Explosivelyfit strength training builds powerful bodies!

Danny M. O'Dell, MA. CSCS*D Strength coach

Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Freedom is never free. ~Author Unknown

Explosivelyfit gym
Fitness Tools
Other Resources
Personal Training
Strength Links

Explosivelyfit Strength Training blog

Explosivelyfit Strength Training Manuals

Kindle versions

Smashwords versions

Explosivelyfit Strength Training, LLC
PO Box 35
Nine Mile Falls,
WA. 99026

Contact Danny



Strength training articles

Permission to use these articles

You may use these strength training articles in your newsletter, on your site or in your personal fitness emails if you send an electronic copy of the article, along with the date used to Contact Danny

Articles written by other strength training coaches express their individual opinion and do not necessarily reflect the training methods or philosophy of Explosivelyfit Strength Training. They are presented here for your thoughtful consideration.

Preliminary note to all of you power athletes:

Warm ups that consist of static stretching prior to the power and explosive sports are contraindicated because they are detrimental to the outcome.

A dynamic warm up is a key to explosive power.

Table of Contents

Abs-solutely Incorrect by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Advanced powerlifting techniques by Rick Dale Crain

Alternate bench press methods of training

Americans are severely obese, to the tune of 15.5 million citizens.

An introduction to Tai-Chi

Are you contemplating losing weight

Are you feeling fatigued and irritable?

Are the bear claws you are eating making you as grouchy as a bear?

Are you ready to run

Are you testing the results of your strength training program

A. S. Prilepin's training guidelines

Avoiding exercise rhabdomyolysis

Avoid breakfast mistakes

Balance out your exercise program

Balancing out your exercise program

Balancing out your power

Bench grip width

Bicep curls for great abs by Adrian Birkby, BSc CSCS MPT

Blood pressure basics

Blood pressure, daily walking and the connection with being overweight

Boosting your insulin response with increased lean muscle mass

Brain activation results in those addicted to food

Breakfast power by Glenn Cardwell

Building athletic movement

Burning off the calories and keeping healthy

Carbohydrates, triglyceride levels and the size of your waist

Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance training

Changes in pain

Changing your physical activity habits

Children and exercise 

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity-is physical activity an answer to the problem?

Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

Combining strength training with endurance training

Common sports injuries found in women

Control your eating by applying Paretos' law, Hara Hachi Bu and other techniques

Cooling the body for athletic performance

Cooling the body during heat emergencies

Conditioning for running by Daniel Pare

Cool down

Cooling the body for Athletic Performance

Core stability exercises

Cutting back on dietary fat in your food and drink

Cutting calories to lose weight

Cycling Improves Parkinson's

Dangerous squats?

Defining or strengthening the abs by Daniel Pare

Dehydration and its effect on anaerobic power output

Determining eligibility for entry into the weight lifting classes 
for the younger students

Development of explosiveness

Develop your grip

Do you need a knee replacement? Is it right for you?

Does eating at night make you fat?

Do it right, now, and it will stay with you by Rickey Dale Crain

Do's and don'ts for an injury free exercise session

Drink soda and damage your DNA by George Hynec

Drinking cola leaches the magnesium from your body

Drink your water at the right time to maximize its effectiveness to your body

Dynamic warm ups

Eating a high protein breakfast helps control your appetite

Eating less. Ten tricks of the trade to help you lose and then keep off excess body weight

Early detection of disease – screenings for men

Economy and training effort

Effective program design variables

Eliciting physiological change in the athlete

Energy bars and sports drinks by by Nanci S. Guest

Engram development; the vital component to success

Excess sodium where you would least expect it

Excess weight: I won't get fooled again

Exercise clothing

Exercise guidelines for adolescents and children

Exercise and rest period cycles

Exercising in the fat burning zone or are you wasting your time? Hint: it’s the latter

Exercising with arthritis

Exercising with high blood pressure

Exercise Soreness; the good and bad of it

Exercises that will strengthen your ankles

Explosive plyo benches

Explosive squats

Explosive strength

Explosive training

Extra weekly workouts for improved strength

Fat-necessary or not

Fatigue: Is it in the muscles, the mind, or the heart

Fifteen minutes to a healthier and longer life

Five facts about flexibility and stretching

Five incredibly good steps for weight control by Glenn Cardwell


Five reps to weight loss by Daniel Pare

Floor pressing with mechanics seats

Food toxicity

Four tips for eating after exercise

Frozen shoulder and rotator cuff injury: 
A guide for the treatment and prevention of shoulder injuries

Functional training

Functional training in the real world by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Gaining weight as we age

Getting a handle on your sleep debt

Getting control of your waistline girth

Getting more fiber in your diet

Get Fit for Fall

Getting flexible and staying there

Get your quick fix now by Daniel Pare

Getting rid of your belly pouch

Getting Stronger 

Getting stronger with high intensity workouts

Growing kids, growing crisis by Daniel Pare

Get your quick fix now by Daniel Pare

Hard work on basic exercises by Prof. Bradley J. Steiner

Help cut your risk of diabetes

Healthy gifts

Health requires energy by Daniel Pare

Healthy ways to reduce your fat intake

Heart rate calculation options

Heart rate monitoring after exercise

High heart rate strength training

Home resistance strength training program

How much activity do you need

How to strengthen your joints by Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS

Hot or cold

How a rounded back affects the deadlift

High volume short term training

Home resistance strength training program


Identifying and correcting technical exercise mistakes

Inertia; friend or foe?

Improving joints function by Daniel Pare

Improving your lean muscle to fat ratio with strength training

Increasing your explosive strength

Increasing your muscles ability to recover

Individualization and summary

Introduction to rotator cuff injuries

Individualization of training

Is it possible to stop the arthritis in your knee from progressing?

Isolation vs. compound exercises by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Is the body mass index accurate in letting you know if you are obese?

Is this the way you train your athletes?

Is muscular soreness necessary by Daniel Pare

It is how you eat by Glenn Cardwell

Isometrics-do they help raise the total?

Kids and strength training by Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS

Killing the pain of exercise – does it kill the gains too?

Lab tests of body composition levels 

Lifting belt

Limiting factors to optimizing strength

Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain

Loading patterns

Load and repetition recommendations

Lower your blood pressure

Make the low winter temperatures work for you

Making improvements in your elderly trainees balance to help prevent them from falling

Making your middle more manageable

Maintaining mental sharpness

Making the most of your functional properties 

Make your heart healthier and stronger with physical exercise

May is national physical fitness and sports month

Measuring muscular endurance

Mechanically wrong By Daniel Pare

Mental Imagery

Minding the Injury

More benefits of exercise

Motor coordination and resistance training

Motor recruitment

Moving the curve

Movement and heart health

Multiple load training

Muscle actions involved in the push up

Muscle activation

Muscles can wait by Daniel Pare

Muscular hypertrophy by Daniel Pare

Muscle mass

Muscle recruitment in full and partial rep scenarios
 by Rickey Dale Crain

Muscular strength

Non-drug treatments of Arthritis

Normal knee range of motion or the lack thereof and the link with osteoarthritis

Nutrition Impact-Sweeteners in your food by Glenn Cardwell

One repetition maximum estimates

Opposites-a training attraction

Optimizing the mind body connection

Osteoporosis and exercise

Overcoming sticking points in your exercise program

Over training-Excessive training indicators manifest first in psychological form



Perfecting the motor patterns of athletic movement

Periodization; the practical aspects of implementation

Physical activity guidelines and the benefits of walking

Physical fitness

Physiological effects on the expression of Strength

Plyometrics by Daniel Pare

Pop consumption and diabetes

Power rack push ups

Persistence indeed by Lucy Van Pelt

Practicing perfect posture

Prescriptions for strength training

Presidents physical fitness challenge

Principles of the warm Up

Pre-stretch less training-adding variety to your lifting program

Pre-workout self assessment scale of energy level, soreness and world outlook

Probably the most overlooked exercise by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Progressive resistance exercise

Protein and why we need it by Jaklina Trajcevska

Protein synthesis and energy use

Push/pull line of force principles by Daniel Pare

Raising your metabolism through exercise

Reducing your dietary fat calories

Re-energizing your energy

Regaining range of motion after an injury

Realistic bodyweight conditioning by by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Relative strength

Resistance training in cold weather

Resistance training and flexibility

Rest periods per specific goals

Rotator cuff injuries by Brad Walker

Running differences between the young and old

Salt shaken by Glenn Cardwell


Sarcopenia: muscle wasting


Save money, eat better and weigh less

Sciatic nerve pain

Selecting strength exercises

Self prescribed orthotics - good or bad for your health?

Serious sport participation preparation practices

Sets and reps

Sets and reps by Daniel Pare

Set a goal if you want to lose weight, get stronger, or run farther

Setting yourself up for success with your exercise plans

Several shorter workouts per day may help control prehypertension

Shoulder pain by Daniel Pare

Single dimension training briefly compared to the fitness triad

Single or multiple sets by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Six common sense strategies to help with your allergies

Six stretches that will improve your mobility

Someone said squatting is bad for you-is it?

Snacking and TV

Special strength and the athlete

Speed of movement

Specificity of training

Spotting in the weight room

Sports conditioning by Daniel Pare

Sport specific training: is it possible?

Spring time: The call to be active

Standing plyo push ups

Stability ball exercise basics

Starting out with an aerobic exercise plan

Starting out with a sensible training program

Starting the day with flourish

Steps to keeping the weight loss permanent

Strength endurance

Strength exercises and speed of motion

Strength exercises order of progression

Strength is crucial to sports Success

Strength sports preparation

Strength training for injury prevention by Brad Walker

Strength training for the older population

Strength training properties

Strengthening the core by Daniel Pare

Strengthening with stretching by Daniel Pare

Strengthening and stretching your joints

Strength training thoughts for the pre and adolescent child

Strengthening your body provides positive and specific health benefits

Stretching considerations and guidelines

Stretching for martial arts By George Hynec


Stress fractures and your active teenager

Strong bones reduce injury risk

Submaximal loads and strength development

Sugar, is it the only culprit that damages your teeth?

Super-stimulating strength training adaptations

Surprising associations between exercise and your health

Taking in the experience of a big gym

Team training strategies

The basics of exercise and health; an introduction for the older adult

The Conditioned Body by Daniel Pare

The factors that influence rest periods

The health problems of too much salt in your diet

Ten steps to better health, a flatter stomach...

Testing your training program

Tired of doing the same old same routine?

The benefits of slow lifting by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

The best metabolism raising exercises

The best time to eat to lose weight

The connections between exercise and your health

The effects of potentiation on force, power, and velocity

The facts about fats

The health benefits of exercising thirty minutes a day

The general principles of the warm up

The importance of sweating to your health

The importance of water to your health

The influence that exercise has on the food we eat

The limited the definition of physically fit

The make up of a resistance training program

The mental health components of physical exercise by Rickey Dale Crain

The positive effects of walking

Think you are too old to strength train? Think again

Timing carbohydrate and protein intake

Timing your meals to increase the effectiveness of your workouts

The health benefits of water to your brain

The importance of a balanced workout by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

The three major components of maximal strength training

The three R's to solve muscle strains by Brian Schiff

The unspoken gym secret

To sit up or not to sit up by world champion Rickey Dale Crain

Training room environmental climate conditions

Training theories

Training your breathing

Twelve factors that affect recovery

Urinary incontinence in older women may be less in those who exercise

Using chains to increase your strength

Using dynamic exercises in your strength training program

Using exercise to lose and maintain your weight

VO2 max formula

Water the essence of life

What is Protein and why do we need it?

Warning signs of a stroke

Weight and mortality, obesity as a disease by Glenn Cardwell

When to get help for a head injury

Why am I getting shorter?

Why am I sore after working out?

Why children should be exercising

Why your child needs to exercise

Why sleep?

Why weight loss programs fail by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Women, weight loss and muscle by Adrian Birkby, CSCS MPT

Working the external rotators 

You are what you say to yourself

You want results by Daniel Pare

Youth and strength training by Daniel Pare

Preliminary note to all of you power athletes:

Warm ups that consist of static stretching prior to the power and explosive sports are contraindicated because they are detrimental to the outcome.

A dynamic warm up is the key to explosive power.


Energy bars

Energy bars are a great fuel resource for athletes because of the ease, convenience, and calorie distribution between the essential carbohydrates, fats and proteins that each one contains. But the price of these is outrageous. Making your own saves the cash and gives you control of the ingredients. Here are a couple of tried and true energy bar recipes by noted nutritionist Nanci S. Guest.

1. Energy Bar Recipe

2 dozen dried figs 
1/3 cup honey 
4 Tbsp. orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice 
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 tsp. baking powder 
1 Tbsp. canola oil 
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 egg whites (or egg substitute
1 cup oat bran

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Instructions: mix figs, honey, 
OJ and lemon juice in a food processor.

Mix all other ingredients separately (except oat bran). Combine 2 mixtures, roll into 20 balls, coat with oat bran, and bake at 350 deg for 10-15 minutes

Store finished product in the refrigerator


Facts per bar: 
150 Calories | 
4 gr. Protein | 
1 gr. fat | 
36 gr. Carbohydrate

2. Energy Bar Recipe

Nonstick vegetable spray 
3 cups puffed wheat cereal 
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or other
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates or raisins 
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries 
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 
1/4 cup honey 
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Mix cereal, walnuts, dates, cherries in medium bowl.

Combine peanut butter, honey and corn syrup in small saucepan and bring to boil.

Stir constantly until mixture thickens slightly about 1 minute.

Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture in bowl, and stir until blended.

Pour into baking pan.

Bake 10 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. 
Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 10 bars. Nutrition Facts per bar:

180 Calories | 4 gr. Protein | 8 gr. fat | 
22 gr. Carbohydrate

Sports drinks

It is vitally important that you replace lost salts and water when engaging in heavy sweat producing exercise. Anytime you participate in a strenuous activity for more than an hour you probably need to be drinking a salt-replacement sports drink in addition to water.

The sugar and salt in these drinks help you absorb and retain the water to prevent dehydration. In addition they replenish the salt to prevent hyponatremia (low blood sodium), both of which conditions can send you to the hospital after a hard sweaty session. The goal is raise up the sugar concentration (glucose or sucrose are preferred) to around 7% and the salt to 1-2 grams per liter. Sugar content, above 8%, may actually slow down the water absorption.


4 cups water
1 cup orange juice or cranberry cocktail 
1/4 tsp salt

Nanci S. Guest is a certified personal trainer; nutritionist, and is completing her Master of Science degree in nutrition this June. She owns; Power Play: Nutrition, Fitness, Performance in Vancouver, BC, and for the past 8 years she has been providing individuals, sports teams and the community with nutritional consulting; personal training services, as well as research services, seminars and article writing for local and national publications.

Her specialization is sports nutrition, catering to a variety of athletes of all levels. Some of her elite athletic clientele include members of the Vancouver Canucks, the Vancouver Giants; the BC Lions, the Canadian National Freestyle Ski Team, Iron Man participants, athletic teams from BC high schools and universities, and a variety of other provincial and national team members.

Nanci's website is www.powerplayweb.com and she can be reached by email at nanci@powerplayweb.com

To sit up or not to sit up!

By Rickey Dale Crain 
IPF/WPC/AAU World Champion
2000 Powerlifting Hall of Fame Inductee

Every television station network has, at one time or the other, had an infomercial on an abdominal gadget. This constitutes in most people’s minds what abdominal work is all about. Most people in or out of the gym have virtually no idea how to put together an abdominal workout. Their training usually consists of buying a product on television and doing it a few times for a few weeks and then expecting to look like a 24-year old male supermodel. NOT!

In other words, we throw a few sets of this and that together and expect it to work or we do a few sets of sit ups and leg raises a couple of times a week before, during, or after a workout and PRESTO super abdominal muscles are expected. And by the time we are 25 or 30 years old we already have the pork and pooch of a 50 or 60 year old. We can do better than that, though. It is time we change the attitude and the mindset of not only the Sunday afternoon athlete but the competitive one as well. It is time to strengthen that midsection, that support system for heavy weight training, like squats and deadlifts and to use some preventive medicine for the lower back which seems to haunt athletes and others as they age.

For years I prided myself as having good or great abdominal muscles, especially for a Powerlifter.

First, you need a goal and then you need a plan. It is no different than if I wanted to bench press 300 pounds by the end of the year. I need to have a goal of a 6 pack and it can be accomplished with a plan. I'll show you a few of the better abdominal exercises I have used over the years.

You ask, why do WE NEED abdominal training? As an athlete or Sunday afternoon quarterback it never hurts to be strong in that midsection. As previously stated it prevents injuries of all kinds and will always help you train heavier than you might otherwise be able to and in a safer way as well.

The second seems to be the most obvious: to look good and the women (wives and girlfriends) love them. I never saw a guy that didn’t like some abdominal muscles showing; neither did his wife or girlfriend. Most people who Powerlift, Olympic Lift, Bodybuild, or train for a specific sport should be after an abdominal six pack and the core strength that comes with it.

In sport specific training strong abdominals are a must in contributing towards your best performance. It is always true that a strong midsection is needed to support, protect, and give explosive strength and power throughout the body.

Sports specific abdominal training is superior over nonspecific abdominal training, but we will not go into that at the moment. We will deal with abdominal work that should enhance your performance in all sports as well as the side benefit and looks of the midsection.

Injury prevention is that other added value in doing consistent and heavy abdominal work. The exact role of the abdominal muscles and other trunk stabilizers has BEEN KNOWN AMONG POWERLIFTERS FOR 20-40 YEARS, but it has never seemed to fully sink in and be comprehended by most athletes, until recently.

Having done thousands of reps a week, of different types of abdominal work since the early 60’s, both with and without weights, I have developed a lot of different types of exercises that do work. Even Bill Starr, in his 1976 classic book, The Strongest Shall Survive, wrote that the abdominal muscles "…can be strengthened in a wide variety of ways. Sit ups, crunches of all types, leg raises, and trunk rotation movements all involve the abdominal muscles to different degrees." Bill Pearl's 1986 classic Keys to the Inner Universe lists and graphically illustrates over 100 abdominal and trunk exercises! Despite all this information, there seems to be a gap in the knowledge (or usage and admittance of such) and the actual practice of them. Most individuals do only one or two different types of abdominal work. Be smart and pick a number of different kinds to strengthen the midsection from all angles and in all areas for maximum protection and power. And check out Pavel Tsatsouline’s books and video’s/dvd’s on ab and midsection strengthening exercises at http://www.dragondoor.com/index.html .

The question I am always asked is “how many times a week should I do them?” Different goals require different answers. The frequency for a person interested in minute changes in looks and strength will do less than one who is really serious about strength gains, injury prevention, and looks.

Weighted abdominal work, like any other type of weight training, will require some rest between sessions during the week; abdominal work with high reps can be done daily or even multiple times during the day, as muscle endurance training requires less recovery than strength training stomach work. If your primary concern is injury prevention and strength training I would do weighted and non-weighted abdominal work 3-4 times a week after your heavy workouts. On the other days you can throw in non-weighted high rep abdominal work. Let’s look at a few routines. Remember that abdominal workouts are as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach. The only limits are you and your imagination.


A good, basic, non-weighted abdominal routine involves 4 different exercises done in a superset like fashion. 

First, do a crunch type sit up with feet firmly locked in place on a sit up board or something similar, fold your hands across the chest and do a motion of up and down, but not all the way up or all the way down. 

Second, do a standing twist motion (I do these sometimes with an empty broomstick-this is optional). Keep the hips and lower body facing straight ahead and only the upper body rotating 90 degrees to each side. Count one rotation to each side as one rep. 

Third, get back on the floor for leg raises; and remember not all the way up or all the way down to the floor. 

Fourth and last, do a standing side bend. With your hands to your side, bend to each side, back and forth, while counting one rep after a completion from each side. 

These 4 make up the workout. Do all four, as fast as you can, one after the other. Start with 33 reps of each, once through, then 33 reps again once through. On the third time through do 34 reps. In working through the sets three times you will then have 100 reps of each of the four exercises. That will give you a total of 400 reps. You can do this 1-4 times a day depending on what kind of shape you want to get in. (Once in the morning, once before a workout, once after a workout, and one more time at night can be done).


A good weighted abdominal workout to build some size and strength is simply 5 sets of 10 reps; you can cycle down to 5 x 5 (for better strength results). Hold a weight against your chest, feet locked, knees slightly bent, do the situp, going not quite all the way up or all the way down. I actually used to put the weight behind my head, but this is way too difficult for most athletes and if done incorrectly can result in lower back strain or injury.

Finish off with 5 sets of 10 reps of side bends with a dumb bell in each hand (one hand at a time). This is a great workout to do 4-6 times a week. You will be amazed at the support that you will get from these for those big squats and dead lifts.


Start with lying on a bench, with your feet hanging off the end and your hips just barely on the end of the bench. Hold onto the bench with your hands just behind your head grasping the sides of the bench. Do a full leg raise and pullover. Feet dropping to within a few inches of the floor and pulling/lifting up so they are perpendicular with the bench. Keep your knees straight, legs together, and toes pointed. Do 5 sets of 10-25 reps.

These 3 basic abdominal workouts will cover all your bases in whatever you wish to accomplish.

You can create more as you want or as you become bored with the above.

A big ALSO……….diet is extremely important for the 6 pack look……..strength can be had without a bodybuilding type of diet but LOOKS of a 6 pack usually takes some dedication and consistency in keeping the calories under control.

Big strong abdominal muscles will give you the support you need for powerlifting, support to prevent injuries in sports, and a 6 pack for your ego. So go ahead and SITUP!

The origins of the presidents physical fitness challenge 

Physical fitness is often in the news today, but it has long been a national concern, and the government's response to it was shaped significantly during the Kennedy administration.

In the years just after World War II, concerns about the fitness of U.S. citizens, especially the young, attracted national attention. Several trends and developments in the country lay at the root of this anxiety. The nation's economy had changed dramatically since the beginning of the century, and with it changed the nature of work and recreation. Mechanization had taken many farmers out of the fields and allowed the ones who remained to do much of their work with far less effort. The factories, which had long been highly mechanized, were becoming even more so, and fewer and fewer factory jobs required heavy labor. Outside of work, new forms of entertainment emphasized watching rather than doing. But these changes may not have been as important as people's awareness that they were occurring. People were beginning to have to confront a new image of themselves and their country, and they did not always like what they saw. Worrying about physical fitness channeled and expressed these doubts.

A New Federal Agency Shapes Up

As a military man, President Eisenhower was probably already sensitive to the issue of physical fitness. There had been grumbling by officers of the armed forces about the condition of draftees during both World War II and the Korean War. But concern about the problem peaked in his first administration with publication of the work of Dr. Hans Kraus and Ruth Hirschland (better known professionally as Bonnie Prudden), whose study of American children found them alarmingly deficient in fitness compared to children in other countries. President Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness with Executive Order 10673, issued on July 16, 1956.

The President's Council on Youth Fitness consisted of cabinet members representing several departments, which were also responsible for contributing to its budget. The first chair of the Council was Vice President Richard Nixon; later the chair of the Council was moved to one of the cabinet-level department representatives. In association with the Council, a Citizens Advisory Committee was also set up. To carry out the work of the Council, a director was appointed, with a small staff to support him.

Despite widespread goodwill and support both inside and outside the government, the President's Council on Youth Fitness never quite found its way during the Eisenhower years. All new government bodies are liable to jealousy and conflict over turf, and the President's Council was no exception. This problem was compounded by the first director, Shane MacCarthy, who, despite being a career government man, seems to have been remarkably ill-equipped to deal with bureaucratic friction.

While personality conflicts and organizational difficulties often bogged the Council down, the real difficulty and the core of many disputes was that no one was clear about the Council's purpose. President Eisenhower's original executive order founding the Council was clearly inspired by concerns about physical fitness, but the Council chose to promote a concept of "total fitness" defined in statements like this: "Youth fitness means total fitness—including intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social fitness—rather than merely physical fitness." Yet when the Council suggested means to accomplish these sweeping, idealistic aims, they always seemed to come down to exercising more.

Uncertainty about the meaning of fitness went hand in hand with uncertainty about action to be taken. At the time, the most common description for the Council was the metaphor of a catalyst. The Council would not create rules and standards, or the tests to go with them; instead the Council would provide opportunities for ideas to blossom, and, somehow, things would happen. Under no circumstances was the Council to set up a national fitness program. For many connected with the Council's work, the idea of the nation’s youth constrained by a state-ordered regimen seemed a little "red," even fascist. The goal and ideal of the President's Council during this Republican administration was to make fitness a nationally recognized local problem.

In this way, the Council and its staff were caught in a dilemma. They were given the task of spreading the word about a national crisis, but could not use national resources to help resolve it. As a result, the state and local authorities to whom the Council addressed itself reacted with some reservations to Council pronouncements. Furthermore, even those who opposed the idea of programs on a national scale expected that the Council would do something, and grew increasingly skeptical when the Council gave the impression of spinning its wheels.

Still, even without many high-profile achievements, the Council basically accomplished what it was designed for in these early years: it kept the problem of fitness before the public. And in the end, if there was one thing that prevented the Council from reaching its full potential, it was the subtle but evident inattention of the President. Having established this President's Council, Eisenhower rarely spoke on the subject of fitness and did not appear at any of the annual conferences of the Council and the Citizens Advisory Committee. John F. Kennedy's approach to the work of the Council and fitness as a problem would be very different.

New Frontiers for Fitness

The issue of fitness suited Kennedy very well. It was an area that placed his relative youth, elsewhere a subject for grumbling about inexperience, in its best light. It dovetailed with a personal and familial reputation for vitality. Best of all, it played into his political message regarding preparedness; more than one commentator had already warned what would happen to a nation of weak Cold Warriors. Kennedy took up fitness with both hands, after the election publishing an article, "The Soft American," in Sports Illustrated. The article was an unprecedented announcement by a President-elect of public policy in the mass media. In it, Kennedy established four points as the basis of his program, including a "White House Committee on Health and Fitness"; direct oversight by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; an annual Youth Fitness Congress to be attended by state governors; and the assertion that fitness—physical fitness—was very much the business of the federal government.

