Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The One-Arm Dumbbell Press

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Daughter Jennifer lives near a small village in the foothills of the Austrian Alps, not very far from where a well-known California governor and former Mr. Universe grew up. There must be something in the water.

The one-arm dumbbell press of course develops shoulder and arm strength. Maybe even more than pressing a barbell or two dumbbells at once, one-arm pressing requires serious tightening all of the muscles of your lower back and abdominals (currently known as the "core"). And that is a good thing.

I always recommend exhaling as you press and inhale as the weight returns. If you are a beginner, develop a smooth style and tempo similar to Jennifer's before moving up to heavier weights. Give it a try. I think you'll realize right away its value as a compound exercise movement.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why Not Roll The Dice?

A realistic fear many have about aging and dying has to do with making their final exit in a nursing home. The best nursing homes are humane; but even then they are nothing more than warehouses for mere existence. So it is normal to hope and pray for a health span that is equal to your lifespan, regardless of its length. And though hope and prayer may have value, they are not enough.

Ignoring lifestyle factors that will either (a) help or (b) hurt one’s chances of remaining healthy and active until the end of life is childish. One well-worn joke told by many a boozy bar patron (usually a guy with a cigarette in one hand and a double whiskey in the other) is about how he plans to die at 100, after being shot by a jealous husband for getting caught in bed with the man’s wife.


More likely, his lifestyle choices will lead him to either an early grave or spending his later years barely aware of his own existence. Someone, I’m certain, will remind me about a friend or relative who smoked two packs a day, drank like a fish all his life, and remained spry well into his 90s. While the author/runner Jim Fix took good care of himself and checked out early in life. The stories many be true. But it is the unmistakable mark of an immature thinker to base lifestyle choices on anomalies.

Of course, there are never absolute guarantees of good health to the end of life, but it is certainly possible to put the odds way in our favor. The question is: Which lifestyle are you betting on with your life? Even some who have lived long enough to be called seniors still lack the mental maturity to play the odds. Please don’t be one of them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fit or Fat: The Choice is Ours

Patty was asking questions at Costco’s customer service counter as I stood waiting nearby, and with a clear view of the crowded warehouse store.

I thought how fortunate we are to live in a nation with such an abundance of products, goods that our free market economy provides. I looked at the huge shopping carts filled with a variety that most of the rest of the world envies. I recalled photographs taken in the old Soviet Union, with its citizens standing in long lines to enter dismal stores with few choices and limited quantities.

My second thought, however, was not as positive. I watched shoppers lining up at checkout counters and once again realized how we have, on average, become a fat and flabby nation. Month after month, reports in the media have been telling us about poor health and illnesses that will be the result of it. We have been warned, too, about the growing number of fat children who will early in life contract many of the diseases associated with old age.

Media reports are one thing. A more startling impression is actually looking at most large groups of people today. Thirty years ago, extremely overweight people stood out in a crowd. Nowadays, they are often the norm.

The problems created by being overweight and obese range from societal (rising health care costs, for example) to the personal. It is on the personal level that I focus. How, I ask, can anyone experience all that life has to offer if you are obese? I am not a psychologist, and in many instances I realize there are psychological factors involved. Yet after all the talking is out of the way, it always comes down to personal choice.

The choice is ours.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Health Club Naughty Secrets

In earlier times, the gym business was different. The owner was also the business manager, bookkeeper, salesman, custodian -- and your personal trainer -- all wrapped into one. If that sounds like too much for any one person to handle, remember that most gyms were independently owned and most had a lot fewer members. There were no Pilates, yoga, step, kickboxing, or spinning classes, either. You lifted iron. There weren't other options.

How can anyone argue against more exercise options? Yet the little secret today is that huge numbers of not truly motivated people join health clubs and soon dropout. The thing is they also usually sign up to have dues automatically withdrawn from their bank account. Then, after dropping out, they tell themselves they will get back in the gym again, so they continue paying dues.

Health club owners don't talk about it, but if everyone who paid dues worked out regularly, there wouldn't enough equipment or hours in the day to accommodate them. Paying for workouts not taken may sound crazy, but I guarantee you that many people do it. Gym owners have a special place in their hearts (and pocketbooks) for those who pay but don't use the facilities.

I do not dislike gyms or gym owners. I have belonged to many gyms and belong to one now. I have known gym owners who became personal friends. But my advice to anyone paying dues to a health club and not using it this: stop! Yes, everyone should exercise. But a gym or health club is not necessarily for everyone. If you are a member of a gym and don't use it regularly, deep down you probably dislike going there. So stop wasting your money. Find a form of exercise that you like and will actually practice several days per week.

