Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hamstring Stretch and Shoulder Rotation

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This easy to learn stretch and relaxation movement is great for relaxing tense neck and shoulder muscles, and stretching hamstrings and Achilles tendons.

Run the video a few times and then try it.

Softly lean forward, with arms folded, one leg extended, toes pointed up; slowly rotate your shoulders 12 to 20 times. As your muscles relax into the stretch (do not force yourself), softly lower your hips and shoulders more. Keep a straight but relaxed spine. Then with your opposite foot forward, reverse your shoulder rotation for 12 to 20 times.

This is a great one after a workout, or really at anytime during the day, or before going to bed.

Do you sit at a desk or work at computer? Stand and do the rotation and stretch for a few minutes every hour and notice how much better you feel.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Many Women Don't Know They're Pre-Diabetic

Are you getting fatter around the middle? Do you have a family history of heart disease or diabetes? You could be headed for the same trouble, especially if you're over 40 and female.
So says a report from the Associated Press.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Weightlifting May Cut Teen Diabetes Risk

Research has shown that strength training can help overweight adults lower their risk of diabetes. Now, a small but promising study found that pudgy boys who lifted weights twice a week for four months lowered their risk for Type 2 diabetes without losing weight, a good sign that has inspired more research.

Of course, getting their body fat percentage to normal would make the picture even brighter. But let's accentuate the positive. Go here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Confession is good for the Soul

It has been three years since I have done a bench press. I know, I know. Bench pressing is the very heart of most upper-body training. And when it comes to measuring a guy’s upper-body macho-ness, if not his worth as a human being in general, you know what they always ask: “How much can-ya bench press?”

When I was a young buck and working out with a couple of studly training partners, an Olympic set and a sturdy bench were absolute essentials. Later, when my training buddies moved on, I had no spotters. You need spotters for heavy bench pressing. So I switched to dumbbells and devices like Magnum bench press machines. It was a little different, but they were still bench presses.

Four or five years ago, I started having achy shoulders, off and on. I knew something wasn’t right. What I also knew is that too much bench pressing puts your rotator cuffs through hell. So I decided not to do them for a while. My shoulder pain went away and never returned.

Do I miss bench pressing? At first I did. I had it my head that an iron workout really isn’t a workout at all without some serious grunting under a loaded Olympic bar while flat on my back on a bench. I got over it.

Today, I do standard pushups (sometimes with barbell plates resting on my back), push-ups with my feet elevated on a stability ball, Hindu push-ups, dive bombers, and, of course, overhead presses. Guess what. No shoulder problems. Zero. Nada.

And why is that?

I’m not really sure. It could be that the slightly different angles required in those movements make a significant difference. Or maybe it’s the fact that so many more muscles come into play doing push-up varieties. Maybe they are more natural movements, more in sync with the way our bodies are designed.

Has the good old pectoralis major region been slighted without the almighty bench press? I don’t think so. Nobody’s asked recently how much I can bench. Maybe it’s my age and gray hair. But if they should, I’ll ask how many dive bombers they can knock out. Now there is a challenge!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Headline Mumbo Jumbo

Just today a story broke about average life spans in America. Here’s how some in the media played it. Headline: “New Study Shows How Long You Live Depends on Where You Live.”

Briefly, the study from the Harvard School of Public Health pointed out that Asian American women living in Bergin County, New Jersey live the longest (on average 91 years). While American Indians in South Dakota had the shortest life spans, averaging just 58 years. The rest of us in other regions fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Judging by the headline, being an Asian American woman in Bergin County, New Jersey or an American Indian in South Dakota determines your fate.

But not so fast. Buried near the end of story is the important part. The researchers found that the most important contributors to earlier mortality, in order of importance, are:

  1. tobacco
  2. alcohol
  3. obesity
  4. high blood pressure
  5. high cholesterol
  6. diet
  7. physical inactivity

So the headline was deceptive. An individual’s longevity has little to do with where he or she lives. Instead, life choices usually determine lifespan. It may be fair to discuss sociological reasons why Asian American residents of Bergin County, New Jersey make better life choices than American Indians in South Dakota. But it is life choices that account for the differences, not geography.

While we’re at it, look again at the list of contributors to early mortality. The last two on the list, diet and physical inactivity, are usually the reasons for the three early mortality factors just above them, high cholestrol, high blood pressure and obesity. That is the real story.

Monday, September 11, 2006

BMI vs. Waist-Hip Ratio

Much has been written lately about the deficiencies of the Body Mass Index (BMI) for determining overweight or obesity. Without getting into a lot of detail, it comes down to this: Very fit, muscular people are often mistakenly classified as overweight because the scale and the BMI formula do not differentiate fat from muscle.

So, if the mirror and your belt size are not enough to tell you if are too fat, use the waist-hip ratio method for greater accuracy than the BMI. It doesn't require calipers or other doodads to get your answer. Just a simple cloth tape measure. Here's how to do it.

Measure the circumference of your waist (at the smallest point) and of your hips (at the largest point) and divide waist size by hip size. For example, if you are a woman whose waist is 32 inches and your hips 37 inches, you divide 32 by 37, for a ratio of 0.86. This puts you at slightly above normal. For women, a ratio under 0.85 is normal; for men, a ratio under 0.90 is normal.

I wouldn't go so far as saying that scales are obsolete, but they do not always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sugar: The White Death

A study in The Lancet shows that someone who eats four ounces of sugar daily is five times more likely to have a heart attack than someone who eats two ounces. (The average American eats five ounces of sugar per day.)

Instead of worrying about some obscure food additive, first get the big killers out of your life: 1) For God sake, don't smoke; and 2) get the sugar out of your diet.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Yea! for a High Protein Diet

HealthDay News reports that eating more protein can help increase levels of a hunger-fighting hormone called peptide YY (PYY), according to British scientists.

Question: Did they really need another study to figure this out? Okay, I shouldn't be sarcastic. They may be a little behind the real world curve, but at least they're now providing scientific studies to back up what old school weightlifters and bodybuilders have known all along. Read all about it here.

P.S. By a "high protein diet," they don't mean Atkins.