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Showing posts with label Weightlifting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Weightlifting. Show all posts

Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance


The above two shots were done earlier today with a 1975 Browning Wasp traditional recurve bow (50 lb draw weight), at a distance of 20.5 yards. Not bad for an antique bow.

The bottle itself is easy enough to hit with a light poundage bow, especially if you are accustomed like I am at shooting at relatively small moving targets.

However getting that level of accuracy (the cluster is the size of a dime) with a higher poundage bow is a true challenge because it becomes a matter of physical strength to be able to pull - let alone hold steady - a 50 lb bow.

That means that the Herculean effort of pulling 50 lbs and then holding it steady is a matter of both STRENGTH and ENDURANCE.

Hence the title of this post, Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance.

Now I have talked previously about the issues of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery. If you want to read more on this topic I recommend reading the following posts:

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part One

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part Two

Archery as an Alternative to Weightlifting

And while those posts do talk about the benefits of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery, it does not really talk about the issues of higher poundage bows - like those in the 50 to 80 lb range, and how to train your body to be able to pull the heavier poundages, and then hold it steady.

Thus here we go...

10 Tips for Building Strength and Endurance for Heavier Poundage Archery

Tip #1. Get a variety of different kinds of dumbbells.

Don't bother with barbells, dumbbells is what you really need for this. You need the dumbbells so you can focus on the individual muscles, both left and right, without having one side of your body compensating for the other.

You also need a variety of different sizes so you can focus on building different muscle groups, which will often require different weights in order to challenge you properly. If they are too heavy you will be less likely to execute the exercises using proper form, if they are too light they won't be challenging you properly. Thus you need a range of different weights so you can both challenge yourself and focus on your weightlifting form.

Tip #2. Like archery, weightlifting is all about form.

It might not look like it, but professional weightlifters are focusing their attention on making sure they are performing the exercise properly so they can maximize their muscle growth. If they use improper form to lift/move the weight then it is the wrong muscle(s) doing the work, which means that won't be getting the full benefit.

Take the simple dumbbell bicep curl. Done correctly the elbow is kept relatively close to the body. A common beginner mistake is for people to curve their elbows outwards to make it easier, which means they are using different muscles to help lift the weight. Done correctly, it is only the biceps doing the work.

Right: Sample image of a bicep curl. Note how the elbows are kept close to the oblique muscles on the sides and aren't sticking out to the sides.

Note - Good form also includes GOOD BALANCE. Keep both feet on the floor and stay balanced!

Tip #3. While lifting, focus on doing it SLOWLY.

A common beginners mistake when weightlifting is to do 10 reps very quickly, like it is some kind of race and you just want to get it over. However that doesn't actually help when you are trying to build endurance (or strength for that matter). Instead your goal should be to lift the weight slooooowly, hold it there, and then go back down slooooowly. This way you are building endurance more.

Doing weightlifting slowly also gives you more time to focus on the quality of your form. Like archery, shooting too quickly will effect your form. Your goal here is the same, to lift it slowly, focus on your form, and perform the exercise properly. You don't get the reward like hitting the bullseye like you do in archery, but you will see the rewards as your endurance and strength goes up after only a week or two weeks of doing the exercises.

Tip #4. Expand your focus so it covers multiple muscle groups.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Don't just exercise your back muscles. While it is true that your back muscles are important for doing archery, they are not the only muscles that archers use.

Archers use their upper back, their shoulders, their triceps, their biceps, forearms, finger muscles, their lower back, their abdominal muscles, and even their pectoral (chest) muscles. Some are definitely used more than other muscles, but that should not discourage you from exercise them. The muscles of your lower body (legs / etc) are also used for balance and standing still. Thus there is a good argument that archers should embrace a full body workout for improving their overall strength and balance.

Focusing on only one muscle or one muscle group (the upper back for example) may be helpful with one task, but creating too much emphasis on the back muscles will cause other muscles to become overly dependent on that one muscle group and the quality of your accuracy as an archer could actually go down as your shoulders and other muscles cannot hold steady when placed under the strain.

Note - It also helps to learn the anatomical terms for the different muscles. That way when you look for exercises that help your shoulders, you know that you are looking for deltoid exercises.

Thus you need to deliberately pick and choose exercises which will boost the following muscle groups:

Rhomboids (Upper Back)
Front, Back and Upper Deltoids (Shoulders)
Pectorals (Chest)
Triceps (Back of the Upper Arm)
Biceps (Front of the Upper Arm)
Forearms + Finger / Hand Grip Strength (this will mean using Hand Grips and learning how to use them properly)
Abdominals (Belly)
Obliques (Sides)
Legs

Doing all the above means you will be doing a wide variety of exercises and you should try to spread your attention across all of them equally so that the muscles are building in an uniform manner. A common mistake people do is to focus on a single muscle, which will grow up to a limitation - in order to get it to grow further, you need to spread your focus across the whole muscle group so that they all grow as they work more effectively as an unit. To do this properly however means you need to be doing individual exercises which target the individual muscles, and then to do many different exercises so each muscle or muscle group gets its fair share of exercise.

eg. Chest Flyes are really good for the pectoral muscles, as demonstrated here by Arnold:


Tip #5. Pay Attention and Avoid Sports Injuries.

Practicing proper form while exercising isn't just a matter of maximizing your strength gain, it is a matter of avoiding sports injuries. When learning a new exercise, do it slowly, do it properly, and save yourself the trouble of developing a sports injury.

A common thing amongst archers is to improperly draw their bow and then adjust their bow shoulder and drawing elbow after they have drawn back. Ideally they should be pre-aiming, then draw back in one smooth motion. Constantly adjusting the bow shoulder and drawing elbow is bad for those muscles and can lead to sports injuries. In the case of the elbow it can lead to "Archer's Elbow, aka Tennis Elbow".

With weightlifting it is the same problem. Improper lifting and bad form leads to sports injuries. So pay attention and do it properly! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tip #6. Do More Reps to Build More Endurance.

Remember how I mentioned above to do the exercises slowly? Well here is your next challenge. Do more repetitions - still slowly - and do more of them.

Week One start aiming to do 20 reps of each exercise.

Week Two up it a little by increasing it to 25 reps of each exercise.

Week Three increase it to 30 reps of each exercise.

Week Four increase it to 34 reps of each exercise.

Week Five increase it to 37 reps of each exercise.

Week Six increase it to 40 reps of each exercise.

Now did you notice what I did? At the beginning it started off with an increase of 5 reps per week, but after it hit 30 I reduced the increase to 4, and then 3, and then 3 again. Why did I do that? Because the constant equal amount increase in repetitions becomes unsustainable. Once you real a certain point when the number of reps seems like too much, decrease the incremental amount to a more sustainable level and gradually proceed from there.