The importance of physical fitness to the new administration was underscored both by a conference convened only a month after the inauguration and by a significant reorganization of the President’s Council. Despite his game attempts to get along, Eisenhower’s Council Director, MacCarthy, was quickly eased out and a replacement found in the person of Charles “Bud” Wilkinson, a highly successful University of Oklahoma football coach. True to Kennedy’s style, the new executive for the Council was dubbed a Special Consultant to the President, making it more than ever the President’s Council. Rather than continue the delegatory and hierarchical distance that Eisenhower had fostered, Kennedy attempted to attach fitness initiatives more firmly to the office of the President. In this effort, the Kennedy administration was surprisingly successful, at least on its own terms. For the generation that coped with primary school during the 1960s, the President's Council was unquestionably President Kennedy's council; to this day, the council's origins in the Eisenhower administration are obscure to most who grew up in that time.

Kennedy’s success was not just a matter of bureaucratic title changes. Unlike his predecessor, Kennedy addressed the issue of physical fitness frequently in his public pronouncements and assigned new projects to the council. 

Perhaps Kennedy's most famous intervention in the area of fitness, and an indicator of the extent to which the Council became identified with him, was the fifty-mile hike. The idea of the hike developed from Kennedy's discovery in late 1962 of an executive order from Theodore Roosevelt challenging U.S. Marine officers to finish 50 miles in twenty hours. Kennedy passed the document on to his own marine commandant, Gen. David M. Shoup, and suggested that Shoup bring it up to him as his, Shoup's, own discovery, with the proposal that modern day marines should duplicate this feat. Shoup, of course, responded speedily, and the President went on to say that:

Should your report to me indicate that the strength and stamina of the modern Marine is at least equivalent to that of his antecedents, I will then ask Mr. Salinger to look into the matter personally and give me a report on the fitness of the White House Staff.

In his conversations with his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, Kennedy left no doubt that "look[ing] into the matter personally" would involve Salinger walking fifty miles himself. A well-padded individual with a sense of humor about himself, Salinger turned his efforts to avoid the hike into an open joke, finally releasing a statement on February 12, 1963, in which he publicly declined the honor. As justification, he pointed to Attorney General Robert Kennedy's completion of the hike as proof of the fitness of the administration. The President's brother had undertaken the hike on an impulse, and although clad in leather oxford shoes, had slogged the distance through snow and slush.

But the real impact of the fifty mile hike was with the public at large, which took the hike as a personal request and a challenge from their President. Furthermore, responsibility for the President's challenge was presumed to lie with the President's Council. This put the council in a tricky position. To disavow the hikes would undermine its declared purposes. On the other hand, the council wanted no part of having the hikes thrust on it as a program by an overenthusiastic public. As a compromise, the council sent out a cautious press release recommending a moderate, gradual program of walking for exercise. 

For the more persistent, the council prepared a background letter explaining the origin of the hike, again suggesting a sensible walking regimen, and stating emphatically that government agencies were not sponsoring or rewarding hikes.

The fifty mile hike fad demonstrated just how far the President's Council had come. Instead of laboring to drum up interest in its work, the Council was in the position of having to restrain the public's zeal for a program it had embraced spontaneously—in so far as it had not invented it altogether. In fact, this was exactly the way the Eisenhower Council and its director Shane MacCarthy had thought the Council should operate. The fitness mission was supposed to develop at the grassroots level, with the Council merely there to advise and guide. But the staff and members of the Eisenhower Council underestimated the need for such advice and guidance.

When the Kennedy administration took up the fitness message, it was promoted to a degree unseen since Theodore Roosevelt himself. Not only was the President consistently addressing the issue at every opportunity that speech and print allowed, the Council itself had begun a major publicity campaign through the National Advertising Council. Although the Council on Youth Fitness had certainly been aware of the need for publicity during the Eisenhower administration, promotional efforts were fitful and largely consisted of local public relations projects along the lines of a fitness poster contests for young people.

In contrast, the campaign that the Kennedy council undertook with the help of the National Advertising Council was organized, extensive, media-savvy, and above all, countrywide. Material was produced for print, radio, television, and display advertising. For broadcast alone, 650 television kits and 3,500 radio kits were sent out, which would have blanketed those industries. At fifty thousand dollars, the budget for the campaign compared favorably with the National Advertising Council's work on War Bonds or Forest Conservation. All of this was in addition to the continued encouragement of public relations opportunities, which expanded in scope and entered new territories. Physical fitness even appeared on the comics page, as seventeen major syndicated comics creators took up the subject, the most notable being Charles Schulz of "Peanuts" fame.

Possibly the oddest contribution to the effort was the "Chicken Fat Song." Written by Meredith Willson, creator of The Music Man, and sung with slightly demented conviction by Robert Preston, the actor most responsible for that musical's success, the “Chicken Fat Song” was produced in a three-minute, radio-friendly version and a six-minute version to accompany schoolchildren during council-approved workout routines.

The song didn't get much airplay, but for tens of thousands of children doing sit-ups in school gyms around the country, the cajoling chorus of "go, you chicken fat, go!" became ingrained in memory. Today, sites on the World Wide Web still nostalgically recall the song, and a new version, with expanded exercise routines, has recently been released. But apart from the song's infectious quality, it also marked a change in policy by the Council on Youth Fitness. 

The song was meant to accompany a physical fitness program, which the Council was endorsing for the first time.

Even before accepting the Special Consultant position, Wilkinson had clearly understood that the Council did not have the authority to impose a national program, but it was also obvious by the time he took over that state and local authorities would welcome more direct guidance. The Council's fitness curriculum was devised with the cooperation of nineteen major U.S. educational and medical organizations. Two hundred thousand copies were distributed freely, another forty-thousand were sold, and the Council engaged in a sweeping drive to achieve widespread participation in the program for the 1961–1962 school year. A core group of almost a quarter of a million schoolchildren took part in Council-sponsored pilot projects in six states, with other, state-authorized projects also contributing statistics. Even taking into account an organization's inclination to congratulate itself, the Council's program was a success. At the end of the pilot project year, half again as many students passed a physical fitness test as had a year earlier. Furthermore, there was a general improvement of physical education programs around the country.

In some respects, this was the high point of the President's Council on Youth Fitness, if only because shortly there would no longer be a Council on Youth Fitness but instead a Council on Physical Fitness. A recommendation for the change had been transmitted in early 1962, and Executive Order 11074 of January 8, 1963 made it official. This was the beginning of a general expansion of the fitness council. In 1964, President Johnson would again change the name, to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, with a corresponding widening of focus. In subsequent administrations, new programs and awards would be added, and existing programs would be greatly enlarged.

But the achievement of the Council on Youth Fitness was as much political as educational. In a general political sense, the actions of the Kennedy Council can be seen as a minor triumph of liberal Democratic thinking. A nationwide problem was identified and a national response was developed through the resources of the federal government, producing, if not a solution, at least an improvement. The specific political result, which was no doubt that in which Kennedy himself was most interested, was to help identify Kennedy with fitness, vigor, and preparedness. Energetically promoting the fitness message brought both message and messenger to the public. It is not too much to say that the Council fitness programs, which reached into schools and organized children's gym and recess time, were a way of encouraging the nation's youth to their own sense of participation in the "New Frontier."

Using the three R's to solve muscle strains

By Physical Therapist Brian Schiff of http://www.thefitnessedge.cc/

Most of you have probably suffered a muscular injury of some type in your life. These injuries are very common among athletes, but also affect many adults undertaking any physical tasks or manual labor. What starts as a minor ache in some cases, often becomes a real pain and limiting factor in your life.

Obviously, muscle strains have crippled some of the best athletes in the world. We have all seen the Olympic sprinter pull up lame with a hamstring injury on TV. Or, perhaps one of the better soccer players in the world has been sidelined by chronic groin pain. Tennis players often experience calf strains. Golfers deal with low back strains. The list could go on and on.

Before I move into the three R's, I want to first clarify what a muscle strain or "pull" really is. You see, a muscle strain refers to an injury to the muscle itself or the junction where the muscle attached to the bone. You sprain ligaments and strain muscles. There are three grades of muscle strains:

Grade 1 - Microscopic tearing/stretching of fibers but no disruption or true tear

Grade 2 - Partial tear of the muscle with obvious disruption of the muscle

Grade 3 - Compete tear of the muscle

Most of the athletes and patients I deal with have grade 1 or 2 injuries. Grade 3 injuries may require surgical intervention, although this is rare. Unfortunately, muscle strains are difficult injuries to overcome for athletes because the muscle is most susceptible to re-injury with a stretching movement and this type of movement/stretch is essential for powerful and productive movement/performance.

Adding insult to injury, is the psychological fear and anticipation of re-injury that many athletes feel. I have personally dealt with calf and hamstring tears, and these injuries may take several months to resolve. Coaches, peers and even parents may find it hard to believe this since there is no outward sign of injury, but internally, the body relies upon scar tissue (known as collagen) to heal the tear, stiffen and then perform as the old tissue did. This scar tissue is never as strong as the original muscle, but over time it generally performs adequately provided it is pliable and aligned properly.

Typical healing time frames for healing may range from 7-10 days up to 6-9 months. My hamstring tear (from the bone) took about 7 months to completely heal to the point where I could sprint, cut and jump normally again. In many ways, it is easier to recover from a broken bone than a muscle tear. Now let's take time to review the three R's and how to use them to overcome your muscle strains.

Recognition - First, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a muscle strain or fatigue to prevent further injury. If you have an acute strain while sprinting, cutting or landing awkwardly, you will know this and will not be able to prevent this.

Signs of an acute injury may include pain, limping, decreased stride length, inability to start or stop quickly without pain, swelling, bruising and obvious loss of power. With an acute, painful injury, it is wise to stop the activity/sport immediately and get medical attention.

Signs of muscle fatigue (hinting at a more serious injury to come) are an increased sense of tightness in the muscle, mild twinges of pain, or a consistent ache in the muscle. This should stand out because you will not feel it on the other side. I generally recommend reducing intensity/volume at this point if in practice, or considering subbing out if in a game, especially if the soreness is increasing.

Rehabilitation - Proper rehab is critical to speed recovery. I split the recovery process into 3 phases:

Acute - this encompasses the first 24-72 hours after injury. This period is marked by inflammation. Treatment should focus on ice, rest, compression, elevation (as indicated), and minimizing stress and stretch to the tissue.

Subacute - in this phase the healing process changes as the body begins to resolve the inflammation and lay down new collagen fibers to repair the damaged tissue. The muscle is still very weak in this phase. Treatment focuses on gentle stretching, strengthening, and appropriate functional progression based on the extent of the injury. Some athletes may be able to return to sport in this phase, while others will be continuing to focus on resolving pain, swelling and inflammation.

Chronic - this is considered the functional rehab plan. During this part of the rehab, the focus shifts to more aggressive activity simulation including running, cutting, agilities, jumping and sport specific activities to begin to prepare the athlete for return to their desired activity again.

Return to Play - This process may last weeks or months. This phase is the most important one in that it restores the athlete's confidence in their affected muscle and allows them to work at 100% again without fear. The successful completion of this phase allows them to step back onto the playing field without concern for the muscle giving way during competition. Training now focuses specifically on movement patterns and energy systems vital to the specific sport or activity.

Combining the right amount of stress and recovery is the key to mastering this part of the recovery. Pushing too fast may reaggravate the injury and moving too slow may delay healing and hurt the athlete's confidence. Proper warmup becomes even more critical as well. I generally tell my clients they will need to manage these issues through proper conditioning for as as long as they compete. This is not to say they need to worry about re-injury; but, they definitely require a heightened awareness of their own body and its response to high levels of physical stress moving forward.

By monitoring their body's response to training, practice and competition, they will ultimately become more efficient in their execution of exercises and drills and reduce excess motion/energy expenditure. In addition, they are better able to detect future problems with their muscles in the future.

In conclusion, remember that all muscle injuries/tears are different. However, with that said, you must go through all of the healing phases mentioned above to recover 100%. Be patient, seek out a qualified therapist and trainer, and listen to your body as it will ultimately tell you when you are ready to return to action again.

Copyright © 2007 Brian Schiff

Sciatic nerve pain and slump test nerve flossing

Consult with your doctor before doing either of these tests.

Slump Test

Start with the slump test. This is designed to tense the sciatic nerve and irritate the lumbar nerve roots. Sit in a chair or on a table then slump forward or slouch. The intent is to progressively increase the tension on the nerve. Do it this way:

Extending the leg at the knee tenses the nerve from the below the lumbar spine.

Flexing your foot as you extend the leg further increases the tension.

With your foot flexed and the leg extended slump forward by flexing the spine

If tension is felt at any of these stages, stop the progression test. If so then proceed to the nerve flossing.

Nerve Flossing

Set on a table with both legs dangling off the edge. Flex the cervical spine forward and backward. This creates a pull on the spinal cord from the cranial end and releases it from the caudal end. This should not produce painful sciatic sensations. Next extend the cervical spine while at the same time extending the leg at the knees on the same side as the sciatica pain. This pulls the nerve from the caudal end and releases it at the cranial end.

Continue the cycle of knee flexion coordinated with cervical spine flexing for ten to twenty repetitions.

If minor sciatic symptoms occur during the cervical spine flexion or the knee extensions then back off a bit at these locations and lessen the range of motion until the pain eases.

This can cause an acute onset of pain. Be careful and conservative when doing this particular exercise. If your pain symptoms increase then you’ll have to try something else.

(1) McGill,S. PhD, Low Back Disorders Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation, 2002 Human Kinetics

Drink soda and damage your DNA 

Research from a British university suggests that sodium benzoate, a common preservative found in many soft drinks, has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA. 
This could eventually lead to diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's.

When a UK professor of molecular biology and biotechnology tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells, he discovered that it was damaging important DNA in the cells' mitochondria.

Mitochondria serve as the "power stations" for cells, and damage to them can lead to serious cell malfunctions associated with aging and age-related disease. The damage caused by sodium benzoate was great enough to cause the mitochondria to stop functioning.

Sodium benzoate occurs naturally in berries in small amounts, but is used in large quantities to prevent mold in soft drinks such as Sprite, Diet Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Dr Pepper. It is also added to pickles and sauces.

The Independent May 27, 2007

George Hynek 
MA Training
Kettlebell Instructor
(02) 94840216
Mob: 0416198611

Relative strength are you really as strong as you think you are?

In the following chart* you will find commonly accepted values for determining whether or not your strength is good, excellent or elite in the three power lifts.





greater than 2 x bdwt

greater than 1.5 x bdwt


greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt

greater than or equal to
2 x bdwt


greater than or equal to
3 x bdwt

greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt

Bench Press




>1.25 X bdwt

>0.8 X bdwt


greater than or equal to 1.75 X bdwt

1 X bdwt


greater than or equal to
2 X bdwt

greater than or equal to
1.25 X bdwt





greater than 2 x bdwt

greater than 1.5 x bdwt


greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt

greater than or equal to
2 x bdwt


greater than or equal to
3 x bdwt

greater than or equal to
2.5 x bdwt

Balancing out your lifting requires adequate attention to each of the lifts; which in essence means your lifting should be in a ratio of one to the other across the board. It has been suggested by practioners of the sport and the scientists who support these lifters that a ratio of 1:1.5:1.5 will provide the ratio for success. In this case the first number represents the bench press followed by squat and the dead lift 1 repetition maximum numbers.

*Adapted from Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength by Stoppani, J Human Kinetics 2006

Physiological and muscular effects on the expression of strength

So you just bought the latest greatest training program and are making phenomenal gains. Congratulations on your progress but have you considered just why the new training schedule is working so well? Let me explain the process a bit. The factors that affect and modify the expressions of strength in the human body have been extensively studied and written about.

The research concerning the body’s response to strength training regimens consistently refers to two major identified contributors in this enhancement process. Some of these studies are directed at and lie within the physiological and muscular systems of the human organism.

The early developments of strength are a direct result of neural adaptations to the training schedule. It is interesting to note that the majority of strength training studies examining programs claiming outrageous results involve short term training programs. In fact, most changes in a training program, unless they are wildly off the chart, will be able to produce measurable outcomes of a positive nature simply because of the phenomenon of neural adaptation to the new stresses on the organism.

This is a further adaptation of the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed stress) theory as first proposed and stated by Hans Selye back in the mid 1950’s. The crux of the theory is the body will adapt to the stress placed upon it. If this training stress, i.e. load volume or intensity is set at the right level, the body will overcome it and become stronger in anticipation of encountering the same in the future. In the beginning of the training program this is generally easily accomplished so no harm comes to the body. If, however, this stress is at too great of an intensity or volume the body breaks and fails to properly recover.

Physiological factors affecting strength gains

The organism rapidly adapts to the load or intensity due in part to ‘an enhanced level of to neural facilitation’… which ‘probably accounts for the rapid and significant strength increase early in’ the ‘training, which is not necessarily associated with an increase in muscle size and cross-sectional area’.

These neural adaptations are thought to be by-products of improvements in the efficiency of the neural recruitment patterns, increased activation of the nervous system, greater enhancements in the motor unit synchronization capabilities of the muscle fibers, a lowered inhibition of the neural reflexes and an inhibition of the Golgi tendon organs. Taken in order then we have the following psychological neural factors that are thought to influence the development of strength in the human body.

Improvements in the efficiency of the neural recruitment patterns

The central nervous system and the muscles will adapt to the load imposed upon them during the training process. Employing the greatest possible loads within tolerance levels (maximal effort training) evokes the greatest rewards. During this time the maximum amounts of motor units are recruited and the central nervous system inhibition, if it exists in the athlete is thereby reduced with this approach. The highest number of motor units, activated with the greatest discharge frequency within the “biomechanical parameters of movement and intermuscular coordination are similar to the analogous values in a main sport exercise”.

An athlete must have the ability to learn to magnify and memorize these changes in the motor recruitment patterns and firing order in order to succeed in the strength sports. These changes have to come at a subconscious level of thinking. Proper training cycles and intensity of effort will develop this subconscious thought process.

Increased activation of the nervous system

Increases in strength happen because the nervous system learns how to control and fire the muscle fibers more precisely and in more efficient patterns which results in better coordination and improvements in the neuromuscular learning pathways.

It stands to reason that the contributions coming from nervous system learning increases strength since the muscles rely heavily on the CNS to make movement possible. After the initial learning period is over the greatest initial strength gains have also occurred. This fact has been demonstrated and validated in numerous research studies conducted worldwide.

Greater enhancements in the motor unit synchronization capabilities of the muscle fibers

Additional changes taking place in the nervous system include improvements in the intermuscular and intramuscular coordination of the muscles. The main changes are believed to occur in the recruitment and synchronization of the motor units. Training with and subsequently overcoming maximal resistance “causes recruitment of a maximal number of motor units-nerve cells and muscle cells innervated by them and the synchronization of their activity”. (Zatsiorsky 1995)

It should be noted that these morphological and functional changes are specific for each different exercise.

For example, the use of isometric exercises for an extended time will result in an increase of muscle cell sarcoplasm (the fluid of the cell), nuclei that is rounded in shape, transverse expansion of the motor plates, non symmetric capillary structure (illogical paths of capillary construction which seems to serve no specific purpose) and finally a thickening of the single muscle cell and muscle bundle materials (endomisium and perimisium), extensions of the motor plates along the muscle cell length and a very pronounced transverse striations in the myofibrils which are the contractile portions of the muscle cells-these are the ones that make our muscles do work for us. (Bondachuk et al 1984)

There is very little transfer of strength between the different movement types, i.e. isometric, concentric and eccentric even in the same muscles of the sport. However, even a little transfer may benefit the strength athlete. Thus all positive developments are encouraged. Keep in mind the specificity of training principles, which have direct application to the strength and power sports.

Lowered inhibition of the neural reflexes

Once the CNS receives the information, the necessary changes occur through the unconscious effort of the neuromuscular reflexes. An automatic feedback system allows the body to continually monitor the actions and positions of the muscle and limb behavior.

It is thought by some research scientists that a higher level of neural inhibition may exist in some athletes due to previous bad experiences with the exercise that lead to an injury.

Inhibition of the Golgi tendon organs and other self protecting devices in the neuromuscular system

Reduced muscle activation may be explained in some part by the actions within the muscle group such as the autogenic inhibition provided by the Golgi Tendon reflex (shuts the muscle down if it is perceived to be under a damaging load).

The Golgi tendon network protects the muscle fibers from being destroyed by excessive loading beyond their capacity to survive destruction. This process occurs as a result of receptors located within the tendons of the muscles, which are continuously monitoring the tension of the affected musculature. Furthermore this setup contributes to the coordination of the active muscles to make the movement highly synchronized.

Some authorities believe the Golgi tendon function is set far to low and that even a slight disinhibition would enable a dramatically superior physical response to an imposed load. Violent ballistic pre-movements may dis-inhibit the Golgi feedback patterns, but in doing so the athlete risks causing severe damage to the involved tissues. Other mechanisms within the structure also add input into the ability to develop strength.

The mechanoreceptor and nociceptor afferent inhibition (the signals from the muscle cells to the CNS), inhibition due to fatigue, pressure within the joint inhibition due to excessive range of motion movements during the stretching activity, and finally the myotonic (stretch-reflex) response from the muscle spindles which resist the lengthening of the muscle and cause a contraction to occur.

The neural inputs into strength development are far ranging and important to consider while training. Just as essential to this process is the involvement of the muscle and bone lever system to the production of strength and power in the athlete.

Muscular strength

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

Here is the bottom line for those of you who don’t have the time to read it all. This is akin to eating your dessert before your meal and before you get too full to actually enjoy it.

Aerobic activities have very little carry over into muscular strength or muscular endurance.
Aerobic fitness can alter the muscle fibers from a fast twitch characteristic to a modified slow twitch fiber.

A complete fitness program will entail the three main components of cardiovascular, flexibility and strength development. Focusing on one part, to the exclusion of the other two, will adversely affect them. But that is exactly what we are going to do here; we are going to discuss strength, not cardiovascular or flexibility, but just plain strength.

Strength comes in many forms from absolute to endurance, from speed to special strength. Moderate intensity training which is high enough to develop and then maintain muscular fitness while also increasing lean muscle mass is an effective means of exercise. It is not an effective means of raising levels of strength and power for those who want to become competitive or want to be a LOT stronger than the average lifter. In order to do that, heavy weights have to be used on a regular basis.

The overload principle applies to this type of training. And it means just what it says. You WILL NOT get stronger lifting ‘soup cans,’ no matter what the infomercial's say! Lifting a soup can is about as effective as lifting a bag of air. Unless you are extremely out of shape, move on to a weight that will challenge your body in a positive way.

Successful overload occurs by increasing these components above the normal:
1. The load on the bar
2. The frequency of lifting
3. The duration of time under the load.

The load on the bar must be high enough that it creates a maximal muscular tension, or nearly so, on the body. Train at these intense levels by using low repetitions and more sets. For example, an effective form of high intensity strength training uses load levels between 85-100% of the one rep max (1RM) for two repetitions for six to twelve sets.

Lifting frequency is increased according to a periodized plan based on the desired outcome. A method that has produced excellent results for many years is one that has multiple lift times a day. These training plans are for elite or highly trained athletes. Heavy lifts performed up to four and seven times a day are possible under these strictly controlled situations.

Each session emphasizes just ONE exercise per period in this type of a sequence throughout the day. The following five exercises depict an example of such a daily lifting schedule.

1. Squats, rest and recovery
2. Military presses, rest and recovery
3. Deadlift's, rest and recovery
4. Bench presses, rest and recovery
5. Front squats, rest and recovery

Here are the prerequisites for the schedule.

Warm ups are required for each session
Rest periods from fifteen minutes up to one hour in duration between each lift period (morning (2)-afternoon (1)-late afternoon sessions (2))

Separate the morning sessions from the afternoon ones by up to three hours.

The afternoon is separated from late afternoon by the normal fifteen minutes to one hour

Recovery methods are used between each session

Excellent nutrition guidelines are followed after each training period

Concentrate on the separate exercises each time
Ten to twelve sets of one to two repetitions working up to 90% 1RM over a forty-five minute time span in the morning and up to 100% of the mornings lifts in the afternoon and late afternoon.

Reminder: Afternoon sessions follow a similar path with the exception that the lifter moves on up to near 100% 1RM of the morning training periods with one to two reps for ten to twelve sets

Late afternoon sees a lifter going up to 95% 1RM of the afternoon schedule, same reps and sets as before.

These are grueling training schedules and are not for everyone. Use caution if you decide to give this schedule a ride.

Loading patterns

Successful training programs apply a number of loading variations to consistently challenge the neuromuscular system. These range from the simple pyramid to the flat pyramid.

The basic pyramid has been an effective tool for many successful strength enthusiasts. In this commonly used pattern the load progressively increases as the repetitions and sets decrease. For example after a general and a movement specific warm up the practitioner will begin with a set of five to six repetitions at 85% of the 1RM. After an appropriate rest interval this initial set is followed by another set of three to for repetitions at 90% of 1RM. Successful completion of these preliminary sets leads to a set of two to three repetitions at 95 1RM. The final set is at 100% with one repetition. This completes the sequence at this basic level.

The double pyramid begins as the basic. However, once the scheme reaches the 95% level, it repeats the 95% load. The schedule then calls for a set at 90% for two repetitions, which is followed by sets at 85% for three repetitions and a final one at 80 for repetitions.

A skewed pyramid improves upon the double pyramid in this aspect; the load constantly increases throughout the session until the last where a built in taper appears. The last set is performed, with good form, as quickly as possible.

The major disadvantage to all of these layouts is the load varies greatly between light to heavy. The load goes from hypertrophy to maximum strength. Nothing is worked effectively. There is a more efficient method of becoming powerful.

