Monday, October 30, 2006

Horizontal Pull-Ups

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Pull-ups, chin-ups, and their many varieties are great for upper-body strength and development. One of the least seen varieties is the horizontal pull-up and it is a good one. In some ways it may give you even more bang for your buck than vertical chinning.

Doing pull-ups from an almost horizontal position requires keeping your abs and lower-back muscles very tight as you pull with lats, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms. And the beauty is that all the equipment you need is a sturdy horizontal bar and a bench or box on which to elevate your feet.

Here’s how they work: Go beneath the bar and grip it with both hands at slightly wider than shoulder width; extend your legs and place your feet on the bench; straighten your body, keep it taut, and pull your chest to the bar. Later, you might try using an underhand grip.

If at first you are not strong enough to do them with your feet elevated, keep your feet on the floor and bend your knees. As you grow stronger, gradually straighten your legs. Once you can get 8 or 10 reps with straight legs, start putting your feet on higher objects, gradually working toward being horizontal.

Bonus tip for advanced trainees: For a rugged upper-body workout, try super-setting horizontal pull-ups with dive bomber push-ups. Only the strong survive!

* To see dive bomber push-ups, click on "August 2006" in the "Archives" column.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Miles Take Their Toll

On the car radio today I heard an interview with someone famous (I have a reason for withholding his name). He is a senior (age 75) in good health, yet boasted that he has never done any form of regular exercise. The interviewer laughed and said that her father, a senior, has never done anything other than mow his lawn and he’s in good health, too. On the other hand, she, the interviewer, a young woman athelete and marathon runner, said she has bad hips and knees.

I don’t want to make too much about one case of anecdotal “evidence,” yet I have to admit that I wasn’t too surprised to hear about her hip and knee problems. My opinion on long distance running is that most people are not suited to it. Too many senior long distance runners that I’ve seen have broken down body parts.

But if long distance running happens to be your preferred form of cardio — and you are not noticing signs of excessive wear and tear — then keep at it. In my own case, I guess I was never a good enough distance runner for it to become important to me. Instead, I like to hike and do some wind-sprints. You don’t see many achy knees and backs among hikers and sprinters.

My second concern with long distance running is that it is catabolic. It tends to wear away muscle tissue. The better way to go (unless you want to be a competitive long distance runner) is by doing a combination of resistance training and short but regular doses of any cardiovascular activity.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Using The Scale To Your Advantage

In a study confirming the obvious, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that stepping on a scale daily is the way to maintain your desired weight, once a healthy bodyweight is achieved. Obvious, yes, but it's still worth reading. The story from Reuters is here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

All Natural Bodybuilding

Deborah Jackson, our favorite grandmother (yes, I said grandmother) all-natural bodybuilding competitor, is recently retired from a New York City law firm. She has relocated in South Carolina.

Retirement for Deborah does not mean idle time. On November 4th, she will compete in the NPC Eastern USA contest in New York City. And she’s presenting the Feb .10, 2007 All Natural Bodybuilding & Figure Championship in Florence, South Carolina. Details here.

Anyone interested in all-natural bodybuilding competitions and training should bookmark Deborah’s web site. She knows what it takes to succeed and generously shares her knowledge.