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Barry Bassin - Senior Fitness Personal Trainer

Certified Fitness Professional

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Type-As: Take Note

Posted on August 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM Comments comments (0)
I know, real men don't tweet, and execise warm-ups and cool-downs are just a waste of time. You're a Type-A, and your motto is "do it, get it done, and move on to the next thing." But you're treading on dangerous ground, and here's why:
 
Warm-up 
The warm-up is simply a brief period of slow, rhythmic aerobic activity involving the large muscle groups of the body, like the arms, legs and back, as well as other muscle groups that will be used during the exercise session which follows.
 
And the warm-up does just that - it raises the temperature of the muscles which, in turn, makes them more pliable and delivers an increased oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood supply to them. The oft-used analogy is to that of a piece of taffy: sit on it for a while, or warm it in your hands for a few minutes, and you can bend it; otherwise, try bending it and it will break.
 
By taking a few minutes to properly prepare your muscles for the training which follows is the best way to minimize the risk for soft tissue (muscles, tendons) injury, as well as psychologically preparing you for the exercise session to follow.
 
Cool-down
The cool-down is similar to the warm-up phase in that it is performed the same way - slow, rhythmic movement of the large muscle groups.
 
As important as the warm-up is, the cool-down is at least as important, and perhaps even more so.
 
The cool-down prevents post-exercise blood pooling in the lower body. It also prevents a too sudden drop in blood pressure, which could otherwise lead to lightheadedness and even fainting.
 
Other important reasons for an adequate cool-down are to prevent or reduce muscle cramping and spasms, and reducing the risk of post-exercise disturbances in cardiac rhythm.
 
What to do
For cardio sessions, the best warm-up and cool-down is to perform the same or similiar activites, but at a much lower intensity. For instance, walking is a great warm-up and cool-down activity for jogging; low-intensity cycling is best before and after cardio-intensive cycling, etc.
 
For resistance training, spend five minutes before and after your workout doing low-intensity cardio (cycling, walking, etc.).
 
Exceptions
There are no exceptions for performing warm-ups and cool-downs. However, while five minutes of doing these activities before and after is appropriate for most people, some health and/or physical conditions call for longer warm-up and cool-down periods. This applies especially to pregnant women, and to people with asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis.
 
Stretching
Stretching will be discussed more thoroughly in other articles under the heading of Flexibility. However, it is rightfully mentioned here as well, albeit for different reasons.
 
Admittedely, there is some debate within the fitness community as to the need for stretching before, after, or before and after cardio or strength training. I am definitely in favor of stretching both before and after.
 
Stretching the principle muscles that will be used during the exercise session acts to loosen the associated muscle tissue, enhancing the fluidity and range of motion during the exercise activity.
 
Pre-exercise stretching should always be done after the warm-up and before the exercise component. This way, the muscle tissue is already warm and pliable.
 
Post-exercise stretching should be done following the cool-down. It helps return exercised muscles to their normal length, and facilitates removal of waste products which have accumulated in the tissue during the exercise session.
 
On a final note
Not warming-up and cooling-down is the single biggest mistake we trainers see people make. It is an invitation to musculoskeletal injury or worse. It's like driving home drunk; you may not have an accident any one day, but do it every day and chances are good that some day you will.
 
 

Lab Rats and Free-range Chickens

Posted on August 13, 2010 at 9:52 AM Comments comments (4)
The sheer volume of articles about weight-loss is staggering. But it has always struck me that even the best articles start out with easy-to-read, understandable information, then morph into something almost useless when it comes time to tell you what to do; either the advice just regurgitates the obvious (fewer calories, more exercise), or gives instructions that you don't understand.
 
When someone tells you that you should consume . . .
 
  • 50-70 grams of protein (12-20% of daily calories);
  • 350-400 grams of carbohydrates (55-65% of daily calories); and
  • 30-65 grams of fat (25-30% of daily calories),
 
. . . they have given you accurate information.
 
But, do you even know what that means?
 
Yes, there are people - especially those with a science background - who are not intimidated with grams of this, and percentages of that. But in reality, most of us can't, don't, and don't want to relate to such rigid guidelines which actually have their foundation in controlled labortory protocols where food is precisely weighed, measured, and portioned.
 
In the real world, where you and I live and eat, there are two kinds of people:
 
Lab Rats are those aforementioned rare people who are comfortable with metricated weights and measures, and who have no problem following eating guidelines that confuse the rest of us.
 
Free-range Chickens are the rest of us. We go to restaurants. We go to dinner parties. We get caught up in the social aspects of everyday life, and the huge, inescapable role that eating plays.
 
All of my articles having to do with weight-management will be written with FRCs in mind, so stay tuned my fine-feathered friends.

Sarcopenia: Age-related Muscle Loss

Posted on August 13, 2010 at 8:42 AM Comments comments (3)
Sarcopenia
Sarcopenia is the steady, gradual loss of muscle mass that begins during the fourth decade of life. Adults can expect to lose between 3% and 5% of their muscle mass per decade, accelerating to 1% to 2% per year after age 50. Sarcopenia is both the name of the condition and its outcome.
 
To state the obvious, a loss of muscle mass means a loss of strength, which has significant quality of life implications as the process progresses.
 
The visual aspects of sarcopenia can be deceptive. Because the condition is age-related - and because people tend to become less physically active over time - there is a lifestyle-associated change in body composition. This means that even though you have begun losing muscle mass, your bathroom scale may not show a weight loss. So, even if you weigh the same, it may be due to fat replacing muscle.
 
Fortunately, this strength- and functionality-limiting phenomenon can be delayed, and often reversed through exercise. And even if reversing the condition is less than 100 percent, everyone - even those in the oldest age groups - can improve their strength and reap the benefits therefrom. In one study, following three months of supervised progressive resistance training, muscle protein synthesis increased by approximately 50% in 17 frail 76 to 92 year old men and women.*
 
Exercise Intervention
Progressive overload resistance training is the only way to delay, slow down, and reverse sarcopenia.
 
  • Overload means subjecting your muscles to an exercise workload that is greater than what they are accustomed to.
 
  • Progression is the process of increasing workload to the muscles over time, as different muscle groups adapt to the new workloads by becoming stronger.
 
Overload, adaptation, and progression is a continuing process. Once your muscles become accustomed to a workload they become efficient at exercising at that level and the benefits become less. At this point it will be necessary to increase to a new workload to continue the process.
 
Your exercise program should consist of:
 
 - 8 to 10 exercises
 - 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise
 - at least 1 set and preferably 2 to 3 sets of each exrecise
   for each of the major muscle groups
 - at least 2 times per week, with 48 hours between workouts
 - at an intensity that is "somewhat hard"
 
The major muscle groups are the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, latissimus dorsi, pectorals, and deltoids.
 
Cautionary Note
Because many seniors have various health issues which may have an impact on exercise, you should check with your physician before starting a progressive overload resistance exercise program.
 
Also, working with a personal trainer will ensure that your workloads are appropriate for your starting fitness level, and that progressions will be sufficient to elicit a productive response, but conservative enough to avoid injury.
 
*The Mystery of Muscle Loss, Chantal Vella, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D, citing a 1999 study by Yarasheski and others.

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