through my target for maximum impact. Tightness in my anterior deltoid ( front shoulder) or countless other places in the shoulder cavity can cause the arm not to fully extend -- thus causing the arm to fall short of its mark.

Core focus and core strength -- Here is the true reason for writing this particular blog. Last weekend, I was talking with my daughter's boyfriend about a person he saw on television who was breaking stones with his shoulder. The only time the breaks were successful, he said, was when the person doing the breaking yelled on impact. When the breaker didn't yell, he said, the stones did not break.

Let us look at this from an anatomical viewpoint: the breaker ran into the blocks with his shoulder. Power was generated from the floor as the breaker shifted his weight forward onto the balls of his feet. Next, the breaker yelled, thus tightening his core -- and the break was successful.

By tightening his core, the breaker did not leave space in his body to absorb any recoil. All power was generated outward. If his core was not braced for impact, there would have been recoil through the body.

It is similar to holding two poles, one solid and the other with a spring in the middle. If I were to take both poles and bang them on the wall with the same force, the solid one would do more damage because it would stay stiff while the pole with the spring will give in the middle and create some recoil.

That brings us to the concept of speed.

Speed -- Good muscle memory (lots of repetition) allows for speed of movement. As we learn a new movement and develop the ability to do it smoothly without thought, we gain speed in the movement.

Speed as it pertains to power is simple. Einstein's theory (E=MC2) tells us that power is equal to velocity x mass squared. So assuming my punches do not change in mass then to increase power I need to move faster.

Lastly, we need to look at technique.

Technique -- This really incorporates a few different things, but for our purposes on power we look at proper follow through (which I mentioned briefly earlier in this entry).

With the same straight punch I spoke of before, as my hand reaches full extension on impact of my target, all power is diffused just as my hand hits its intended target.

The best example of this is a batter in baseball. If a batter swings to early on the ball, the bat is fully extended on impact. The outcome is the ball gets hit as the bat is almost perpendicular to the batter. The bat has already begun to slow at this point and power is lost. In order to get proper follow-through, check your distance and be sure you punch or kick through your target.

So, if you feel you are not getting enough power in your fighting ask yourself these questions:
  • Are my kicks and punches losing form before the end of the technique? If so, work on your flexibility.
  • Is your target moving on impact or are you falling backwards when you kick? If this happens, chances are your core is not stable. Work on core strength or make sure your body is moving in total unison.
  • Is balance decent and technique extension good? If so, practice speed drills for a little extra momentum.
  • Lastly, what if everything feels good but there is just no power? You definitely are not following through on your techniques. Practice by standing slightly closer to your target. You will feel the difference.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Takin' it Easy

When I exercise, I go full-tilt. Why run three miles when you can do five? Why stop at five? Why stop at all?

Which is all well and good when athletes are hale, healthy and hearty. But what when they aren't?

There are lots of reasons to stop exercising. The most serious of them is health. Illness or injury can sideline even the most dedicated athlete. Thankfully, those times are rare.

However, when that happens — when ill health prevents you from exercising — you have an obligation to do one thing: listen to your body.

You probably should also listen to your physician; after all, that person knows more about medicine than you do. If Dr. No says, "No running for two weeks," then consider not running for two weeks.

I have found, however, that physicians have stopped passing such edicts. Dr. No has turned into Dr. When-You-Feel-Like-It. After my shoulder surgery five years ago, my orthopedist wisely told me I could start running again when I felt like it — and I didn't feel like it for two weeks. Now, had the good doctor forbid me to run for that length of time, I would have been chafing at the bit. Instead, he let me make the call and I healed in peace.

This summer, I did not walk for two months. Again, that doctor was wise: I would return every couple of weeks for evaluation, to see if there was a chance to put my foot down. As much as I wanted to get back on my feet, the pain (and additional complications) kept me from doing just that. At each visit, we would agree that it wasn't quite the right time.

Even once I was allowed to put weight on the foot, I edged forward tenderly. I like my feet. I like them even better healthy. After nine weeks, I figured another week in the boot or another couple of weeks with the cane wasn't going to kill me. When I was ready, I put the boot aside cautiously and, later, tried out my feet without a cane. So far, so good (though I think I'll employ my natty cane for just a tad longer).

However, I am not out of the woods yet. If the edict comes down that I'm doing too much, the boot, cane, walker all get put back into rotation as needed. (The crutches, however, are history, no matter who says what.) My ego is not greater than my fear of going backward. I have put too much into healing to mess it up now.

So, when it comes to injury, take it easy. I know it's easier said than done, but remember: it's easier to do it right the first time. Patience pays off. Trust me on this one.
- Chris