Playing Bridge

“I started boxing for exercise, and on the very first day the trainer got in the ring with me and said, ‘Whoever controls the breathing in the ring controls the fight.’ I immediately passed out.” -Garry Shandling

I’ve discussed the importance of neck strength on my blog before — further information on the correlation between higher neck strength/circumference and reduced concussion risk can be found from these sources:

Today’s video includes working with the neck harness and a couple of bridge variations I use to build neck strength…

 

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Cardio with BOB

“Standing ovations have become far too commonplace. What we need are ovations where the audience members all punch and kick one another.” – George Carlin

I’ve discussed my fondness for fitness boxing a few times before on this blog, and as you have probably guessed, it’s my personal favorite variety of cardio training. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out. Here’s a video of me training one of tonight’s rounds with my pal BOB…

Strengthening the Cart

Готовь сани летом, а телегу зимой. “Prepare the sled in summer and cart in winter.” –Russian Proverb

A blizzard isn’t quite as much fun without a kettlebell. Cold weather is the perfect time to endure its difficulties, as to acquire strength in the muscles of the mighty posterior chain. Today, I took my 2-pood kettlebell out for some fun in the Russia-esque weather…

 

Rocky Mountain High… Reps

While lifting heavy weights is the preferred path to hypertrophy, working in some high-rep sets to complement your lower-rep efforts is never without benefits. The definition of “high reps” differs depending on who you’re talking to, but I define it as upwards of twenty.

High rep resistance training increases:

Mitochondria — Responsible for producing most of the muscle cell’s chemical energy in the form of ATP.

Sarcoplasm — Expanding this inter-cellular fluid results in more muscle glycogen storage.

Capillaries — By increasing the vascular network, more oxygen, carbon dioxide and other nutrients can be transported to muscle tissue.

Here are a few suggestions for exercise selection:

  • Push-ups
  • Dumbbell Clean & Press
  • Air Squats
  • Band Pull-Aparts

My high rep progression plan is:

  • 5 sets x 20 reps
  • 4 sets x 25 reps
  • 3 sets x 30 reps
  • Increase Resistance (add weight, or in the case of bodyweight exercises, reduce leverage) and resume at 5 x 20

Uncomplicated Complexes Redux

One of the earliest posts on my blog was this one, about barbell complexes. Here’s a brief review, for those of you unfamiliar with the subject:

In the barbell domain, a “complex” is a series of exercise movements performed sequentially without resting or putting the weight down. Once each sequence has been completed, the bar is placed on the floor for a brief rest period before beginning another round. A well planned complex is an excellent form of training for strength and muscular endurance.

If you’re a fan of the complex format, but want variety beyond just the barbell and dumbbell versions that I provided, you’re in luck because there are plenty of other tools that can be used in similar fashion.

Like these…

Chin-up Bar

For bar complexes, I like to keep the reps low and use set progression. Stay with the 3-5 rep range and perform as many sets as possible until you are no longer able to hit the required reps. Rest briefly at the end of each round, but don’t let your feet touch the ground between exercises.

  • Muscle-up
  • Dip (from top of bar)
  • Front Lever
  • Pull-up
  • Hanging Leg Raise
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Contrary to the standards posted on this sign at my local park, 10 chin-ups is not a “championship” level performance. But 10 rounds of this complex is. Congratulations, I’ll mail you your trophy.

Barbell Plate

Because plates aren’t just for slipping onto barbells anymore. Depending on your strength level, grab a 10, 25, or 45 and perform 3-5 sets x 6-10 repetitions of the following. This complex is also good to use as a warm-up if performed with a lighter plate or medicine ball.

  • Front Raise
  • Halo
  • Curl to Press
  • Figure Eight
  • Squat (plate held at chest)
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The plate complex also works with an appropriately sized medicine ball.

Kettlebells

You’ll hold a kettlebell in each hand for this one, so it’s mostly for you fancy people who can afford matching sets of kettlebells. If you’re one of these people, I’d just like to mention that my birthday is coming up. Anywho, hit these for 5 reps each, except the swing, which I like to do for higher rep ranges (10-25 is about right). Do as many rounds as possible in a pre-determined time period — these can wipe you out in a hurry, so I suggest starting with a ten-minute time limit. Make sure you’ve spent time perfecting your form so all the exercises can be safely performed in conditions of increasing fatigue.

  • Double Clean
  • Front Squat (kettlebells in “racked” position)
  • Overhead Press
  • Double Swing
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This thing.