The flat pyramid provides the maximum training outcome. Maximal strength gains result from intensity levels above 80%. The lower ranges contribute very little to the eventual outcome of power, unless the goal is speed development. Neurological adaptations occur as the physiological stresses exceed the 80% 1RM.

Keeping the intensity level in the correct strength building range throughout the entire series is the forte of the flat pyramid. The body is not confused by wide percentage changes of intensity and adapts to the imposed load.

The flat pyramid begins with a specific movement warm up then moves right into the strength ranges of intensity. The chart shows this scheme very well.



















*Serious Strength Training, 
Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., and Cornacchia. L. J.
Human Kinetics, 2003

Various load patterns can be developed with the flat pyramid. Focus on the objective and insert the proper percentage of intensity in the working portions of the scheme, i.e. the center four sets at the chosen percentage values represent the target goal levels.

The lifting belt

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

Given the modern day enamorment of wearing a lifting belt and its appearance on those who are exercising in the gyms and on FitTV, one would think that everyone should wear a belt at all times while participating in physical fitness activities. Those who began lifting in the 70’s 80’s and early 90’s would be hard pressed NOT to espouse their use because that is what they were led to believe. If by chance you started back in the 50’s, 60’s and late 90’s to present then the belt is a non issue and almost a totally unnecessary piece of gear. Some swear by it and others swear at it.

Is there common ground in this controversy? Let’s look at some of the research to find out. Dr. Stuart McGill a leading low back specialist had this to say about their use in a paper commissioned by the National Strength and Conditioning Association “Given the assets and liabilities of belt wearing, they are not recommended for healthy individuals either in routine work or exercise participation”.

However he did add a caveat and that was for those participating in extreme athletic lifting. In other words, those who are at the top of the international charts with their weights. In these cases Dr. McGill said “where belts appear to increase torso stability to reduce the risk of buckling and provide some elastic extensor recoil to assist with the lift. But the possible liabilities underscore the counterpoint to this proposition.”

McGill states that belts also increase intra-abdominal pressure which in turn increases the Central Nervous System fluid pressure in the spine and, in turn, the brain. This decreases the transmural gradient (the pressure difference between the arterial blood pressure in the brain vessels and the brain itself) which in turn may reduce the risk of aneurysm, or stroke. Whereas others have argued this effect is detrimental the return of venous blood flow back to the heart.

Since so many people are wearing these belts from the lifter to the warehouse employee it is not unreasonable to be confused about when to wear one. McGill reported in 1993 that wearing a belt in an occupational setting supported the following documented effects.

The loads on those who have never had a previous back injury seem to offer no additional protection by wearing a belt.

Wearing a belt appears to increase the degree of injury making it more severe.
People seem to have the perception that wearing a belt means they can lift more and in some cases this is true; the placebo effect personified. However in many cases this fosters a false sense of security. Given this attitude each person should receive a lifting course on the correct way to lift. This course would of necessity include topics that provide information on how the tissues become damaged, back sparing techniques, and finally what to do with the feelings of discomfort that generally precede injury.

Increased intra abdominal pressure, elevated blood pressure and higher heart rates result from using the belt. Individuals considering the use of a belt ‘on the job’ must be screened by medical personnel due to these heightened cardiovascular concerns. 
The lifting style of those using the belt appears to either increase or decrease pressure on the spine.

So why are so many using the belt? Perhaps it is due to the anecdotal gym talk that their use reminds them to lift correctly. Other reasons that don’t stand up to rigorous scientific inquiry include:

The belt helps support the shear loading on the lumbar spine resulting from gravity acting on the weight in a handheld position while the upper torso is in a semi flexed position under the load.

The belt reduces the compressive loading of the lumbar spine through the hydraulic actions of increased intra abdominal pressures.

Wearing a belt provides a splint effect between the upper and lower torso by reducing the range of motion (ROM), and provides a stiffening effect, thereby lowering the risk of injury.

The belt increases warmth to the region and helps reduce muscular fatigue.
Finally those who use the belt claim that there is an enhanced proprioceptive ability to feel the pressure associated with the perception of increased stability.

Belts are not meant to substitute for poor lifting technique. There is a natural belt formed by the abdominal wall and the lumbodorsal fascia. The active training of this area, known as the core, increases the stabilizing effects via strength and motor control synergy thus encouraging and making them work as a team to enhance the backs ability to remain stable.

The use of the belt by the serious strength training athlete.

No one in their right mind would dispute the fact that a few more pounds of torque may be generated by the body with the assistance of the belt. This is due to the elastic recoil of the flexed torso augmented by the stiffness of the belt. But, and this is a big but…IF the neutral spine is kept constant throughout the entire lift the belt effect is minimized.

To put it another way if the lifter is using poor technique then the belt will help preserve the back, up to a certain point! However there are other methods that can be employed to increase and maintain torso stiffness, one of which is maximizing air intake and then holding the breath, i.e. the Valsalva maneuver. This is not advised for other than highly elite athletes who are under constant medical attention due to the drastic rise in blood pressure resulting from this technique. Sipping the air keeps the lungs filled and the torso tight.

Counter considerations of belt use include the fact that people change their motor patterns when using a belt. Theses changes elevate the risk of injury in an athlete who is used to wearing one when NOT using a belt in training. The injury is generally more severe in these situations if a belt is worn.

Evidence suggests belts are adopted for use for one of the following three reasons:

1. Peer pressure. They have seen others using them and assume that is the thing to do.
2. Their backs are getting sore and they believe a belt will alleviate the pain.
3. They desire to lift more weight and think the belt will add these additional pounds to their total.

Not one of these reasons is valid or consistent with the objective of better health. If a person wants to groove better lifting motor patterns that require a stable torso then it is better not to wear a belt. The answer in this case is to train the core musculature.

Curl ups, birddogs, arm and leg extensions, bridges in the supine, prone and side positions and back extensions provide sufficient muscle and motor pattern stress to accomplish this strengthening process in a safe and effective manner.

Additional information concerning belt use in athletes.

Biomechanical studies delving into spinal forces, load, range of motion and the purported Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) have revealed that under repetitive motion lifting the belt can increase the margin of safety. It was hypothesized that IAP was the protective mechanism at play. However there are other studies that have questioned the role that increased IAP has in the stabilization of and reduction in the low back load during such lifting.

An increase in the IAP required an additional activation of the abdominal wall musculature which resulted in an increase in the compressive load and not a decrease in the reduction of the load on the back. Even using the Valsalva maneuver increased the low back compressive load forces. The conclusions to these studies were the increase in the IAP from belt use showed either no effect or a larger impact of load on the spine.

The effects of belt use on heart rate and blood pressure

In an early study of blood pressure and heart rate it was determined that both rose significantly higher in those wearing the belt compared to those lifting without one. In fact blood pressure increased 15mmHg, which is associated with an increased risk of stroke given the elevated systolic blood pressure readings that resulted from the test subjects.

The conclusion drawn from this study was that individuals who may have a compromised cardiovascular system are at a greater risk while exercising with a belt then without.

Additional anecdotal evidence suggests there are higher risks of varicose veins in the testicles, hemorrhoids and hernias associated with the higher pressures observed with belt use. Other non confirmed or peer replicated studies show that if given their choice of weights to use repeatedly, an athlete will consistently lift approximately 19% more with a belt than without. This seems to validate the theory that belts give a false sense of security while lifting.


In my opinion and based on the research conducted thus far into the use of the weight lifting belt is not safer nor validated to be of great value to the lifter.

However if one just has to lift a bit more weight then grab that belt and tighten it up and then go for it; remembering the false sense of security and potential for serious injury that accompanies such use.

Five reps to weight loss
Daniel Pare, NCCP, CPO

For many years it has been a commonly held belief that strength training was useful only for guys who wanted to build big muscles and look “freaky”. The last time I checked, the people with big muscles and a freaky look were the bodybuilders! Why would a strength coach like myself address the subject of weight loss?

Let’s look at strength training with an open-minded approach and in the context of a weight loss perspective for males and females. Yes, weight loss! Before we begin, let’s talk about the difference between what information is out there and what has been hidden from you.

Bodybuilding training vs. Strength Training. The first one is most likely what you are used to hearing and reading about. Bodybuilding is associated with high repetition sets and involves a muscular pump so that your muscles grow BIGGER. Strength training is a term that is commonly used by the industry (trainers and commercial establishments) to promote their services. Strength training as I see it involves low repetition sets which builds a stronger physique, and which in turn helps with weight loss and toning. When I say low repetition sets I am referring to sets of 5 reps. How can 5 reps per sets make you lose weight? By training using sets of 5 reps your muscles remain strong throughout the entire set and results take place. You do not train to the level where your form deteriorates. What really happens when you are working to failure/high reps? The muscles become fatigued and it starts to burn. Your form deteriorates. Let’s all agree on one thing, our fitness industry has done a pretty good job convincing us that doing high repetition sets is the way to go. Many books swear by it, several newspaper articles confirm it, even T.V commercials show it.

When working out, one is often obsessed with getting results as quickly as possible. If we could simply press “Delete” to lose the extra pound… we would. How many of you or people you know have lost weight and put it all back on plus some extra! Why is that? If what they did worked so well, they would still be in the slim category, however they are not. They have not created a new lifestyle. Take all the pills and supplements but be careful not to create a dependency! Create a healthy lifestyle. Start taking notice of your eating habits and get involved in a regular strength training program. This will lead to a healthier life style, which is what we are all aiming for.

Let’s begin with our new approach to weight loss with strength training. How will 5 reps make you shrink? Let me explain. By training and reaching the level of muscular soreness that many reps can lead to, you do not recuperate as quickly and this could lead to discouragement. You may eventually burn out and worst, you could get injured. Feeling a pump makes a muscle GROW BIGGER. By training at a level where you remain strong with less repetition in your exercises, you will get long lasting results and if part of your goal is to lose weight… you WILL also lose weight!

Let’s get started. We need to focus on multiple joint exercises exclusively. Let’s begin with the squat and the deadlift (not the stiff leg deadlift), our 2 main life supports. After you are warmed up, you are going to focus on proper form and technique and toward a full range of motion; none of those half squats please! We are focusing on sets of 5 reps and we are focusing on strength training. If you are doing 15 reps of half squats, you are not squatting. You must sink you hips down. If you are unable to do squats in the way described in this article, be patient and focus on good form with a few repetitions. By training yourself to do the exercises in this manner, you will experience weight loss a lot quicker than you thought possible. How do you apply the “5 reps to weight loss” principle to work for you? Select a few multiple joint exercises and do them regularly. Focus on proper breathing and focus on eating in as healthy a way as possible. There are many, many helpful hints available to address this aspect of healthy living. The problem with better nutrition is that it is often not taken seriously at all. Slowly make a shift toward Organic food for better nutritional values.

Strength training with low repetitions has much to offer. Results using the “magic” number five will give you lasting results. Some of these results include weight loss and increased strength. Aren’t those the kind of results that we all would enjoy experiencing? Can you imagine training at a level where you actually get long lasting results??? Is it possible!

Daniel Pare, Strength Coach
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

Determining Food Toxicity

By Danny M. O'Dell

In many cases checking the heart rate is a good indicator of the nervous system. For instance a quick test of overtraining is the pulse rate in the morning. If it is 10% above normal then this may illustrate the athlete is entering the pre-stages of over training. In another case, prior to attempting personal bests a high pulse rate implies there may be a psychological fear of the weight. The same heart rate comparisons that provided these snapshots into the athlete’s physical and mental condition can also give some indications that certain foods are not well tolerated by our body.

One method of checking food toxicity is by taking your pulse one half hour before eating a new food. This will be your baseline from which other readings will refer back to. Eat the meal and then begin taking your pulse over the next ninety minutes at thirty minute intervals. Make note of each of these readings.

Heart rate increases of more than 15 beats per minute suggest the food you just ate may not be agreeing with your body and you may want to consider finding a substitute.

One other method that may indicate a poor food choice is sweating. In my particular case within fifteen minutes of eating a toxic food my forehead has beads of sweat on it. Mostly this occurs after eating a fatty greasy (but delicious) hamburger.

Heart Rate Calculation Options

By Danny M.O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Effectively training in your target heart rate zone will result if greater physiological adaptations within your body. Knowing which formula to use in figuring out the best heart rate zone depends on how accurate you want to be in the calculations. 

Here are three options to consider.They range in difficulty of using them from easy to slightly less easy.

The most commonly used formula is to subtract your age from 220. This supposedly results in your maximum heart rate (MHR). However, this can be off as much as ten percent plus or minus beats per minute in the final figure. Once you have figured out your MHR multiply this answer by 60-80% and you will have your exercise target heart range. As an example if you are 30 years old your MHR would be 190 beats per minute (BPM). Multiplying this by 80% will set your target heart rate at 152 BPM. The majority of your training time will be spent at this heart rate.

a. Bear in mind the reason this formula will not be accurate as the same calculations are supposed to be used by both the elite as well as the sedentary. To even the most causal observer this will not be in the best interest of either person. In the first case the heart rate may fit the elite but be far in excess for the couch potato. My advice is to learn and use one of the following.

The Karvonen formula is a better option to use and it is figured out in the following three step formula:

b. Age predicted maximum heart rate (APMHR). Figuring this is the same as before, i.e. 220 minus your age equals APMHR.
c. Maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate (taken as soon as you awake) equals heart rate reserve (HRR).
d. Now take the heart rate reserve and multiply it by the percentage of exercise intensity, 60-80%, add the resting heart rate to this figure and you will have your target heart rate for training.

The most precise target heart rate formula is the one devised by Tanaka:

a. 207 minus 70% of your age will yield your maximum heart rate.
b. Maximum heart rate minus your resting heart rate equals your heart rate reserve.
c. Heart rate reserve multiplied by 70% plus resting heart rate will result in the target heart range for your exercise period.

Alternate Bench Press Training Methods

By Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Most everyone has heard the saying that if you want a ‘big bench then you have to think big’. Just ‘thinking a big bench’ is NOT going to cut it. Instead, you have to analyze your current bench technique. Look at the strong points, the weak and the in between ones as well. Examine how the bar is traveling. Is it fast and sure or slow and tentative? Where does it go fast and where does it go slow? Is it going straight up or angling back toward your head? Where are your elbows when the bar slows or is moving quickly? Where does your strength lie? Is it in your pectoralis major, your anterior deltoids, your triceps or maybe in your upper back? Once you have closely examined the way you lift, then you have the information necessary to chart a course of improvement.

Many bench press practitioners are relying on the false belief that simply by doing more benches their lift will become stronger. Clearly, there is an error to this premise. If it were as easy as this, the world would be witnessing more 800-pound benches.

Making your strong points stronger and improving upon the weak portions of your lift by practicing variation in exercise selection is the key to progressive development toward heavier loads. If you have difficulty in locking out the weight then more triceps work is needed. If you cannot stabilize on the bench and remain in the groove then more upper back work is evidently necessary. In time, using the same exercise becomes stagnant and unresponsive to your needs. Variety truly is the spice of lifting progress.

Just as the palate becomes tired of the same food so does the body become tired of the same tools of exercise. If you consistently use the barbell as the single training instrument, your nervous system will eventually quit responding to the training and you will have reached the infamous ‘plateau. Use dumbbells in place of the barbell for a change. Use bands or surgical tubing for added speed or resistance elsewhere in the strength curve. Begin doing various types of push-ups (see the Push up power for more ideas) and you can positively stress your bench press muscles in a variety of different ways.

The use of stability balls, asymmetrical loading and camber bars adds even more dimension to the exercise options just as will changing up the range of motion (ROM). Instead of a full ROM, do fast partials from three to four inches below lockout. Or, from three to four inches off the chest to the lockout. Use dumbbells to increase the ROM but be very careful in using this method as it will be extremely stressful on your shoulders at the low (below chest level) point. Floor presses and board presses are also very handy to practice when going for the big bench press.

The utilization of these exercises at differing times in your training schedule will elevate the strength and power throughout the entire curve.

Stress placed at the natural sticking point will eventually change the position of that particular point of resistance. It will not eliminate the sticking point. It will only move it elsewhere up, or down, the path. Adding chains, bands or tubing will change the sticking points depending on the attachment points selected.

For example, attaching a band to a point above the bar will reduce the load off the chest, thereby making the ‘starting strength’ weight lighter. This in turn helps to improve the speed of the push off the chest. Additionally, the high band attachment will help to contribute to the overload during the explosive strength phase of continually increasing the force production on the bar.

Conversely, attaching bands at a point lower than the bar will develop starting strength and further change the location of the sticking point lower into the movement pattern. It also contributes to helping increase the top end of force the production strength curve due to the added resistance on the bar resulting from the tension of the stretched bands.

To learn more about how to increase your bench press you may want to consider getting your copy of the Ultimate Bench Press Manual. It is jammed full of incredible information designed to get your bench up where you want it to be!

An instant download version is available here at Amazon for your eReader device.

The general principles of the warm up

By Danny M. O'Dell

“Workout Preparation” would be a better name for the warm up period however conventional usage has determined the pre-workout phase be labeled ‘the warm up’. So be it, now let’s talk about just what the warm up is supposed to do, and does, if performed as designed.

Simply running in place or pulling on a leg behind the back doesn’t cut it in the workout prep portion of an exercise session and it especially does not prepare the body for any competitive sport at all! The warm up must get the body ready to perform effectively and efficiently at its peak. Doing so requires attention to raising the heart rate, preparing the nervous system, and the muscles and tendons and the joints and ligaments that hold it all together.

Expected and specific outcomes resulting from the warm up

Improved elasticity of and increased contraction capabilities of the muscles, raising the efficiency of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reduced reaction times via improved neuromuscular connections and transmissions, focused concentration, improved coordination and perception abilities, emotional state normalization particularly before a competitive event takes place. According to Sozanski the warm up regulates the emotional status due to the flow of impulses from the motor and sensory nerve centers to and from the working muscles by calming down an overly excited nervous system. In the case of one who is apathetic (start apathy) to the upcoming event, the warm up stimulates the nervous system.

Just as certain exercises are more appropriate to specific athletes, certain warm-ups are also appropriate to certain individuals. If the athlete is overly excited, their warm up process would involve slow complex exercises requiring precision of movement, but ones that are well known and familiar to the athlete. Just the opposite warm up would be in order for the apathetic athlete. These individuals need simple, easy exercises that are fast paced, requiring fast reactions, coordination and agility while performed in an energetic manner.

The warm up session starts with exercises that are low in intensity, progressing up to the actual work out movements. Starting with high intensity exercises leaves little left in reserve for the main work out. The body quickly uses its stored muscle glycogen and increases the lactate levels in the blood when engaged in high intensity work. When the lactate increases the free fatty acids decrease leaving less to help produce energy. You don’t get into your car on a cold morning and go racing out the drive way and onto the expressway at maximum speed. It’s the same for our bodies; warm them up for the tasks ahead.

General principles of arranging warm up exercises normally follow few these guidelines. Start from the distant joints and work toward the center or proximal portion of the body, from one end to the other or from top to bottom or vice versa. The exercises move from one into another so that the end of one move floats directly into the start of the next movement. This is also how a regular strength training session should be set up.

A solid warm-up will take anywhere from twenty to forty minutes. Many people don’t have the time to take this long so adaptations will have to be made by taking into account the total length of the exercise session. If the intensity of the workout is high then the warm up will, of necessity, be longer. Longer warm up periods would be in order for the explosive sports endeavors such as sprinting and the more difficult technical sessions. Aerobic and endurance exercise periods need much less, as the pre stages of these activities are in and of themselves a warm up.

Repeating the same warm up in successive workouts is not beneficial to the athlete as the goals of each workout are not necessarily the same, thus the warm up should reflect the workout goal. The warm up should prepare the athlete for the workout; bearing this in mind the last minutes of the warm up will be more or less specific to the first training exercises and ultimately blend into the actual workout itself. After the session has started then each different move will be preceded by its own specific but short warm up as the training continues onward.

The general warm up

The runner’s may actually be onto something when they start out on a run-they normally begin at a slower pace than the main portion of the run will be. Any exercise that revs up the cardiovascular system is good except for the time-honored jumping jacks. As mentioned in Thomas Kurz excellent training manual Science of Sports Training, these are contraindicated as a warm up because there is NO technique in any sport that is similar or can be improved by doing these outdated exercises. This activity causes a neurological disorganization in an athlete by causing a regression to an out of sync, homolateral pattern of locomotion resulting in a vague feeling of confusion. Additionally, jumping jacks raise the levels of blood lactate before the main workout and are not a lead in exercise for any lifting technique.

Increased flexibility is a residual effect of the influx of blood into the muscles so after the aerobic warm up immediately begin with dynamic stretches. Arm and leg rotations to the front, side, rear and in large circles. More leg rotations can be done during this time than arm rotations due to muscle mass involved. Ten to twelve legs compared to five to eight arm rotations. Do as many as necessary to reach full range of motion in any particular direction.

Notice there was no mention of any isometric, relaxed or static stretches before an active workout. Recall the reasons for a warm up:

* Improved elasticity of and increased contraction capabilities of the muscles
*Reduced reaction times via improved neuromuscular connections and transmissions
*Higher breathing efficiencies

The goal is improved performance. Static stretches tend to relax the joints and decrease potential power output, by some estimates up to 8% and impair the activity of the tendon reflexes. Isometric stretches that are held make an athlete tired while at the same time decreasing coordination abilities. Whereas the passive, relaxed style of stretching has a calming effect on the athlete.

A relaxed, non-optimally coordinated joint and muscle tendon combination is just asking for an injury to happen.

If the temperature is low and the forthcoming activity intense, the warm up must be longer and more intense than if the temperature is high, and the session a low intensity one. Each exercise builds on the previous ones until the final effort has the body ready for the main part of the workout.

The specific warm up

As the warm up nears the end, the movements and intensity must approximate the beginning of the main workout. Just because these final movements may be lighter and not as challenging as the main ones to come does not mean less concentration is needed. Do not get into sloppy habits at any time of these warm ups because you learn what you repeat. So repeat it right each time, every time.

Warm up well, don’t just go through the motions especially if you are about to lift heavy. Break a sweat. If possible, do your warm ups and exercises in a room with temperatures that are above sixty degrees Fahrenheit.

As was mentioned in a an excellent article by Tamera Snelling massage is an excellent way to begin the stretching process. Once the body is warmed up begin the stretching and strength exercises in the same form as the main portion of the session. For example, if squatting then squat lightly for a few sets of medium repetitions. Do full range of motion exercises with an emphasis on swinging, pendulum and springy types of movements. Do the same movements for up to three sets until a slight sensation of pain makes its presence known. Muscle ‘use’, not muscle ‘injury’ pain.

The Warm up re-examined – points to consider

Its is a given that performing any type of work raises the mental and physical work capacity of the athlete.

A warm up may be accelerated by following quick, in time, exercises that are very similar to the actual ones that will be used in the workout.

The heavier the weights lifted the more crucial the general and specific warm up becomes.

The lifter who by passes or short circuits the general warm up makes it a necessity to engage in a longer specific warm up period.

Warm up until you break into a slight sweat with exercises involving swinging, pendulum and springy motions. If possible do your exercises in a room that has a temperature range above 57-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Perform the same exercise in several sets until you feel a slight sensation of pain in the muscles. Generally the form of the latter warm up movements should mimic the same form as the technique required in the sport.

Warm up to 60% of your 1 RM, this will depend upon how heavy you are lifting, naturally the higher your one rep max the more lengthy will be the warm up phase. After you arrive at the 60% do ten reps, go to 80% of your 1 RM for five reps then go to 95% for six sets of two reps.

Warm ups that consist of static stretching prior to the power and explosive sports are contraindicated. Warming up dynamically is the key to explosive displays of power.

Taking into consideration the issue of muscle soreness as a reason to wait seven days; if you are still sore seven days post exercise then you have possibly suffered an injury. On the other hand being sore is not an indicator that you need to stop exercising as this soreness will evaporate shortly after the first one or two movement specific warm up sets. Joint tightness helps produce more power output as the joints aren't fighting a loose set up but are instead closer to the levers actual working ranges.

Static stretching and its relation to power output in the lower extremities

Warm ups that consist of static stretching prior to the power and explosive sports are contraindicated. Warming up dynamically is the key to explosive displays of power.

Balancing Out Your Exercise Program

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

It is well established that exercise benefits us in many areas such as increased self confidence, improvements in our moods, and longer healthier lives. Simply being able to do what you want to do physically and mentally may be made easier by engaging in a long term pattern of running, weight training, stretching/balance, and recreational sporting exertions.

During spring time the runners start hitting the road, especially those who are getting ready to run Bloomsday here in Spokane, Washington. While running is an admirable endeavor, it is not enough to keep your body in top physical condition. Our body needs physical and mental stimulation which is only achievable through the use of a variety of methods.

Cyclic exercise, similar to running, stresses the cardiovascular abilities thereby increasing the capacity to engage in lengthy activities through enhanced oxygen transfer to the working muscles. However, exercising in this manner will not increase the lean muscle mass composition of our body. In order to do that resistance training is necessary.

Weight training helps build strong bones.

Bone density responds directly to increases in intensities of load and site specifically to the greater pressures required to move the load. Adaptations take place within the structures of the bone that make it more resistant to the imposed loads and thus stronger.

Women in particular need this load bearing weight on their long bones, the spine and hips to stave off and help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis from occurring. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that progressively decreases the bone density which in time leaves them weakened and vulnerable to fracture.


Getting stronger helps in other ways too. The strength to recover from a slip may prevent a bone damaging fall. Postural muscles that are strengthened through weight training inevitably lead to improved posture and a reduced potential of lower back problems. Even though strength training is high on the list of maintaining a strong fit body other pieces of the equation are important too. For instance being flexible enough to tie your shoes or even scratch your back is an important part of living a full and healthy lifestyle.