Weeks Seven to Eleven increase the reps by 2 reps per week. Doing that allows for a nice slow incremental increase in endurance, allowing your body more time to play catch up with building new muscle.

Remember also that your goal is still to be doing the exercises slowly, you should not be racing to complete them. Also note that the above schedule is just a sample. It will not necessarily fit everyone's exercise routine, and they will want to customize their increase in repetitions to fit their own needs.

Tip #7. Eat Healthy to Build More Muscle.

Any true athlete also makes a solid effort to eat a healthy amount of vegetables and protein. Avoid the sweets. You will still need carbs for energy, but focus on eating healthy and you will see faster returns on muscle growth.

Also allow yourself a cheat day (aka, a High Carb Day) once in awhile that will boost your metabolism. A higher metabolism speeds up muscle growth and boosts energy levels. Having a High Carb Day once per week will keep your metabolism from crashing. The boosted energy levels once per week will keep your metabolism higher, while you are still building muscle and keeping your diet healthy and balanced.

Tip #8. Don't Weightlift Every Day when you are first starting out.

A common beginners mistake is to be weightlifting every day in an effort to build muscle faster. However the problem here is that you end up ripping muscle tissue (hence the term "ripped") and it takes 48 hours (sometimes more) to heals properly and build new muscle tissue.

Thus if you rip the muscle tissue, it repairs a bit and builds new tissue while you sleep, and then you rip it again 24 hours later when it is not fully healed and new tissue is not properly grown, what happens??? The answer is that any new muscle tissue rips again, and you've just wasted any growth you could have potentially had.

Instead here is what you should be doing. Weightlift every two days. eg. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Give yourself 48 to 72 hours between weightlifting sessions so the muscles can heal and grow properly. A Monday, Wednesday Friday schedule for example allows you to be building muscle over 48 hour periods twice per week, and an extra long 72 hour period over the weekend.

Tip #9. Sleep!!!

Getting a good night's rest is extremely important for weightlifting and building muscle. Your body only builds new muscle tissue while it is at rest, and the most effective form of rest is sleep. If you are not sleeping properly, then you are not healing properly.

Tip #10. Motivate Yourself to Weightlift Regularly.

This is arguably the most important part of weightlifting regularly. If you only do it for two weeks and then stop doing it, then any gains you made will slowly disappear. Becoming an Avid Weightlifter is about making a lifestyle change so that weightlifting becomes part of your weekly schedule, so that eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep is also part of your routine.

Building strength and endurance will boost your archery accuracy with the higher poundage bows, and you will see benefits with your health, your emotional independence / confidence, and even perks for your sex life. (For both men and women.)

How you choose to motivate yourself to make archery part of your weekly schedule is really up to you. You could:
  • Hire a personal trainer who understands the value of weightlifting.
  • Hire an archery instructor who also teaches weightlifting techniques.
  • Listen to music while weightlifting.
  • Watch your favourite TV show while weightlifting. (My preference is Game of Thrones.)
  • Reward yourself emotionally after weightlifting. (Never reward yourself with unhealthy foods.)
  • Practice weightlifting with a friend or family member so you keep each other motivated.
Still need more ideas for how to Motivate Yourself? Good thing I have long list of posts on the topic for you to browse.

BONUS TIP

During the off season for archery (Winter) try to make an effort to do weightlifting to keep your body in good shape so that you are in excellent shape when Spring comes, and then once Spring does come make the effort to keep weightlifting so you can continue to improve your physical capabilities.

You don't need to do your weightlifting outdoors during the Winter like the fellow below, but hey, to each their own.

Bras Vs Bust Firming Exercises

According to a study that came out of France in 2013, bras don't actually alleviate back pain in women and don't do anything to prevent women's breasts from sagging. In fact, the study says that it actually makes back pain worse and the breasts to sag more.

Of course, anyone familiar with Bust Firming Exercises already know this. Marilyn Monroe knew this and she has been dead for almost 54 years.

While she was living however Marilyn Monroe did a number of daily exercises in order to stay in shape and keep her famous figure.

They included:

Push-ups - which act as bust firming exercise, increasing the strength of the pectoral muscles on the chest, which hold up the breasts and keep them from sagging.

Weightlifting, including Chest Flyes (below) which also work the pectoral muscles.


Jogging, for the legs and arms.

Archery, for the back muscles and arms.

Swimming, good as a full body workout.

Stretches (some of which look suspiciously like yoga).


And while she may have occasionally worn something that looked similar to a bra (due to society's convention against women appearing topless in public), she almost never is shown wearing a bra. Many of her iconic pieces of fashion went in quite the opposite direction. No bra at all.

And she certainly did not need to wear one either. Due to her regular exercises and specifically bust firming exercises, she had no need of wearing a bra which at the time conventional thinking was that women needed to wear bras in order to prevent back pain.

According to the 2013 French study, everything we've ever been told about supporting the upper back has it all wrong. Wearing a bra does nothing to decrease back pain, and the support offered by a brassiere actually encourages the breasts to sag. The study was a lengthy one too, starting in 1997 and ending in 2012, before being published in 2013. 15 years of women in the study group either wearing a bra or wearing no bra, and comparing which ones had back pain and which ones did not, and measuring how much sagging was really happening.

Led by Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports scientist from the University of Besançon in eastern France, he found that "bras are a false necessity."

"Medically, physiologically, anatomically — breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra," says Rouillon.

Rouillon spent a decade and a half measuring the changes in breasts of hundreds of women using a slide rule and caliper at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Besançon. The participants were all between the ages of 18 and 35.

Of the braless women, the researchers concluded that "on average their nipples lifted on average seven millimeters in one year in relation to the shoulders." This meant that they effectively became "perkier" over time as their pectoral muscles became stronger from the added weight, as opposed to the extra strain going to the shoulders and back muscles instead.

According to one 28-year-old woman who took part in the study she hasn't worn a bra for two years now, and doesn’t expect to go back. "There are multiple benefits: I breathe more easily, I carry myself better, and I have less back pain," she says.

So less back pain, less shoulder pain, stronger pectoral muscles, better posture, stronger lungs. Lots of benefits. Learn more about Bust Firming Exercises.

Note, men who want larger pecs / chest muscles can also benefit from these exercises. eg. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a huge advocate of Chest Flyes, shown below, for its benefits of building huge pectorals on men.

Building Confidence / Weightlifting

This article is a two-parter. Part One is about how weightlifting is a good activity for building your self confidence. Part Two is about how to maintain self confidence through a variety of methods.