Complexes can efficiently engage a large amount of musculature in a short period of time and are easy to tweak to assure steady progression. They also don’t require much space, so it’s a great option for those of you who like the exercise in the backyard or garage. As always, using your imagination with your workout tools can help motivate you and change things up when staleness creeps in.

Music and Physical Performance

As you may be aware, I have a bit of experience with exercise-y type things. However, you don’t have to be an exercise physiologist to realize that music can be utilized as a stimulant and/or sedative. It is widely accepted that music is helpful during workouts, but in this post, we’ll look at some details of why this is the case. Now, let’s get to the science, shall we?

Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the primary hormones synthesized by the adrenal medulla that are associated with the “fight or flight” response. When released, they increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, force constriction of blood vessels, raise respiratory rate, decrease the rate of digestion, increase efficiency of muscle contraction, increase blood sugar level and cellular metabolism. Needless to say, these factors greatly influence physical performance. Here’s a study that associates slow and fast music tempos with the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, as measured during cycling…

Effects of pre-exercise listening to slow and fast rhythm music on supramaximal cycle performance and selected metabolic variables. Yamamoto T, Ohkuwa T, Itoh H, Kitoh M, Terasawa J, Tsuda T, Kitagawa S, Sato Y. Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports, Nagoya University, 464-8601, Japan. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2003 Jul;111(3):211-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14972741

“Listening to slow rhythm music decreases the plasma norepinephrine level, and listening to fast rhythm music increases the plasma epinephrine level. The type of music has no impact on power output during exercise.”

Simple, eh? Forget the pre-workout drink, just make sure you have plenty of fast-tempo songs on your iPod. Here’s another study that supports fast-tempo music for raising the heart rate…

Revisiting the relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Karageorghis CI, Jones L, Priest DL, Akers RI, Clarke A, Perry JM, Reddick BT, Bishop DT, Lim HB. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, UK.  Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Sep;82(3):592. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699107

“Slow tempo music was not preferred at any exercise intensity, preference for fast tempo increased, relative to medium and very fast tempo music, as exercise intensity increased.”

This study correlated music with increased grip strength, an excellent indicator of the strength of the neural connection to the muscles through the nervous system…

Effects of pretest stimulative and sedative music on grip strength. Karageorghis CI, Drew KM, Terry PC. School of Physical Education and Sport, Brunel University College, UK. Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Dec;83(3 Pt 2):1347-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9017751

“Repeated-measures analysis of variance and post hoc tests showed that participants evidenced higher grip strength after listening to stimulative music than after sedative music or a white noise control condition.”

Music can directly effect the autonomic nervous system at high exercise intensities, but what about lower intensity activity? Well, even though it hasn’t been as strongly associated with physiological effects, this study finds that it still might be useful in limiting fatigue…

Effects of music during exercise on RPE, heart rate and the autonomic nervous system. Yamashita S, Iwai K, Akimoto T, Sugawara J, Kono I. Center for Humanity and Sciences, Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences, Ami, Japan. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):425-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998447

“When jogging or walking at comparatively low exercise intensity, listening to a favorite piece of music might decrease the influence of stress caused by fatigue, thus increasing the ”comfort” level of performing the exercise.”

Here’s more research that supports that perceived fatigue levels are lower during submaximal exercise if the trainee is listening to music…

Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B. Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Liverpool, UK. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00948.x. Epub 2009 Sep 28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793214

“Healthy individuals performing submaximal exercise not only worked harder with faster music but also chose to do so and enjoyed the music more when it was played at a faster tempo.”

Now that we’ve covered the effects of music during exercise, let’s move on to the recovery period post-exercise.

Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults. Savitha D, Mallikarjuna RN, Rao C. Departament of Physiology, Narayana Medical College, Nellore 524 002. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar;54(1):32-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21046917

“The study concluded that music hastens post exercise recovery and slow music has greater relaxation effect than fast or no music, recovery time being independent of the gender and individual music preference.”

There you have it — music is helpful pre, post, and during exercise to manipulate psychological and physical attributes.

