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12 Reasons Every Adult Should Strength Train

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During the past few years, more and more studies have shown that sensible strength training produces many health and fitness benefits. Key researchers have provided a wealth of data on the positive physiological responses to basic programs of strength exercise.

Reasons To Strength Train

Consider these 12 reasons to strength train:

1. Avoid Muscle Loss

Adults who do not strength train lose between 5 and 7 pounds of muscle every decade (Forbes 1976, Evans and Rosenberg 1992). Although endurance exercise improves our cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent the loss of muscle tissue. Only strength exercise maintains our muscle mass and strength throughout our mid-life years.

2. Avoid Metabolic Rate Reduction

Because muscle is very active tissue, muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in our resting metabolism.  Information from Keyes et al. (1973) and Evans and Rosenberg (1992) indicates that the average adult experiences a 2 to 5 percent reduction in metabolic rate every decade of life. Because regular strength exercise prevents muscle loss, it also prevents the accompanying decrease in resting metabolic rate.

3. Increase Muscle Mass

Because most adults do not perform strength exercise, they need to first replace the muscle tissue that has been lost through inactivity. Fortunately, research (Westcott 1995) shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 3 pounds over an eight-week training period.  This is the typical training response for men and women who do 25 minutes of strength exercise, three days per week.

4. Increase Metabolic Rate

Research reveals that adding 3 pounds of muscle increases our resting metabolic rate by 7 percent, and our daily calorie requirements by 15 percent (Campbell et al. 1994).  At rest, a pound of muscle requires 35 calories per day for tissue maintenance, and during exercise muscle energy utilization increases dramatically.  Adults who replace muscle through sensible strength exercise use more calories all day long, thereby reducing the likelihood of fat accumulation.

5. Reduce Body Fat

Campbell and his co-workers (1994) found that strength exercise produced 4 pounds of fat loss after three months of training, even though the subjects were eating 15 percent more calories per day.  That is, a basic strength training program resulted in 3 pounds more muscle, 4 pounds less fat, and 370 more calories per day food intake.

6. Increase Bone Mineral Density

The effects of progressive resistance exercise are similar for muscle tissue and bone tissue. The same training stimulus that increases muscle myoproteins also increases bone collagen proteins and mineral content. Menkes (1993) has demonstrated significant increases in the bone mineral density of the upper femur after four months of strength exercise.

7. Improve Glucose Metabolism

Hurley (1994) has reported a 23 percent increase in glucose uptake after four months of strength training. Because poor glucose metabolism is associated with adult onset diabetes, improved glucose metabolism is an important benefit of regular strength exercise.

8. Increase Gastrointestinal Transit Time


A study by Koffler (1992) showed a 56 percent increase in gastrointestinal transit (transit time is faster) after three months of strength training. This is significant due to the fact that delayed gastrointestinal transit time is related to a higher risk of colon cancer.

9. Reduce Resting Blood Pressure

Strength training alone has been shown to reduce resting blood pressure significantly (Harris and Holly 1987).  Our study (Westcott 1995) has revealed that combining strength and aerobic exercise is an even more effective means of improving blood pressure readings. 

After two months of combined exercise, our program participants dropped their systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg.

10. Improve Blood Lipid Levels

Although the effect of strength training on blood lipid levels needs further research, at least two studies (Stone et al.1982, Hurley et al. 1988) have revealed improved blood lipid profiles after several weeks of strength exercise.  It is important to note that improvements in blood lipid levels are similar for both endurance and strength exercise (Hurley 1994).

11. Reduce Low Back Pain

Years of research on strength training and back pain conducted at the University of Florida Medical School have shown that strong low-back muscles are less likely to be injured than weaker low-back muscles. 

A recent study by Risch (1993) found that low-back patients had significantly less back pain after 10 weeks of specific (full-range) strength exercise for the lumbar spine muscles. Because 80 percent of Americans experience low-back problems, it is advisable for all adults to strengthen their low-back muscles properly.

12. Reduce Arthritic Pain

According to a recent edition of the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter (1994), sensible strength training eases the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is good news, because most men and women who suffer from arthritis pain need strength exercise to develop stronger muscles, bones, and connective tissue.

Summary – Why You Should Strength Train

There are 12 physiological reasons to perform regular strength exercise. On a more basic level, it is important to understand that proper strength training may help us to look better, feel better, and function better

Remember that our skeletal muscles serve as the engine, chassis, and shock absorbers of our bodies.  Consequently, strength training is an effective means of increasing our physical capacity, improving our athletic performance, reducing our injury risk, and improving our self-confidence.

About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Youth Strength Training: Why and How

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As our society becomes more sedentary and young people spend more of their time in non-physical pursuits (television, video games, movies, computers, etc.), we see progressively lower levels of physical fitness in increasingly larger numbers of boys and girls. 

Over a 15-year period, childhood obesity has increased over 50 percent and super obesity has more than doubled.  As a result, Type II diabetes, formerly called adult onset diabetes, has become prevalent in teenagers and even preadolescents.

Body Composition

Research has shown that strength training is the best means for improving body composition in youth, as it addresses two major problems in many preadolescents, namely, too little muscle and two much fat.

Public School Study

In one of our public school studies, the underfit and overfat fifth graders who participated in a basic and brief strength training program gained significantly more muscle and lost twice as much fat as a matched group of students who did not perform strength exercise. 

Perhaps most important, the strength trained students made such noticeable physical improvements that the strength exercises were subsequently included in the standard physical education program.

Bone Development


The most critical time for developing strong bones is during the childhood years. Recent research indicates that strength training is about six times more effective for building bone in preadolescent girls that it is in young, middle-aged or older women. 

Contrary to the myth that strength training is detrimental to young bones (no such medical report has ever been documented), it is actually the best way to develop a strong musculoskeletal system.

Physiological Response

Because children have low levels of testosterone, some people assume that they cannot increase their muscle strength or that any strength gains are temporary. Our studies have consistently shown significant strength gains (15 to 100 percent) in preteens who complete a two-month training program. 

Moreover, after two additional months of no strength exercise, the strength trained youth retained 50 percent of their strength gain and were still significantly stronger than their non-training peers.  Children, like women and seniors who also have low levels of testosterone, respond most favorably to strength exercise.

Performance Enhancement

In our most recent study, female figure skaters (average age 10 years) did one or two brief strength workouts a week. After 10 weeks of training, the preadolescent participants increased their overall strength by 67 percent, their vertical jump by 13 percent, and their skating performance by major proportions according to their coaches.

Training Guidelines

The skaters performed one set of 10 basic strength exercises for 13 to 15 repetitions each.  We recommend using higher repetitions with moderate weightloads, as we have found significantly greater increases in children’s strength and endurance when training with 13 to 15 repetitions compared to training with 6 to 8 repetitions.

After 15 years of youth strength training programs with no injuries, we are confident that this activity is safe and beneficial (physically and psychologically) for children.  A sensible strength training program enhances musculoskeletal development, encourages self-confidence and elicits a physically active lifestyle.