Work the joints normal range of motion each day by following a stretching program. But be cautioned that static stretching performed before a strength training session has been found to lower the power output by as much as 8%. If you are a sprinter, thrower or recreational handball or tennis player stay away from these at the start of your activity. The proper place for a static stretch is at the end of the workout when the muscles are warm and receptive to change. Doing so before hand, is an invitation to injury.

Find a good stretching book; read up on the proper way to stretch and start applying these to your exercise program. Brad Walker’s ‘Stretching Handbook’ or Bob Anderson's‘Stretching’ are two of the premier ones on the market and each one has stood the test of time. Even though flexibility is important it is not the end of the line. Maintaining your balance becomes harder as we age.


Beginning around the fourth decade, we start to lose a small percentage of the ability to keep our equilibrium . Losing your balance leads to falls and possible fractures, or other injuries if not prevented.

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example: 
• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side or heel to toe fashion. 
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes. 
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:
• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above. 
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance. 
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms. 
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:
• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe. 
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other. 
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance. 
• Remember to keep your feet together and don't sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:
• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples. 
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes. 
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:
• Feet are still in the side-by-side or heel to toe position. 
• Head tipped back and eyes closed. 
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.
Another advanced example:
• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.
• Or you can move your head from side to side in a rapid manner while maintaining your balance.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

Are You Ready to Run?

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

Spring seems like it’s just around the corner and with that comes, for some, the urge to get outside and run. But are you ready to hit the street? Have you built up a training foundation?

If you have been working out over the winter then you probably already know what to do and are following a general plan and simply running the way you feel like each day. Others of you may be following a well laid out plan and come what may you are adhering to it every time you go out.

Most newbie’s make the mistake of doing too much, too soon and end up injured. An ideal beginning program ensures a low training volume for three to six months which allows the body to acclimate to the mechanical loading. Taking the necessary steps to prevent injury will lead to longer lasting enjoyment of this form of exercise.

Begin by analyzing your motivation and discipline. Just why are you out there in the first place? Is it for you or for someone else? Do you have the discipline to stick with it for at least three months? After the three months the subconscious begins to control the habit of running consistently. Support from family and friends, self efficacy, perseverance and a healthy mental attitude will contribute to your success.

Setting short, intermediate and long range goals that are measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited will help keep you on track. Shaping these behaviors boils down to a series of steps that ultimately lead to obtaining your goal.

Allocate a specific time and duration each day for your running or your choice of exercise. Run with a group, or by yourself in the morning or at noon, after supper or as soon as you get home from work. Stick with it.

Once you begin to follow your personal schedule it becomes self reinforcing and provides more encouragement to continue. Lay out your running gear before you go to bed or as soon as you get up in the morning. This is the stimuli and encouragement that makes you want to follow through.

Once you are running, focus either on what you are doing or anything else except what you are doing. These two strategies, associative and dissociative are distinctively different and are used as the need arises. Most elite runners use the associative method as it allows them to keep track of the feedback from their bodies. New runners generally will do better if they use dissociation because as they begin thinking about the run and how their bodies are hurting they are less likely to continue.

Beginners can employ coping skills during the run. Positive self talk, encouraging inner thoughts, taking in the scenery and simply being happy they are out there doing it will carry the day.

After you have decided to actually get going decide if you should talk to your doctor before heading out the door. If you are middle aged, set up an appointment and get a checkup. It takes but a few minutes to find out if you are up to doing what you want to do. Meanwhile, this quick self administered quiz may alert you to some danger signs.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY READINESS QUESTIONNAIRE-(PAR-Q) (Courtesy of the University of Minnesota @ Duluth web site and Supertraining by Mel C. Siff).

1. Yes No Has your doctor ever said you have heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
2. Yes No Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
3. Yes No In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
4. Yes No Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
5. Yes No Has a doctor ever said your blood pressure was too high?
6. Yes No Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example water pills) for your blood pressure
7. Yes No Has your doctor ever told you that you have a bone or joint problem such as arthritis that has been aggravated by exercise, or that might be made worse with exercise?
8. Yes No Is there a good physical reason not mentioned here why you should not follow an activity program even if you wanted to?
9. Yes No Are you over age 65 and not accustomed to vigorous exercises?

If you answered YES to one or more questions: Before increasing your physical activity and/or taking a fitness test consult with your personal physician by telephone or in person. Speak to your doctor about the PAR-Q, and discuss the questions answered YES. Talk with your doctor about the kinds of activities you wish to participate in and follows his or her advice.

You may be able to do any activity you want as long as you start slowly and build up gradually. On the other hand, you may need to restrict your activities to those, which are safe for you.

If you answered No to all questions: you have a reasonable assurance of your present suitability for an exercise regimen. Success often results through the correct application of scientific exercise principles and dedication, such as those that follow.

Take part in a fitness appraisal, this is an excellent way to determine your basic fitness so that you can plan the best way for you to live actively.
Start by becoming more physically active.
Begin slowly and build up gradually.

Delay becoming much more active if you are not feeling well because of temporary illness such as a cold or a fever. It is best to wait until you feel better. If you are, or think you may be pregnant; talk to your doctor before becoming more physically active.

If your health changes so that you answer YES to any of the above questions, notify your fitness advisor and be certain to tell your doctor/health care provider. You may need to change your physical activity plan.

If in doubt after completing the questionnaire, consult with your doctor or health care provider prior to beginning any new physical activity.

After talking it over with your doctor and getting their ok then it’s up to you to dress appropriately. Get good shoes, spend some money and get good shoes! There are too many guidelines to be discussed here so I won’t. Choose your clothing wisely. Dress lightly.

If you are a woman wear a specially designed sports bra to minimize breast injury or soreness during the run. At a minimum these should have firm, non slip, non stretch straps and connected directly to a non elastic cup. It should have no irritating seams or fasteners that are directly on the skin. Finally the bra should hold the breasts in a rounded shape close to the body.

The general laws of running state gradually start out by training gently, train frequently all year round. Go for distance then speed. Don’t set your schedule in concrete, be flexible and alternate hard runs with easy ones. Try to get as much out of the minimum of training as possible, don’t be in a hurry to push onto the next level and don’t race when training or run at a race pace at distances above 16 km. Don’t overtrain, seek out a competent coach and stay mentally tough. Sleep well before a big race and keep a daily diary of your accomplishments.

Exercise clothing

Lifting weights implies wearing the correct attire to help prevent injuries from occurring. Some of the personal adornments that have shown up in the gym are just this side of ludicrous and certainly not appropriate in the weight room. Some examples are listed next.

*Large necklaces that make it difficult to rest a bar on the upper torso are something better left in the locker or at home.
*Rings on every finger that dig into the skin during a chin up, curl or dead lift.
*Flip flops or sandals of any sort have no place in the gym.

The last mentioned is in my opinion the most critical of those on the list. A shoe that fully encloses your foot provides a bit of security if a piece of equipment falls and hit the foot. A sandal gives you no protection at all.

Select shoes that give good ankle and solid arch support. They should also provide your foot with superior lateral stability by having good upper support; unlike the smaller low cut running shoes. The shoe also needs to have enough room in the toe box to prevent your toes from rubbing at the tips. If you plan to do lateral cutting drills in your program then make certain the shoes you chose have excellent traction capabilities.

Training theories

Two models of thought predominate the current thinking in strength training. One is ‘supercompensation’ or the one-factor theory, the second is the ‘fitness-fatigue’, also known as the two-factor theory. These two are generalized theories and as such contain only the most essential portions of the training ideas. Extraneous options are not included in this brief snap shot of these two training programs.

Many are already familiar with ‘supercompensation but for the sake of review, here are the basics.

In one factor training, the most immediate effect of training is on the depletion of the critical biological components of strength gain, i.e. the substances that enable us to grow in response to the imposed demands. Evidence exists in sports literature indicating an exhaustion of these substances at the conclusion of a hard workout. One that immediately comes to mind is the depletion of muscle glycogen stores.

This theory postulates this phase as being a time of super saturation of the cells of the biological substances needed to grow. In other words, the cells absorb more of the substances than normally would occur, thus enhancing the growth of the organism. Gluttony of the cells would be an apt description of this replenishing process. This is ‘supercompensation’.

In order for this to work, the program design must take into account the phases of enhanced absorption and plan accordingly for these periods. If, on the other hand, the program planner inserts a workout before the cells have had a chance to take on the higher levels of the growth producing substances they will be less apt to tolerate the new load. An injury or deleterious cell damage will be the result rather than growth occurring.

Equally disruptive to growth is a lengthy period between workouts. After too much time has elapsed, the cells will revert to their normal status. Perhaps a small amount of growth will take place but not nearly as much as if the period had been correctly planned.

The coach has to keep in mind these two variables while planning a program.

Optimal rest periods between successive training sessions and
An optimal load in each workout.

“The aim selecting these intervals and loads is to ensure that a subsequent trading session coincides with the supercompensation phase”.

Several popular methods try to achieve this state. One is overloading in a Microcycle, one heavy cycle of training is followed, after a brief rest, by another heavy training cycle. A lengthy rest and restorative period is then included in the schedule. The belief is that by adhering to this schedule the final supercompensation will be greater than normally results from a training cycle.

A critical look at this theory leads one to believe it may be too simplistic to be of much use any longer. The very fact that supercompensation even exists is not a proven fact in scientific experiments. Glycogen depletion, however, is a fact after heavy exercise. It is a possible to increase glycogen in the cells via a particular program of correct training and carbohydrate loading-but only before important competitions. Replication in everyday training situations has not been proven.

ADP, adenosine triphosphate, generally thought to deplete after heavy exercise in fact shows little change at all in the cells. Other substances require differing amounts of time to restore to initial levels.

It is unclear as to which substance the program planning should be adjusting to in anticipation of a supercompensation result. “In general, the theory of supercompensation is too simple to be correct. Over the last few years it has lost much of it popularity”. 

Two factor theory (Fitness-fatigue theory)

This “theory of training is much more sophisticated than the supercompensation theory”. Its basis is the premise “that preparedness, characterized by the athlete’s potential sport potential performance is not stable but rather varies with time. There are two components of the athlete’s preparedness:

Those that are slow changing, for example, physical fitness is a slow changing phenomenon. It does not change a substantial amount over short periods of minutes, hours or even days.
Fast changing such as physical fatigue (a temporary lowered ability to work because of disturbed homeostasis resulting from performing this work ), illness, the athlete’s disposition toward competition, intellectual, and sensory inputs may all change quickly.

According to this theory, the immediate effect of the training is a combination of two processes:
1. The gain in the fitness which was prompted by the workout
2. Fatigue resulting from the workout

The sum of the two effects is an increase in fitness due to the workout that is offset by a deterioration of fitness due to fatigue. The outcome is a balancing act of positive and negative actions within the body. If the fitness increase is greater than the effects of fatigue, the organism grows stronger. If not the opposite is true.

A rough rule of thumb with a normal training load is the duration of the fitness gains and the impact of fatigue differ by a factor of three. That is the fatigue effect is three times shorter than the positive effects, which last up to three times longer. As an example if the effects of fatigue last 24 hours, the improvement in fitness lasts 72 hours.

Using the two factor model the coach must keep in mind the two offsetting components of training and plan each follow up session accordingly. Maintenance of preparedness, avoidance of fatigue and continual training sessions comprised of several warm up type sessions prior to a contest. The idea behind this is to decrease the training load during each session rather than reduce the number of training sessions. A tapering off of the training load has been proven to enhance the final strength outcome.

In order to accomplish this feat the intervals between sessions must be long enough so the “negative traces of the preceding workout pass out of existence but the positive fitness gains persists.” This has become a rather popular model for use in planning strength training programs.

Smith machine explosive plyo benches
The limitations to a forceful contraction straight through a move occur at the end of any concentric move. This is the joint activating the 'braking effect' about three quarters of the way through, as it nears the end of the movement. This is the mechanism the body uses to protect the joint from tearing itself apart. 

Some of the more common ways to short circuit this muscle shut down is through the use of the supine medicine ball toss, and the plyo push ups. An off shoot of the plyometric method for the upper body, specifically for the bench press, is through the use of a non-cable, non-counterbalanced Smith machine.

Warm up as you would for a regular bench press session. After you have warmed up the shoulder and pectoralis regions move over to the Smith Machine. Begin by loading the bar with a LIGHT weight (30-40% of a five rep max to begin with). Make certain the bench is positioned exactly where you intend to bench from-there can be no room for errors from this point forward.

Take the weight and forcefully push it up wards. The difference from a regular Smith machine bench press is this: 

Instead of holding onto the bar at the top of the concentric motion and slowing the bar down you let it fly upward. Then you catch it on the down stroke a little bit above your chest then by keeping the amortization phase nano-seconds short ram it up again.

This does two things for your power production:

1. It allows a utilization of the full Range of Motion
2. It helps you produce Power
Go slowly as you learn how to do this great training exercise.

Remember that injuries slow your progress down....

Maximum power output, as many strength athletes already know, results from using loads in the intensity ranges of 30-40 % one repetition maximum. But the maximal coefficient of reactivity will be obtained by utilizing weight loads in the 30-33 % ranges.

Strength training will increase explosive power. But training cannot be confined exclusively to strength regimens, some of it must be in the power percentages.

Just as all training abides by certain guidelines so does strength and power as can be seen in the following chart first devised by A.S. Prilipin in 1974.

A. S. Prilepins training guidelines.

A. S. Prilepins’ training guidelines
% 1RM         Reps/sets              Optimal total repetitions            Repetition ranges
55-65            3-6                         24                                              18-30
70-75            3-6                         18                                              12-24
80-85            2-4                         15                                              10-20
≥90               1-2                         7                                                4-10


Speed of movement

Lifting heavy weights requires power. The formula for power is P=mass divided by time. Training for speed must be ongoing, and productive, if results are to be seen. Speed of movement can be increased in normal training situations by one of two ways:
• Preceding the movement with a heavy weight using the same movement form
• Preceding with a lighter than normal weight still using the exercise movement form
Preceding the move with a heavier weight may increase the speed of the standard weight due to the increased excitation of the nervous system. The influence of the nervous systems response to the heavier weight carries over into the normal load thus allowing faster speed to be attained.

This effect is felt but is depend upon the difference between the heavy or light loads which lead up to the immediate lifting of the normal load. Additional parameters are the number of repetitions and the order of the alternating loads.

This sequential selection of loads will elicit a positive training effect: Heavy, normal and light.

The limitations to a forceful contraction straight through a move occur at the end of any concentric move. This is the joint activating the 'braking effect' about three quarters of the amplitude utilization in the joint.

Full amplitude utilization
1. Total utilization and Full Range of Motion
2. Plyometric's helps you produce Power

Plyometric's and jumping exercises that are done JUST BEFORE the competitive exercise can act as a stimulant.

For example, in your own training try this in your gym before doing it in a contest. After a thorough warm up for the bench press and just before you hit the heavy weights do two sets of drop push-ups from between two twelve to thirteen inch stands. Explode back up each time. Relax several seconds, then give the bench your full effort

For your squats Plyometric jumps would help stimulate the CNS, which will lead to a higher successful total on the bar. The same is true just before doing a max dead lift.

As always, form and technique are crucial elements of success and in hopefully avoiding an injury.

Moving the curve

Power is developed according to the formula which is the mass moved divided by time it takes to do it. If, for instance, you are moving a two hundred pound barbell from point A to Point B in one second during your early training phase and you decrease the time it takes to move this the same distance then you have increased your power output.

This is important to any lifter as the ability to move massive amounts of weight depends on rapidly and almost instantaneously increasing the force necessary to move the bar from the starting position. This is termed moving the curve to the left. It is also one of the most basic concepts in developing a powerful athlete. You must apply all of your possible force immediately against a heavy weight or an opponent if you expect it to be influenced to any positive degree.

Explosive force is separate from starting strength.

Avoiding Exercise Rhabdomyolysis

A classic case of too much, too often, and too soon is seen in those who suffer the ill and sometimes fatal after effects of working out far beyond their physical capacity.

Rhabdomyolysis in much simpler terms means that the exercise has been so extensive and strenuous that the muscle fibers themselves have not only broken down but have separated from the main fiber itself. This leads to these wayward fibers entering the circulatory system.

Some of these bits of tissue are toxic to the body and can result in kidney damage.

The person most at risk for this condition is inexperienced in exercise and is pushed either by themselves or an incompetent coach far beyond their limits. Others who may be put in the danger zone are military recruits in basic training, those who are dehydrated or suffering from heat related issues, and the circuit trainee under the supposed guidance of a personal trainer and of course the ultra marathon and triathlon athletes.

The clues of this dangerous condition are found in the abnormal and dark colored urine of the individual. This urine will have a dark, red or cola color to it.

This is a danger sign that should not be dismissed. If rhabdomyolysis is suspected, take immediate steps to have the symptoms and potential life threatening condition expertly evaluated by a physician.

Saving the life of another may be at stake here. 

Persistence Indeed!

The Thrill of experiencing life in abundance

By Lucy Van Pelt

August has always been the most significant month of the year. It is the month of my birth, and the month in which I experienced the most traumatic experience of my life. It is also the month when I signed up with my local strength coach in what is clearly one of the best decisions I have ever made. I decided that fitness and health was definitely a priority worth pursuing immediately and so I began to dream my dreams and set my goals. Carrying 200 pounds on a 5’2 frame was definitely not a healthy pastime, and my heart attack and subsequent bi-pass surgery demanded some dramatic action. I set my goal- a 60 pound weight loss. That was what I wanted and I was prepared to do absolutely anything reasonably healthy to get there; including weight training, –an exercise activity that has always peeked my interest. PERSISTENCE at age 40! That is an accurate description of me. Strength at age 40, now wouldn’t that be amazing!

The journey began with small halting steps. I decided that 5 pounds per month was a healthy goal. Strange as it may seem, Sept, Oct, Nov, and Dec. 2004 yielded absolutely no results on the scale. My intake of food was carefully documented and scrutinized by my strength coach and he encouraged me to be PERSISTENT. I was assured that things would eventually happen. But things were definitely happening in other important ways. My energy levels and my emotional health were improving, I was sleeping more soundly and experiencing less anxiety associated with my medical condition. The doctors were pleased with the activity levels and the strength of my cardiovascular system not to mention the shape my body was taking. (They have their ways of measuring) They encouraged me to keep up my exercise. More importantly I was building a wonderful relationship with a coach and mentor. My strength and balance was improving dramatically and I was gaining more confidence in my ability to tackle life’s challenges and responsibilities.

In April 2005 the scale showed 178. Euphorically I calculated that 22 pounds had been shed. PERSISTENCE had paid off! By May 31’05 I weighed 163. By the end of June 159 and by the end of October 2005 I weighed 144. My biggest surprise during this time was probably the shifting of my focus to weightlifting and doing everything within my power to sustain my level of energy to meet the requirements of my new found passion. 

My nutritional habits were directed to supporting those activities rather than losing the weight just for the sake of the scale. I was eating regularly and often in small quantities. During this time I grew to appreciate the suggestions and encouragements offered by my strength coach who did not place such emphasis on the numbers. In fact, he didn’t even own a scale. A new perspective for me, indeed! I enjoyed setting new goals during this time including a 10 km jog which I completed successfully 2 times during the summer of 2005. I also pursued motorbike riding and successfully completed a course offered at a local college. Fabulous new quests!! When approaching my coach for feedback concerning my newest and latest goal, his favourite line was always the same, “Why not?” A new philosophy was taking root.

Nutritionally, I have enjoyed following the Weight Watchers program with its point value for food choices. I focus primarily on unrefined foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables in great quantity and a variety of colours, fruits, organic foods, healthy fats, and high quality proteins. I refrain from salt, sugar and processed flour and I try to drink good quality water. I occasionally indulge in some of life’s ultimate treats but for the most part my body now dictates my intake according to the level of activity. I now eat to live instead of living to eat!

For the past 6 months I have been stable at 144. My goal of 60 pounds is still a passionate ideal, but I have now expanded my goals to include new weightlifting personal bests, running goals, and motorbike riding. It seems my journey of success has stimulated many secondary goals along the way. Yes, while on a journey there is time to “smell the roses”.

Part three 15046
It is the March Break. I have purchased a book on Yoga, in the hopes that it will stimulate some balance in my body as I try to lift heavier weights in a happier fashion. I have also treated myself to a book describing in great detail each and every muscle that is involved in a particular weight training movement. I continue to enjoy reading material that is positive and stimulating and will help me accomplish the current goals I aspire to as well as some new pinnacles that I might strive towards. I do have so much to learn! That is absolutely the best part of this entire journey!

So here is an invitation to enjoy life one step at a time. Set goals and be confidently motivated to see them through to their completion. As my strength coach often says, “How badly do you want it?” I dedicate and recommit this new chapter in the history of my journey to him!

Cheers to all our journeys! May they end happily ever after!

Exercising with a Stability Ball

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

The big exercise stability balls, as they are known, are displayed in the catalogs and stores all over now, it is as if they were a brand new tool to get fit. Well let me tell you they have been around now for at least forty-two years.

There have been numerous articles and routines written up for their use in the various publications and now they are even showing up in the infomercial's on television. The reason for this proliferation of information is they work.

Stability balls help build a better balance base, a stronger center part of the body commonly known as the “core”, better proprioceptive action, and in addition to the good benefits, they provide a challenge to performing regular exercises in a different manner on them. How does a simple ball provide all of this you ask? All right, you didn’t ask but I will tell you anyway.

A stability ball works on the basic principles of instability, mobility, lever length and positioning.

Instability is the bedrock, shifting bedrock you might say, of the balls usefulness in exercise. Challenges await those who alter their foot or hand positions closer together, change their center of gravity higher or lower, and use weights or change the lever length of the weight load.

Mobility implies, at least in this case, that if you do not use good form the ball will roll away form you. Thus, you have instant feedback that is critical to the performance of the exercise. After all, a ball by its nature rolls around.

Lever length is how you position yourself on the ball in the first place. Take for example the pushup. This common exercise is made more difficult simply by moving the ball forward as the pushup is performed. On the other hand, it is easier if the ball is placed under the chest in the normal pushup position.

In either case, the length of the lever arm changed, thereby increasing or decreasing the difficulty of doing the pushup.

Positioning as used here means you can sit on it or lie on it sideways, prone or supine depending on just what you are trying to accomplish. You can put your feet, hands, elbows, knees, chest, and in short almost any part of the body on the ball to make an exercise easier or harder.

Explosivelyfit does not recommend kneeling or standing on the stability ball.

The fact that it shifts around, forces the body to maintain stability while performing an exercise on it. Your body is constantly adjusting to maintain itself on the ball, regardless of the position you have taken on it.

The stability ball is not a quick fix to physical fitness and health. It is however, simply another tool to employ in gaining the fitness level you desire.

If you decide to buy a stability ball, make certain it is of the burst resistant sort. Some of the cheaper ones may develop a break and then collapse very rapidly, much as a balloon does when it breaks. The burst resistant balls allow a gradual escape of the air pressure.

Fit your size (height) to the dimension of the ball

The general rule is to choose a ball that allows you to sit on the ball with your knees and hips at a 90° angle. This will position your thighs parallel to the floor.

The correct air pressure for the ball will be in the area of the correct height for your body as listed in the following chart.

Measure the height on the wall then inflate to the correct height.

Follow the chart for correct sizing recommendations:

A Body height of

Requires this size ball

Up to 4’ 10”

Small-45cm (18 inches)

4’ 10”-5’ 5”

Medium-55cm (22 inches)

5’ 5”-6’ 0”

Large-65cm (26 inches)

6’ 0”-6’ 5”

X-Large-75cm (30 inches)

Over 6’ 5”

XX-Large-85cm (33 inches )

Buy a ball that has been tested to 800 pounds and is burst resistant which means they do not collapse rapidly if punctured.

Other stability balls are available but are not recommended if you are using extra weight such as dumbbells or barbells in your stability ball training.

Remember the old adage of “you get what you pay for”; buy cheap and get cheap will be the result. Isn’t your health and physical safety worth the price of a good stability ball?

Making the most of your functional properties 
By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D 

The body determines the form of its interactions/reactions while responding to and solving a physical task. This ‘natural response’ solution is based upon the athlete’s genetic fiber type composition, its structural attachment make up, previous experience, and training. Systematic training, not just going to the gym and hitting the weights several times a week is the key phrase.

The body is linked together by the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles all working or at least striving to work in harmony with one another to move the kinematic pairs, chain, and system in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

At the base level, (the kinematic pair-the two combined and actively adjacent links) movement is dependent upon the purpose of the link, the development of the abilities to express a large motor force-strength, or the movement displayed with a large angular speed. All of these actions take place simultaneously, along with other contributing motions, to perfect a movement pattern. The anatomical interaction specifics of each person’s nervous/muscle/bone structures will ultimately determine the direction and nature of the movement. Some athletes seem to have a natural ability to run fast, whereas others seem to be able to run long distances with ease. Training will increase nearly everyone’s ability to run fast or farther regardless of their natural potential.

Strength changes in isolated single joint movements appear to be dependent upon the functions and role of the joint in relationship to the directional bias of the other links of the body. These changes alter the conditions under which the muscles do their work, i.e. the angles and length of the muscles are changed. When the angles and length change, the muscle strength and leverage advantages are altered which affects the rotational moment force of the muscle. In each case, these alterations have a direct effect on the maximal external force, taking place at any specific joint angle.

For example, it is known that maximum force in the elbow joint occurs at 90 degrees during an isolated elbow flexion movement and at 120 degrees extension. Highly trained athletes have the ability to express their maximum force at a wider range of angles closer to the maximum joint angles. This force is developed into specific classifications.

Strength developed, per particular joint angle, is typed according to:
Ascending and descending maximal and minimal forces that correspond to the extreme portions of the angular amplitudes of the joint movement.

Ascending and descending minimal and maximal forces that correspond to the extreme portions of the angular amplitudes of the joint movement. Minimal force is developed at the far limits of the joint angle and maximal force is developed at the middle of the movement.

