Another Mail Call


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Occasionally I like to pick a few email questions that represent the perplexities of a wide range the insistent airborne. I'll condense the notes to save time and assure privacy, yet give you a feel for the person and the dilemma. You may notice me rambling from time to time to include a reasonably associated point that I think might be interesting, or you might find me missing the point entirely. Do not confuse this with senility.

Here we go.

Q) You've mentioned the three to four times per month heavy training while your more frequent sessions are lighter. I like this idea because it means you get to do that motivating, goal-seeking lifting from time to time while saving the joints from career-shortening wear and tear the rest of the time.

1. Have you found you can maintain and even progress in the closer-to-limit-strength with this frequency?

2. Does one build to the maximum PR heavies over the course of the month(s) or really inside of each heavy workout?

A) Throughout my history, my workouts always lasted about two hours and they were always maximum output sessions, pushing for that last rep or near last rep sets. Pain of injured or overstressed areas would me back. I trained to build and not break or degenerate my structure.

Every three weeks (give or take a few days, when I got the urge) I would see how I was doing by settling into a workout to approach my maximum single in the squat or deadlift -- usually two different days several days apart. Warming up and then go for it through whatever series of sets and reps I chose that day according to feel, whim or intelligence. Mental notes were kept, careful not to force myself into a destructive corner... you know, get the rep or jump off a cliff.

Sometimes I matched my max or exceeded it, sometimes coming close and there were times I just gave it a rest and retooled my training for the future attempts. The max rep days are risky but keep that power alive and well, and assure systemic growth advantages, muscle density and size.

Although this is no longer true, it was the scheme I followed since the dawn to effectively coincide power building with muscle building, assuming equal priority in motivation and goals. The cooperative scheme, therefore, worked well for me.

If I were seeking power only I would no doubt choose a different approach. So the answers to your questions are: number one, yes, and number two, as a hard-working muscle builder, the ability to progress in strength and maximum PR depend upon the combination of the frequent volume workouts and the less frequent low-rep workouts, the former for muscle building and conditioning, and for the intelligent preparation of the latter, the quest for power.

Insisting on pushing heavy weight when the signals advise otherwise is disastrous… pain, anxiety, disappointment, regret, workout apprehension, development of a grim attitude toward our ever-loving training and body, further aggravation of the injury, negation of its repair and generation of new injuries, extension of our training limitation and, perhaps, termination of training altogether. Oh, those aching elbows.

TV and couch, anyone? I don't think so.

Q) I am a 50-year-old woman, 5' 9," weighing 127 pounds and in really good shape. I exercised most of my life and recently started weight lifting.

I have a problem with cellulite on the upper thighs and backside. My trainer says this is fat and that if I diet correctly and weight train it could go away. What do you think?

A) Cellulite might diminish with training, but some people have it regardless of body comp, even to very lean stages. Cellulite is not fully understood and is known to be resistant.

Weight training with care is important as we get older, yet training with intensity is imperative. As you become conditioned to the weights, train with passion and a grateful attitude. A healthy, thoughtful degree of aggression is needed to build muscle and break through barriers.

One may say that passion or enthusiasm are not in our control, we either have them or don't. I say as we keep an eye hopefully and energetically on our purpose and goals, and with our hands held out against doubt and lethargy, passion and enthusiasm will fill us. From them, training intensity grows and objectives are reached.

Excessive criticism, on the other hand, can rob you.

127 at 5' 9" is quite slim. Keep the protein high, sugar low, meals frequent, feed your muscles and fuel your training sessions. Don't starve yourself to lose the fat or you will sacrifice vital, attractive, fat-burning muscle.

Q) I'm a middle-age guy. Whenever I do leg curls, the next day my lower back aches for about 24 hours. I have a full, top-quality home gym setup, with a reclining bench and leg attachments. I've tried declining the bench so my butt's in the air and I've tried a straight horizontal bench too... same discomfort the next day.

A) Home leg curl machines can be troublesome and you don't want that interfering with the health of your back. Chances are the origin of the problem is the mechanics of the apparatus as it is of a non-commercial variety. The best home setups often fail in the leg-curl movement, as do many sophisticated professional units.

Try stuffing a pillow between your midsection and the bench to raise your backside in an attempt to eliminate the stress directed to the lower back during exertion. Or, settle for a lighter weight and comfortable reps with the hope that sufficient direct leg biceps stimulation will be achieved as you seek overall thigh development from other exercises. Squats and deadlifts are winners for full thigh construction, the latter a blast on hamstrings.

Some people love lunges for the front and the back of the thighs. Weighted walking lunges (bar across the back or hanging hand-held dumbbells) and bench step-ups are popular, the accent on the hamstrings and butt the main attraction.

Another approach: Strengthen the lower back with hyperextensions and deadlifts for reps and occasional power. They are essential exercises, which will add armor to your lower back, overall power to the body and resistance to many injuries. The increased strength and health might enable you to perform the leg curls without critical stress or pain.

Meanwhile, keep the body, mind and spirit strong and alive. We are here to keep the skies clear, blue and trouble-free.

Q) I am a female, 5' 6," weighing 125 lbs and have been at this weight for years. I take in 2000 calories per day, broken down into six meals -- each meal consists of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. I train four days a week and I do two 30-minute sessions of cardio per week since I have a fast metabolism. Once in a while I will eat a bowl of ice cream or a few slices of pizza. I then do extra cardio, but the problem is I can't seem to shed the extra calories I consumed. My body stores the extra calories as fat. If I increase my cardio my body puts on fat. Am I supposed to cut carbs for a while and then increase them later?

A) The occasional ice cream and pizza shouldn't present such a problem. On those infrequent days that you indulge, plan a tough weight workout later that day or on the following day to take advantage of the carbohydrate load... pump, strength and endurance will be up and ready for action. This mildly resembles, in fact, a popular training technique put forth by highly regarded training experts: Carb up and blast the weights, according to a methodical scheme.

You're living a good life and following a good training scheme. I'd raise the protein intake (up to 40 %) and lower the carbs. You are at a fine edge according to your specs... 5' 6" and 125 are right in there.

Practice shorter, more intense and frequent cardio sessions to suit your training needs. Three or four 12 to 15-minute HIIT workouts will outdo 30-minute slugs for athleticism, fat burning and muscle sparing. Tough at first, but invigorating and pleasing once you adapt.

Are you stuck in a rut and need to break out or are you content with your level of input? Risk sometimes matches our hidden personality… a month of spirited change is always a step forward.

Sure can pile up the words when probing and attempting to solve our everyday predicaments. Life and its quandaries have a way of purifying, strengthening and humbling us... and sometimes making us crazy. We are a nice bunch of nuts, though.

Next time the clouds fill the skies in your world, throttle-up, lean back and rise above them.



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