Youth Strength Training Guidelines

Follow these guidelines for maximum results and injury prevention:

  • Select basic exercises for major muscles and
    • Do 4 exercises x 3 sets each
    • Do 6 exercises x 2 sets each
    • Do 12 exercises x 1 set each
  • Perform 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise
  • Increase resistance by 1 to 3 pounds upon completing 15 repetitions
  • Use slow movement speed (4 to 6 seconds per repetition)
  • Use full movement range
  • Train 2 or 3 nonconsecutive days per week
  • Train under adult supervision
  • Train safely
  • Train progressively
  • Train consistently

Bodyweight Exercises vs. Weight Machines


For most boys and girls, bodyweight exercises are not appropriate because their muscles are unable to lift their bodyweight. For example, fewer than 50 percent of all children can do a single pull-up and not many more can complete a properly performed bar dip, push-up or sit up.

With weight machines, however, every child can use a resistance that permits 10 to 15 perfect repetitions. Most weight machines allow 1 to 3 pound increases that facilitate safe, systematic, and successful programs of progressive resistance exercise.

Youth Strength Training Equipment

In our experience, boys and girls under 12 years of age appear to do better training on youth-sized resistance machines. However, children 12 years and older can train effectively on standard weightstack machines, especially when using pressing movements (leg press, chest press, incline press, shoulder press, triceps press, assisted bar dip, etc.)  and pulling movements (seated row, pull-down, assisted chin-up, etc). 

Youth under five feet tall have difficulty aligning their joint axes of rotation with machine axes of rotation, so rotary exercises (leg extension, leg curl, triceps extension, biceps curl, etc.) are not recommended.

Author Credentials:

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Strength Training For Golf – Learn How To Improve Your Swing

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In 1995, we published our first research study on golf conditioning and strength training. These study results were actually pretty impressive. After just eight weeks of strength training and stretching exercises (only 30 minutes a day, three days a week) the golfers added four pounds of muscle, lost four pounds of fat, reduced their resting blood pressure by five mmHg, improved their muscle strength by 50 percent, enhanced their joint flexibility by 25 percent, and increased their driving power (club head speed) by five miles per hour.

Subsequent studies with injured golfers showed similar outcomes and additional benefits, such as no physical setbacks during the following golf season.

After four years of golf conditioning research we published a popular book on this topic, and have seen a tremendous transformation in the golf world in a remarkably short period of time. Consider that in 1995 only two professional golfers were doing strength training. 

By the year 2000 almost every professional golfer was performing regular strength exercise, typically with a personal trainer or physical therapist.  During the same five-year period, the number of golfers in the United States increased from 25 million to about 45 million.  We may take some credit for the new attitude towards strength training, but Tiger Woods is clearly responsible for the incredible increase in golf participation.

Getting In Good Shape First!

As you may know, golf is a most challenging activity due to the complexity and intricacy of the game. However, you may not be aware that the golf swing is one of the most difficult and demanding physical skills in the sports world. The ballistic action of a powerful golf drive places unusually high stress on the joint structures of the hips, back, shoulders, elbows and wrists. Although the old saying is “drive for show and putt for dough”, be assured that the golf swing is serious business with significant injury potential.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of injury and increase your driving distance? Your best bet is to get in shape before getting onto the golf course.  Once you are well conditioned, be sure to obtain some professional consultation on your driving technique, as seemingly small imperfections in your swing mechanics can lead to troublesome injuries over time.

Golfers, like everyone else, benefit from all four health-related categories of physical fitness. These are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, join flexibility, and body composition.  However, for improved golf performance, the priorities should be strength training, stretching exercises and improved body composition. Such a program requires just over 30 minutes a day, two or three days per week for excellent results in both physical fitness and performance power.

Recommended Golf Conditioning Program

Strength Training

I can offer no better conditioning program than the one we used during our four years of golf studies. This included a basic strength training protocol with 15 exercises for the major muscle groups and six standard stretching exercises.  the strength exercises, muscle groups and golf swing applications are as follows:

Strength Exercises Muscle Groups Golf Swing Applications
Leg Extension Front Thighs Driving Power Production
Leg Curl Rear Thighs Driving Power Production
Hip Adduction Inner Thighs Driving Power Production
Hip Abduction Outer Thighs Driving Power Production
Chest Cross Chest Swinging Action
Pullover Upper Back Swinging Action
Lateral Raise Shoulders Swinging Action
Biceps Curl Front Arms Club Control
Triceps Extension Rear Arms Club Control
Back Extension Lower Back Power Transfer (Legs to Torso)
Abdominal Curl Front Midsection Power Transfer (Legs to Torso)
Rotary Torso Side Midsection Power Transfer (Legs to Torso)
Neck Flexion Front Neck Head Stability
Neck Extension Rear Neck Head Stability
Wrist Movements Forearms Club-Grip

These 15 exercisers address almost all of the muscles involved in the golf swing including those that produce driving power (leg groups), those that transfer power from the legs to the upper body (midsection and lower back groups), those that produce the swinging action (torso groups), those that provide club control (arm groups), those that provide club grip (forearm groups), and those that maintain head stability (neck groups).

We perform each exercise for just one set of 8 to 12 repetitions, which requires about one minute for completion. We train at a controlled movement speed of about six seconds per repetition to increase the exercise effectiveness and reduce the injury risk. We also advocate full-range exercise movements to develop full-range strength and to enhance joint flexibility.

Stretching Exercises

To further increase joint movement range we perform six stretching exercises for the muscles of the hips, midsection and shoulders. These are the front thigh stretch, rear thigh stretch, hip stretch, chest and midsection stretch, back and shoulders stretch, and arm and shoulder stretch. We move slowly into the stretched position and hold each stretch for approximately 20 seconds.

Endurance Exercises And Cardiovascular Conditioning


Although our golf conditioning studies did not include endurance exercise, the participants improved their body composition by eight pounds in eight weeks (four pounds more muscle and four pounds less fat). If they had performed some form of aerobic activity (walking, jogging, cycling, stepping, etc.) or incorporated some dietary modifications, they may have experienced even more fat loss.

While cardiovascular conditioning has little relation to driving the golf ball or driving the golf cart, golfers who have higher levels of aerobic fitness seem to resist fatigue better, which may be advantageous on the back nine or for consecutive days of golf play. If you would like to perform some endurance exercise, I suggest 20 minutes of interval training, three days per week.

For example, using a stationary cycle you warm-up with four minutes of easy cycling, then do four minutes of higher effort cycling, followed by four minutes of lower effort cycling, back to four minutes of higher effort cycling, and cool-down with four minutes of easy cycling. This interesting and well-tolerated aerobic workout will not prepare you for the Boston Marathon, but it should certainly improve your cardiovascular fitness and golf endurance.

Keep in mind that the relatively small amount of time you put into your golf-conditioning program could save you weeks of down-time by preventing a variety of injuries common to golfers. Just be sure to exercise reasonably and regularly, and to seek professional assistance if you have little experience in physical training.