A force/angle graph depiction doesn’t necessarily change the plotting of strength and force development with increases in strength. It does however, give a clear indication of where this strength is expressed.

Increases in strength throughout the joints full range of motion depends on the particular joint angle that was maximally trained during the training period. If this is produced at the point of the greatest muscle length then this strength, which is greatest at the smallest degree of flexion or near the least amount of extension in the joint transfers to the other joint angles in a relatively uniform fashion.

However if this strength is produced while the muscle is in a contracted state the increase in strength is larger. But the strength transfer is expressed as an inverse ratio according to the angle of the joint. The farther away from the original joint angle used during training, the less the training effect will be on the joint. At the training angle there is a larger resultant maximum force developed than in the next nearest joint angles.

Training throughout a wide range of motion in the greatest amplitudes possible within individual limitations produces the largest increases in strength primarily in kinematic pairs-two actively combined and adjacent joints. This applies most frequently to the joints that have multiple planes of motion such as the glenoidhumeral (shoulder) see the training methods that are included in The Ultimate Bench Press Manual for details, talocrural (relating to the interaction of the ankle and bones of the leg), and the iliofemoral (the relationship between the uppermost and widest of the three lateral halves of the pelvis and the femur) joints


Individuals have innate qualities of movement and abilities to express strength and power in a particular form and manner. Perfecting a movement pattern while producing maximal strength and power depends upon the make up of the person, the joint angles at which the training takes place and the amplitude of the movement. Training with this background information in mind will produce benefits to an athlete.

Perfecting the motor patterns of athletic movement

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

Effective athletic movement is contingent upon the utilization of ALL the appropriate mechanisms of the human body working in a synchronous manner. These units must provide mechanical movement via the system of levers made up of the bones, muscles and tendons contracting in unison by stimulation of the actin and myosin fibers. The levers are in place from the earliest stages of physical development. It is the ‘perfectioning’ of the sports coordinational relationships and the ‘trained’ increases in energy potential that separates the novice from the elite athlete.

Included in the working parts of the body are the following interrelated aspects of the total system of athleticism:

The previously and very briefly mentioned pulling forces of the muscles via the actin and myosin fiber activation and the bone/muscle levers. 

The intra-action of the antagonistic and agonistic muscle groups that surround the joints and the entire musculoskeletal system.

The qualities of the tissues that allow for the accumulation of, and the subsequent utilization of elastic energy.
The dominance mechanism, which contributes additional forces by drawing on collateral impulses from other secondary movements that are used to supplement the prime movement. Notice this is not a substitution of muscle effort.
The sequential and rational additions to the work being done by muscles with differing functional characteristics.
The overall tonus of the muscular system.

Each one of these component parts synergistically aid in creating superior athletic movement.

Each individual will to some extent, make use of their own favorable and most natural feeling biomechanical anatomical functional peculiarities when engaging in their sport. To do so in any other manner would be counterproductive to the outcome. Simply doing the sport will not enhance the motor mechanisms of the athlete. It is a package that requires attention to each specific part. And EVERY part must work perfectly together to achieve a superior result.

While exercising keep in mind this important concept:

From a purely biomechanical viewpoint, consideration must be given to the motor complex that is organized within the anatomical-functional specifics of the body during the movement. This interrelated system of the body permits, and should do so with MAXIMUM effectiveness, utilization of each of these inherent working parts to solve the motor tasks set forth in the training session

Your body will determine the form of interaction between its parts during the process of finding a solution to the situation, i.e., it will, if left alone, find the most efficient and effective manner of dealing with the physical task. This natural ability to gain and maintain movement efficiency will, when combined with a trained coach’s eye, result in a systematic and rational functioning of the organism, which in simpler terms means an effective and high work out put.

Trust your instincts, follow what feels natural and increase your strength in the process. Of course, there must be a modicum of common sense in all of this too. Just because you make progress with a three foot depth jump doesn't necessarily mean that you'll make twice the progress with a six foot one.

Exercise and rest period cycles

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

In days of old when men were men and women were women they exercised in the fields or in their homes from sun up until sun down. And no one ever mentioned overtraining, supercompensation, distress or ustress; they just did what had to be done to survive. They ate clean, lived clean and died clean.

We could take a lesson from them and do the same but we don’t. Sure they were strong, they had to be just to keep living back then. It is apparent from reading any history at all that staying in shape was not the reason these old timers did so much hard work. It was to continue to live. But times have changed and we don’t have to struggle quite so much to stay alive-at least in many areas of the world. Now we can go to a gym or workout in our homes to stay in shape.

If we followed the regimen of sun up to sun down we would get in shape darn fast but how long could we tolerate the program? Not long I am sure.

“Supercompensation” is the thin window of opportunity between overreaching and overtraining. It is the ideal goal in any well-designed exercise program, especially if you are contemplating a contest in the near future. But, how is it reached without overtraining and getting hurt?

The body’s adaptive mechanisms are wonderful and can do marvelous things to keep you healthy. However, you must pay attention to what it is saying about the evolution-taking place concerning your training loads, duration and intensity and the effects on you.

Background information

In 1954, Hans Selye came up with a description that described how an organism adapted to sources of stress in their environment. He called the model the “General Adaptation Syndrome” aka GAS. He further described two such stressors, one good and one bad. They are respectively:

Eustress or that which produces growth, performance enhancements and repair.
Distress, which can cause decay, damage, death or disease in the living organism.

The General Adaptation Syndrome theory states there are three phases to an exposure to stress. Phase number one is the initial alarm, phase two is the resistance to the stress and the final phase is the adaptation to the stress (which Selye called exhaustion).

Breaking the three phases down into manageable bits of information one will find the first stage is the body’s initial response to the stress, i.e. flight, fright or freeze. (“Shock or alarm”, as it is described in the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning book by Baechle and Earle) The body at this point has a temporary inability to cope with the situation; however, it quickly calls on energy reserves and begins to function in a more appropriate manner.

This is the beginning of the resistance phase in which the body adapts to the stimulus and returns to a more normal state. The body is preparing itself for a continuation of similar stresses by growing stronger in response.

The final stage is exhaustion. If the organism does not have a pause in the constant stress, it begins to break down. Thus, overtraining has reared its ugly head and progress begins to “grind to a halt”. Minor injuries appear, desire diminishes, and working out is no longer enjoyable. The workout program has failed!

From this modest start, strength and conditioning specialists have come up with all sorts of training plans. A well-designed program will be characterized by a continuation of the Eustress processes. On the other hand, stagnation, soreness, minor injuries, and a lack of desire to exercise provide an early indication of distress that eventually leads to “Overtraining”. Leading into the overtraining is a condition called overreaching.

Overreaching is a desired effect that results from setting and achieving goals. It is the push to a higher plateau of ability. But if you remain in this zone too long, you soon reach the overtrained condition. Recovery from over reaching is easily accomplished with a few days active rest, a lighter than normal load, intensity and frequency of effort.

How do you know if you are entering the overtrained realm? Listen to your body. As an example, one of my personal “sure fire ways” of knowing I am entering this phase is illustrated in the following scenario.

In my training diary, I keep track of every set, every rep and every weight lifted in every session. I note how each set felt with an alpha character beside the log entry for that set. It is either an “E” for easy, an “M” for moderate or an “H” for hard.

If my training is going really well and I find myself writing down how much weight I will be lifting a month from now on the present program…I know it is time to change or one of two things will happen:

1. I will get hurt (more than likely I will be getting hurt)
2. I will not finish the program

Invariably, this is a major clue to me to change the intensity, load, duration, sets reps, or frequency of exercise. If I do not heed the obvious warning signs of my projected gains, I lose in the end.

This little secret has saved me many a time over the past ten to twelve years of developing an injury. Every now and then, I forget and keep pushing ahead anyway.

The last time I ignored it I ended up with a shoulder surgery. I was laid up unable to use it for over six weeks. Yeah I know what you are thinking; he could have done squats with a safety squat bar. I did and the pads on the par extensions hit RIGHT ON THE STITCHES. I kept up squatting. I was complaining (whining) to my doctor about the pads hurting the shoulder he had stitched up so recently. He looked directly at me and said very calmly “Don’t rip out my stitches”. I stopped doing them and went instead to the leg press machines in my gym.

Other clues to overtraining are more subtle. They include the following anaerobic indicators:

Stages of Overtraining

1. No effect on performance 
Altered neural functions

2. Probably an effect on performance 
Altered motor unit recruitment
Altered sympathetic activity and hypothalamic control

3. Probably decreased performance 
Decreased motor coordination
Altered excitation contraction coupling
Decreased muscle glycogen
Increased resting heart rate and blood pressure
Altered immune function
Altered hormonal concentrations

4. Decreased performance
Decreased force production
Decreased glycolytic capacity
Sickness and infection
Emotional and sleep disturbances

Adapted from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by Baechle and Earl

Strength, Speed, Sets, and Repetitions

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Strength has a direct and very distinct role in the development of speed and explosiveness. This relationship enables greater weight to be lifted which in turn brings with it the concomitant and potentially uninterrupted rise in the total at the end of the macrocycle. However, (and this is a big deal) constantly hammering away with the big weights, i.e. those is excess of 95% or those at the 40-50% levels of intensity will lead to a fixation similar to the speed barrier experienced by sprinters who are pushed to fast and too soon in their careers. In both instances, lifting constantly in these ranges will hamper the growth process.

The number of repetitions per set has a profound effect on the outcome of the program. Increases in strength result from loads of 85-95% intensity that are performed with brief efforts at maximum speeds of 1-3 reps per set. These reps do not create a hypertrophic effect on the muscles but do help the neuromuscular coordination pathways to become more efficient.

An expanded repetition scheme that is performed with multiple sets will enlarge the muscle tissues. Reps in the 4-6 ranges will increase the muscle mass while at the same time the increase in strength is only slightly less than that seen in the 1-3 bracket. At 7-10 the mass is increased but the strength gains are lower than those seen in the 4-6 ranges. Essentially the strength gains begin to drop off and the muscle mass increases as the repetitions go higher.

Beginners goals should be that of adding muscle mass and increasing the strength of their motor unit recruitment capabilities. In this case, the use of small and medium weights performed for multiple repetitions of 3-6 per set and accessory exercises done for up to 10 reps per set are ideal (this is contrary to the muscle ragmags). Setting up a program for new lifters requires knowledge of how the body responds to the stimuli of resistance training.

It has been found that if a person is able to lift a weight twelve times the best sets will be with multiple sets of 4-6 repetitions with that particular weight. Maximum reps cause maximum fatigue which accumulates and leads to loss of being able to train at a sufficient volume, injury and eventually less training time.

Experienced lifters have to increase the intensity of their workouts in order to make progress. This is accomplished by utilizing the maximum effort percentages for multiple sets of brief 1-3 rep sets. Frequent use of this rep/set scheme is advisable for these lifters.

In each instance a periodic return to a myofibrillar hypertrophy phase of lifting is advisable in the continuing effort to keep muscle mass at its peak.

Finally, special one repetition workouts that develop technique and speed are necessary each day to concentrate the neuromuscular system on the lift so this ability is not lost as the training continues. 

Standing Plyo Push Ups

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D and Wyatt O'Dell, B.A.

These are an advanced method of doing a push up and not to be done if you have any type of elbow or shoulder injury, pain or other ailment that would preclude you from doing them. These versions of the push up are a violent shock to the upper torso and the midsection of the body.

As Wyatt demonstrates, the movement begins in an upright but semi relaxed position.

Continue to free fall as demonstrated in the next series of photos. While keeping the torso in line, allow your body to tip over straight forward as you fall to the floor.

Catch yourself at the bottom. Wyatt is strong enough to do handclaps as he pushes back up into the normal push up beginning position.

This style of push up produces violent forces on the body and should only be done by those who have the strength and resiliency to perform them without danger to their body.

Muscle Actions Involved in the Push Up

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

The pushup movement consists of interaction between the elbow, shoulder and the scapulothoracic joints.

During this exercise the elbow extends and flexes in the up and down motion while the shoulders move into horizontal adduction flexion going up and horizontal abduction extension going back down. The scapulothoracic joint is partially rotated upward in an abducted manner as the body is being pushed up. In the downward phase the opposite action is taking place, with partial downward rotation and adduction movement.

Not only are these three joints involved but so are numerous stabilizing muscle groups taking part. In the elbow joint, for instance, the triceps brachii and the small anconeus muscle are helping to move the elbow from extension to flexion. In the case of the shoulder the pectoralis major is highly active along with the coracobrachialis and the anterior deltoid. The scapulothoracic joint is aided in its participation by the actions of the serratus anterior.

Most muscle movement requires assistance from other muscle groups and the major muscles previously mentioned are no exception. The shoulders and triceps are not the only ones involved in this fine upper body exercise. We have already mentioned the serratus anterior as helping in the move. Along with the serratus anterior we have the pectoralis minor, the rhomboids and the lower trapezius acting as stabilizers for the shoulder.

The shoulder joint is further protected by the four rotator cuff muscles that help keep the humerus in place and the biceps brachii in stabilizing the arm and shoulder connection.

Many experts categorically state the push up is an excellent core strength builder that is frequently under utilized due to its perceived simplicity. The fact remains there is a great deal of muscular action taking place in keeping the torso in a straight line during the exercise. As an example in stabilizing the trunk there is muscle recruitment from the abdominal region, the glutes and the large quadriceps, the quadratus lumborum and the latissimus dorsi.

Finally the head is in an extended position during the execution of the pushup.

Vibration Training

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

For quite some time the effectiveness of vibrations on the body have been noted in various clinical and research settings. The question arises; is it a useful as a means to develop strength. The short answer is yes; but with caveats attached.

Vibration loading has been successfully used in the astronaut program to help prevent bone loss and to enhance recovery from sprains and tendonitis in normal and athletic individuals. Recent research has centered on the use of whole body vibrations to increase bone integrity, balance and muscular strength.

This research has demonstrated that whole body vibrations in the 25-40 Hz ranges improves explosive power in those who are physically active. Additional findings have shown this type of training to be beneficial to older adults with balance problems and for increased bone formation in postmenopausal women.

The mechanism used to deliver the vibrations is a power plate apparatus that applies a high frequency, low amplitude current to the platform on which the trainee is standing or performing their exercises upon. The exercises are done erect or relaxed, with weight shifting from leg to leg, and on the toes or heels. Other movements include push ups, dips, squats or jumping below maximum velocity and height. Static stretches also seem to be more beneficial on the vibrating platform.

It appears that the vibrations produce small variations in muscle length. These small changes stimulate the tonic vibration reflex-the one that activates the muscle spindles and alpha motor neurons. These are the processes that cause the muscle fibers to contract.

Delving further into the after effects of this training modality it was discovered that combined with non loaded static and dynamic exercises which were specifically focused on balance, strength and power the most positive gains were made during the first two months of training. The following two months showed minimal gains, if any at all.

This is similar to the normal adaptation phases of any new exercise or program. The first few months are the most productive.

This suggests that neural responses and recruitment of muscle units were positively engaged through the use of the vibration platform. Additional studies are warranted before any definite conclusions can be reached about the usefulness of these devices regarding the link between nominal and superior strength gains 

Timing Carbohydrate and Protein Intake

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

The amount and timing of these critical macronutrients affects the overall testosterone that will bind to the androgen receptors within the body. This increased binding is called ‘up regulation’ which means there is a larger amount of receptors that are responsive to the testosterone circulating.

Testosterone is one of the major hormonal signals of expanded protein synthesis in the muscle. Without protein synthesis there would be no strength gain or added growth. This testosterone, in order to be useful, must be bound to a receptor before it can send the signal to the DNA apparatus to make the necessary structural changes. Studies conducted in the recent past have shown that with nutrient intake the circulating testosterone decreases. Which in all likelihood means the hormone is being attached where it’s needed.

Additionally, it has been determined that 25-50g of protein (essential amino acids) taken in conjunction with 50g of carbohydrate before and after within 10 minutes of the completion of the exercise session is highly beneficial to growth. This causes an increase in the amount of circulating insulin in the blood stream. Insulin stimulates the uptake of amino acids into the muscle tissue.

Growth hormone (originating from the anterior pituitary gland) and the insulin like growth factor 1, from the liver create additional uptakes of amino acids after a workout.

Timing of the intake of these macronutrients is crucial for optimizing muscle tissue growth in the human body.

The bottom line appears to be that 25-50g of protein (essential amino acids) taken in conjunction with 50g of carbohydrate before and within 10 minutes after of the completion of the exercise session is highly beneficial to growth.

Line of Push/Pull Principle
By: Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.

It is always a pleasure and an honor to write strength training articles for Danny O'Dell's Explosivelyfit.com and his Explosivelyfit Training News.

I am returning with another and maybe different view about exercising in general. The line of push/line of pull training principle seems to have been forgotten as soon as a trainee picks up a barbell. Most trainees do not approach their training programs with that in mind.

Do you want to be successful and achieve results when you train? The line of push/line of pull training principle should be considered. How does it work and how do you apply it? It is a fairly simple concept. Everything must be in line whether you are doing a pulling exercise or a pushing exercise.

Here are a few examples of pushing exercises:

Bench-Press -Triceps push down
Squat -Close grip bench-press

Here are a few examples of pulling exercises:
Lat pull down -Barbell curl
Deadlift -Chin ups

Regardless of the exercise you are doing you must take into consideration or respect the line of push or the line of pull training principle.

The line of Pull:
Let’s look at the lat pull down. Most trainees strongly believe that a wide grip on the bar will allow the lats to grow wider! What one needs to realize is that the most efficient way to actually do the lat pull is to have a close to medium grip and bring the bar down to your chin/upper chest. The elbows should be tucked in towards the lats and not back. You will also realize that when you bring the elbows too far back you will lean back. As soon as you do that you are out of the line of pull.

The line of Push:
Let’s look at the bench-press. The same situation applies. All limbs must be in line. The hands must be in a straight line with the wrists, followed by the wrists with the elbows and so forth (See the Ultimate Bench-Press manual by Danny O’Dell MA., C.S.C.S. *D). What you are looking for is the most efficient line of push for greater results.

Before you even begin an exercise make sure you are position properly. If you are squatting and your hands are not centered on the barbell prior top position yourself under the bar, the barbell will not sit properly on the upper traps and therefore, you will not be pushing evenly. The same applies to feet positioning. This can also be caused due to poor flexibility.

Let’s look at range of motion or flexibility. If for some reason you are not able to get into a comfortable position when squatting, dead lifting, bench-pressing… it might be that your level of flexibility needs to be addressed. I run into situations like these regularly, with trainees at my gym. They can’t squat properly or they can’t do pull downs properly. We address the issue and first thing you know, they are doing the exercise properly, with a totally different feel.

By paying more attention to this training principle you will feel muscles you never felt before and getting results. Whether it is a single joint (open kinetic chain) exercise or a multiple joint (close kinetic chain) exercise, the same rule applies. Everything must be in line.

*If you do an exercise, regardless of what it is, and it does not feel right. Check the alignment of your limbs (toes-knees, hands-wrists). Check your line of push or pull. It will most likely be off.


Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.
Strength Coach, St. Thomas Ontario, Canada

Note: The “Coaches’ Guide to Strength Training for Young Athletes Interactive Book/DVD, will be available in near future. 

Bad Shoulders!
By: Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.

“Shoulder Pain”. We are going to look at preventing it and working towards better function of the shoulder.

Why do shoulder injuries occur? Why all of a sudden, it starts to feel uncomfortable? You don’t remember hurting yourself when doing bench-press (chosen exercise for this article), but it is hurting. What has happened? Does this scenario sound familiar? You know someone in this situation! Maybe you!

All those questions arise when a trainee arrives to a point in his lifting career and it seems that the only answer he is getting is “Back off, take it easy for a few days, go lighter…” You are hurting and you just can’t figure out why. Before going into details let me ask you something. When is the last time you actually injured yourself working out? If the answer is no, why it is hurting then?

When is the last time you warmed up before working out? I am not talking about lying on the bench and doing 10 reps with the barbell, I am talking about rising your body’s temperature, so the shoulder joint is well-lubricated and ready to work! If you have been training for a few years and suddenly that shoulder of yours is hurting, would it be a structural issue or a muscular issue? Remember that you did not hurt yourself working out, so…

How flexible are you? If you can’t raise your arms above your head freely and or bring your hands behind your back, straight arms, so your hands nearly touch behind, you have some flexibility issues. Let’s go over some basic anatomy, how many muscles attach at the shoulder joint? You have the long head of the biceps, the pectoralis major, the rotators (Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres minor), the deltoid… let’s stop right here. What do you think in happening in there? You have been working out for years, did not pay much attention to warming up and it is hurting! You have a really tight shoulder joint, and it is screaming to be loosened up.

What do you do? You keep working out on a tight shoulder joint, which is becoming more constricted repetition by repetition. What needs to take place is stretching. It will not loosen up by itself and as much as you hate stretching, it is your only alternative. In most cases, a few 20 minute, active stretching sessions will work wonders.

By focusing on a more active stretching protocol, those muscles will loosen. You are looking for a fuller range of motion. In most cases, a fuller range-of-motion will increase and improve your situation tremendously and the pain will shortly go away.

One of my trainees, Mary, when doing barbell curl, her left shoulder was not remaining stable. After using an active stretching protocol regularly with her, the pain not only went away, but the shoulder became lot more stable and stronger in a relatively short time.

Another of my trainees started stretching and applying this simple rule (stretching more actively), and she lost weight. Here I must say that strength training along with a more active stretching protocol became a victorious combination.

Whether you looking at bad joint function (shoulder for this article), or a weight loss program, remember that lengthening the muscles will do wonders. By increasing the range of motion, you will experience results.

Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.
Strength Coach, St. Thomas Ontario, Canada

Note: The “Coaches’ Guide to Strength Training for Young Athletes Interactive Book/DVD, will be available in near future.

Defining or Strengthening the Abs
By: Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.

Training to get great abs has always been every trainee’s dream. It looks fantastic and it shows a great fitness level achievement. Since I am being asked regularly about ab training I am going to give you the information you need regarding this ever- increasing misleading issue.

Do we need well-defined abs or do we need strong abs? Well-defined abs are a necessity in the competitive Bodybuilding world. Strong abs are a total different story. What needs to be understood is that training your mid-section for strength will differ greatly from training your mid-section for definition. These two separate and distinct training goals represent widely divergent methodologies and vary greatly from what we have heard and or read in many publications. Let’s remind ourselves that training the abs for a prettier look is in relation to the art of sculpting and training the abs for strength is a necessity.

Whether you are involved in a sport or not, a strong mid-section is essential. You are doing countless sets and reps of sit-ups, leg raises, crunches… what you are doing is sculpting, not strengthening!

Before we go any further, we must define our purpose for doing abs. If your objective is to get a “6 Pack” for an upcoming bodybuilding show, you go right ahead. However, if your goal is to strengthen your mid-section, for whichever sport it may be, drop the sit ups and other single joint abdominal exercises for the more beneficial ones like the squats, the deadlift's, and other multiple joint exercises. *You can also use the exercise ball and the med ball.

When do we actually do a sit up or a leg raise in sports/daily activities? What you need to do is strengthen your mid-section so you remain strong while standing, reaching, pulling, squatting… that is why your approach to strengthening the abs must be reviewed.

You can’t squat! Your mid-section is likely too weak and is unable to support you. You begin to shake, twist and lean forward (leaning forward is a sign of a weak abdominal wall and tightness in the Achilles tendon). Most trainees will not be able to sit back when they squat, because the glutes are just not strong enough to do what they are supposed to be doing. Your back hurts when you do deadlift's, you need to strengthen the abdominal wall then, in most cases, and the pain will go away. It takes lots of control to actually do a proper squat and or a deadlift, and most trainees do not spend the necessary time neither put the effort forth towards proper from and technique (most are too concerned about the amount of weight that should be on the barbell).

A proper sit up should be done with the rectus abdominus, but it is usually done with a swing. If you are not able to do a sit up with the rectus abdominal, forget about the exercise ball. You must learn to stabilize the trunk first prior to using the exercise ball. Multiple joint exercises require tremendous abdominal strength and control. Can you train for well-defined abs and strengthen them at the same time? Absolutely, but let’s face it, the more popular one is likely to be first. This does not necessarily mean the most productive one!

The problem is that we have been sold, years ago, on the idea that well-defined abs were synonymous to strength. Most trainees doing sit-ups and leg raises may eventually experience back pain, because they don’t do them with proper form. Abdominal work should be done the way it is meant to work; squatting, *dead lifting, pulling, reaching, jumping, lunging, bending…

Need more information regarding this article, feel free to get hold of me through Danny O’Dell’s web site.

Thank you

Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO, strength coach, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

Note: The Coaches’ Guide to strength training for young athlete’s interactive book/DVD will be available soon.

*As a side note to this astute comment: a program of heavy sets and reps in the deadlift is the ONLY exercise series that has EVER given me a case of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in the abs. 

Strengthening with Stretching By Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO.
Strength Coach

How important is a full range of motion really is? It is the foundation of strength. You are getting injured regularly I would not spend too much time on trying to find out why you got injured, I would go right to the source of the check the range of motion of what is painful. More times than others a shorten muscle will not respond very well to exercises and daily life requirements. You cannot strengthen a muscle or become stronger if you have muscular tightness.

How do you strengthen a muscle? You could use a heavy dumbbell and or load a heavy barbell and train with that, but the problem has not been addressed at all. You need to strengthen by stretching it through a full range of motion, because the muscle has shorten and putting that same muscle under load, is not so much a good idea. What kind of stretching should be used? That could become a subject for debate that is the reason why I am going to write this article according to the results I have been experiencing with my clients and members.

How do you stretch to lengthen the muscle and increase its strength? You have static and you have *active/dynamic stretching. Remember that we are looking at strengthening, so we need to stretch to create a full range of motion actively to strengthen that or those muscles. In order to strengthen a muscle you need an increase in blood flow. For that to happen, movement needs to take place. I have experienced great benefits by using a more active or dynamic form of stretching. Here is how to proceed.