Part One - Building Self Confidence through Weightlifting

Honestly any kind of exercise helps to build self confidence, but two activities that are particularly good at building confidence are as follows:

1. Training for Marathons.

2. Weightlifting.

In theory you could do both, but lets explain why both of these activities are good for boosting confidence.

In the case of Marathon Training, running long distances does two things: 1. You see a noticeable increase in endurance, and that in turn boosts your confidence. 2. Long distance running releases a cocktail of endorphins and hormones into your bloodstream which act like drugs and produce what is known as "Runners High". The combination of progressively building endurance while being rewarded for your efforts with Runners High is a surprisingly effective way of building confidence. Actually running a marathon and then being able to say "I did it" is a bit like climbing a mountain, it is an incredible boost to your sense of self worth having accomplished what you set out to do. Doing multiple marathons, perhaps improving on your time as you progress means that you can see marked improvement as you get both faster and become a more efficient running machine. Unfortunately Runners High is also addictive, so be warned not to overdo it. (Anything over 100 km per week is considered to be an exercise addiction.)

In the case of Weightlifting the boosts to your confidence are multi-faceted.

  • You still get a release of Endorphins and Hormones while weightlifting, although not to the same degree as Runners High does. The result is that many people who get really into weightlifting will experience an Endorphin High. Note - It isn't a high like being drunk or stoned. It is more a rewarding feeling of euphoria.
  • After exercising many weightlifters will report feeling "unstoppable" for approx. 45 to 60 minutes after their workout because they are "so pumped up". This is a combination of both the endorphins and the feeling that they are physically bigger immediately after a workout.
  • As time goes by your strength and endurance increase, and mentally you feel more capable and more confident about your physical capabilities. Be careful you are not over-confident however, that leads to foolish accidents.
  • It is true that many weightlifters like to admire themselves in the mirror. Some perhaps a bit too much, but they are doing so because they are liking the results they are seeing. The confidence is there, building. Sometimes it might be over-confidence, so try to focus on staying humble.
  • Use your strength to help people during your daily life. Suddenly helping someone carry a baby carriage down a flight of stairs doesn't seem so difficult and you feel good about doing it. Feeling stronger in your daily life will boost your own sense of self worth.

Weightlifting Tips

Tip #1. Be careful not to over-train. Over-training causes you to lose muscle mass and become weaker over time, because you are overdoing it. If you feel worn out, exhausted, completely out of energy after a workout then you might be over-training. A good way to prevent this is to take regular breaks, hydrate and to focus on a moderate amount of repetitions with a moderate amount of weight. Trying to do lots of repetitions and lift ridiculous amounts at the same time is just going to exhaust you, causing more harm than good. You will know you are over-training if you feel exhausted each time, and actually feel weaker as time progresses.

Tip #2. Keep a journal of how many exercises/repetitions you do each workout and focus on leaving the gym feeling pumped up instead of leaving the gym feeling exhausted.

Tip #3. If you are feeling ill, tired due to lack of sleep or less-than optimal on a particular day, try reducing the weight between 5 to 20 pounds and focus on building endurance instead of strength today. It is okay to have an off day.

Tip #4. Once in awhile, like once per week or once every two weeks, you should try lifting a new personal record. Each time, even if it less than you were hoping, you should write down your new personal best in your journal.

Tip #5. Eat healthy! This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. You cannot build a weightlifting machine by feeding the engine doughnuts and coffee filled with sugar and cream.

#6. Maintain Proper Form and Posture. Form is more important than weight or number of repetitions. Bad form leads to sports injuries. Good form builds muscle faster.

Part Two - Maintaining Self Confidence while Weightlifting

To explain this next part I am going to turn you over to the lady in the video further below who has multiple tips on how to maintain your self confidence by asking yourself several questions after your workout is over:

What did you do well?

What would you like to change or improve?

These questions are really geared towards making you a better weightlifter over time, but they also have the benefit of allowing you to evolve as a weightlifter and become better at it - and as a result it helps to maintain both your confidence and your motivation to keep lifting.

There are other tips for staying focused and staying confident while exercising. These tips include things like: Giving yourself a sports day once/week where you can go enjoy a fun activity outside instead of staying cooped inside in the gym all the time; Give yourself something to think about while you are exercising, like a mental puzzle or a mystery - this keeps your brain active on a task while doing the physical activity. eg. I like working on ideas for future projects in my head (whether they be woodworking, writing, artistic or even poetry) while I am weightlifting; Lastly, listen to music. A few good songs that make you feel excited to exercise certainly help keep you focused and enjoying what you are doing. Need more help? Hire a personal trainer.

Happy Lifting!


Five Ways to do Weight Lifting Outdoors in the Winter

#1. Build your own outdoor gym equipment, including:

  • Bench Press
  • Bench with Free Weights 
  • Bulgarian Training Bag
  • Chin-Up Bar
  • Farmer's Walk Bars
  • Incline Bench
  • Kettlebells
  • Medicine Ball 
  • Obstacle Course (Strength Based) 
  • Parallel Bars (Gymnasts)
  • Rope Climbing / Rope Ladder
  • Rowing Machine
  • Stairs (for Leg exercises, or as an Incline)

eg. To build a rowing machine you will need: Rope, a wood or metal bar as a handle for pulling, a stationary metal bar that is elevated off the ground, a heavy weight attached to the far end of the rope, and something to brace your feet against.

#2. Shovel Snow out of the Driveway - and if you have extra energy, clear all the snow from the backyard and front yard too, so you have frozen grass to workout on.

#3. Fill sandbags with snow and build a wall of sandbags... Or a bench made out of sandbags, and use that bench as a bench press, an incline bench or for using free weights on.

#4. Build something out of the snow - snow man, snow fort, ice rink, hockey rink, ice sculpture. Does it really matter as long as you are exercising?

#5. Clean out the garage and turn your garage into a gym.

Examples:

That old broken air conditioner? Use it as a weight for a rowing machine.

Old furniture / chairs? Add some wood and make a bench for using in combination with free weights.

Old scrap metal you aren't sure what to do with? Check out the dumbbells further below.

Old broken bicycle? Make a training bicycle for building leg muscle.

Old patio umbrella with metal pole? Get rid of the umbrella part and use the metal pole to make yourself a nice chin-up bar.

Old junk that you really are not sure what to do with? Take it to the curb for garbage collection. Clearly if you can't use it for weight lifting, then it probably isn't good for much else.