About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Muscle Your Way To Weight Control

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Standing in line at the super market, wedged between carts full of TV dinners, processed cheese and improved varieties of dish soap, waiting shoppers are bombarded with magazine-rack hype. 

Packaged in a variety of covers, one topic is guaranteed to grab our attention:  “Diet Your Way to Happiness,” “Lose Thirty Pounds by Summer,” “Fabulous Thighs in Nine Minutes a Week,” and “Diet of the Stars:  Grapefruit and Garlic”   — they vie not only for our attention, but our dollars.  Weight may be the great American obsession.

Not surprisingly, the reason most new exercisers give for launching an exercise routing is the desire to lose weight.  Of course exercise is not the only way to reduce surplus body weight – an attempt to control food consumption is the more usual approach.  Dieting is, after all, a big business.  Americans reportedly spend some 30 billion dollars annually on weight loss products and programs.

It’s a lot when you consider that losing fat is not hard to do – in principle.  If we eat more calories than we need for our daily energy expenditure then we store the excess calories as body fat.   Conversely, if we eat fewer calories than we require for our daily energy expenditure, we use up some of our stored body fat to provide the necessary calories.

The Diet Strategy

The most popular and straightforward way to produce a negative calorie balance is to diet.  Eating 500 fewer calories per day results in a pound of fat loss per week.  Still, even though dieting works reasonably well as a weight loss strategy, it has serious drawbacks.

Here’s one of them.  When we reduce our calorie consumption most of the additional energy comes from stored fat, however, some of the additional energy comes from protein stores which results in muscle loss! Very low calorie diets (600-900 calories per day) may produce almost as much muscle loss as fat loss, which generates an additional problem.  The reduction in muscle mass causes a corresponding decrease in metabolic rate, making further fat loss even more difficult.

Numerous follow-up studies of dieters reveal that lost weight is typically regained within several months after the diet is over. Intolerant of change, our bodies tend to counter adjust for any shift. For example, after a few nights of little sleep, we may end up sleeping several hours longer than normal.  In the same way, after finishing a reduced calorie diet we may tend to overeat in a somewhat compensatory manner.

The Aerobic Strategy

A better approach to weight loss is via aerobic exercise, that is, exercise characterized by continuous large muscle activity such as running, cycling, and swimming. Take cycling, for example.  Depending on the level of intensity, 500 calories could be consumed by a rider on a thirty to fifty minute ride.

In addition to burning calories, aerobic exercise stimulates a variety of beneficial cardiovascular adaptations: the heart becomes a stronger pump, the circulatory network becomes more efficient, and the blood becomes a better transporter.

Unlike dieting, which often leaves us feeling deprived, aerobic exercise adds something positive to our lives – physical activity. An unlike dieting, aerobic exercise need not be a short-term phenomenon.  When integrated into our regular routine, aerobic exercise actually permits greater calorie consumption to meet the extra energy requirements.

The Strength-Building Strategy

Developing muscle is one of the best ways to control weight because it causes a double reducing effect. First, resistance training is vigorous physical activity: a significant number of calories are burned during exercise.  Second, the additional muscle tissue produced by resistance training increases resting metabolism: calories are burned at a higher rate all day long – regardless of activity or inactivity.

For years people have associated resistance training with bodybuilding and weightlifting. Yet only a small percentage of men and women possess the genetic capacity to develop relatively large muscles; most of us do not.   On the contrary, those of us who don’t do regular resistance training should be concerned about losing too much muscle.

After we reach physical maturity in our early twenties, our bodies begin a long and gradual degenerative process.  Our maximum heart rate decreases by about one beat per year throughout our lives.  Another effect of the aging process is a reduction in muscle mass, which decreases by about one-half pound a year throughout our lives.

In the absence of regular resistance training, our muscle fibers simply become smaller and weaker at a slow but consistent rate.  It’s a phenomenon called disuse atrophy – essentially the same thing that occurs to an arm that has been immobilized in a cast.  And aerobic exercise, even though it’s extremely beneficial for our cardiovascular system, does not prevent disuse atrophy in muscles. Only regular resistance training can maintain (or increase) muscle mass.

This has important weight loss and dieting implications because muscle mass directly affects metabolic rate.  A very active tissue, muscle utilizes energy continually for protein synthesis, maintenance, and rebuilding processes.  Even when we sleep our skeletal muscles are responsible for over 25 percent of our total energy expenditure.  In fact, exercise physiologists believe that every pound of muscle we add or lose as an adult is worth about 350 calories per week!

Let’s look at muscle mass loss as it might effect an ordinary man.  At twenty-five, Chris had seventy-five pounds of skeletal muscle and required 2500 calories per day to maintain his weight. Over the next twenty years Chris did not perform regular resistance training and so relinquished ten pounds of muscle tissue as a result of disuse atrophy. 

Consequently at forty-five, Chris has only sixty-five pounds of skeletal muscle and needs only 2000 calories per day to maintain his weight. This is where Chris runs into trouble. Like most of us, he’s not aware of the gradual decrease in muscle mass and metabolic rate, and eats more calories than he requires. The result? Chris experiences the slow steady increase in weight (fat) typical of middle age – a gradual accumulation known as creeping obesity.

Every pound of muscle we add or lose as an adult is worth about fifty calories per day. It doesn’t have to be this way. If Chris had performed regular resistance training he could have maintained his previous muscle mass and metabolic function, considerably reducing the likelihood of unwanted weight gain.

Fortunately, the extra weight isn’t cast in cement.  It’s possible to increase muscle mass and metabolic rate at any age through a sensible resistance training program.

Resistance training should be part of every weight loss program. Like aerobic exercise, it burns a considerable number of calories.  More importantly, the increased muscle tissue requires a higher daily calorie burn making it easier to maintain your weight.

Dieting your way to happiness is as unlikely as the prospect of developing fabulous thighs in nine minutes a week.  But developing stronger, firmer muscles is a realistic and workable exercise objective – one that can enhance your physical appearance, physical capacity, and ultimately your self-esteem.

Developing Muscle – Training Tips

So what do you need to know to start an effective resistance training program? First, rest assured that developing muscle needn’t be either tedious or time-consuming. Set aside a regular time to exercise and then follow these basic guidelines to establish a sensible strength training program.

– Selection: Address all major muscle groups – the quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back, abdominals, chest, upper back, shoulders, biceps and triceps.  Each group can be trained individually using rotary exercises or in combination with other groups.

– Speed: Slow movement reduces the risk of injury and enhances the training stimulus.  Perform all resistance training in a carefully controlled manner.

– Range: Muscles develop strength only in the exercised positions, so perform each exercise through a complete range of movement.   Whenever possible, work from a position of full muscle extension to full muscle contraction.

– Resistance: Always train at about 75 percent of maximum resistance.  For most practical purposes, this corresponds to a resistance that can be performed at least eight times, but not more than twelve.

– Sets: One, two, or three sets of exercises are equally effective for promoting strength development. Thus, personal preference (or time constraints) should be the determining factor with regards to the number of sets.

– Progression: Resistance training must be progressive for continued muscle development.  One highly effective approach to exercise progression is to use a given resistance until twelve repetitions can be completed, at which time you should increase resistance by approximately 5 percent.