Let’s take the shoulder joint, the most butchered joint of all. You should be able to move in all kinds of directions without a slight bend at the elbows. You have a bend at the elbow… something is tight. You cannot do a full circular rotation with a straight torso and straight elbows, a few muscles are tight in there. It could be several things like the biceps tendons that have shortened, the Brachialis and the biceps not sliding to allow proper range of motion, it could be all kinds of things. You will compensate with everything you have to do an exercise, if you have flexibility issues or weakness issues. Just look at someone do a barbell curl or bench and watch the shoulder going up and or back. 

If you find yourself struggling and experience a slight discomfort, you need to increase your flexibility. The range of motion needs to increase. You need to locate and single out that specific muscle or more than one and stretch them is a way that they are doing something. When this has being diagnosed, you begin your stretching. Surprisingly enough, in most cases, the pain will go away and you will be able to return to normal activity very quickly (that is exactly what I am seeing with my clients and members).

What happens when something starts to hurt? If we look at the shoulder joint we have 4 rotators (Subscapularis, Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, teres). If one of them does not do what it is supposed to do, work in unison with the others, the shoulder joint (head of the humerus) will not sit properly in the shoulder cavity and now it starts to grind. This needs to be diagnosed properly then the work begins.

It’s like a tire out of alignment; it’s going to start grooving unevenly. The best part about the tire is that you change and it is O.K., but what happens if the same problem reoccurs? It’s not the tire anymore is it? Quite frankly, it never was!

Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO.
Strength Coach
St. Thomas Ontario Canada

*The Mattes Method

Coming up soon: *near completion ** in the works 
-* Coaches’ Guide to Strength Training for young athletes interactive book/DVD (copyright pending)
-** The Squat, the complete guide to proper form and technique (copyright pending)
-** Strength Training, the Daniel Pare method, 5 reps to weight loss (copyright pending)
-** B.A.S.S.? Sports Performance Training Principle

Strengthening the CORE
By Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO
Strength Coach

I am getting lots of phone calls and several people come to my gym asking me what to do to strengthen my abs. I could give them sets of sit ups, leg raises, crunches… and it would be doing… I just like to go the extra mile and basically do the right thing.

Would sit-ups and crunches strengthen the abs? Let’s see. A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago asking me if I could help her. I said sure, what is going on? She says I need you to give me exercises to strengthen my abs. Sure come over. She gets here and the first thing I said is let’s go on the platform and do a squat for me. She was not able to do it. So I started working with her in her quest to actually do the squat.

I had to teach her to stabilize her trunk and that meant to be able to bring her shoulders back (retracted), she also learned to keep her stomach tight while inhaling, she also had to widen her foot stance and keep the heels down and the toughest part was to teach her to start the squat with her hips, they just would not go back.

So we started again and again. Spent a good 15 minutes encouraging her to start at the hips and not the knees, like it’s being done most times. I told her that her core musculature was not string enough. I explained to her that in order for her to be able to do a squat properly she would have to learn to keep her core tight (hips, and trunk). That was not easy at all.

We began using a 75 cm exercise ball against the wall. I reminded her not to sit and sink, but sit and keep tight. That was a challenge. After we got through that one, we used a 65 cm exercise ball. This time we had to widen her foot stance (I did demonstrate all along what the squat looks like when done properly). Each time she is squatting I am pressing on her abs and lower back to remind her to remain tight, push her knees out on the way up and not to loosen up (you want to see one working hard, do this).

Not long after she is down to the 55 cm exercise ball. That is getting very impressive. Let me remind you that we are looking at about 30 minutes now and she can feel the work taking place (hips and hamstrings not the quadriceps) and I sure can see what is happening. She is learning to remain tight at the core and she also kept telling me “there are lots to think about hey, but it feels very good”. At that point I asked her to stand up, away from the ball, grab my hands and squat down so that her hips/buttocks are touching her heels and to squat back up. I asked her to go for 5 reps. At that time she is breathing quite heavier and starting to sweat and she still likes it.

We then go to use the exercise bench and I demonstrated how I squat down on the bench, sit on it while remaining tight and returning to the starting position by pushing back up with my heels and keeping my knees in line with my toes. So she gave that a try. This was very nice to see, she could do it, not every rep, but nearly. I also made her pay attention that every time she kept herself tight, when she was squatting down on the bench that she could come right back up, in a straight line, without any movements at the knees. This was nearly a parallel squat (top of the thigh even with the top of the knee).

She then asked me if I was going to give her some abs to do at home. I told her to keep practicing this one (the squat) and to get good at this for now. She called me an hour later to tell me that she was walking differently (better) and that her abs, glutes and hamstrings were sore (the core). That did not surprise me at all. She had been doing abs prior to calling me!

Daniel Pare NCCP, CSO
Strength Coach
St. Thomas Ontario Canada

Coming up soon: *near completion ** in the works 
-* Coaches’ Guide to Strength Training for young athletes interactive book/DVD (copyright pending)
-** The Squat, the complete guide to proper form and technique (copyright pending)
-** Strength Training, the Daniel Pare method, 5 reps to weight loss (copyright pending)
- ** B.A.S.S.? Sports Performance Training Principle

Principles of the warm up

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

“Workout Preparation” would be a better name for the warm up period however conventional usage has determined the pre-workout phase be labeled ‘the warm up’. So be it, now let’s talk about just what the warm up is supposed to do, and does, if performed as designed.

Simply running in place or pulling on a leg behind the back doesn't’t cut it in the workout prep portion of an exercise session and it especially does not prepare the body for any competitive sport at all! The warm up must get the body ready to perform effectively and efficiently at its peak. Doing so requires attention to raising the heart rate, preparing the nervous system, and the muscles and tendons and the joints and ligaments that hold it all together.

Expected and specific outcomes resulting from the warm up

Improved elasticity of and increased contraction capabilities of the muscles, raising the efficiency of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reduced reaction times via improved neuromuscular connections and transmissions, focused concentration, improved coordination and perception abilities, emotional state normalization particularly before a competitive event takes place. According to Sozanski the warm up regulates the emotional status due to the flow of impulses from the motor and sensory nerve centers to and from the working muscles by calming down an overly excited nervous system. In the case of one who is apathetic (start apathy) to the upcoming event, the warm up stimulates the nervous system.

Just as certain exercises are more appropriate to specific athletes, certain warm-ups are also appropriate to certain individuals. If the athlete is overly excited, their warm up process would involve slow complex exercises requiring precision of movement, but ones that are well known and familiar to the athlete. Just the opposite warm up would be in order for the apathetic athlete. These individuals need simple, easy exercises that are fast paced, requiring fast reactions, coordination and agility while performed in an energetic manner.

The warm up session starts with exercises that are low in intensity, progressing up to the actual work out movements. Starting with high intensity exercises leaves little left in reserve for the main work out. The body quickly uses its stored muscle glycogen and increases the lactate levels in the blood when engaged in high intensity work. When the lactate increases, the free fatty acids decrease, leaving less to help produce energy. You don’t get into your car on a cold morning and go racing out the drive way and onto the expressway at maximum speed. It’s the same for our bodies; warm them up for the tasks ahead.

General principles of arranging warm up exercises normally follow few these guidelines. Start from the distant joints and work toward the center or proximal portion of the body, from one end to the other or from top to bottom or vice versa. The exercises move from one into another so that the end of one move floats directly into the start of the next movement. This is also how a regular strength training session should be set up.

A solid warm-up will take anywhere from twenty to forty minutes for an elite athlete. Many people don’t have the time to take this long so adaptations will have to be made by taking into account the total length of the exercise session. If the intensity of the workout is high then the warm up will, of necessity, be longer. Longer warm up periods would be in order for the explosive sports endeavors such as sprinting and the more difficult technical sessions. Aerobic and endurance exercise periods need much less, as the pre stages of these activities are in and of themselves a warm up.

Repeating the same warm up in successive workouts is not beneficial to the athlete as the goals of each workout are not necessarily the same, thus the warm up should reflect the workout goal. The warm up should prepare the athlete for the workout; bearing this in mind the last minutes of the warm up will be more or less specific to the first training exercises and ultimately blend into the actual workout itself. After the session has started then each different move will be preceded by its own specific but short warm up as the training continues onward.

The general warm up

The runner’s may actually be onto something when they start out on a run-they normally begin at a slower pace than the main portion of the run will be. Any exercise that revs up the cardiovascular system is good except for the time-honored jumping jacks. As mentioned in Thomas Kurz excellent training manual Science of Sports Training, these are contraindicated as a warm up because there is NO technique in any sport that is similar or can be improved by doing these outdated exercises. This activity causes a neurological disorganization in an athlete by causing a regression to an out of sync, homolateral pattern of locomotion resulting in a vague feeling of confusion. Additionally, jumping jacks raise the levels of blood lactate before the main workout and are not a lead in exercise for any lifting technique.

Increased flexibility is a residual effect of the influx of blood into the muscles. Immediately after the aerobic warm up begin with dynamic stretches. Arm and leg rotations to the front, side, rear and in large circles. More leg rotations can be done during this time than arm rotations due to muscle mass involved. Ten to twelve legs compared to five to eight arm rotations. Do as many as necessary to reach full range of motion in any particular direction. Throwers, warming up, would follow a systematic sequence that is specific to the shoulders.

Notice there was no mention of any isometric, relaxed or static stretches before an active workout. Recall the reasons for a warm up:
Improved elasticity of and increased contraction capabilities of the muscles
Reduced reaction times via improved neuromuscular connections and transmissions
Higher breathing efficiencies

The goal is improved performance.

Static stretches tend to relax the joints and decrease potential power output, by some estimates up to 8% and impair the activity of the tendon reflexes. Isometric stretches that are held make an athlete tired while at the same time decreasing coordination abilities. Whereas the passive, relaxed style of stretching has a calming effect on the athlete.

A relaxed, non-optimally coordinated joint and muscle tendon combination is just asking for an injury to happen.

If the temperature is low and the forthcoming activity intense, the warm up must be longer and more intense than if the temperature is high, and the session a low intensity one. Each exercise builds on the previous ones until the final effort has the body ready for the main part of the workout.

The specific warm up

As the warm up nears the end, the movements and intensity must approximate the beginning of the main workout. Just because these final movements may be lighter and not as challenging as the main ones to come does not mean less concentration is needed. Do not get into sloppy habits at any time of these warm ups because you learn what you repeat. So repeat it right each time, every time.

Opposites-A Training Attraction

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

We’ve all heard the saying that opposites attract, well its true, sort of, in the world of strength too. Working both sides of the limb will contribute to greater strength and power outputs and in a safer manner too. Over development of one side causes misalignments, which stretch one muscle as the other one slacks off. Let’s look at this a bit before moving onto some training recommendations.

Each contracting agonist muscle has an opposing muscle called the antagonist. These muscles work in direct opposition to one another to protect the joint from damaging itself during extension or flexion. For example, when tossing a ball the triceps are extending the elbow joint while the biceps are providing a breaking action in the final stages of this extension. If the biceps are not strong enough to control this extension, the joint continues to extend past its normal Range Of Motion (ROM) and hyperextend's. This stretches the ligaments beyond their normal length and in the process places a strain on the tissue. This can be a grade one, which is ever so slight all the way up to a grade four, a full tear or in therapeutic terms a failure.

Oppositional training prevents over development of one side of the joint by consistent load applications to both agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

Here’s a brief look at this type of training:

Neck-these are not ballistic moves

Arch your back as you abdominal brace the midsection and the lower back areas

Bend at the waist until the upper body is parallel to the floor

Place and then hold a light weight on top of your head-it too will be parallel to the floor.

Allow your head to drop towards the floor, continue to hold the weight in place, now raise your head back up in a full range of motion.

Repeat for ten to twenty repetitions

Next exercise

Lay supine (looking up at the ceiling) on a bench 

Place and then hold a light weight on top of your head-it too will be parallel to the floor.

Allow your head to drop towards the floor, continue to hold the weight in place, now raise your head back up in a full range of motion.

Repeat for ten to twenty repetitions

Next exercise

Lay on one side on a bench 

Place and then hold a light weight on the side of your head-it too will be parallel to the floor.

Allow your head to drop towards the floor, continue to hold the weight in place, now raise your head back up in a full range of motion.

Repeat for ten to twenty repetitions

Next exercise

Lay on your other side on a bench 

Place and then hold a light weight on the side of your head-it too will be parallel to the floor.

Allow your head to drop towards the floor, continue to hold the weight in place, now raise your head back up in a full range of motion.

Repeat for ten to twenty repetitions

Shoulders-three to five sets of eight to ten repetitions

Military presses followed by pull downs

Dumbbell military presses followed by *one arm pull downs
*These are performed with a rope or cable that allows great movement in all directions

Chest and upper back-three to five sets of eight to ten repetitions

Bench presses followed by barbell rows

Dumbbell bench presses followed by dumbbell rows

Incline bench presses followed by kneeling pull downs from a high attachment

Dumbbell incline bench presses followed by *double arm pull downs from a high attachment

These are performed with an independent rope or cable that allows great movement in all directions for each hand.

Abdominal region-three sets of twelve repetitions

Curl ups followed by arm and leg extensions

Sit ups with weight followed by back extensions

Arms-two sets of eight to ten repetitions (you have already worked the biceps with the rows and pull downs and the triceps with presses earlier on in the session)

Bicep curls followed by triceps extensions

Lower torso-five sets of six to eight repetitions

Squats followed by Romanian dead lifts


Dead lifts followed by front squats

Lower leg

Calf raises followed by anterior tibia flexion's

Follow these sequences of exercises for three weeks then switch them around by choosing other similar but equally distributed movements to balance the strength and power of your ‘opposite but attracting muscles.

Economy and Training Effort, they are compatible

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Are you being efficient in your training or are you just training for the sake of training? Sometimes its nice to go the gym and do a few things just to put the check on the calendar saying you exercised this day, but if its progress you’re looking for then there are better ways to get it done.

Let’s look at a few parts of your training program and see if you’re being as effective as possible:

1. Schedule
2. Needs
3. Exercises
4. Exercise order
5. Rest periods
6. Volume
7. Intensity
8. Duration


Is your schedule compatible with your daily living pattern or is it constantly being changed to meet the needs of the moment. How effective is this? Not very. Set aside a time each day for yourself for self-improvement in both the physical and mental areas of your life. Doing so often enough will make it a habit and one that is much easier on your body and mind than just exercising when ever, when ever happens to happen. Decide on a time of day that you KNOW you can exercise. Many of us cannot control when our day is over. We may have to work overtime, or pick the kids up at Grandma or Grandpa’s house and then stay longer than planned, fix something around the home that has broken, or go to one of our kids athletic events; you know how it goes. On the other hand, most of us can control when we get up each day.

Early morning exercising sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. It gets the brain and the body working as a ‘unit’. Once the exercise session is over, you feel like taking on the world and more than likely will be able to. And it’s a time you know will always be yours.

Needs analysis

Once the schedule is set up, the next step is to decide what areas to improve in your body. Is it the shoulders, the hamstrings, overall strength or mass increase that you need to improve upon? Maybe it’s being able to run faster over the course of a mile, if so this is not the article to learn that. However, increases in strength allow the limbs to move faster so strength enhancements will make you run faster and longer.

Critically look at your body from all angles, take pictures and closely examine them. Do you like what you see? If not, then actively begin to change it to where you do. Start right now and get going by picking out the exercises that will help make those changes take place.

Hint: Be a strict judge and evaluator of what you see in the photographs-ask a trusted friend or your wife to help out. This is not the time to be thin skinned so don’t get defensive about their comments. Just listen and learn.


In the preceding paragraph, the question was raised about the areas of your body that were not up to par according to YOUR standards. Notice I did not say the ‘rag mag’ standards. Those are absurd and unhealthy. I mean your standards. Now is the time to begin picking out specific exercises that will elicit these positive changes.

For example, if your shoulders are on the small side of the scale then incorporate barbell military presses (with good form) into your exercise program, add weight when appropriate and supplement with deltoid front, side and rear raises. If you need a better balance front to rear on the legs then do Romanian deadlift's, stiff legged dead lifts and Good mornings for the hamstrings. Yeah I hear all of the bitching and moaning about these being hard on the lower back and how they may do this or that somewhere sometime. I am here to tell you this: If done correctly they are excellent exercises to increase both the strength and size of the hamstrings and lower back.

If you are looking to increase your size, then you have to increase your strength. This seems to be a foreign concept to some people but the fact remains that a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle in most cases.

Hint: Lift within your capabilities above the 80% 1RM levels for strength improvements.

Exercise order

Another mistake many make is beginning with the mirror exercises such as the nearly useless bicep curl. Unless you are a grappler or a football lineman then the curls are just a waste of time. Concentrate on the larger groups of, and I almost hate to say the word, as it is so overused today, ‘functional’ muscles (All muscles are functional). I mean the muscles that actually help develop the body in a symmetrical fashion and positively contribute in a meaningful way to improved appearance or sport performance. Large groups include the shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, the abdominal region, and the legs, front and rear, including the calves.

Pick a major movement for each of these muscle groups then add in an accessory exercise for four to five sets of eight to twelve repetitions and make no doubt about it you are set to get strong.

Hint: Do the large muscles first then the smaller ones to avoid fatigue and lack of energy to continue with the larger groups.

Rest periods

Your goal will determine the amount of rest taken between each exercise set. For instance if you are working on gaining maximum strength, in the 75-90% intensity range then the rest periods will be from two to five minutes in duration. The work to rest ratio is figured this way: If you work out for ‘X’ amount of time then your rest period will be ‘X’ amount of time depending on the intensity level. These are determined by the percentage of the 1 RM. The higher on the percentage scale the longer will be the rest period. 

Percentage of power of the 1RM 
Work to rest ratio

2-5 minutes

2-5 minutes
30-75% 1RM
30 seconds-1 ½ minutes
20-35% 1RM
Under 30 seconds

Duration of the exercise session

Keep it under fifty to sixty minutes. Marathon exercise sessions simply mean the intensity is too low, the gabbing is too high or the gym is too crowded. In all of these cases, the answer is CHANGE. 

1. Change the intensity to a higher level at least 80% 1RM and above if strength is the goal-see following section
2. Change the talking to exercising
3. Change gyms

Volume and intensity (For the most part these two are mutually exclusive)

Use one or both of these charts as an aid in planning your workouts. For instance, if strength is your goal then the repetitions will be in the five to eight ranges. Size increases will see repetitions in the nine to twelve brackets with minimal rest between sets.

Muscular Hypertrophy 
Muscular Endurance
Strength and Power
Competition Peaking
Maintenance of continued conditioning
50-75% 1 RM
80-90% 1 RM
87-95% 1 RM
= 93% 1 RM
80-85% 1 RM
3-6 sets
3-5 sets
3-5 sets
1-3 sets
=2-3 sets
10-20 reps
4-8 reps
2-5 reps
1-3 reps
=6-8 reps

Load and repetition recommendations adapted from the National Strength and Conditioning Association Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Baechle, T. R. and Earle, R. W. Human Kinetics, 2000

Supermaximum intensity Maximum intensity Heavy Intensity Medium/sub maximum intensity Low intensity
>105% 1 RM 90-100% 1 RM 80-90% 1 RM 50-80% 1 RM 30-50% 1 RM
1-7 reps     6-12 reps 30-150 reps

Load and repetition recommendations adapted from Serious Strength Training, second edition, Tudor O. Bompa, PhD, Human Kinetics 2003

Each authoritative source cites load based upon the percentages of one repetition and relative to ranges of repetitions, which have been shown to be most favorable to achieving the particular goals of the session. With the exception of the suggested repetitions listed in the ‘hypertrophy’ portion of the NSCA and the ‘low’ of Bompa’s charts both share similarities across the board.

Motor Coordination and Resistance Training

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Motor coordination, in its simplest form is the ‘learning’ reaction of the neuromuscular system to a specific physical activity or a series of activities. Technique plays a big part in sport. In order to have good technique the entire body has to participate in the most effective and efficient manner.

Perfect motor coordination takes time to develop and is directly related to the athletes’ potential. Bear in mind there is a definitive pattern in the development of the neuromuscular systems ability to interact in developing strength that is useable in sport situations. Some, if not most of these are firmly established before the ages of 15-16.

For example, speed development training is most effective in male and female athletes between the ages of 7-10 and then again for the females at 13 to 14 years of age. The same cannot be said of absolute static strength as the training window here is between the ages of 10 and 11 for females and for males, it is from 15-17. This does not mean that after these ages we still can’t make progress, it’s just that the ‘sensitive’ times have passed.

Now I know some of you are saying that strength training is not good for prepubescent children. But, IF the training load, duration and intensities are properly proportioned and the activities closely monitored by a certified strength coach there is NO scientific reason these young people cannot resistance train. In fact, the injuries that have occurred are for the most part taking place during unsupervised training sessions with over the head exercises.

Strength is Crucial to Sports Success

By Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Now there is a statement that leaves a lot to interpretation. Let me clarify. I am speaking specifically of physical sports. Not chess, not card playing but down in the dirt, up on the platform gut wrenching, give it all you’ve got physical sport.

Now that is cleared up, more remains to be said about the physical preparation for the chosen sport. You, as the coach have to put into place a methodically precise method of building up your athlete’s strength. Not all strength training is created equal and not every type is developed at the same time during the year or even during a particular training phase.

Each of us is born with a unique set of physical characteristics that enable us to excel at one thing or another. Strength displays are no different. Some of us will have endurance and some power. Working on your strong areas is not one of the generally agreed upon points of training. Most trainers believe in attending to the weak areas and letting the stronger parts take care of themselves. That seems to be a waste of time. Why concentrate on an attribute that is not going to ever be at the level of development the stronger ones are? Devote the time to your strong suits and they will overpower the weak areas. Developing these to the highest degree does not necessarily ensure success but it certainly helps.

Let me give you an example by using the bench press exercise, a favorite of many gym lifters. If you consider the various phases of the lift, it is clearly obvious it can be broken down into at least three movements or non movements depending on the particular position of the bar. The eccentric or lowering of the bar, the isometric contraction or stop at the chest and the concentric raising of the bar make up the three movements in this lift.

If you are very good at the concentric portion then concentrate on that portion as it will increase your other two positions. Don’t spend a great deal of time on the isometric part at the bottom as strength increases will apply only to a range of a few degrees plus or minus around the joint angle. And the eccentric portion will also be enhanced because of the simple fact that anything you can do concentrically will automatically raise the eccentric portion higher.

Finally, applying the strength to the skill takes time to perfect.

Perfect motor coordination takes time to develop and is directly related to the athletes’ potential. Bear in mind there is a definitive pattern in the development of the neuromuscular systems ability to interact in developing strength that is useable in sport situations. Some, if not most of these are firmly established before the ages of 15-16.

For example, speed development training is most effective in male and female athletes between the ages of 7-10 and then again for the females at 13 to 14 years of age. The same cannot be said of absolute static strength as the training window here is between the ages of 10 and 11 for females and for males, it is from 15-17. This does not mean that after these ages we still can’t make progress, it’s just that the ‘sensitive’ times have passed.

Now I know some of you are saying that strength training is not good for prepubescent children. But, IF the training load, duration and intensities are properly proportioned and the activities closely monitored by a certified strength coach there is NO scientific reason these young people cannot resistance train. In fact, the injuries that have occurred are for the most part taking place during unsupervised training sessions with over the head exercises.

One Repetition Maximum Estimates

By Danny O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

03046 Question from one of Danny O’Dell’s Explosivelyfit Training News Subscribers

Is there a more scientific way to estimate what a reasonable goal would be for increasing 1RMs for each training cycle?


Yes there is and in looking at your estimates you are right in line with the info I have available, in fact, your estimates may be even lower than what you could expect in November, barring injury of course.

1RM = (reps performed) (.033) + 1 (weight lifted in test)
As an example: (3 reps) (.033) = .099 + 1= 1,099 (200 pounds) = 220 pounds the new 1RM.

Here is another method of determining a one rep max.

You must be able to demonstrate correct exercise technique before finding your one rep max to help avoid injury. If in doubt, contact a certified NSCA strength and conditioning professional to work on your exercise form.

Here are a few pretest guidelines to follow:

Pick out a weight that you believe you can correctly handle for three to eight repetitions before failure.

The lower the number of repetitions the more accurate will be the one rep prediction.

Do as many reps as possible while using correct exercise form.

Now follow this formula for the predicted maximum repetition:

1RM = Weight used + 7.425 x Number of repetitions.[1]

How many days a week do you work out
How long are your sessions?
Rest days of lower volume
When are you wearing your gear full or just partial

Some lifters use a different method of figuring out their top weight and it goes similar to this:

Figure your top weight and back off using percentages for the weeks prior to the contest. As an example, if you want to lift 600 pounds in November you would begin your different cycles of training by breaking the year up, as you have already done but in this manner.

The first cycle of training would have you working out at 80% (three to five sets at six to eight reps) of your projected one rep max, the next at 85% (three to five sets at six to eight reps ), followed by 90% (three to five sets at three to five reps) and 95% (three to five sets at three to four reps). 

Maintain your synergistic muscle training through out the phases up until your last peaking phase then gradually start to concentrate fully on the three lifts. This does not mean to eliminate them but begin to really keep an eye on your body signals for any indicator of over training. Things such blood pressure, pulse rate, appetite, colds, sleep, aches and pains, moodiness….

This would take you to your peak phase or competition phase where you would be training multiple times a day with above 95% (one to three sets at one to three reps) up to and including 100% max weights (two sets for one to two reps). These would be short intense sessions lasting no more than 45 to 60 minutes at a time separated by at least 90-120 minutes of rest, mental and physical recuperation to include dietary supplementation-NOT DRUGS.

Resistance Training in Cold Weather

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Resistance training places high internal and external load demands on the human body. It must be physically prepared to meet and exceed these artificially designed stresses. To successfully adapt, conditions within the body must be favorable. Temperature variations, however, can sometimes overpower the metabolic responses of the organism. 