Winter Chin-Up Bar
Homemade Dumbbell
Scrap Metal Dumbbells

Shocking the Muscle with Arnold Schwarzenegger

The following video was produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bodybuilder.com and deals mostly with how to shock the muscles in the upper body: Chest, arms, shoulders, abs, etc, but also touches on the lower body: Thighs, etc.




Arnold also talks about eating 5 meals per day and how this allowed this allowed him to pack on the muscle in a hurry due to the amount of protein he was eating while training. During his training Arnold was fond of drinking 2 protein drinks per day, plus meals, plus supplements in order to maintain peak muscle growth efficiency.

For those people seeking to build muscle it is important that you stick with it and KEEP TRAINING and follow a strict diet. Quitting, slacking off on the dietary requirements, slacking off on workouts will cause the body to either plateau or go back to its old condition. You need to keep shocking the body with new challenges regularly in order to maintain muscle growth.

Arnold also routinely tried out other sports and activities in order to give his body new challenges - archery was just one of them.


Using Exercises to Keep Warm

Winter is coming.

Which for Toronto means we are usually in for 3-4 months of miserable cold weather. But it doesn't have to be miserable if you don't want it to be.

Winter should not be an excuse to not exercise either. After all, exercising keeps you warm.

We have all seen the crazy joggers out there in the harshest of weather, apparently unaffected by the extreme cold.

HOWEVER, jogging is not the purpose of this post. The purpose of this post is actually on the topic of KEEPING WARM for survival purposes - or at very least comfort levels. It has been my experience that the simple act of "rubbing your hands together" really only works for your hands, and if you want to stay warm and comfortable sometimes it is necessary to do more full body exercises.

For example one of the things that I sometimes do is I miscalculate how cold it is outside and I don't wear enough clothing. Thus I end up freezing my proverbial behind off, but I do have a trick to prevent it...

I do 100 jumping jacks. Takes about 2 minutes to do, but 100 jumping jacks later and I am cozy warm because my blood is now pumping energy from my fat stores and invigorating my body. Burning the fat off in such an aggressive manner warms the muscles, warms the blood, and ultimately warms the whole body.

Jumping jacks are not the only exercise you can use to keep warm however...

Five Ways to Keep Warm using Exercises

#1. Weightlifting

You don't need the ghetto weightlifting set like the guy below, any weights will do. Backpack, suitcase, whatever you have handy.


#2. Body Weight Exercises or Calisthenics

Pushups, chin-ups, wall push-ups, situps, it doesn't matter. Any old school body weight exercise will do. Even the simple act of climbing something, such as stairs, can keep your body warm. If you are athletic enough you could even do hand-stand push-ups.

The trick with some of these exercises, eg. chin-ups, is that you need something stable that isn't going to break under your body weight. Pick something big and stable.

The young woman on the right for example chose the underside of a bridge to exercise on, but the basic concept is there. Something large, heavy, durable, won't tip over / rock back and forth. It also shouldn't have sharp edges, spikes or anything dangerous like that in the vicinity.

The video below shows a young woman demonstrating a number of different body weight exercises outdoors.



#3. Yoga

You don't even need a mat to do winter yoga, the snow is your nice soft mat. But in the event you are surrounding by cold harsh ice, a blanket would also do. Helps if you are already familiar with yoga, but if you are not please read my posts on the topic or check out the thousands of free videos on YouTube.


#4. Squats or Squat Jumps

Squats are not hard. You just squat down part way, keep your back aligned straight up and down, and then stand back up again. Do 20 of those and your legs will be warmed up significantly.

For extra challenge, do the squats while carrying a weight (perhaps a backpack full of books), or try squat jumps - wherein you squat down and then stand up so fast that you jump into the air.

#5. Stretching and Scratching

Sometimes the simple act of stretching, touching your toes, flexing various muscles, can also warm you up. It doesn't take much, and it is far less obvious what you are doing if you have a crowd of people staring at you. If you are standing on a cold train platform with lots of people around, they may get weirded out by someone who suddenly decides to do 100 jumping jacks - but someone who is just stretching won't get a second glance.

The second part is this last tip is that you can also warm your skin by scratching it. Scratch your back, your arms, your chest, your legs - it might look you have a rash to a passerby, or it might look like you just have an itchy arm and that is no big deal.

If it truly is a survival situation then embarrassment isn't a factor any more.

Have a great winter and stay warm!

Pumping Iron, 1977 Documentary

Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger
"Pumping Iron" is a 1977 documentary about the 1975 IFBB Mr Olympia competition, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.

In bodybuilding circles this film is a classic. Harking back to the days before steroids becoming commonplace at bodybuilding competitions and bodybuilding was considered to be more like sculpture - an art form similar to figure skating or ballet.

Indeed the very first scene of the documentary is a scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger practices poses with a ballet dancer.

You can watch the trailer below:



And you can watch the full film in HD on Netflix.

Admittedly it only has 2 stars out of 5 on Netflix, mostly because people who are not into bodybuilding / weightlifting would probably find the film boring, but I personally enjoyed it and gave it 5 stars. Proof that bodybuilding truly is a subjective art form.

A nice long quote from the film:

"Let's say before a contest, if I get emotionally involved with a girl... that can have a negative effect on my mind... and therefore destroy my workout. So I have to cut my emotions off... and be kind of cold, in a way, before a competition. That's what you do with the rest of the things. If somebody steals my car outside of my door right now... I don't care. l can't be bothered with that. I would only have my secretary call the insurance agency and laugh about it. Because I cannot be bothered with it. I trained myself for that. To be totally cold and not have things go into my mind." - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Buff Vs Obese, Why BMI is confusing to muscular people

Yesterday I wrote a post on the topic of stubborn belly fat titled: Why is it so hard for skinny people to shed the last few pounds?

During the post I talked about how people get too obsessed with trying to weight a specific amount because they have been looking at BMI charts and think that they need to be a specific weight in order to be healthy / attractive.

On the right here you see two cartoon people, both are 6 feet tall and both weigh 250 lbs. Lets call them Dave and Bob.

Dave is extremely muscular and weighs a hefty 250 lbs. Bob in contrast, weighs the same amount but has a lot more fat than muscle. The trick here is that fat takes up more space than muscle, because muscle is actually heavier than fat. 1 lb of fat takes up lots of space, whereas 1 lb of muscle takes up very little space. Thus even though they look very different, Dave and Bob still end up weighing the same.

And having the exact same BMI measurement of 33.9. Which is so heavy it isn't even on the chart below, because this chart only goes up to 215 lbs.

But what we do know is that 33.9 is in the low 30s, so that is the lower half of obese which ranges from 30.0 to 39.9. 40.0 or higher would be extremely obese.