– Frequency: Muscles respond to the training stimulus during the recovery period following an exercise session. Most people require about forty-eight hours for the muscle rebuilding process to reach its peak.   It is therefore not advisable to perform strength training more frequently than every other day.

About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Lont-Term Relationships Advice – How To Make It Last?

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Relationships can make us or break us in many ways. Human relationships are built upon communication: a look, a laugh, physical contact or talk. No relationship can begin without communication. Communication is the glue that holds a relationship together, and communication is what makes a relationship grow stronger or break down.

The health of our relationships affect every area of our lives. Relationships can cause tremendous stress. Continuous stress breaks down the body and causes illness. Conversely, good relationships make a long and healthy life much more likely.

Relationship Is Built On Communication

This article is about long-term relationships. These are the most crucial relationships in our lives that can affect our wellness.

What are the basics of communication? The golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Communication is a two-way street. It’s about giving, love and teamwork. The more mutually understanding the bond of communication, the better the relationship. There needs to be a basis or protocol, a set of rules or principles that both people agree upon. Therefore a relationship must also have accountability.

There are certain things that degrade and block communication and damage or destroy a relationship: hurt, anger, selfishness, intolerance, lack of trust and unforgiveness. If one person unilaterally cuts off certain communication because it is not pleasing to them, then the relationship breaks down. A relationship is not about one individual getting their own way, it’s about working together to understand each other and also to sharpen each other.

Psychologists and counselors can make relationships seem very complex. However, the solutions to most relational problems are usually rather simple. Both people simply need to agree to ask themselves a simple question about each interaction or communication: “would I want to be treated the way I am treating the other person?”.

Tolerance

As mentioned above, one of the important requirements for good communication is tolerance. Both people need to tolerate and accept each other’s differences just the way they are. This does not mean that everything is acceptable and that there are no boundaries. There are two different kinds of tolerance.

One is a spiritual or emotional tolerance of the heart that enables you to maintain or recover to a feeling of compassion and forgiveness of the other person no matter what they do, even if there is violence. This does not mean that there are no protective measures taken if one is abused. Spiritual tolerance is internal, it enables one to be independent of what any other person does.

You are internally free and strong and not co-dependant. The best example is Christ who forgave and felt compassion and understanding for the soldiers that beat and mocked him and nailed him to a cross. Incredibly, Christ said: “forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Tolerance Has Its Limits

The other type of tolerance has limits. It is an outward or functional jurisdictional tolerance regarding right and wrong. This is where accountability and boundaries come into play. It means that one cannot honestly allow a relationship to continue with the same kind of closeness if there is a total disregard for the mutually agreed upon rules of the relationship.

As was discussed earlier, spiritual tolerance is important to a relationship because no matter what the other person does, there will always be forgiveness, understanding and compassion. However, even though there will be compassion it does not mean being a ‘doormat’.

At times there also must be consequences… a backing away from the relationship in a physical or functional way. Balancing the two forms of tolerance can take time and practice. If trust is broken then there needs to be an acknowledgement that the relationship has changed and that the depth of relationship and closeness cannot continue as it was until the friendship bond has been mutually healed.

Criticism And Correction

A successful relationship means that each person is open and actually inviting of criticism and correction. If one person is not living by the rules, then the other person has the right to point that issue out in a loving but firm manner. It’s very important that both people have agreed on the basis or rules of the relationship. If there is trust, then the relationship can quickly get back on track.

Nagging or trying to push the other person into changing a personality trait or bad habit does not build a healthy relationship. Claming up, giving the silent treatment or saying “I don’t want to talk about it” is called “passive aggressive” behavior and is just another way of trying to force the other person to do things your way. Selfishness does not build a healthy relationship. Each person needs to say to themselves “Do I like to be given the silent treatment or be treated this way? Then I will try not to treat the other person this way.”.

The best way to hold each other accountable and to correct each other is by thinking of it as influencing the other person. It’s an attitude of ‘coaching’ the other person, not forcing. The only time more serious action needs to be taken is if one person habitually tries to control or cut off communication without any effort to change and has no desire to be accountable.

This is an unrepentant, divisive attitude that makes no sense to tolerate in a healthy relationship. If this is the case, then there really is not a mutual relationship. It is a sham and the relationship needs to be brought to a crisis point where a decision is made either to mutually work together and try to abide by the agreed upon rules or further separate the relationship.

Relationships take a lot of patience and tolerance. However, you can’t just gloss over and tolerate divisiveness or total intolerance, etc., in the other person unless you want the relationship to blow up in your face somewhere down the road.

If one person puts on a false sense of humility and acts like a ‘doormat’, then the intolerant, divisive person will eventually come to the point where they totally despise the ‘doormat’ person and end up dumping the relationship. There always needs to be at least some spirit of humility and working together in order to make a relationship work.

Crises Can Make Your Relationship Stronger

Sometimes it takes a few crises early on before a relationship can be established that can stand the test of time. These kinds of relationships turn out to be productive and fun. Don’t allow a relationship to fester in a broken down state for a long period of time.

This just causes stress and breakdown in your body, mind and spirit. Bring the relationship to a crisis early-on by taking your friend or spouse to a good pastor or qualified counselor who understands the principles of successful relationships so that the relationship will bring both of you long-term joy and fulfillment. Good relationships are the best way to provide a future of wellness.

Hiking And Climbing Strength Training

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A few years ago we conducted some research studies on the physiological benefits of rock climbing, using a mechanical rock climbing apparatus that allowed us to collect data on each exercise session. We actually trained 30 men and women for 20 minutes a day, two days a week, for a period of eight weeks on a Treadwall revolving rock climbing machine.

Even this rather limited amount of simulated rock climbing produced significant improvements in body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. To say the least, we were highly impressed with the physical adaptations associated with regular rock climbing activity.

Of course, there is another side to the rock climbing coin. Due to the intense nature of this muscle-challenging activity, prior physical conditioning is highly recommended. Based on our research results, we recommend a sensible combination of strength exercise for the muscular system and endurance exercise for the cardiovascular system, as well as some stretching exercise for enhanced joint flexibility.

Strength Training Exercises

Because rock climbing involves essentially all of the major muscle groups, we suggest a comprehensive program of strength exercise. Your strength training program should address the muscles of the legs, torso, midsection, arms, neck and forearms.

Although the forearms are not normally considered a major muscle group, gripping ability is particularly important for successful rock climbing experiences. Table 1 presents our recommended single-joint exercises that better isolate the target muscles relevant to rock climbing. These are the leg extension, leg curl, hip adduction, hip abduction, chest cross, pullover, lateral raise, biceps curl, triceps extension, low back extension, abdominal curl, neck extension, neck flexion, forearm extension and forearm flexion.

Table 1. – Recommended single-joint strength exercises that target muscles used in rock climbing and hiking.