Weight training in an unheated building is the gold standard for hardcore lifting. Anyone can go to an air-conditioned or heated commercial gym to lift, but how many lifters actually look forward to exercising in the ambience of a near freezing outbuilding gym. It separates the serious true strength athlete from the wannabe's.

I am NOT saying a cold environment is a bed of roses, but it can be a strong motivator to keep moving and stay in the correct work-to-rest ratio. Resting is not an option when it is cold. Movement produces heat and heat keeps the body ready for action. Under certain conditions, however, it can be downright dangerous to be out in the cold.

If you develop any chest pains when you exercise in the cold, but not when it's warm outside, see your doctor. The cold air hitting your face constricts the blood vessels; this in turn raises your blood pressure, which makes your heart work harder to pump blood to the body. The heart rate also slows, so less blood reaches the heart. If your heart is working harder, it needs more blood. But the slower heart rate is bringing less blood which results in decreased oxygen supply. Now your heart hurts.

The United States Air Force conducts one of the world's premier Air Crew Survival Schools. The training provided through this school specifically addresses cold weather survival by stating the following in the instructor's manual: 

"Cold is a serious stress source, even in mild degrees it lowers efficiency. Extreme cold numbs the body and dulls the will to do anything except get warm". Cold numbs up the body by lowering the flow of blood to the extremities (we use these in ALL of our exercises) and results in sleepiness". (USAF, 38)

The authors of Exercise Physiology state: "the normal heat transfer gradient is from the body to the environment, and core temperature is generally maintained without physiologic strain. In extreme cold however excessive heat loss can occur, particularly when the person is resting." (Katch, 502)

Resting between sets is normal, especially when working in the 85-95% 1RM range. A recent article by Jason Schniepp, et al.,in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, reported the results of test run on ten well-trained cyclists' and their response to the cold water immersion.

The cyclists, who were exposed to cold water prior to a strength-cycling test, clearly showed the adverse effects the cold temperature had on power output. The cold affected blood flow, metabolism, and the balance of agonist-antagonist muscular activity. "These factors will undoubtedly affect the rate of energy production and muscular efficiency." (Schniepp, p561)

Furthermore, G.M. Ferritti et al.’s work reported in “Effects of temperature on the maximal instantaneous muscular power of humans”, Euro j. Appl. Physiol. 64:112-116. 1992 and cited by Schniepp "demonstrated a temperature-dependent relationship on the rate of Adenosine Triphosphate hydrolysis, as a reduction in ATP resynthesis occurs with a concomitant decrease in the rate of cross bridge detachment. A relatively greater number of cross-bridge attachments have been found in cooler muscles, resulting in an increase in power absorption proportional to the external work required to lengthen the muscle." If ATP is slow in breaking down, power decreases cannot be far behind. 

J.A. Faulker, et al’s report entitled “Muscle temperature of mammals: Cooling impairs most functional properties,” Am. J. Physiol. 28:259-265. 1990, (cited also by Schniepp) suggests, in addition, that:

• "an increase in power absorption by antagonist muscles after muscle cooling may affect coordination, mainly manifesting at faster contraction velocities."
• "results from this study demonstrated a significant condition by trial interaction as maximum power decreased significantly more after cold water immersion than under normal conditions." 
• "in cooler muscles there is an extended time of relaxation that reflects prolongation of cross-bridge attachment and will result in a reduction of cross-bridge cycling. A reduction in muscle temperature may also impair the activation of motor units during a short time interval, possibly because of lower nerve impulse frequency. As a result, coordinated movement may be affected adversely. The body tries to remain at the optimum temperature through a series of internal regulating mechanisms."
• "the thermo regulatory defense against cold is mediated by internal temperature NOT by the body's heat production per se,” according to Katch, et al. "The greatest contribution of muscle to defend against cold occurs during physical activity." (Katch, 503)

Shivering is the body's attempt to heat itself up through muscle action but it stops at core temperatures of 85-90 degrees. Normally a person exercising will not become this cold. If so then something is drastically wrong.

We function best at core temperatures between 96-102 degrees, and exposures to extremes can result in substantial decreases in physical efficiency (USAF 141). Keeping our core in the suggested efficient range can be relatively easy if a few precautions are taken at the outset. Cold temperatures work against your power production in the weight room, unless you are prepared to address the temperature dilemma. Overcoming the cold is possible, but it takes effort and planning. 

Clearly, then, in order to maximize gains in a cold environment, some pre training changes must take place. Knowledge of how and where heat is lost will serve as a beginning point.

The skin and tissues of the body strive to remain at a constant temperature despite the fluctuations of the external temperatures. Regulation is by the circulating blood removing heat from the working cells. This excess energy is transported to the surface of the skin where it is exposed to the environment.

Heat loss occurs in five ways: conduction, convection, evaporation, radiation and respiration. We will concern ourselves only with the conduction, evaporation and respiration of body heat while in the cold weight room. Obviously, respiration will play a role in heat loss if we are breathing heavily during our squats and dead lifts.

Conduction is heat loss through touching body parts on colder surfaces (remember warmth rapidly transfers to the colder area).

Each time you grip the bar, body heat is lost through your hands to the cold bar and every time you lay on the bench you lose body heat as it transfers a portion to the bench.
Evaporation is a form of heat loss that is familiar to all athletes. Internal body heat results in the sweat response, the sweat evaporates and thus heat is removed.

Sweating is a good thing, but if the clothing becomes wet the insulating factor of the clothing decreases by about 90%. This is not good if you are trying to stay warm during sets.

You should remember to drink fluids regularly as dehydration adversely affects the ability to regulate body heat and it increases the risk of frostbite. Avoid alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine as they have a tendency to dehydrate the body. Dehydration brings fatigue.

According to Katch, et al. (505), radiation of heat accounts for approximately 65% of the total heat loss. Heat is lost rapidly from an uncovered head. The head, neck, hands, armpits, groin and feet all lose heat due to the close proximity of the blood vessels to the surface of the skin. The head being about "8% of the total body surface can lose as much as 30-40%" of the total heat loss." 

This is a substantial amount of heat loss, and if we are to continue to exercise in an effective manner, it must be stopped. Clothing is one line of defense against the cold. Clothing, however, derives its insulation from the dead air that surrounds each fiber, so adding more layers of clothing adds more dead air space around your body. The clothing keeps the dead air close to the skin and prevents it from circulating away. "The thicker the zone of trapped air next to the skin, the more effective the insulation." (Katch, 505)

"Likewise, clothing next to the skin must also be effective in transporting moisture (wicking action) away from the body's surface to the next insulating material layer for evaporation." Polypropylene, a synthetic that insulates and dries quickly, can be very effective in this capacity.
Good workout clothing should "match the weather" and it should "provide a semitropical micro climate for the body and prevent chilling." (Arnheim, 304)

The covering should be of a synthetic fabric such as polyester, which is lightweight, dries easily and retains its insulating properties even when wet. The fabric should also breathe, i.e., if you sweat, it should allow the water vapors to escape and not be trapped next to your skin. "If the water vapor cannot evaporate through the clothing it will condense, freeze and reduce the insulation value of the clothing and cause the body temperature to go down." (USAF, 142) 

As a side note, the old woods saying of "cotton kills" is accurate in the weight room as well. When cotton gets wet it loses all of its insulating qualities and remains wet for a long time. Once a piece of clothing becomes wet, especially cotton, heat is transferred outwardly at 25 times its normal rate. (USAF, 143) Wet clothing "actually facilitates heat loss from the body because water conducts heat much faster than air." (Katch, 505)

Take care to layer your workout clothing. This gives you a chance to regulate the heat by removing some but not all as you warm up during the session. It's even better to have a button or zipper at the top to allow for a stove pipe effect. A stovepipe effect means you open the top part and allow the air to circulate from the bottom of the garment to escape out the unbuttoned or unzipped top portion.

Naturally, good shoes are essential components of lifting gear. You should not go out to lift in the cold with sandals or tennis shoes. Protect your toes and feet by wearing the appropriate footwear.

A danger in working out in an unheated room for an extended time comes from exposure to the cold. Frostbite, frost nip and the extreme, hypothermia, can result if care is not taken to prevent their onset. Prevention of this is essential. Keeping the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, hands and fingers adequately covered and warm will in most cases prevent frostbite and frost nip.

Also be on the alert for symptoms of Hypothermia, a dangerous lowering of the core temperature, which creeps up on a person. Confusion, lack of coordination, and slurred speech are just a few of the symptoms to be aware of when in the cold for a long time. Immediate warming up is needed in the early stage of hypothermia. If advanced stage symptoms are present then PROMPT and CORRECT MEDICAL TREATMENT IS REQUIRED.

Now you have learned a few of the problems of cold weather exercising it is time to take advantage of the situation. A solid warm-up is an absolute. A warm up prepares the body for the upcoming activity by loosening the muscles, moving the blood faster, and increasing the breathing rate.
Daniel D. Arnheim states in his book Modern Principles of Athletic Training on page 303

"An athlete may fail to warm up sufficiently or may become chilled because of relative inactivity for varying periods of time demanded by the particular sport either during competition of training: consequently the athlete is exceedingly prone to injury." 

Another danger to be aware of is that "peripheral vasoconstriction during cold weather predisposes the extremities to cold injury, the temperature of the skin and extremities may fall to dangerous levels. Early signs include tingling and numbness in the fingers/toes, or a burning sensation of the ears/nose. If these sign are not heeded frostbite may occur." (Katch, 521)

Even though you have more than likely just left your nice warm home to go outside, you still have to warm up your muscles prior to working out. Begin by making circles with your arms and legs, ever widening circles until the outer ranges of motion are reached. These are not ballistic moves, they are dynamic in nature.

Next, do some light cardiovascular work to get the heart rate up into the working zone. 5-10 minutes depending on the temperature; the colder it is the longer this portion needs to be in order to get physically ready to workout. Exercise selection will also dictate the length and time spent in the warm up. If larger muscles are being worked, then a longer time will be required to warm them up.

Move on to the movement specific activity, i.e., if you are squatting then do a few free body weight squats. Add a bit of weight to the bar and do a few more squats. Continue in this fashion until you are thoroughly warmed up. (But don't do the routine in the warm-up.) Now you should be ready to hit the heavy weights to begin your workout routine. 

Summary: the cold weather triad of cold temperatures, heat loss, and an inadequate warm-up are invitations to injury if left unheeded.

• Warm up thoroughly before attacking the heavy weights.
• Protect yourself when lifting in a cold weight room by wearing and layering quality-insulated clothing that breathes as you perspire. 
• Cover your head and prevent heat loss where possible.
• Pay attention to the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. 
PS: Keep this in mind as you lift in the cold. There are no mosquitoes around are there? The flies are non-existent and the fan is not making noise as it blows the summer hot air around. 
Training just does not get any better than this. Lift strong. 
References Cited:
Arnheim, Daniel D. Modern Principles of Athletic Training. Mirror/Mosby. 1989: 303-4. 
Houston, Charles, S., M.D. Merck Manual of Medical Information. Simon and Schuster. 1997:1345-7.
Katch, F.I, V.L. Katch, and W.D. McArdle. Exercise Physiology. Lippincott. 1996 (4th ed.): 351, 502-3, 505-21.
Michele, Lyle, J. The Sports Medicine Bible. Harper Collins. 
Schneipp, Jason, Terry S. Campbell, Kasey L. Lincoln Powell, and Danny M. Pincivero. “The Effects of Cold-water Immersion on Power Output and Heart rate on Elite Cyclists.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 16 (Nov. 2002): 561
Search and Rescue Survival Training. Department of the Air Force, USAF. 1985. (Currently in use at the Survival School)

Are you at Risk for Hyponatremia?

For a long time we have been told to drink, drink and drink more fluids to keep us well hydrated. Well it just so happens you can, in fact, drink too much!

Pronounced hi”po-nah-tre’me-ah, it means a deficiency of sodium in the blood or salt depletion. Put more medically it “is a disorder in fluid-electrolyte balance that results in abnormally low plasma sodium concentration”. Although rare, this can be a lethal condition if left medically untreated.

If you are a “salty sweater” and are a small framed, light-bodied individual, you may be at risk before your heavier partners. A small body means it takes less fluid to dilute the extra cellular fluid. Losses of a large amount of sweat and/or salty sweat increase the rate of sodium loss in the body. Add in the extra water without sodium and the stage is set.

Drinking too much before and during prolonged exertions in a hot, humid environment contributes to the condition. Hyponatremia is a situation whereby blood concentrations of sodium fall to an abnormally low level. This precipitates a rapid and dangerous swelling of the brain that in severe cases leads to seizures, coma and finally death. The way it does it is in this manner:

“A sustained decrease in plasma sodium concentration disrupts the osmotic balance across the blood brain barrier, resulting in a rapid influx of water into the brain. This causes brain swelling and a cascade of increasingly severe neurological responses (confusion, seizure, and coma) that can culminate in death from rupture of the brain stem. The faster and lower the blood sodium falls, the greater the risk of life threatening consequences”.

Symptoms of non-fatal hyponatremia may include no symptoms or relatively moderate gastrointestinal disturbances such as bloating or mild nausea.

As Hyponatremia progresses, the symptoms become more severe and may include a throbbing headache, vomiting, wheezy breathing, swollen hands and feet, restlessness, unusual fatigue, confusion and disorientation.

The final stages of the condition will display seizures, respiratory arrest, coma, permanent brain damage, and death becomes more likely.

The main cause of hyponatremia is too much fluid in the system. However, it can also result from excessive sweating and dehydration from the lack of fluid. The mechanism of injury in both cases is an unbalanced state of the sodium in the system.

This risk can be reduced by making certain that fluid intake does not surpass the sweat loss and by the ingestion of fluids containing sodium to replace that lost in the sweat. (Reference 1)

Suggestions for avoiding potential dehydration/hyponatremia problems

• Water at 5 Degrees Celsius is most useful in recovery from a dehydrated state. In large quantities, fluid at 15-21 degrees Celsius is normally preferred. (page 810 reference #2)
• Encourage the ingestion of 13-20 ounces of cold fluids 20 minutes before suiting up and some of these dangers can be avoided.(page 510 reference #2) 
• Drink fluids at the same rate they are being depleted or at least close to 80% of the sweating rate.(Page 77 reference #2) 
• A good rule of thumb to follow is that one pound of weight loss represents a loss of one pint of body fluid. This fluid needs to be replaced quickly to move it from the digestive track into the body where it is needed. Gulp instead of sip.

1. Sports Science Exchange by Bob Murray and John Stofan 2003

2. Exercise Physiology by William D Cradle, Frank I. Ketch, and Victor L Ketch. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. © 1996

Introduction to Rotator Cuff Injuries

By Danny ’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D

The more you regularly exercise, the more you are exposed to an injury of these four small muscles of the shoulder. In addition to the training demands, they are pulled, stretched and in general abused by normal daily living activities. As we get older, the chronic abuse begins to catch up to us as the shoulder tightens up, and then becomes sore to use leaving pain as a result. Most injuries are preventable, if correctly managed in the first place.

Some of the problems are chronic degeneration of the joint, calcium deposits, tears in the muscles or tendons, impingements (one body structure impinging on another), muscle imbalances, biomechanical dysfunctional shoulder and many others including fibrosis and sports injury. These can be serious problems affecting training and daily living long term.

A rotator cuff injury has the potential of setting your training program back A LONG TIME. The best way to avoid having surgery or incurring damage is to understand what these four muscles do in the shoulder.

The rotator cuff muscles are like a steering wheel, they steer your Humerus bone into the shallow shoulder socket. The rotators stabilize the shoulder and help to rotate the arm in the process. They are small muscles and consequently do not require heavy weight to properly exercise them. Since they are used consistently, the best approach is to develop their muscular endurance capabilities. This is best accomplished with high repetitions and lightweight progression programs. You will not need weight loads in excess of 5-10 pounds in most cases.

A Comprehensive Approach to Shoulder Training is an excellent resource for increasing the strength in this highly vulnerable area of your upper torso.

Elastic tubes and bands provide both the concentric and eccentric forces necessary to the adaptation processes of endurance and strength. The advantage of these tools is the movement patterns can be anywhere you choose them to be. If you decide to move your arm to the side, then up and across your body you can do so with bands. Moreover, the constant force is always pulling on your muscles forcing them to become stronger in both directions.

An excellent book entitled “The Scientific and Clinical Application of Elastic Resistance” by Phillip Page and Todd S. Becker is devoted to the use of elastic resistance devices. This book is available through Human Kinetics at:http://www.humankinetics.com 

If you do decide to use elastic resistance, then a few precautionary notes on the use of the rubber tubing or rubber bands are now in order.

• Avoid using the bands or tubing if you have long fingernails.
• Take off your jewelry, or other sharp things you may have on your body.
• Always check the condition of the tubing and bands before every use, Check for tears, abrasions, and wear. Replace if any of these conditions are noted. These implements can be very dangerous if left to decay. At the stretched out position, if they break, they can come flying back in a violent manner causing injury to you.
• Always check the connections at the points of attachment before using the tubing or bands
• Wear good eye protection while using the tubing or bands.
• Do not stretch the tubing or bands more than 300% longer than their normal resting length to help prevent them from breaking.

Rotator Cuff Injuries by Brad Walker

Part one
Brad is our resident stretching authority; The Explosivelyfit Training News is fortunate to have Brad’s high caliber of expertise join us in the various editions each month. He an Australian exercise scientist and sports trainer who has written an excellent stretching manual aptly titled The Stretching Handbook. He then went one-step further and released a companion video to augment the book. Click here to purchase.

Frozen Shoulder & Rotator Cuff Injury: A Guide for the Treatment & Prevention of Shoulder Injuries!

Have you ever been working out at the gym, pushing a heavy weight and heard a popping sound in your shoulder? Or what about skiing down the slopes, and landing shoulder first in the snow at the bottom. Alternatively, maybe just having a friendly game of tennis, when all of a sudden there's a sharp pain in your shoulder.

These are all signs of the same thing, a shoulder injury. Whether you want to call it a frozen shoulder, a rotator cuff tear or tendonitis shoulder, it is really all the same. A tear or strain in the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.

The shoulder joint is a truly remarkable creation. It's quite a complex formation of bones, muscles and tendons and provides a great range of motion for your arm. The only downside to this extensive range of motion is a lack of stability, which can make the shoulder joint vulnerable to injury.

Lets have a quick look at the shoulder joint in a little more detail. The shoulder is made up of three bones, and the tendons of four muscles. (Remember, tendons attach muscle to bone.) The bones are called the "Scapula," the "Humerus" and the "Clavicle." Or, in non-technical language, the shoulder blade, the upper arm bone and the collarbone, respectively.

The four muscles which make up the shoulder joint are called, the "Supraspinatus," the "Infraspinatus," the "Teres Minor" and the "Subscapularis." It is the tendons of these muscles, which connect to the bones, which help to move your arm.

In the picture to, three of the four muscles are visible, the Supraspinatus, the Infraspinatus and the teres minor. These are the muscles, which are viewed from the rear, or posterior. The Subscapularis is not visible because it can only be viewed from the front, or anterior and this particular view only shows the muscles from the rear, is if looking at someone's back.

There are two major causes of most shoulder injuries. The first being degeneration, or general wear and tear. Unfortunately, the shoulder is a tendinous area that receives very little blood supply. The tendons of the rotator cuff muscles receive very little oxygen and nutrients from blood supply, and as a result are especially vulnerable to degeneration with aging. This is why shoulder problems in the elderly are common. This lack of blood supply is also the reason why a shoulder injury can take quite a lot of time to heal.

The second cause of most shoulder injuries is due to excessive force, or simply putting too much strain on the tendons of the shoulder muscles. This usually occurs when you try to lift something that is too heavy or when a force is applied to the arm while it's in an unusual or awkward position.

There are two common symptoms of a shoulder injury, pain and weakness. Pain is not always felt when a shoulder injury occurs, however most people who do feel pain, report that it's a very vague pain that can be hard to pinpoint.

Weakness, on the other hand, seems to be the most reliable symptom of a shoulder injury. Common complaints include an inability to raise your arm above your head or to extend your arm directly to the side or in front. In most cases, the larger the tear or damage to the tendons, the harder it is to move your arm and the injured area.

Remember the acronym RICER after an injury. Rest, Ice Compression, Elevate and Refer.

VO2 Max Formula

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Interested in what your VO2 Max may be?

Here is a quick method to find out without using high priced equipment. It is equated to how far you are able to run in 12 minutes. K. H. Cooper, of the famed Cooper Institute came up with this equation for aerobic fitness. 

The protocol is to warm up efficiently as it will be a maximum effort. Warm up and run on a level course. The course selected should have markings in meters so you know how far you have gone at the conclusion.

The equation:
VO2 max= 33 + 0.17 (x-133)
X is the distance (in meters) covered in one minute

From Science of Sports Training by Thomas Kurz published by Stadion Publishing Company Island Pond, VT.

Get fit for fall summertime exercises

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Gather two or more (an even number) of milk jugs with handles. Measure up the sides and mark every inch to the top of the container. Fill one with water to the first mark and weigh it. Mark the weight next to the particular inch mark. Continue to add water and weigh until the jug is filled. At each mark place the accumulated weight total on the side of the jug.

As usual, check with your health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

Begin with a warm-up. This can be as simple as walking quickly through the house or yard. It is a means to get the blood flowing a bit faster and more efficiently, it loosens up the joints and in general prepares the body for the upcoming physical activity.

Move your joints around in a circular motion, step a bit higher than normal, and lift your arms out to the sides and up and down.

Begin to move your head around in circles and up and down forward and backward. This leads us to the first of the exercises.

Exercise protocol

Do the following exercises 10-15 times each beginning with one set and moving up to 4-5 sets at the end of the cycle. This generally will be in three to four weeks of steady progress. If you do one set the first day, try three the next day and then back to two on the following day. Every single day you exercise, the pattern should be different from the previous day. It is not necessary to vary all the exercise sets and reps but something in the day’s session should be changed from the last one.

Follow the wave pattern, nothing is the same, something will always change in your exercise schedule. Hand position, foot position, repetition count, set number, leaning forward, backward or off to the side. If you have back problems lay off the rotations, forward to backward and side movements.

Do what ever you have to do to make the body adjust to the new conditions imposed upon it for the exercise you chose to do at the time. Obviously, this does not mean to do anything dangerous. You still have to use the brain given to each of us in an appropriate manner.

Rotations (circumduction)-move in circles small and large, clockwise and counter clock wise, figure eights forward and backward in the circle patterns. Add resistance by holding onto a part of the head and moving against it. Apply only enough to provide added resistance to the movement. Do not force or wrench the head around. To achieve an adaptation the muscles require only enough extra resistance to make the muscles work harder than normal to support and move the head. Adaptation, not injury is the goal.
Full extensions with the head moving towards the chest and up towards the sky
Full flexion's with the head moving towards the chest

Chest and Shoulders-Push ups

Get on your hands and knees. Keep both about shoulder width apart on the floor. Move your body to a stance where the arms are supporting the upper body and pivoting on the knees at the back. Lower your upper body to the floor by bending at the elbows. Go down until your chest is within 2-3 inches of the floor then extend your arms and push yourself back up again.

Lay on your stomach. Place your arms and legs wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your entire body straight as you extend your arms and push your upper body off the floor while pivoting on your toes. Your buttocks should not sag nor rise to any appreciable amount. Again, as in the basic move, lower your upper body to within 2-3 inches of the floor and come back up.

Begin in the prone position, i.e. stomach on the floor. Place your hands within 2-3 inches of one another under your chest. Do the same with your feet, they should be very close together as well.

Super advanced position
Begin in the prone position, i.e. stomach on the floor. Place your hands within 2-3 inches of one another under your chest. Do the same with your feet, they should be very close together as well. However, the feet should now be on a sturdy chair or the couch. They are positioned higher then the shoulders to start out the exercise. They can even be placed one or two steps above your head on the stairs in your home.

Attach a firm piece of rope to the handles of the milk container. Configure the rope into a loop so you can hold it in your hand. Do the same for the second container. Now fill the container up to the first mark and put the cap back on it.

Bicep curl: Hold a container in each hand near the front side of your thighs. In an easy motion bend at your elbow and lift the jug to up to the front part of your shoulders. Now lower back down for one repetition.

Triceps extension: Hold onto one milk container, move it over the top of your head to where it is hanging behind your head near the top of your rear shoulder area. Your elbows should be pointing to the ceiling in this position. From here, straighten out your arms until they are straight up and reaching to the ceiling. Lower back down for one repetition.

Back and abdominal's.

Good mornings: Stand upright and hold the container next to your chest. Bend forward at the hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Straighten back up for one count. This is not a ballistic move so take your time. If you have any back injuries, it is probably best you not do this particular one.

Seated leg raises: set on sturdy chair and lean back setting on your hands. Now raise your legs out to the front and then back again for one count. It is almost like pedaling a bicycle.

Crunches: Lay on the floor with your feet and lower legs up on the couch cushions. Your buttocks should be next to the bottom of the couch. Raise your upper back and shoulders off the floor about 3-5 inches hold for a moment and lower back down for one count.

Legs-squats. Practice doing these in a full range of motion by going all the way down and all the way back up again. Go to a position where your knee joints are above your hip joint at the bottom range. In other words, set back on your calves if possible.

Watch a small child as they squat to grab a toy off the floor. Their feet are about shoulder width or wider. They begin the move with their hips moving backwards. Their little lower legs are nearly straight up and down to the floor. And, their backs are nearly vertical to the floor.

Basic: Standing tall, now sit back onto a sturdy kitchen style chair. Start the move with your hips moving backwards before starting to bend at the knees. Remember how the child squats. If you can replicate this move, you are on your way to a perfect squat. Once on the chair relax your legs but keep your back muscles tight. Stand up for one count.

