Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pushup/Rowing Combo

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Most sports or daily activities involve the movement and coordination of your whole body, rather than, for example, your biceps alone. I think you’ll see the value of the Pushup/Rowing Combo and how your body works as a unit.

To begin, you must be in a position similar to the Plank, where your body has to be firm and tight from head to toe. You simply cannot do the P/R Combo if you let your abs and spine relax and sag.

The first part of the exercise is the standard pushup, requiring pecs, frontal deltoids and triceps to work in unison. Then, you balance on one arm, while keeping tension on your chest and shoulder muscles, as you pull one dumbbell up to one side; and then change arms and do the same on the opposite side. The rowing motion works your lats, rhomboids and biceps. It's a wonderful compound movement.

Now, before trying it, here are a few things to remember:

1. You should use hexagon dumbbells or kettlebells. Standard circular plate dumbbells will roll and are therefore dangerous.

2. Spread your feet to shoulder width or more for balance.

3. Begin with lighter weights. Get the feel of the movement before graduating to heavier weights.

4. Although you must stay tight from head to toe throughout the set — do not hold your breath. Breathe!

5. Count 1 rep after you have completed 1 pushup and 1 row on each side. Eight to 12 reps make up a good set. Of course, the heavier the dumbbells, the lower the reps.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bulking Up to Make the Team (part 2)

During the regular National Football League season, I follow the home team (for me, that’s the 49ers). And like millions of others, next week I will watch the Super Bowl.

If I sound like I might be a rabid football fan, I’m really not. Years ago, I’d get excited about games, but as I’ve grown older (and I hope wiser), placing too much importance on their outcome seems a little silly. For me, one game on a weekend is entertainment. More than that and I start to feel like an inanimate blob on a couch.

Recently on Bryant Gumbel's TV sports program, they covered the pitiful physical state of several former NFL players, men who 10 or 20 years ago were big name performers. The game left them terribly disabled. I got a sick feeling just watching these formerly great athletes struggle to move out of a chair and hobble across a room. They were not isolated cases. It is all too common, according to the report.

A disturbing trend now is to grow bigger and bigger high school linemen (recent report). These are 300 pound teenagers, purposely bulked-up in the hope of making it into a major college football program and maybe the NFL. Of course the reality is that most of them will not make it. But because of carrying so much weight they will experience the early onset of diseases usually associated with old age.

One huge teen lineman in an interview was asked if he ever thought about the consequences of carrying so much weight. “I’ll just have to deal with it if something bad happens,” he answered with na├»ve bravado. More likely, what he really believes is that there is little chance that he will suffer early cardiovascular disease, arthritis, or diabetes. Those things happen to the “other guy.” That is the nature of youth and to be expected. But you sure have to wonder about the blinders that their parents wear.

(Scroll down for part 1 of "Bulking Up to Make the Team.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Goal Setting: The Time is Now

In the January 1st Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter, I wrote about “Successful Beginnings” and how the New Year is the traditional time for setting goals. I also pointed out that we are only kidding ourselves if we think our resolutions and goals can be achieved if they are not clearly defined.

I think back to a line in the movie, The Untouchables. Kevin Costner plays Elliot Ness, the idealistic but naive cop who dedicates himself to bringing down crime boss Al Capone. Getting Capone is a huge order in itself. But to compound its difficulty, the police department is rife with corruption, and Costner needs tough, capable cops that he can trust.

He discovers a rugged veteran beat cop played by Sean Connery. He tells Connery that he is determined to get Capone and needs help. Connery, an honest but cynical pro, asks the big question: “You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Fortunately, you and I do not have to go up against Al Capone. But when it comes to truly living a fitness lifestyle, we have to ask ourselves the same big question: What are we prepared to do?

Michael Masterson, writing in the wonderful e-zine, Early to Rise, suggests that the first 2 weeks of the New Year should be the time frame for serious planning and goal setting. That seems sensible to me. And now, the 2 weeks are up. It is almost mid-January and time to solidify our plans and commit ourselves to going about reaching our goals.

The next step

We should now write down realistic dates we intend to reach both our short- and long-term goals. Then, whatever our goals might be, we must find the best information and/or advisors that are available to help us coordinate and direct our energy.

If your goal is to obtain greater strength, better fitness, or to lose weight, look for guidance in qualified trainers; but also begin to read about and learn all that you can about practical fitness training. Beginners need reliable expert assistance. But from the start, they should also be educating themselves so they can eventually direct their own fitness lifestyle.

At the start, beginners may not think so, but that is truly the fun part.