Exercises Muscle Groups
Leg Extension Quadriceps
Leg Curl Hamstrings
Hip Adduction Hip Adductors
Hip Abduction Hip Abductors
Chest Cross Pectoralis Major
Pullover Latissimus Dorsi
Lateral Raise Deltoids
Biceps Curl Biceps
Triceps Extension Triceps
Low Back Extension Erector Spinae
Abdominal Curl Rectus Abdominis
Neck Extension Neck Extensors
Neck Flexion Neck Flexors
Forearm Extension Forearm Extensors
Forearm Flexion Forearm Flexors

An alternative training approach is presented in Table 2. This program uses multiple-joint exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time. These are the leg press, bench press, seated row, incline press, pulldown, overhead press, assisted chin-up, assisted bar-dip, as well as the rotary torso, forearm extension and forearm flexion.

Table 2. – Recommended multiple-joint strength exercises that work the muscles used in rock climbing and hiking.

Exercises Muscle Groups
Leg Press Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals
Bench Press Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoids, Triceps
Seated Row Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Biceps
Incline Press Anterior Deltoids, Pectoralis Major, Triceps
Pulldown Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Biceps
Overhead Press Deltoids, Triceps, Upper Trapezius
Assisted Chin-Up Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Biceps
Assisted Bar Dip Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoids, Triceps
Rotary Torso External Obliques, Internal Obliques
Forearm Extension Forearm Extensors
Forearm Flexion Forearm Flexors

Strength Training Design

Exercise Repetitions

Obviously, muscle endurance plays a major role in rock climbing excursions, which makes it tempting to advocate a strength training program that emphasizes high repetitions with low resistance. While this is certainly acceptable, our research has revealed excellent improvements in both muscle strength and endurance from the standard training program of eight to 12 repetitions per set.

In fact, we have found no significant differences in strength development when using low (six to eight) or high (13 to 15) repetitions per set, indicating that all of these repetition protocols are effective when training is continued to the point of muscle fatigue. To increase both muscle strength and endurance in an efficient manner, we recommend training with about 75 percent of maximum resistance for eight to 12 carefully controlled repetitions. When you can complete 12 repetitions in proper form, you should increase the resistance by about five percent.

Exercise Sets

Research has clearly demonstrated that single-set strength training is highly productive for stimulating muscle development. Although you may certainly complete more sets if you so desire, excellent results can be attained by performing one good set of each exercise.

If you do one set of the 15 exercises presented in Table 1, your entire strength training session should take approximately 30 minutes, assuming about one minute per set and about one minute between exercises.

Exercise Speed

Due to the tensive nature of rock climbing, we recommend relatively slow lifting and lowering movements that work the muscles more effectively. Rather than using fast, momentum-assisted repetitions, it is better to maintain constant tension on the target muscle groups with controlled training speeds.

While the standard six-second speed (two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering) should be sufficient, rock climbers may experience greater benefits by performing very slow repetitions. Research studies have shown that four to six 14-second repetitions produce significantly greater strength gains than eight to 12 six-second repetitions in beginning exercisers. While the so-called Super Slow training technique is physically and mentally tough to perform, it would seem perfectly suited to rock climbers.

Exercise Range

Contrary to popular misunderstanding, properly performed strength exercise actually enhances joint flexibility. However, improved joint flexibility is clearly related to full-range exercise movements. In other words, make every effort to train the target muscles through as full a movement range as possible on every repetition.

Exercise Frequency

The general recommendation for strength training frequency is three workouts per week, and recent research reveals that this approach does produce best results in new exercisers. However, these same studies have shown 70 to 85 percent as much strength gain from two training sessions per week, and about 60 to 75 percent as much strength gain from one weekly workout.

Based on your personal preference, you may therefore increase muscle strength by training one, two or three days per week. Just be sure to allow at least 48 hours between successive exercise sessions, as muscle development occurs during the recovery and building periods between workouts.

Of course, rock climbers do not desire any extra body weight to pull up the side of a cliff. Strength training will add a few pounds of muscle, but it is similar to going from a six-cylinder engine to an eight-cylinder engine. In addition to increasing muscle power, strength training typically leads to an equivalent loss of fat weight.

Studies with hundreds of participants have shown two to four pounds more muscle and four to eight pounds less fat after eight weeks of strength training. In other words, strength exercise can improve your body composition (more muscle and less fat) without increasing your body weight, which definitely improves athletic ability.

Hiking Application

While strength training is clearly advantageous for rock climbing activity, its benefits for hiking performance may be less obvious. Generally speaking, hikers should have a strong and balanced muscular system for all kinds of ambulatory actions up and down trails and mountainsides.

The basic strength training program is therefore similar to that for rock climbing, and should include exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip adductors, hip abductors, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, biceps, triceps, low back, abdominals and neck muscles. With this on mind, both the single-joint strength exercise program presented in Table 1 and the multiple-joint strength exercise program presented in Table 2 are highly appropriate for hikers.

Due to the nature of most hiking outings, strength training technique is extremely important. For example, hiking up the mountain is hard work that places considerable stress on the thigh muscles. However, hiking down the mountain is also hard work that places even more stress on the thigh muscles.

This is because downhill hiking emphasizes negative muscle contractions that attenuate the force of gravity and prevent you from tumbling head over heels down the mountain. Negative muscle contractions cause much more microtrauma to the tissues and often lead to muscle soreness the day following the activity.

With this understanding, it would appear useful for hikers to emphasize negative muscle contractions in their strength training programs. We are not in favor of performing negative only exercise routines with heavier than normal weightloads, because excessive muscle overload can cause serious tissue damage.

However, we do recommend performing slow lowering movements to accentuate the negative phase of every repetition. For example, if you take two full seconds to lift the weightload and four full seconds to lower the weightload, the negative muscle contraction receives ample attention. This should enhance the overall training effect, and translate into better muscle response to both uphill and downhill hiking.

Because hikers frequently carry packs on their backs, it is important to develop strong upper body muscles as well as strong leg muscles. The recommended training program should be sufficient in this regard, as long as you train with reasonable intensity. One set of each exercise is highly effective if you use enough resistance to fatigue the target muscle group within eight to 12 controlled repetitions.

Two or three 30-minute training sessions per week should produce excellent strength gains, and this represents an important investment for better activity performance as well as improved physical fitness.

Summary

Strength training provides the best means for increasing the functional capacity of our musculoskeletal system. When performed in a sensible manner, it requires relatively little time and produces significant strength gains that may greatly enhance rock climbing and hiking abilities. The basic strength training programs presented in this article are well-suited for rock climbers and hikers, and are recommended as an integral part of your overall conditioning program.

About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Ergonomics, Injury Prevention, And Work Safety

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Simple, yet extremely effective, techniques exist that can reduce wear and tear of your spine regarding your day to day activities at work and home. If these simple techniques are utilized, you can add years to your life and life to your years.

The rule of thumb is as follows: Utilize your legs and leg muscles during standing positions and lifting and cleaning, and stay away from bending at your waist.

Proper Lifting Technique

The leg muscles are the most powerful muscles in the body, and they are designed to be used for power lifts. During any lifting procedure, such as a heavy pot or a pencil, the feet should be spread apart as far as comfortably possible, and the knees should be bent as you go down to pick up the item, as if it was a squatting maneuver.