However there is an obvious problem. Nobody in their right mind would call Dave obese. He looks like a bodybuilder. Thus the BMI chart is flawed because it ignores the possibility that a person might have more muscle mass (or possibly even more bone density, which is a factor people often ignore).

Thus we need better ways of measuring body weight / obesity. Well luckily there are ways to do that.

The following three methods are recommended.

#1. Body Adiposity Index

BAI multiplies your hip circumference by your height. Although clinical studies have not shown any proof, it is widely believed that Body Adiposity Index is more accurate than BMI as the resulting figures are approximate. BAI is also useful in areas whenever scales are not be available.

#2. Waist Circumference Measurement

Ah, the old fashioned tape measure. By measuring the natural waist you can get a good indication of the amount of abdominal fat you are carrying. Knowing the circumference of your waist can help determine your risk of getting heart disease and other medical conditions. According to physicians, the following figures indicate individuals in the 'at risk' group:

Women with a waist circumference of 35 inches and over.
Men with a waist circumference of 40 inches and over.

#3. Waist-to-Hip Ratio

The waist-to-hip ratio is not only an excellent way of calculating how much excess weight you are carrying, it can also be used to indicate susceptibility to a number of health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Using a tape measure, take a reading from your natural waist line and the widest part of your hips. Now divide the circumference of your waist by your hip circumference measurement. The World Health Organization considers abdominal obesity is represented by a waist–hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females.

The following two methods are NOT recommended.

#4. Hydrostatic Weighing

Hydrostatic weighing is NOT an effective way of calculating body fat. The weighing process takes place underwater on a chair that is placed on a zeroed out set of scales. You then sit on the chair before exhaling all the air from you lungs and then placing your head underwater. Once the scales stabilize, your weight is then noted down. The resulting figure is then passed through a series of formulas which, ultimately, produces a body-fat reading based on the buoyancy of your body fat. That is a hugely inaccurate way of measuring body fat however as it ignores muscle buoyancy, ignores bone density, ignores how much air might be in your lungs, etc. So don't bother.

#5. Body Fat Measuring

By using a special set of callipers skin and fat measurements are taken from the waist, shoulder blades, biceps and triceps. The resulting readings, in millimeters, are added up to produce a single figure. The figure is then plotted against a chart that takes the patient's sex, age and measurement into consideration to determine the body-fat percentage figure. In theory the higher the body fat, the higher your risk of suffering from obesity-related conditions. However this method also suffers from inaccuracy as it also is confused by measurements due to saggy skin / very elastic skin, a more muscular physique, and even factors like disproportionate body shape.



Conclusions? Maybe stop worrying about the numbers and just exercise because you enjoy feeling healthy. It doesn't matter HOW you do it. Just enjoy doing it.


Why is it so hard for skinny people to shed the last few pounds?

Q

"Hello! I have lost a lot of weight over the past 3 years - over 50 lbs - and my friends now describe me as skinny. However I still don't have abs. I have checked out other websites and articles on this topic, but nobody seems to have a proper answer for why is it so hard for skinny people to shed the last few pounds so I can see my abs? These days when I lose weight I only seem to lose muscle weight instead of fat, so I am definitely doing something wrong.

- Anonymous"

A

Hey there!

Many people have the same problem you do. They get down close to their desired weight and then they have difficulty attaining the desired number and the feeling / look of physical perfection they were hoping for.

Often people lose weight due to a combination of healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, but when they try to get something specific - like great looking abs, they find that everything they try doesn't seem to get rid of that last bit of fat layer on top of their abs. The stubborn fat that just won't leave.

Part of the problem is that your body composition has changed dramatically... and to explain this I am going to need to use an example:

Bob started off weighing 250 lbs and was overweight. He lost 50 lbs and now he weighs 200 lbs, but he still has some stubborn belly fat that he just cannot get rid of. He tries dieting, he tries jogging and other cardio activities, but the stubborn belly fat just won't leave. Indeed, he does lose weight during these attempts, but what he discovers is that he seems to be getting weaker, not thinner. His body is cannibalizing muscle tissue instead of using up his fat reserves.

This is because his body composition has reached a point where he has very little fat left to choose from but he has plenty of muscle his body can cannibalize for energy. Thus when Bob loses weight due to doing lots of cardio, he loses a lot of muscle weight and his body fat doesn't seem to change.

Bob also has it stuck in his head that he wants to weigh 180 lbs because he is 6'0" tall and he has consulted a BMI chart that states that being 200 lbs and 6'0" tall means that he is overweight because he has a BMI of 27.

So how should Bob fix this problem?

#1. Bob needs to stop worrying about his BMI and stop trying to weigh a specific amount. There is no "cruise control" for your weight. Everyone is different. Some people are not meant to weigh the amount they think they should weigh. Instead they need to change their focus to being healthier and worry less about the numbers.

#2. Bob needs to try a new way of exercising, one that won't decrease his muscle tissue. In Bob's case he should try weightlifting instead of cardio - and building muscle instead of trying to shed fat. He can do this one of three ways:

  1. Switch his cardio regimen to a purely weightlifting regimen.
  2. Split his exercise regimen to half cardio and half weightlifting.
  3. Gradually change from a cardio regimen to a weightlifting regimen, possibly 10% more weightlifting per week and gradually reduce the amount of cardio by 10% per week.
 By building muscle instead of trying to reduce fat, especially in combination with abdominal exercises if his goal is to have more pronounced abdominal muscles, Bob would end up building up muscle tissue and restricting his body to using ONLY fat stores for energy instead of using a combination of fat and muscle for energy. I recommend starting off with a gradual approach (eg. option 3 above) and focusing on core muscles (chest, abs, back muscles) first to build a strong foundation.

#3. It is possible Bob might also have a high cholesterol problem that is clogging arteries and preventing energy from being transferred in a healthy manner from fat tissue to his muscles during exercise. A low cholesterol diet might be beneficial to see if it helps make Bob more energetic, give him more endurance and change his blood sugar levels.

You can get those "six pack abs" you are looking for, but it will take extra time and effort to shed those stubborn last few lbs of fat - and it might mean you have to build up lbs of muscle during the process, just so you are not accidentally cannibalizing muscle tissue.

That means that in Bob's case he might actually put on weight and become a more muscular 220 lbs instead of his desired weight of 180 lbs and skinny. Maybe Bob is meant to look more like a muscular caveman than he was hoping for.

And this goes the same for the ladies out there. Many women have it stuck in their heads that women with muscles is unattractive. Absolute nonsense. Amazons are beautiful. Thus for women, sometimes the answer to shedding those last few lbs isn't more cardio. Maybe it is time to accept that you are an Amazon at heart and that your ideal body isn't a skinny mini, but a strong and beautiful Amazon.



