Monday, January 28, 2008

One Arm Rows

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One arm rowing is one of the finest mid- to upper-back exercises. Secondarily, it works your biceps and forearms and, to some degree, your abs and lower back because you must stay tight to row properly.

Watch the video a couple of times (daughter Jennifer demonstrates). Then take a solid stance, resting one hand on a sturdy bench. With your opposite arm extended, pull the dumbbell toward your hip. Lift and descend smoothly. Exhale as you pull. Inhale as you extend.

No hunching over. Keep a nice normally flat back.

If you are super-setting opposing muscle groups, the one arm row works perfectly by alternating sets with chest press exercises.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Foolishness of Hero Worship

The recent release of names of steroid using major league baseball players was but one more look into the dark side of sports. Yet if we are honest with ourselves, it only confirmed what we already believed was going on. Was too much made of it? Perhaps. I agree that lying and cheating are pale in comparison to sports star incidents of violence or committing unimaginable cruelty to man’s best friend. Still, it all adds up. The parade of anti-social or illegal behavior by sports celebrities takes its toll. Only the most rabid fans are blind to it, the ones who excuse away nearly any misdeed as long as the team is winning.

My own kids have been grown for a long time, and my grandchildren are still very young. If they were teens or preteens today, I would be talking with them often about the qualities that make a person truly worthy of admiration. Enjoy sports for what they are, I would try to convey. But the ability to run faster or throw a ball more accurately than average has absolutely nothing to do with character and decency as a human being.

This is not to say there are not many fine men and women athletes. It would be terribly unfair to say that. Yet we also know that in too many instances some of the most physically gifted are found to be dispossessed of morals and ethics. Making matters worse, today’s popular culture makes instilling the values of decency and good citizenship to the young very difficult. Nevertheless, it is the prime responsibility of every parent. If understanding the difference between celebrity and character is not instilled in the home, more than likely it will not be taught at all. And that is the truth.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pectoral Madness

I have never understood our current obsession with pectorals. I think it all got started when we began measuring a man's self-worth by how much he can "bench" (i.e. the bench or chest press exercise). I just don't get it. Of course, I don't get covering yourself in tattoos, either. I'm from a different era.

So an article in the Sunday paper this week told about men actually having chest implants to give themselves magnificent pecs. Don't get me wrong. A strong, well developed chest looks fine on a balanced weight trained body. But paste a set of big pectorals on a guy who is otherwise either skinny or fat and flabby and you've created a pretty weird looking dude.

Guess I'm way out of step. I think bench pressing is over-rated anyway. For too many people it raises hell with their shoulders and they end up with a lot of aches and pains. Moderation, of course, is the answer. But try preaching that message to a guy with pectoral fixation. Weird.

Read the whole article here: More Men Turning to Breast ... er ... Chest Implants for Pecs of Steel.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Protein Keeps Hunger at Bay

Remember Bill Phillips' hugely popular Body for Life book and program of just a few years ago? Thousands of people made dramatic physical improvements following Phillips' advice.

Maybe you also remember that one of the reasons he said people fall off the wagon and overeat is because they do not eat the right balance of protein in their meals. And this sets them up for food cravings shortly afterward. Here's a study that seems to confirm that he was on the right track.

Now, some people will read this and then overdo protein. But the idea is come as close as it is practical to do in balancing meals with the right ratio of protein to fats and carbs. Problem is, there is always controversy among many trainees about what is the right ratio. Should the ratio of protein/carbs/fat be 30/40/30 or 30/50/20, or some other combination?

I know what I think, and it follows:

1) Different ratios can be successful with different people, as long as they don't get too far out of whack;

2) Any method of measuring food ratios must be simple or people will not follow it, long-term (I spell out my way of doing it in detail in my books);

3) Any diet that practically eliminates any one of the three macro nutrients (protein, carbs, or fat), is guaranteed to fail in the long term. That is because cravings for the eliminated member are bound to follow.

To read more about the study, go here

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Beware: "Natural" Doesn't Necessarily Mean Safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has little authority to regulate many supplements -- and the fact is that not all supplements are safe. Here is a report about two men developing advanced prostate cancer after taking "herbal" supplements.

Gray Iron advice is this: Do not take supplements of any kind without first knowing that they are safe. And a product labeled "natural" does not necessarily mean that it is safe. Above all, do not believe advertising on web sites that promise the fountain of youth. So-called "hormone therapy" can be a dangerous thing and should be considered only under the guidance and care of a good medical doctor.

Read full story here: "Natural" supplements caused cancer in 2 men.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Does Testosterone Therapy Improve Quality of Life?

Gray Iron has no medical degree. I'm just a fitness guy whose been at it a long time and reads a lot. That said, I am skeptical about hormone therapies I hear about. Is there some miracle pill to stop aging just around the corner? Is it already here? Like I said, I'm skeptical. My advice: Until legitimate studies are concluded and scientists say this stuff is safe and that it works, forget it.

Bottom line: Eat right, regularly hit the weights, and unless under a good doctor's care -- don't even think about messing with hormones.

Here is a report on a study (source: Journal of the American Medical Association) that seems to point out deficiencies in testosterone therapy even in men tested with "low normal testosterone levels" and would supposedly benefit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sunshine and Health Benefits

Neither basking on the beach for that deep tan, nor hiding in the shade, slathered in sunblock lotion, seems to make sense when it comes to sunlight.

According to a researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo, Norway, modest sun exposure gives enormous vitamin D benefits. The skin cancer risk is there but the health benefits from some sun exposure are far greater than the risk.

"The current data provide a further indication of the beneficial role of sun-induced vitamin D for cancer prognosis," said Richard Setlow of the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, who also worked on the study.

As with most things in life, moderation seems to be the key.

Read about the risk-to-benefit ratio in this report from Reuters.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fast Walkers Live Longer than Slow Ones

It turns out that seniors who walk faster on a treadmill test live longer, on average, than slower walkers.

Geriatricians at the University of Pittsburgh tracked a group of seniors for 10 years and found those who covered the equivalent of 2-1/2 miles per hour on a treadmill outlived walkers able to walk less than 1-1/2 miles per hour.

The researchers adjusted for sex, race, age, chronic illness and hospitalization and found that walking speed appeared to be an independent predictor of longevity.

Should this surprise us? I don't think so. It confirms what those living a fitness lifestyle know intuitively.

Read more about their findings here.