One should concentrate on keeping the spine straight up as if you were still standing. By keeping the spine straight and utilizing this squatting position tremendous stress is taken off of the spine and transferred to the legs during each lift of every day. The secret is to be patient; it will take a good period of time to form this new habit.

Don’t become frustrated because you continuously forget to not bend at the waist and utilize the squatting procedure. Most of us have been bending at the waist for many years. Remember to take a brief second just before you are going to stoop down to pick up something, and position yourself appropriately for the lift. The more you practice this maneuver, the faster this new healthy habit will form.

Proper Standing Position

For the standing position, one should always try to spread the feet apart as far as possible to again take the stress off the spine, especially the lower back. Examples include standing in front of an ironing board, a counter top, or the kitchen sink for dishes, clean-up, and food preparation. Certain work activities require long periods of standing, and you should also practice this position.

As you are standing in front of the structure you are working on, spread the feet as far apart as tolerable, and the stress is now into the legs. The taller you are, the more you will benefit by spreading the feet further apart. Some people think that this position is a little silly, but that doesn’t matter. The stress off the spine is worth any small amount of jokes or ridicule you may encounter. This “spread eagle” position also decreases the slightly bent forward posture which creates so much pressure on the discs and joints of the spine. Also, as additional help, bend the knees slightly.

Proper Sitting Position

The last position to consider is the sitting position. Many of us, being in the computer age, spend hours each day sitting, either in front of a computer, or driving. Practice sitting up straight just like your parents told you to. Pull the shoulders back, and lift the chin up as much as possible.

This will also take time to get use to, so be patient. Computer monitors should be HIGHER THAN EYE LEVEL, SO YOU ARE LOOKING SLIGHTLY UPWARDS TO VIEW THE MONITOR. Televisions can be elevated as well. When you are reading, especially lighter materials such as paperwork, newspapers, and light books, lift them up so you are looking straight rather than looking directly down on to a flat surface. These posture techniques, although simple, are very effective and can add years to your life and reduce needless suffering.

Proper Sitting Techniques To Prevent Neck, Low Back Pain, And Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms


With the technology and computer era, more people are sitting for more hours each day at work and commuting. All of this sitting, especially when combined with poor posture, has led to a massive increase in the deterioration of the human spine, leading to a host of wear and tear syndromes, suffering, degeneration, arthritis, and brain dysfunction.

Most of these problems can be prevented with a smart strategy utilized during long sitting periods at work, home, and driving. The discs and joints of the spine function like a sponge. The sponge must be squeezed to push out waste products, and released to pull in nutrients. If you leave the sponge on a counter, it will dry up and be rendered useless.

A similar situation exists with the discs and joints of the spine. After age 20, there is no direct blood supply to the discs of the spine, and very poor blood supply to the joint ligaments. Therefore, they must rely on motion and flexibility to receive their nutrients and eliminate wastes. Long periods of sitting without motion can accelerate the deterioration of discs and joints, causing a variety of problems, diseases, and pain.

In addition, there are nerve ending in discs, joints, and muscles of the spine which are the primary drive and stimulation of the brain. These muscle spindles and joint mechanoreceptors rely on motion to be stimulated to keep the brain functioning well.

With decreased flexibility and motion of the spine, these nerve ending do not stimulate the brain, leading to a variety of brain disorders, which explains why many of our elderly have brain deterioration syndromes, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. It is critical to take appropriate care of your spine to enjoy the highest level of humanism throughout your life.

STEP 1: Sitting with Proper Posture

Most people realize that proper posture when sitting is critical to a healthy spine and nervous system. The chin should be up, shoulders driven back, and ALL COMPUTER MONITORS SHOULD BE ABOVE EYE LEVEL, TO REINFORCE PROPER SITTING POSTURE.

If you have been sitting for many years in a slouched posture, it will take time for you to get used to sitting with appropriate posture, so be patient. Shifting positions in your chair and standing up even for a few seconds very frequently will help. If you sit for long periods of time without getting up or exercising, your spine will rot!

STEP 2: Flexibility and Posture Exercises

Flexibility and posture exercises are critical to maintenance of a healthy spine and nervous system. There are three simple exercises that everyone can do right away to help prevent spinal degeneration:
– Spinal twist: sitting, feet apart, shoulders back, chin up, arms out in front, twist slowly and comfortably, side to side while turning the head as well. Perform this 1-10 times every 20-30 minutes.

– Spinal bending: sitting, feet apart, shoulders back, head up, hands on thighs, slowly and comfortably bend the spine from left to right, bending the head as well. Perform this 1-10 times every 20-30 minutes, or more.

– Spinal extension: This is a posture exercise to undo poor posture. Sitting, hand behind the back with hand down by the waist, one hand clasped over the other, pull the shoulders straight back as if to pinch something between the shoulder blades, and lift the chin as high as comfortably possible (look at the ceiling). Hold this position for 10 seconds. Do 1-3 of these or more, each hour. If this exercise is uncomfortable, don’t stretch as far back, or stop immediately.

– And for home: lie on back on the floor or bed, knees bent. Roll the knees slowly side to side and gently stretch the low back. Excellent motion for the low back discs, joints, and muscles. Make sure you perform these exercises under the guidance of your health care professional. These exercises should be performed in your comfort zone only and not forced.

STEP 3: Chiropractic Consultation


If you are still suffering from spinal and extremity complaints, or nervous system dysfunction, a chiropractic consultation is indicated. If someone feels great, with no complaints, they may consider a chiropractic consultation as well to prevent future problems and for general health and wellness. Please call Dr. Scott Fuller at his office and speak to him personally if you have additional questions regarding chiropractic treatment or any problems that you may have. Chiropractic treatment focuses on improving spinal joint health and nervous system integrity.

STEP 4: Prevention of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In many cases, surgery, drugs, and the pain of CTS is avoidable with just few simple exercises. Chiropractic treatment may also very successfully help this situation.

– The rubber band exercise: take an average thickness postal rubber band and place it around your distal fingertips. Keep your fingers and thumb almost straight, in a claw-like fashion. Then, slowly open your fingers as far as possible against the band tension, and close slowly. Repeat several times a day, and steadily build up the frequency to your tolerance. Strengthen up these posterior forearm muscles, and the CTS may cease.

I welcome all comments and questions. For more information feel free to contact me at 781-933-3332 or e-mail me at questions@drscottfuller.com.

Created by: Dr. Scott Fuller, D.C., C.C.S.T.
Fuller Chiropractic
576 Main Street
Woburn, MA 01801

Strength Training For Tennis

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Tennis is a superb sport. It requires excellent hand-eye coordination, good agility, and keen spatial awareness. In addition to the physical and mental challenge, a good singles match provides both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. Although skill is essential for top-level tennis, technique development is easier if you are fit—which is also the critical factor for staying power during the second and third sets.