10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers - Part Two!

Today I updated an older post titled 10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers and decided it might be time to make a sequel to that post.

So here it is! 10 MORE Weightlifting Tips for Archers!

#1. Proper Weightlifting Shoes, AKA Flats

What you might not know is that the shoe industry makes specific styles of shoes for weightlifters that allow them to build muscle faster when doing specific exercises. Indeed there is a bit of an argument within the weightlifting community as to which is better: Flats or Raised Heels.

Basically all you need to know is that there are pros and cons to both flats and raised heel shoes for weightlifters. All weightlifting shoes (regardless of whether they are flat or raised heel) are designed to have better traction to avoid slippage, a hard sole, and a snug fit. Where the two schools of thought differ is what activities the shoes are being used for:

Raised Heels are better for front squats, back squats, and Olympic style lifts and squats.

Flats are better for deadlifts, barbell rolls, wide stance squats, and basically everything else.

I should note also that for archery purposes, flats are best. If you are curious about why flats are best I recommend reading Steve Ruis' blog post on the topic of Leaning In, during which he rightly bashes crosstrainers (which I despise) and extolls the benefits of wearing flats.

#2. Learn Proper Form

The principle of learning proper form applies in weightlifting just like it does in archery. Whatever exercise you are doing please learn the proper way to safely do that exercise because: A. It builds muscle faster and B. It prevents injuries.

For example lets say you are doing a Back Dumbbell Row (an exercise which targets your rhomoids, deltoids and triceps) you need to be doing it properly.

To do a Back Dumbbell Row start by kneeling down on an exercise ball (or sofa or chair or bench) with the opposing arm holding onto a dumbbell. Slowly bring the dumbbell upwards to your chest keeping your elbow tight as possible into your body. Slowly bring the weight back down to the starting position.

A good starting weight to use for this exercise is 15 lbs.

#3. Learn Many Different Exercises

Don't limit yourself to just 1 to 3 exercises. Research new exercises and learn how to do them properly too. For example learn other versions of exercises that are similar, like the Front Dumbbell Row shown below:


Other exercises archers should try include:

Chin Ups or Reverse Grip Chin Ups
Close Grip Pulldowns
Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Exercise Band Standing Back Row
Lat Pulldown
One Arm Row
Power Clean / Hang Clean
Seated Row
Standing Row
Straight Arm Pulldowns
T-Bar Rows

#4. Invest in Quality Equipment that is Versatile

Just like you do with archery, invest in equipment you can use and keep using because of their versatility. Dumbbells for example are very versatile and can be used for hundreds of different exercises. Exercise balls in contrast are comparatively limited in terms of the number of things they can be used for and arguably are completely unnecessary when a chair, stool, pillow or other device could be substituted. Spend your money wisely on versatile equipment.

Also avoid buying cheap junk that breaks easily. Exercise balls can get punctured, a dumbbell in contrast is very difficult to break.

#5. Even Things Out

Don't just exercise the one body part like Homer Simpson did in that one episode. Work both sides of your body evenly. For archery purposes you might think you can get away with only exercising the one side, but trust me, you actually need both.


#6. Skip Anything Too Good To Be True

If a weightlifting gadget or supplement sounds like it is too good to be true, then it is. Don't waste your time or money on gadgets or supplements making ridiculous claims. The companies selling such products make their livings by selling to gullible suckers. Don't be a sucker.

#7. Supplements Only Help If Used Properly

Whey protein and Creatine supplements will help you to build muscle faster, but only if you are using them properly in the correct proportions for the amount of exercise you are actually getting. If you are only exercising for tiny amounts and then gorging yourself on whey protein, you are not going to get all the benefits you were dreaming of. Eat healthy, use minimal amounts of supplements, don't overdo it.

#8. Safety = Use Common Sense

You know the saying "Common sense is very uncommon." ? Well if it seems like a bad idea, then you probably should NOT do it. A lot of weightlifting accidents happen when people try to lift things that are way beyond their ability to lift and properly control.


The same thing goes in archery, as you should already be aware. Don't try to pull a bow you know you can't handle and hold steady properly.

#9. Get a Spotter

Honestly, having someone watch what you are doing is incredibly important for safety - especially with the heavy weights. If you drop it, cannot handle it, you could potentially hurt yourself or even kill yourself by accident.

#10. Try Bodyweight Exercises like Yoga or Gymnastics

Many different kinds of exercises utilize bodyweight instead of using dumbbells, barbells, etc. Yoga for example is very effective for using your bodyweight to give you the physical challenge of lifting your own body. Gymnastic exercises are also good for building the necessary strength.


Six Star Creatine as a Weightlifting Supplement

For those of you who don't know Creatine is a chemical found in red meat that boosts muscle growth and regulates energy distribution to muscle tissue (and also other body parts). Creatine intake is good for your muscles, heart, brain and more - but it is primarily used by people who are into weightlifting and bodybuilding.

I recently purchased a new packaged of Creatine to aid me during my Winter weightlifting regimen. This is for my personal use, not for clients.

Normally I use Sportzone creatine monohydrate powder, but when I saw the Six Star package [shown right] last Friday at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Little Italy I decided I would give it a try.

The Six Star creatine 'fruit punch' powder comes with added colour, sugar, fruit punch flavour, etc to make it taste better. It tastes like fruit punch kool-aid, remarkably so.

The Sportzone creatine monohydrate powder is quite normal in comparison. It is just a white powder that you mix with water or tea and drink. It has no added sugar or flavouring.

The thing that bothers me about the Six Star creatine is that it is 200 calories per scoop. That shows you just how much sugar they added to the mixture. To put that in perspective a 710 mL bottle of Coca-Cola has 320 calories (don't get confused by the Coke label saying it has 160 calories for 355 mL, they have cut the measurement in half in an effort to trick people into thinking it is healthier than it really is).

200 calories is still a lot however. It is 10% of your daily needs, hence why I have decided to use half-scoops so it is only 100 calories (5% of my daily needs). The slight sugar rush will just give me more energy while I am exercising.


I would also argue that I probably don't need a full dosage of Creatine. Each full scoop contains 5010 mg of creatine and while 5 g (5000 mg) is a normal full dosage for Sportzone, I don't use the full dosage on that stuff either.

It is my opinion that these supplements are just that: Supplements. Taking a full dosage isn't a necessity when supplementing your regular diet. If you are already eating your fair amount of red meat you may not need to supplement your Creatine intake, or you may only need a small amount to supplement your intake.