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Sources

Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults. Savitha D, Mallikarjuna RN, Rao C. Departament of Physiology, Narayana Medical College, Nellore 524 002. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Jan-Mar;54(1):32-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21046917

Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B. Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Liverpool, UK. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):662-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00948.x. Epub 2009 Sep 28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19793214

Effects of music during exercise on RPE, heart rate and the autonomic nervous system. Yamashita S, Iwai K, Akimoto T, Sugawara J, Kono I. Center for Humanity and Sciences, Ibaraki Prefectural University of Health Sciences, Ami, Japan. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006 Sep;46(3):425-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998447

Effects of pre-exercise listening to slow and fast rhythm music on supramaximal cycle performance and selected metabolic variables. Yamamoto T, Ohkuwa T, Itoh H, Kitoh M, Terasawa J, Tsuda T, Kitagawa S, Sato Y. Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports, Nagoya University, 464-8601, Japan. Arch Physiol Biochem. 2003 Jul;111(3):211-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14972741

Effects of pretest stimulative and sedative music on grip strength. Karageorghis CI, Drew KM, Terry PC. School of Physical Education and Sport, Brunel University College, UK. Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Dec;83(3 Pt 2):1347-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9017751

Musical feedback during exercise machine workout enhances mood. Fritz TH1, Halfpaap J2, Grahl S2, Kirkland A2, Villringer A2. Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science Leipzig, Germany. Front Psychol. 2013 Dec 10;4:921. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00921. eCollection 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24368905

Revisiting the relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Karageorghis CI, Jones L, Priest DL, Akers RI, Clarke A, Perry JM, Reddick BT, Bishop DT, Lim HB. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, UK.  Res Q Exerc Sport. 2011 Sep;82(3):592. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699107

The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. Simpson SD, Karageorghis CI. School of Sport and Education, Brunel University, West London, Uxbridge, UK. J Sports Sci. 2006 Oct;24(10):1095-102. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17115524

The Rotator Cuff is a Delicate Flower

Anyone who has had extensive experience in an activity that requires explosive movement of the upper limb likely realizes the fragility of the rotator cuff. As I always say, playing sports is a great way to get injured. Even non-contact sports like baseball, tennis and swimming carry injury risk, because repetitive overhead arm movement is recognized as one of the primary causes of rotator cuff injuries. However, that isn’t the only cause — those who engage in activities that keep the arm overhead or in a fixed position for extended periods are also at risk — carpenters, hairstylists, painters, etc. Naturally, gym-rats are no strangers to torn rotator cuffs, as bench presses, military presses and heavy overhead lifts can put a tremendous amount of stress on the shoulder (utilizing a neutral grip with the palms facing each other can help to avoid the internal shoulder rotation that a typical pronated grip can cause). Even couch potatoes should be concerned, since poor posture alone can also irritate the architecture of the shoulder over time.

To complicate matters, the rotator cuff can tear instantly from an acute injury, or can be worn down gradually due to impingement. The tear can be partial, in which the attachments to the bone are not completely severed, or a complete tear can occur, where the tendon goes “poof,” to use a totally-scientific term.

So, what should we do about all this? Some preventive measures maybe? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…

The muscles of the rotator cuff include:

  • Supraspinatus — abducts the arm at the shoulder joint.
  • Infraspinatus — externally rotates the arm at the shoulder joint.
  • Teres Minor — also externally rotates the arm at the shoulder joint.
  • Subscapularis — depresses the head of the humerus, internally rotates the arm at the shoulder joint.

Together, these muscles function to keep the humeral head in its proper position in the glenohumeral joint. Strengthening them will serve to provide a measure of prevention against rotator cuff injuries. First though, if you think you have an existing tear, or a partial tear, or you have chronic shoulder pain, or your shoulder feels funny, or no matter what manner of shoulder malady you may have — please, see a physician. He/she can diagnose the problem and suggest a course of treatment. A rotator cuff injury may need surgery, or surgery may be avoidable — but only a doctor can tell you.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, it’s time for some pre-habilitation.

These exercises will strengthen the rotator cuff and help protect against injury:

  • I-Y-T-W on Stability Ball
  • Band Pull-Aparts
  • Internal Rotation (use band while standing or dumbbell while lying on your side)
  • External Rotation (use band while standing or dumbbell while lying on your side)

Do these 1-2 times per week for 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

A healthy shoulder is a happy shoulder.

Sources

Blevins, FT. “Rotator Cuff Pathology in Athletes.” September 24, 1997.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9327536

Bradley & Jobe. “Rotator Cuff Injuries in Baseball.” December 6, 1988. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3231953

Heyward, Vivian. “Advanced Fitness Assessment and Prescription, 6th Edition.” Human Kinetics. 2010.

John, Daniel. “Mass Made Simple.” On Target Publications. Aptos, CA. 2011.

Knopf, Karl G. “Exercise Therapy 3rd Edition.” International Sports Science Association Official Course Text. Carpinteria, CA. 2013.

Nicol, Ashley. “Rotator Cuff Injuries Solved.” Createspace. USA. 2012.