Fitness comes in many forms, and conditioning is specific to the training program. For example, joint flexibility is enhanced through stretching exercises, cardiovascular endurance is improved through aerobic activity, and muscular strength is increased through resistance training. Certainly, all of these fitness components may contribute to better tennis performance. If you were to focus on one area of physical conditioning for tennis, however, it should undoubtedly be strength exercise.

Basic Strength Exercises

Tennis play involves a lot of musculoskeletal activity, including all kinds of movements in the legs, midsection, upper body, and arms. You should therefore train all of the major muscle groups. This ensures overall strength and balanced muscle development to enhance performance power and reduce the risk of injuries. The machine exercises in Table 1 provide a solid base of conditioning from which to progress into more advanced training when you are ready.

Machine Exercise Target Muscles
Leg Extension Quadriceps
Leg Curl Hamstrings
Chest Cross Pectoralis Major
Pullover Latissimus Dorsi
Lateral Raise Deltoids
Biceps Curl Biceps
Triceps Extension Triceps
Low Back Spinal Erectors
Abdominal Rectus Abdominis
Four-Way Neck Neck Flexors, Neck Extensors

The exercises are presented from the larger muscles of the legs to the smaller muscles of the neck, which is the recommended order of performance. One set of each exercise is sufficient, as long as you train with good form to the point of muscle fatigue. Because intensity is the key to strength development, use enough resistance to fatigue the target muscle groups within about 50-70 seconds. In general, this corresponds to the heaviest weight load that you can lift for eight to 12 controlled repetitions.

Each repetition should be completed in approximately six seconds, with two seconds for the lifting movement and four seconds for the lowering movement. The slower lowering phase emphasizes the stronger negative muscle contraction, and should make each exercise set more productive. It is also important to perform each repetition through a full range of movement. This enhances both joint integrity and flexibility.

As your muscles become stronger, it is essential to progressively increase the work effort. This is best accomplished by gradually increasing the exercise resistance. Once you complete 12 repetitions, the weight load is no longer heavy enough to produce maximum strength benefits. By increasing the resistance about five percent (typically 1 to 5 pounds), you can continue to stimulate strength development.

Depending on your activity schedule, you may train two or three days per week. Research shows that three sessions per week are somewhat more effective than two sessions, but either exercise protocol will produce excellent strength results if you follow the recommended training guidelines. In fact, in our most recent studies, one weekly workout provided about 70 percent as much strength development as three training days. This should be good news for the active tennis player who is concerned about time constraints and overtraining.

Advanced Strength Exercise

After two months of basic training, you should be ready for some more advanced strength exercises. Some of these will replace the introductory exercises, while others will provide supplementary training relevant to tennis performance.

Legs


Let’s begin with the powerful leg muscles that generate the force for your ground strokes, as well as your movements across the court. Instead of training the quadriceps and hamstrings separately, replace the leg extension and leg curl with the leg press that works both of these muscle groups and the gluteals simultaneously.

The leg press permits heavier weightloads, and is the best exercise for developing functional leg strength. In addition to the quadriceps and hamstrings, the hip adductors and abductors play a major role in your weight shifts and lateral movements. These opposing muscle groups on the inner and outer thighs are best trained with the hip adductor and hip abductor machines, which should be added to your strength exercise program.

Due to the stop-and-go movements that require almost continuous force production and shock absorption in the lower leg muscles, it is prudent to perform some calf strengthening exercises. The calf machine or standing calf raises are highly effective for targeting the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the lower leg, and serve as an excellent supplement to the upper leg exercises.

Midsection

The power generated by the large leg muscles is transferred to the upper body through the muscles of the midsection. Swinging movements (ground strokes and serves) involve the internal and external oblique muscles on both sides of the midsection.

These important muscles may be effectively strengthened on the dual-action rotary torso machine, which works the right internal and left external obliques on clockwise movements, and the left internal and right exernal obliqueson counter-clockwise movements. Add the rotary torso exercise to the low back and abdominal machines for comprehensive midsection conditioning.

Upper Body

The major upper body muscles involved in swinging a tennis racquet are the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and deltoids of the torso, and the biceps and triceps of the arms. While the basic strength training program addresses these muscles individually, it may be advantageous to work some of the groups together. This is best accomplished by doing pushing and pulling exercises such as bench presses, seated rows, overhead presses, and pulldowns.

The bench press is a popular pushing exercise that strengthens the pectoralis major and triceps muscle at the same time. Conversely, the seated row is an effective pulling exercise that works the opposing latissimus dorsi and biceps muscles simultaneously.

One of the best means for training the shoulder and triceps muscles together is the overhead press. The counterpart to this exercise is the pulldown that involves both the latissimus dorsi and biceps muscles.

Replace the chest cross, pullover, lateral raise, biceps curl and triceps extension exercises with the bench press, seated row, overhead press, and pulldown exercises. These provide a more comprehensive upper body workout that may have more practical benefit in terms of power production.

Table 2. presents a more advanced tennis strength training program. These exercises should be performed in the same manner as the basic program exercises, namely, one set of eight to 12 well-controlled repetitions.

Table 2. – Recommended advanced exercises for conditioning the major muscle groups.

Machine Exercise Target Muscles
Leg Press Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals
Hip Adduction Hip Adductors
Hip Abduction Hip Abductors
Calf Raise Gastrocnemius, Soleus
Bench Press Pectoralis Major, Triceps
Seated Row Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Overhead Press Deltoids, Triceps
Pulldown Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Low Back Spinal Erectors
Abdominal Rectus Abdominis
Rotary Torso External Obliques, Internal Obliques
Four Way Neck Neck Flexors, Neck Extensors

Specific Strength Exercises

While  both the basic and advanced strength training programs should provide excellent tennis conditioning and reasonable injury protection, you should take one more step to address particularly vulnerable muscle groups that experience significant stress during tennis play.

Shoulder Rotator Muscles


The first of these smaller and frequently injured muscle groups is the rotator cuff complex that surrounds and stabilizes the shoulder joint.

The shoulder rotator muscles lie beneath the large deltoid muscles, and enable us to turn our arm in various positions. Rotating our arm backwards, called external rotation, uses the teres minor and infraspinatus muscles. Rotating our arm forwards, called internal rotation, involves the subscapularis muscles. Keeping our arm within the shoulder joint structure is the primary function of the supraspinatus muscle. Together, these four muscle groups surround the shoulder joint, providing both structural stability and the ability to produce forehand, backhand, and serving movements.

The good news is that these four relatively small muscle groups respond very well to proper strength training. The bad news is that most people do not perform any specific exercises for their rotator cuff. This is unfortunate, because rotator cuff injuries occur frequently in tennis players and typically require a long recovery period.

Although the standard strength exercises offer some conditioning benefit, you should  definitely do at least one workout per week for the shoulder rotator muscles.

The best means for specifically training the rotator cuff muscles is the rotary shoulder machine, a dual-action exercise that provides full-range rotational resistance for both the external and internal shoulder rotator muscles.

If this machine is not available, you may also strengthen these important muscles with resistance bands. Simply attach the band to a door at waist level, stand with your left side toward the door, keep your left elbow against your left side, and pull the band across your midsection using your left hand. This works your left internal shoulder rotator muscles. Next, keep your right elbow against your right side and pull the band away from your midsection using your right hand. This works your right external shoulder rotator muscles. Repeat these two exercises standing with your right side toward the door and using the opposite hands.