Thus for myself I have chosen to use half dosages of Creatine for my personal use, supplementing my intake as I see fit. Plus since the Six Star creatine has all that added sugar, it makes a bit of sense that maybe I should not be drinking the stuff like a hog at the trough.

I will continue to use the Six Star Creatine, but it is my opinion that after I finish the above package that I will probably go back to using the Sportzone creatine and mixing it with regular water or tea. I find green tea goes quite well with it.


The Benefits of Exercising NOW, before Winter begins

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." - Benjamin Franklin.

Every winter I create a weightlifting exercise program for me to do indoors during the winter months. This year I have decided to start early. What is nice is that even though I started on Wednesday, I am already seeing results by Monday.

I make this exercise program for me to do every Winter because I know I won't be outside as much exercising during the Winter. Thus I have to compensate for my lack of outdoor exercise by doing more indoor exercises.

When choosing which exercises to do weightlifting makes good logical sense because it requires less space to do properly when compared to jogging, running, swimming, tennis, golf, archery, boxing, etc. In some cases even less equipment, because I don't have an indoor pool handy. :p

So what exercises do I do?

#1. Chinups using a chinup bar installed in a doorway near the washroom. This guarantees I am building biceps in a hurry.

#2. Dumbbell exercises designed to target the shoulders, triceps, and pectorals.

#3. Old School Exercises like Sit-Ups and Push-Ups. The sit-ups target the abdominal muscles and the push-ups target pectorals, various back muscles, triceps and shoulders.

#4. Jumping Jacks - I love jumping jacks while listening to music. This is a quick indoor cardio that burns a lot of calories in a relatively short time. The more you do the more you burn. It also builds strong calves and ankles.

#5. Squats with Light Weights - This is for targeting my thighs and calves. Stronger leg muscles builds better balance and makes you faster when you need to run in a hurry.


The other thing I want to get back to is the concept that there are benefits to be reaped NOW by getting into exercising right away instead of postponing it for later. As a personal trainer Winter is the slow time of the year for me, which means I would normally be exercising less. But because I like to maintain my physique and improve upon it I complement my workout in the Winter with the weightlifting and old school exercises. Last year I didn't start my weightlifting routine until December - when there was already snow on the ground. Partially because I moved in November last year and was still sorting through boxes.

But this year I am all settled in and I felt a sense of urgency to get back into it early this year so I started my new weightlifting regimen on Wednesday October 1st. I didn't set out to pick that day, it just happened to be that day. So I did weightlifting on Wednesday, Thursday, took a break on Friday and Saturday to let my muscles relax, then again on Sunday, and now it is Monday... and I am seeing some fast results.

I am not just talking extra muscles either although I am definitely feeling more buff. I am sleeping better too. I am going to bed earlier, getting up at 6:15 before my alarm goes off at 7 AM, I feel well rested and alert, my appetite is up, and I am feeling super positive about myself.

And according to my bathroom scale I have put on 4 lbs very recently - which will be mostly muscle and increased bone density. (For record keeping I have gone from 190 to 194.)

I should point out that normally people don't put on a lot of muscle in a hurry unless they have the right combination of metabolic rate, exercise, protein/nutrient intake, etc. If you are interested in this topic of how fast muscles can grow I suggest reading the following two articles:

How Fast can you Grow Muscle

Two Alternative Models for Predicting Muscle Growth

If you read the 2nd article I have posted my own model for predicting muscle growth which takes in factors like Height, Shoulder Width, Metabolic Rate, Dietary Sufficiency, Gender, Exercise Rate, and Training Category - which makes it the most comprehensive method of predicting muscle growth.

There is also the Muscle Memory factor - which is difficult to calculate. Basically what that is is when a weightlifter gets sick for a long period of time they lose a bunch of muscle mass, but when they get back into weightlifting again - even after years - they are faster at putting on the muscle because the old muscles retain the memory. This is likely the biggest factor for me right now, allowing me to build up muscle a lot faster than I normally would.

My goal this Winter is to put on at least 20 lbs of muscle and weigh 210 lbs by mid-March.

And if sleeping better and feeling healthier is a side benefit, so be it. Those are benefits I like having.


Note - This Winter I also going to be doing Archery Biathlon (combo of cross country skiing and archery) once there is snow on the ground, which combines a high intensity cardio exercise with a resistance training exercise.

New Archery Biathlon Logo

Sculpture as Exercise

Rock Art made at Ashbridges Bay in Toronto
Want to learn a new exercise that employs both creativity and your muscles?

Try Rock Art / Rock Balancing.

I got introduced to rock balancing years ago (2011) and I have a few tips to pass on to would-be rock art sculptors.

#1. Learn to balance smaller rocks first.

#2. Wear gloves on your hands and steel toed boots on your feet. Protect yourself first because hurting your toes and fingers will REALLY HURT!

#3. When lifting larger rocks or even medium sized rocks, lift with your legs, not your back. If you have back problems you should probably be wearing a back brace.

#4. If you can barely lift a rock, you probably have no business trying to balance it. See Tip #1 over again.

#5. Try to find good quality rocks that balance easier. The best rocks have lots of crevices in them that allow you to balance them on a corner or bottom using 3 points (approximatly 120 degrees away from each other) so that rock won't roll in any direction.

#6. If it is windy outside don't bother. Any wind gusts of 30 kmph or more will knock your rocks over.

#7. When attempting to balance a larger rock get someone else to help you. Make sure they are following Tip #2 as well.

#8. Remember to hydrate. It gets hot outside in the sun! Best times of year to do rock balancing is May- April and September-October. June, July and August will be too hot and will wear you down physically faster so bring LOTS of drinking water with you.

#9. Bring snacks. All that exercise makes you hungry. Protein bars, sandwiches, chicken salads, anything nutritious.

#10. Have fun and bring a camera!

Rock Art Balancing, 2011

Weightlifting Accessories - Useful or Useless?

There are lots of accessories out there for weight lifters, but do you actually need them or are they useless?

Here is my List of Weightlifting Accessories, separated into four categories: Useful, Sometimes Useful, Mostly Useless and Utterly Useless.

#1. Weight Lifting Gloves = Useful

Very useful at protecting your hands from blisters. Some people might consider them unnecessary, but if you've ever had blisters on your hands from weight lifting you will agree they are a must have. They are also useful for gripping barbells easier.

The company I use is Atlas, but I also found a pair of bicycle gloves "Copper Canyon" that are practically identical to the Atlas weight lifting gloves.

#2. Dumbbells = Useful

You are weight lifting. You are going to need lots of different dumbbells in different weight sizes. This is an useful must have - unless you are trying to take the frugal exercising approach, in which case you will need to build your own dumbbells out of scrap.