Health club owners may dislike my saying this: But if you aren't using the facility, cancel that membership today.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Don't Skimp on Fish Oil

I've been half-expecting someone reputable to tell us that fish oil really isn’t all that its cracked up to be, that all its great press may be exaggerated. Instead, it’s just the opposite. Each new report seems to reveal yet another health benefit attributed to taking fish oil. Improved cardiovascular function was only the beginning of the good news.

Now here’s a study that suggests fish oil may even be beneficial to people with mental illness. So the good news about Omega-3 just keeps piling up. Are you taking fish oil yet? If not, why not? Ask your physician if there’s any reason why you shouldn’t take a quality fish oil supplement.

Personally, I take salmon oil capsules every day. I like the Vital Choice brand, which is endorsed by several well known physicians. It’s easy and efficient to order by clicking the Vital Choice label on my web site. Vital Choice products come from wild Alaskan salmon from some of purest water on earth. You want to be certain that you buy a pure, high quality brand.

To read more about how fish oil may also help people with mental illness, go here

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jack LaLanne Was Right

There's a page in my book, Living The Fitness Lifestyle, titled "Self Delusion and the Scale." I quote Jack LaLanne (early photo at left) who said long ago, "Your waistline is your lifeline." LaLanne was and still is way, way ahead of his time. He's now in his 90s and still working out.

Reuters reports the latest validation of LaLanne's comment in an article, (the) "Tape measure, not scale, key to knowing heart risk."

Too much emphasis is placed on body weight alone, when stripping down, looking in the mirror, and putting a tape measure around your waist are better indicators of health and fitness. The report is definitely worth reading.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Coffin Nails

Is anyone still smoking? I'm not trying to be a wise-guy. Of course the answer is yes, plenty of people still smoke. Yet considering all that we know, it is hard to understand how anyone with even a modicum of common sense does it. But common sense and reason have never had anything to do with smoking.

The question then becomes: What factor or factors get smokers to quit once they are hooked? The following is a story from HealthDay that says at least one group of experts claims that quitting on a whim or impulse has more success than going about it with a plan. Read about it here.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Morjorie Newlin is "Unreal"

At first I thought Morjorie was literally unreal. But she is very real. And, get this: She is an 86 year old great-grandmother -- and a competitive bodybuilder!

Amazing. I had to look twice and still thought her story might be one of those bogus urban legends traveling around the internet. So I ran it through Snopes and checked out the story as best I could. Morjorie Newlin is a retired nurse who began bodybuilding at age 72.

But enough from me. You've got to see her and read the story. Now stand by to be as amazed as I was. Go here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Is Super-Slow Weight Training for You?

Gray Iron Newsletter subscriber Leo, from Gloucester England, writes to ask two questions:

1. Do you have any observations to make on the question of rep speed or tempo? Your videos suggest that you use a natural cadence. I am experimenting with super slow which is intense in the extreme (and agonising}.

2. What do you think we actually achieve physically by continuing weight training at seventy. Is it purely maintenance? I acknowledge the psychological benefits

My answers:

Leo, I have tried super-slow repetitions and concluded that they are not for me. It may have to with my being too impatient; nevertheless, I found that after a week or so I began dreading the workouts. But that’s me. I know that some people thrive on super-slow. I do like to change routines in various ways every month to keep things interesting. Still, in general, I find I am most comfortable with a moderate rep speed and the numbers varying between 6 to 12 reps. Once in a while I’ll drop to 4 rep sets or go up to 15. But mostly I stay in the 6 to 12 reps range.

As to what progress can be expected at age 70, I think that once we have a couple of years of training behind us, yes, it is mostly maintenance (after we pass 55 or 60). I personally cannot lift as much or train as long as I could 10 years ago. I wish I could. Still, I’m grateful for a much superior strength and fitness level when compared to my contemporaries that have not been regular trainees. It can be unpleasant to think about further strength loss as time passes. On the other hand, the odds are we’ll stay well ahead of our age group in strength, fitness and health by just keeping at it.

That's a pretty good deal, I think.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened While Sipping Green Tea

For quite a while now, many experts have urged us to stop drinking coffee and switch to green tea. Green tea has all those wonderful antioxidants. Well, there's still nothing wrong with green tea. It's good for us. But guess what? It seems that the sometimes demonized coffee turns out to have positive properties, too. One example of those good things coffee does is explained in the following article from Reuters. Starbucks has to love it! Go here.