Forearm Muscles

Due to the extensive wrist action required in tennis play, the forearm muscles can be easily overstressed, leading to injury at the elbow or wrist joints. The forearm machine provides five separate wrist movements to effectively condition all of the forearm muscles. Few exercises are better suited to tennis players, especially for increasing grip strength and reducing injury potential.

If you don’t have access to this training device, an excellent alternative exercise is the wrist roller. Simply attach a five-pound weight plate to a two-foot rope and tie the other end to a round wooden dowel. Holding the dowel in both hands, alternately turn your wrists clockwise to wind the rope around the dowel and lift the weight. This action addresses your forearm flexor muscles. When the weight touches the dowel, alternately turn your wrists counterclockwise to unwind the rope and lower the weight. This action works your forearm extensor muscles.

Program Design

If you play tennis three or four days per week, then it is probably best to do your strength training on two or three non-tennis days. That permits plenty of recovery time after each activity. If you practice tennis every day, your strength training should probably be performed about four hours after your tennis training for best overall results. For example, if you play tennis every morning from 9 to 11, you may schedule your strength exercise around 3 p.m. Two or three equally spaced strength training days are recommended for most practical purposes.

Remember that skill training is the most important factor in improving your tennis game. However, physical conditioning can certainly enhance your tennis playing efforts and  outcomes. The cornerstone of physical conditioning is muscular strength, and a stronger tennis player should always be a better tennis player.

 
About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.

Rowing Strength Training – Improve Your Rowing Performance

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If you enjoy rowing, canoeing, or kayaking, then the information in this section should be most helpful for improving your rowing/paddling performance and reducing your risk of muscle overuse/imbalance injuries.

Your Objectives

a man doing pullups
The first objective is to strengthen the muscles used in these activities for more powerful rowing/paddling actions. To do this we will concentrate on those exercises that specifically address the rowing muscles.

However, the second objective is to strengthen the muscles not used in these activities, especially the opposing muscle groups that must balance the prime mover muscles and maintain joint integrity throughout thousands of repetitive rowing movements.

That is, you need a sound and sensible strength training program for comprehensive musculoskeletal conditioning. This will become more obvious when you realize how much musculature is actually involved in rowing/paddling activities.

Rowing Action Analyzed – Movements, Muscles And Exercises

Let’s begin with a basic analysis of the rowing action as produced by the contributing muscle groups, and the recommended resistance exercises for strength conditioning. The first movement in sliding seat rowing is extension of the legs, starting with the muscles that straighten the knees.

These are the quadriceps muscles of the front thighs, the largest and strongest muscles in the body. The second and almost simultaneous movement is extension of the hip joint, which is accomplished by the opposing  hamstrings muscles of the rear thighs.

The single best strength exercise for the quadriceps muscles is the leg extension, and the single best exercise for the hamstrings muscles is the leg curl (either seated or prone). The exercise that most effectively works both the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles at the same time is the leg press.

As shown in Table 1, these three leg exercises should be performed first in the strength training program, as they are responsible for the initial power production of every rowing action.

The next phase of the rowing action is extension of the trunk, which is produced by contraction of the lower back muscles. Although the erector spinae muscles can become extremely strong, the lower back represents a most vulnerable area of the body for many people.

You must therefore train these important muscles in a careful and progressive manner to reduce the risk of injury during the strengthening process. Without question, the best exercise for safely developing stronger lower back muscles is the low back machine. However, to ensure comprehensive midsection conditioning you should combine the low back exercise with the abdominal machine and the rotary torso machine.

These three exercises address the erector spinae muscles of the rear midsection, the rectus abdominis muscles of the front midsection, and the oblique muscles (internal and external) on both sides of the midsection, respectively. All of these midsection muscles are involved in efficient force transfer from the lower body to the upper body, and should be included in each strength training session. Due to their stabilization function in essentially every strength exercise, I recommend placing the midsection exercises at the end of each workout (see Table 1).

The next aspect of the rowing sequence is the arm pulling action that actually moves the oars through the water to propel the boat forward. Although always challenging, the arm pull is much easier when it is appropriately timed to immediately follow the trunk extension movement. The prime mover muscles for the arm pull are the latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles of the upper back, the rear deltoid muscles of the shoulders, and the biceps muscles of the arms, with assistance from the large shoulder retractor muscles (upper trapezius, middle trapezius, and rhomboids).
biceps curl exercise
The super pullover machine is most productive for isolating the latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles, and should be followed by the compound row machine that addresses these muscles, the posterior deltoid muscles and the biceps muscles, as well as the upper trapezius, middle trapezius, and rhomboids.

Additional biceps conditioning can be obtained by using the biceps machine. These exercises should be performed in the order presented in Table 1. To ensure muscle balance and joint integrity in the upper body you should also do exercises for the opposing muscle groups, namely the pectoralis major, anterior and middle deltoids and triceps. As shown in Table 1, the chest press, shoulder press and triceps extension exercises achieve this purpose and should be included in your strength training program where indicated.

Exercise Routine For Rowing – How Often Should Your Train?

All of the strength exercises should be performed 2 of 3 days per week, typically in a total body workout that can be completed in less than 30 minutes. One properly performed set of each exercise should be sufficient, with approximately one minute recovery time between successive exercises. Proper exercise performance is characterized by full movement range and slow movement speed on every repetition.

I suggest taking about 6 seconds for each repetition, with 2 seconds for the more challenging lifting movement and 4 seconds for the otherwise less challenging lowering movement. Use enough resistance to fatigue the target muscles within the anaerobic energy system, generally during a range of 50 to 70 seconds. At 6 seconds per repetition, this corresponds to about 8 to 12 good repetitions per exercise set. Whenever you can complete 12 repetitions in proper form, you should increase the weightload by approximately 5 percent (or less). For most exercises, this requires adding 2 to 10 pounds, which will of course reduce the number of repetitions that you can perform, accordingly.

Train with the higher resistance until you can again complete 12 repetitions, then add an appropriate amount of weight to your next workout. Keep careful records of all your training sessions for purposes of progression and motivation.

Table 1. Recommended strength exercises and training order for increased rowing/paddling power.

Exercise Relevance Muscle Group Rowing
Leg extension Quadriceps Power production
Leg curl Hamstrings Power production
Leg press Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals Power production
Super pullover Latissimus dorsi, teres major Arm pull
Compound row Latissimus dorsi, teres major, biceps, upper trapezius, middle trapezius, rhomboids Arm pull
Biceps curl Biceps
Chest press Pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps Joint integrity
Shoulder press Anterior deltoids, middle deltoids, triceps Joint integrity
Triceps extension Triceps Joint integrity
Low back Erector spinae Force transfer
Abdominal Rectus abdominis Force transfer
Rotary torso Internal obliques, external obliques Force transfer

About the author:
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., C.S.C.S, is Fitness Research Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and Club Industry magazines.