#3. Wrist Wraps = Sometimes Useful

Wrist wraps provide extra support for your wrists, but not everyone needs them.

#4. Lifting Wraps = Mostly Useless

These are designed so you don't have to worry about your grip so much. You attach them to your wrists and then wrap them around the barbell you are lifting, making it easier to maintain your grip. However if you already use weight lifting gloves, then these things are pointless. I toss these in the Mostly Useless pile.

#5. Deadlift Bar Jack = Utterly Useless

Are you deadlifting and feeling pain as you are lifting the weight off the ground? Then you probably should not be lifting that much weight in the first place. A deadlift bar jack holds the barbell slightly off the ground so you don't have to bend over as much (and strain your back). But if you look at the photo on the right you see it only raises it off the ground by 1 or 2 inches, so does it really make difference? No. Not by much. If your back is hurting you that much, then stop lifting so much at once.

#6. Dip Belt = Mostly Useless

Are you planning on holding weights between your legs while doing pull ups or similar exercises like the guy in the photo? Probably not. So this would only be useful if you actually plan on doing this. I was very tempted to put this in the Utterly Useless pile, but it does have 1 use.


#7. Gym Chalk = Useful

Lets pretend for a moment you don't like using gloves and you want more grip. Well gym chalk is the old fashioned solution. Gives you plenty of grip. Also available as 'chalk balls'.

#8. Lifting Belt = Sometimes Useful

Similar to the wrist wraps, lifting belts are designed so you don't throw your back out lifting something you should probably not be lifting in the first place. But sometimes people don't know their limits so it is wise to be wearing one of these if you are going to be lifting anything which will be using your back muscles a lot.

#9. Knee Supports = Sometimes Useful

Same deal as the wrist wraps and the lifting belt. If you are lifting heavy weights with your knees you may want to be wearing knee supports.

#10. Lifting Hooks = Sometimes Useful

If your grip is really that bad, then you should get a set of lifting hooks. They work waaaaaaaaaaaay better than lifting wraps and you are guaranteed not to be dropping whatever you are lifting.


#11. Liquid Grip = Sometimes Useful

Conceptually, these work the same as gym chalk, but honestly I don't see this being a necessity for anyone who is not a full time bodybuilder. If you're just doing weightlifting for exercise, use gym chalk. If you are doing it 4 hours almost every day then okay, get the liquid grip.

#12. Head/Neck Harness = Utterly Useless

Seriously??? Are you going to be lifting things with your head/neck like the guy in the photo below? Unless you are then this is going in the Utterly Useless pile.

Fast Vs Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers

Fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers are used for different things.

A martial artist who wants to be superfast, a sprinter who wants to be able to run 100 meters in under 10 seconds, or even a professional boxer would want to utilize their fast twitch muscle fibres.

Likewise people doing a sustained activity that needs endurance - like a gymnast who needs to be able to hold a pose while suspended upside down, or an archer holding their bow steady without moving while they adjust their aim, or a weight lifter who needs to be able to lift a specified weight and then hold it for so many seconds in order for it to count as a new world record.

A little background info:

Muscle is made up of bundles of individual muscle fibers called myocytes. Each myocyte contains many myofibrils, which are strands of proteins (actin and myosin) that can grab on to each other and pull. This shortens the muscle and causes muscle contraction - and it is the contraction of muscle fibres that allow us to do any number of physical activities.

A normal person has roughly 50% of each type of muscle fiber, but athletes of various kinds can train their bodies to have a radically different percentage of each muscle fiber (eg. Bruce Lee, martial artist and movie star, had a significantly higher ratio of fast twitch muscle fibers).

Muscle fiber types can be broken down into two main types:

Type I, Slow twitch muscle fibers.

The slow muscle fibers are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons or bicycle for hours - and even more for activities that require just holding the same position, like gymnasts.

Type II, Fast twitch muscle fibers, which itself can be further categorized into Type IIa and Type IIb fibers.

Fast twitch fibers are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly and use energy at a faster rate. Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscle fibers, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly. Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to anyone who primarily wants speed and isn`t worried about endurance.

Type IIa Fibers

Type IIa fast twitch muscle fibers are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibers. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibers. They are still faster than slow twitch, but not as fast as Type IIb.

Type IIb Fibers

Type IIb fast twitch fibers only use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the "classic fast twitch muscle fibers" that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. These muscle fibers have the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fiber types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can't last as long before it needs rest.

Fiber Type and Speed Vs Endurance Performance

We all have different amounts of fast vs slow twitch muscle fibers, and these in turn effect our athletic ability in different activities. Some of us might make really good gymnasts, but would be horribly slow when sprinting (and vice versa). Athletes typically get into sports that match their muscle makeup, but it is not genetics that is the biggest deciding factor, it is the types of previous exercises that determine which kind of muscles a person grows.

For example a person could be born to family of several generations of gymnasts, but if they practiced sprinting instead for many years the type of muscle fibers they build would be different. Your body adjusts the ratio over the longer term based on what types of muscle fibers you are using most.

How much is the ratio you might ask? Well, studies have shown that Olympic sprinters typically have approx. 80% fast twitch fibers - while people who do sports that require lots of endurance have about 80% slow twitch fibers. So the ratio of muscle fibers can vary quite wildly by up to 30% plus or minus.

Our bodies still need a ratio in order to perform every day activities. So even though 100% fast twitch would be great for sprinting, by the time the race is over the person would probably be too exhausted to even walk for a period of time. We still need both types of muscle fibers just to perform our daily routine.

Studies also have shown that different types of muscle fibers can also simply change into other types over the course of training. In theory (no evidence of this yet) Type IIa fibers might be an intermediary stage of muscle fibers that are transforming from one type into the other. Not a lot of research has been done into whether muscle fibers morph back and forth over the longer term.

What is known however is that people who train for endurance or speed gain what they are looking for over the longer term. It really is simply a matter of regular training, good diet, and taking good care of themselves to prevent injuries (because an injury can result in a loss of muscle tone if they cannot exercise during a long period of time).

There are many factors that make a great athlete (mental preparedness, proper nutrition and hydration, getting enough rest, and having appropriate equipment and conditioning). Different types of muscle fibers is just one factor. Some sports require a combination of both fast and slow twitch fibers, so having more of one is not necessarily beneficial.

eg. A football player would want both speed and endurance. Speed for when they need to be running in a hurry, but also endurance because they will be playing for longer periods of time - so they need muscle fibers that can do both.
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing cardiotrek@gmail.com and lets talk fitness!

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