Intermediate: Hold one or more milk containers in your hands. They can be up near your shoulders or near your thighs, wherever you feel the most comfortable holding them. Set back onto the chair as in the basic move. Again, keep your back solid and relax your legs at the bottom position where you are actually sitting on the seat of the chair.

Advanced: Hold the milk containers over your head and do the squats. Keep your back solid as you do these.

Standing: Hold onto the containers and rise up on your toes.
Seated: Set on a chair with the containers on your knees, push with your toes and raise your heels off the floor.

Cool down by walking around a bit, move your shoulders and arms around in circles and do the same with your legs. Get your pulse back to near normal then do a few stretches to end the session

Five Facts About Flexibility and Stretching

1. Maintaining your Range of Motion is important, as it appears to reduce the potential for injury. An adequate ROM will enhance your ability to do certain physical and sports related activities.

2. The best time to stretch is immediately after the warm up as the blood flow and temperature in the muscles is highest. This makes them more elastic and in a better condition to be stretched. However, this is NOT the time to stretch if you are about to participate in a power sport, i.e. sprints, pole vaults, throwing movements or weight lifting. Stretching before these types of activities reduces the power output by as much as 8%!

3. One of the key facts to maximizing flexibility is the amount of repetitions performed each time. The magic number seems to be no less than two up to about six per position. Hold to the point of mild discomfort for 10-30 seconds. The time has not been universally agreed upon.

4. The order in which you exercise matters. Stretch the major muscles first. From these move to the specific muscles that will be involved in the upcoming activity.

5. Isolate the muscles to help eliminate any compromises in your efforts. By concentrating on specific muscles, you also lessen your risk of injury.

Blood Pressure Basics

The effects of exercise on blood pressure

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

High blood pressure is the direct cause of thousands of needless deaths a year. Here are just a few of the facts about hypertension.

Dr. Laura Svetkey, director of the Duke Hypertension Center at Duke University states. “Americans can keep blood pressure low if they: keep trim, exercise, cut back on saturated fats, limit alcohol and sodium, increase dietary potassium and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables”. http://www.bupa.co.uk/

There are positive, and negative, effects on our blood pressure when we exercise or exert ourselves physically and/or mentally.

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. One in FIVE Americans has Hypertension. Many do not even know they have it, thus the term “the silent killer” It is not uncommon for young people to have hypertension.

Blood pressure is measured by stopping the blood flow for a few seconds and then beginning again. The amount of pressure the monitor detects accurately reflects the resistance your heart is pushing against each time it beats. The monitor works in the following fashion:

The arm cuff is placed on the upper arm or forearm. The brachial artery is then pinched off to stop the flow of blood. The circulation is briefly cut off, then the air is let out of the cuff. The first heartbeat heard is the Systolic and the last one heard is the Diastolic.

Systolic pressure is the upper number in the formula 

When the heart contracts to pump out the blood. Pressure is highest during this phase of the process

Diastolic pressure is the lower number.

The heart relaxes after pumping. Pressure drops to its lowest point just before a new beat.


Previously pressure readings below 130/85 were considered normal.
Previously readings above 130-139 over 85-89 were considered to be in the high normal range.

Statistics for your information:

878,421 people died if cardiovascular disease and stroke in 2000. Or one in CVD for every 313 Americans who died.

90% of 55 year olds will develop hypertension in their lifetime.

50 million Americans have Hypertension, one out or every five of us!

The higher the blood pressure the higher the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.

In adults over 50 systolic numbers over 140 is an important number to stay below.

Optimal: under 120 under 80

See a doctor for any of the following:
Pre-hypertensive: 120/39-80-89
140-159 or 90-99
160-179 or 100-109
180-209 or 110-119
210 or more 120 or more

Signs of hypertension:
Nausea or upset stomach
Vision changes or problems
Excessive sweating
Paleness or redness of the skin
Anxiety or nervousness
Ringing or buzzing in the ears

Lack of Exercise
Weight control
Loud, consistent noises

High blood pressure causes:
Death from stroke 
Coronary events 
Heart failure 
Slows progression of renal failure 
Prevents progression to more severe hypertension 
Reduces all-cause mortality

Mitigating measures:
Reduce sodium intake
Maintain adequate intake of potassium
Follow the DASH diet 
Maintain adequate intake of calcium and magnesium
Reduce dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol
Smoking-cut back or stop
Weight control-get within normal range

Diet-follow doctors advise

Stressors-eliminate or mitigate 
Alcohol-cut back 
Loud, consistent noises-protect yourself

Exercise methods used to control or reduce high blood pressure


Resistance training
Muscular endurance
Rapid quick sessions
W:R of 1:1

Cardio training
5-7 times per week
20-40 minutes per session
40%-70% @ maximum heart rate
5-7 times per week
10 minute bursts
Total time-30-45 minutes
40%-70% @ maximum heart rate

"Losing 10 pounds will help remarkably" "If you don't have time for physical activity, you will find time for illness." Dr. Edward J. Roccella, coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program.

Muscular hypertrophy

Daniel Pare CSO, NCCP, prominent strength coach and owner of the St. Thomas Strength and Athletics gym located in St. Thomas, Canada very clearly explains the differences. Daniel, is the editor and chief of the packed monthly magazine. For more on how to get a subscription the address is after the article.

My appreciation goes out to Daniel for the information he presents in the following paragraphs.

Before we get on the way, I would like to extend my gratitude and sincerest thanks to Mr. Danny O’Dell M. A., C.S.C.S. *D, for the opportunity presented to me. I sincerely hope that the information you are about to read will be of any help to you. Strength training has become a very popular approach to training, but it still a very misunderstood concept. Should kids train to become bigger or stronger? Before we go into details let’s review some basic facts.

There are two kinds of muscular hypertrophy.

1) Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the increase in size of the muscle or bodybuilding-type training. The common approach with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is higher repetition sets. An example would be sets of 3 x 10. Such an approach to training will indeed produce a muscular pump, therefore, an increase in size of the muscle. This approach to training does not relate to strength training, but to a bodybuilding-type approach.
2) Myofibril hypertrophy is synonymous to the increase in strength of the same muscle. Here the athlete will train towards strengthening the muscles and the approach will be using lower repetition sets (3 to 5) and to more extent, the exercises are multiple joint exercises and they are performed more dynamically. With this kind of approach, the athlete should not expect so much of a muscular pump, but instead an increase in balance, agility, strength and speed; all of which are essential to sports performance and or daily life activities.

*Daniel Pare, Strength Coach

Mechanically wrong
By: Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.

Good day to all. On my last article I referred to two kinds of muscular hypertrophy; sarcoplasmic and myofibril. The following article helps define what kind of training approach is needed to overcome, what I classify as ‘Mechanically Wrong’.

Why is it that one day you get up and your shoulder is aching (chosen joint for this article)? You did not injure yourself training and you know it, so what happened? Would it structural or muscular? We all need to realize that range of motion or flexibility with proper mechanics of the joints go a long way. How many reps are you doing per set? Would it be 8, 10…15? Here is what I have been observing over time, one single muscle group or an open kinetic chain exercise (the shoulder), is likely unlikely to sustain that amount of work per exercise, let alone for several exercises per session.

Become a good observer
For most trainees, regardless of their age and gender, the high repetition sets (8 and above) are just too much. I have actually run some in-house studies and here are my observations.

1) The shoulder press. A little while ago a 14 years old male joined my strength training facility and, on one occasion, I asked him to do standing shoulder barbell press behind the neck. He did 10 reps. As I am observing his form, I noticed that one of his shoulders was loosing stability after 5 repetitions. I asked him to sit down and I proceeded to test the subclavius. I noticed that it was not strong enough to hold tension. I gave him a little rest and we went back to set of 5 reps. I did the same test to realize that I just could not budge his arm. Let me remind you that the bar used in this scenario was not a full size Olympic bar (20 Kg), but a junior Olympic bar (5 Kg).

2) The bench-press. One day, one of my athletes was doing bench-press with 80 Kg on the bar. I looked at his form to realize very quickly that he could not keep sturdy shoulders after the 5th rep. I realized that his shoulder started to shift at around 4 reps then, the bar ended up over his eyes on the 8th rep and eventually, by the 10th reps he was trying to gain momentum by bouncing the bar off his chest. After his set of “12 reps” I asked his to sit down and I proceeded to test the infraspinatus to realize that it could not hold at all. I asked him to rest a few minutes then, I told him that I would tell him when to stop. This time I noticed that his shoulders were not doing their job after 2 reps. Since it was not doing anything beneficial I advised he only do 2 reps. He was not too sure about that and he was skeptical. I asked him to focus on sets of 2 reps for a little while. He was not too sure and quite scared I might ad. He persevered and within 3 weeks he was able to bench press 100 Kg for 5 sets for 5 reps and each set was closely monitored (testing).

3) This last one involves an Olympic weightlifter. Are you familiar with the snatch lift? The snatch is the one-motion lift and it is the Most Explosive Athletic Movement in Sport. On that particular training day, one of my athletes was not able to hold the bar above his head in the squat position. After watching him do the snatch I quickly realized that his left shoulder was collapsing under the bar. I asked him to sit down, so I could proceed with some testing. I found out that he had a weak infraspinatus, weak middle trapezius and weak rear deltoid. Interesting! That particular athlete was able to train, but could not lift what he wanted to do. After working on strengthening the muscles above-mentioned (he saw a Registered Massage Therapist RMT for part of the process) he was able to resume heavier training sessions very rapidly.

Whether you are doing barbell curl, triceps push down, lat pull down, squats… the same protocol should apply. If your idea is to focus on high repetition sets, make sure that you are paying close attention to form and technique. When the bar starts to go through a different groove and it starts moving unevenly, something is not right. By not paying close attention to proper form and technique, you will develop very poor function of that joint, this in turn will create pain, which may end up in more severe consequences. 
Unless you are warming up, you should focus on a more productive approach being 5 reps per set(s).

“There is no way you can remain productive and get substantial lasting results, if you keep training at the level where everything becomes weak! You just can’t win. It is likely the reason why most trainees do not succeed in their quest to succeed”.

Daniel Pare Strength Coach

St. Thomas Ontario Canada

Motor recruitment

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

The size principle states that slow fatigue resistant motor units are recruited first. This theory serves to demonstrate the relationship between the motor unit twitch force and the recruitment threshold of the fibers.

For example these first muscle fibers are not able to sustain a lasting power output and give out rapidly. They do not have the ability to produce great force. Thus after lifting a certain number of repetitions the original fibers are fatigued and not producing the necessary force to continue. New fibers are then called upon to lift the weight. These new fibers are faster and much more powerful but also fatigue much quicker than the original fibers. These soon become exhausted and of limited use in the lifting process. But the advantage of this recruitment process is the majority of the muscles’ fibers have contributed all they can to the lift.

In other words the fibers have all been exhausted and will have to repair the damage caused by the lift in order to become stronger and better able to tolerate the resistance. The next time this load is placed upon them, they will have accommodated and grown stronger.

Training hint:
Training in such a manner as to inhibit the weaker fibers and going straight to the fast acting powerful ones is the key to instant and explosive force and power. Conditioning the CNS to bypass the non-power fibers occurs in some of the elite strength athletes. This takes the body a long time to make this adaptation and requires a deep dedication to the strength sport-more so than many people have at the lower levels of participation.

Specificity of training

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A.CSCS*D 

Specificity of training is the holy grail of all sports coaches. Without specificity, the sessions are for naught. Most every coach and athlete knows that resistance training increases muscle mass and strength. And that endurance training increases positive changes in aerobic capabilities.

Described another way, specificity simply means a transfer of training effect to the sport or activity being trained for in the first place. But just why is this transfer so important? Because of the positive results on the playing field, that’s why.

Standard deviations of measurement indicate the crossover effect of properly designed specificity training regimens to be dependent upon movement velocity, joint angle, and production of force amongst others. These must mimic the actual sport conditions in the areas previously mentioned.

Specificity in your training program plans

Training is supposed to elicit positive changes in performance, if not then it is a waste of time. Training for strength will not involve running long distances and long distance runners will not engage in predominately high intensity low repetition strength training. If you want to get strong you have to lift heavy, if you want to run a long ways then you have to run a long ways in your training. This is the key concept of specificity. Emphasize what your goals are in your training by selecting the exercises and methods of exercise that will effectively, efficiently and readily transfer to the platform. What would be the reason to train in a manner that wouldn’t affect the outcome of your performance in the sport? There isn’t any, so why do it?

In the old days training for a sport meant training in ‘the sport’ itself. It didn’t take long to learn that was an inefficient way of training. Endurance, technique, flexibility, power and strength all contribute to success. Thus the multi-layered program evolved and with it came the accessory exercises that built the fortress of power to an even grater degree than was thought possible before these training methodologies came into existence.

Just what exercises do you need to chose that will effectively transfer to the sport? Certainly not just any thing that you happened to glance at in a magazine or hear about from a trainer.

Multi joint exercises that engage the major muscle groups of the body are a great starting point. After the multi joint movements are completed then a change of direction to sport relevant moves that are similar in nature to the actual sport movement patterns. These auxiliary exercises in order to be transferable must share the same force, time and distance requirements as show up during the contest. This transfer unit of performance, as it is called, will be expressed in a standard deviation from this formula:

Result gain= gain of performance divided by Standard of deviation

For example, take a group of non-training eighteen year old, 200 pound males squatting two hundred pounds with an average plus or minus twenty standard deviation. Compare them to another two hundred pound lifter who has trained and who then exceeds this standard by squatting two hundred and fifty pounds. Because of his training, he has experienced a 2.5 standard deviation positive training effect.

Completing this equation for all of the auxiliary exercises and then plugging the results into this formula will identify the effectiveness of the training scheme.

Transfer=Result gained from non trained exercise divided by Result gain in trained exercise.

The higher the number or ratio the greater the transfer of relevant training results. This is simple and straight forward. The problem lies in setting up the parameters so they actually mean something in the end. As an example, you would not compare a body builder to a power lifter because the end goals are so vastly different. Instead, you will compare a powerlifter to another powerlifter.

There are many associations with a tremendous set of records that can be looked at and used as the standard deviation numbers for all the different classes of lifters in the three lifts. Training log comparisons of exercises could be compared to results in a contest to see if the training was transferring to the platform.

Individualization of training

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Everyone is different and the same training program will not work for everyone. It is ludicrous to set up a professional, college or experienced athletes’ routine for a novice strength athlete. Yet this occurs in countless High Schools and colleges worldwide every single day.

If the coaches would take the underlying principles of the program and make the necessary modifications to fit their athletes then positive adaptive progressions would be the result. These principles should be creatively applied, not cookie cutter applied straight across the board, but correctly applied to the age and training experience of the individual.

Average routines are for those with average training backgrounds, not those with training experience. These veteran individuals need special treatment in their program design. Routines are best made with the end result constantly kept at the forefront. With the athletes needs kept in the forefront and the two meshed together so the sum is greater than either part.

Synergy of action, transference of training, hard work and fun all combine to produce a positive training effect on the athlete.

Individualization and summary

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

The world is made up of individuals. That is more than evident as we look around us. It is also a fact that each one of us reacts differently and in our own distinct fashion to the training we receive. Some may derive a great deal of benefit from doing a certain exercise is a specific manner while a second person doing the exact same thing gets zilch from it.

This is demonstrated daily in nearly every gym across the world as young lifters try to follow the routines set out in the ‘muscle building’ magazines. Unless you are taking massive amounts of steroids these routines WILL NOT WORK! There is too much volume, too much of the same movement and too little rest between. These routines are accidents waiting to happen for the natural lifter.

However there is something to be said about these types of programs and that is take the ideas of the various exercises, rest periods and volumes and customize it to your own needs.

The overall concepts of many strength programs are adaptable to each trainee but must be understood and then creatively integrated, just not the entire program.

The same is true when it comes to the results of these training programs; take the average outcomes as your guide. Realize these are a mixture of the superior to the average athlete and not every result will be the same for your particular situation.

Summary of the training effects necessary for strength increases to take place

The major objective in a strength training program is to encourage specific adaptations toward the improvement of strength and power in the athlete. If the program and training are effective then the outcome will be positive increases in the strength. If these do not occur then the program, the effort of the athlete or a combination of the two is at fault and there needs to be a change one, two or all of these contributors to the outcome.

Training adaptations will take place if the load is above normal and the athlete is not used to the exercises selected. An overload must be applied and this must be in the stimulus zone which is above the neutral zone.

The exercises and training must be specific to the goals of the main sport.

The exercises and training loads must vary over the length of the training cycle and are determined by the goals.

Training programs must be individualized for each athlete.

Supercompensation and the two factor training effect theories are the most prominent of the adaptation models currently being followed. Basically stated supercompensation takes place after a period of training and is thought to be based upon the body tolerating greater and greater stress, up to a point, after which a tapering break is inserted into the program and the body over recovers into a stronger status than before. The two factor theory is one of fitness and fatigue counterbalancing one another over the training cycle. If one over takes the other then changes either positive or negative will take place. It’s up to the athlete and coach to pay attention to the markers of stress, adaptation and accommodation to prevent negative responses from taking place in the training cycle. These adaptations are normally “classified as acute, immediate, cumulative, delayed, partial or residual”.

Functional training: The implications to athletes and coaches
By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

There is a constant buzz about Functional Training in the conditioning and strength world nowadays. The words mean a whole raft of things to professional trainers and just as likely each meaning is different to each one. The following definition forms the basis of all functional training discussions.

“Functional training mimics the stresses, demands, intensity and skills of the sport and advances an athlete toward safe and effective participation in the chosen sports activity.”

A close examination of the sport will reveal the movement patterns associated with the activity as well as the duration and intensity necessary to compete at the desired level. Functional testing is the beginning step in assessing ones abilities to become a better athlete.

Control of the body, at speed, is a vital component to playing at the higher levels of competition. However, it is not just enough to be able to control the body; the body must have the correct strength, power, agility, balance, and coordination all at the precise times needed to excel. 

One of the ways an athlete may determine if they have the necessary tools to reach their goals is by testing for basic movement patterns. The Functional Movement Screen process best accomplishes this. It is a testing protocol “comprised of seven tests, which categorize and rank functional movement patterns. These movement patterns are specific to human growth and development and are extremely important in athletics because they are fundamental to complex activities. This screen attempts to pinpoint a weak area in these movement patterns, which will then allow for improved exercise prescription and performance. This can be the first line of defense in injury prevention. 

This screen is the starting point for a system of evaluation and exercise prescription that attempts to improve communication and collaboration between the sports medicine and exercise science professions. The common goal is to create an objective assessment in order to improve human functional movement.” Try them and see for yourself how you do.

The self-movement tests:
1. Deep squat
2. Hurdle step
3. In-line lunge
4. Shoulder mobility
5. Straight leg raise
6. Stability Push-up
7. Rotational stability

The deep squat is the ABSOLUTE BEST EXERCISE there is for the body, and this is why it is the KING of all exercises! The deep squat “examines the symmetrical movement of squatting-the left and right sides of the body do the same movement. To pass this screen, you need optimal mobility at the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders and optimal stability throughout the spine”.

The deep squat assesses bilateral, symmetrical and functional mobility of the hips, knees and ankles. The dowel held overhead assesses bilateral, symmetrical functional mobility of the shoulders as well as the thoracic spine.

Description of the exercise:
1. The athlete places the feet slightly farther than shoulder width apart and places the hands on the dowel so as to form a 90° angle at the elbows with the hands overhead.
2. The athlete presses the dowel overhead with the shoulders flexed and abducted and with the elbows extended, then descends slowly into a squat position with the heels on the floor, the head and chest facing forward, and the dowel maximally pressed overhead.
3. The athlete is allowed up to three chances to perform the test.
4. If the athlete does not achieve the criteria for a score of three, he or she then performs the test with a 2x6 under the heels.
Three points or the best score would be the result of the following:
Upper torso is parallel with the tibia (lower leg) or toward vertical.
Femur (Thighbone) is below horizontal-the hip joint is BELOW the knee joint.
Knees aligned over the feet
Dowel is aligned over the feet

Two points result from:
Upper torso is parallel with eh tibia or toward the vertical
Femur is below horizontal
Knees are not aligned over the feet
Dowel is aligned over the feet

One point:
Tibia and upper torso are not parallel
Femur is not below horizontal
Knees are not aligned over the feet
Lumbar flexion is noted

A score of zero is given if pain is associated with any part of the test. Have your health care provider check over the painful area before proceeding further into the testing procedure.

A score of less than three indicates a limiting factor or factors, and should be resolved during the program planning process. Limitations are direct contributors to impaired functioning and lead to injuries if not corrected.

Implications for the deep squat.

“The ability to perform the deep squat requires closed chain-kinetic doors flexion of the ankles, flexion of the knees and hips and extension of the thoracic spine as well as flexion and abduction of the shoulders.”

This means if you cannot do it then you have a limited Range of Motion also known as flexibility. Poor performance on this test can mean you have limited mobility in the upper torso, which may be indicative of glenohumeral (shoulder) thoracic-spine (upper back) mobility. It can also mean your lower body has poor closed chain (feet or hands solidly positioned on the floor and non-moving during the exercise). Doors flexion (toes pushed to the ground and heels raised, i.e. a calf raise motion) ankle limitations or poor flexion of the hip joint.

If you decide to try this at home, have someone watch as you perform the movement. If your body tilts excessively forward with your arms out front as you bend down or your heels raise in the low position or you are not able to get into the low position then begin working on these areas of flexibility and mobility before you move forward. The body is meant to function in an efficient manner. It cannot be as effective or efficient with these types of built in limitations to movement. It will only compensate with recruitment of other muscles to achieve the motions, thus overburdening and creating further misalignments of the body and its movement patterns. 

Part three-Functional training: The implications to athletes and coaches

By Danny M. O’Dell, MA. CSCS*D

In-line lunge
This test assesses the mobility and stability of the hips plus quadriceps flexibility and ankle and knee stability.

Description of the movement
Measure the length of the tibia with a yardstick
Place one foot on the end of a two by six board while holding the dowel behind the back in an up and down position, i.e. pointing toward the sky. The right arm is held up and the left arm is down on the dowel. The dowel should be touching the head, thoracic spine and the sacrum.
Place the yardstick on the floor at the end of the toes and mark a position on the floor equal to the length of the previously measured tibia.

The person being tested takes a step with the left leg and places the heel on the mark. Once in this position, lower the back knee just enough to touch the board behind the front foot. Keep the feet in line and pointing straight ahead throughout the test.

Three tries are allowed to perfect the performance of the test.
Reverse the positioning of the arms and legs for the second part of test.
The lower of the two scores is noted.

Record a score of three in the following case: 
Minimal or no torso movement
Both feet remain in the sagittal plane and on the two by six board
The knee touches the two by six behind the heel of the front foot.

A score of two will result in the observance of:
Torso movement is noted
The feet move out of the sagittal plane during the test.
The knee does not touch the board behind the front foot.

A score of one results for:
A loss of balance

A score of zero will be noted if there is pain associated with any parts of the test.

A score of less than three indicates a limiting factor or factors, and should be resolved during the program planning process. Limitations are direct contributors to impaired functioning and lead to injuries if not corrected.

Implications for the in line lunge

Being able to perform this test requires stance leg stability of the ankle, knee and the hip and closed hip kinetic chain hip abduction. Furthermore, the step leg is tested for hip adduction, ankle dorsi flexion and rectus femoris flexibility. Additionally the lateral stresses are imposing a balance ability to be displayed.

Poor performance is the result of several factors. Hip mobility may be in adequate in either or both the stance and step leg. The necessary stability of the stance leg or ankle may be missing to a certain degree. Imbalances in strength between the adductors and abductors can cause lower scores.

Part four-Functional training: The implications to athletes and coaches

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Mobility of the shoulder joint

An assessment of the shoulder area begins with bilateral range of motion combinations of internal adduction and external abduction. The nature of these moves require normal mobility of the scapula and thoracic spine extension to do them correctly.

Description of the movement:

Measure the length of the hand from the distal wrist crease, where the forearm ends to the tip of the third digit.
The person tested makes a fist with the thumb inside the fingers and assumes a maximally adducted and internally rotated position with one shoulder and an abducted and an internally rotated position with the other. In other words place one hand over your head and reach back down over the top of the shoulder to the second hand which is reaching behind and up towards the top hand. Keep the fists closed during the test.

Measure the distance between the hands.
Do the test over three times, then switch positions, and test this three times.

Score three points if the participant can touch hands or if they are with in one hand width.
Score two points if the hands are within one and one half hand lengths.
Score one point if the hands are not within one and one half lengths.
A score of zero is recorded if any portion of the test results in pain.

Even with a score of three, a shoulder stability test still needs to be performed. This is accomplished by having the person being tested place their right arm on the opposite shoulder and then attempting to point the elbow to the ceiling. If the person experiences pain or is unable to do the move then a score of zero is noted for the shoulder stability test. Check each side for movement.

To be able to do the shoulder mobility test requires a combination of shoulder motions including abduction-external rotation and adduction-internal rotation. Thoracic spine mobility is also involved in this common test.
Performance deficiencies may be noted if increased external rotation usually is the result of decreased internal rotation ability, especially in overhead throwing athletes. Excessive development and shortening of the pectoralis minor and Latissimus doors muscles cause the forward rounded look to the shoulders.

Scapulothoracic dysfunctions may be causing decreased shoulder mobility, which is secondary to the mobility and/or stability. The shoulder isn’t doing what it is designed to do in the correct manner.

A score of less than three means the limiting causes must be identified. This is most usually done by using the goniometric measurements and testing for pectoralis minor and Latissimus doors muscles tightness.

From previous testing records, it has been demonstrated that a score of two is due to minor changes in posture from the shortened shoulder muscles.

Scores of one or zero indicates a scapulothoracic dysfunction of some sort may exist.

The shoulder is a very complex joint with the surfaces of all the interrelated parts operating in a close fashion to one another. If just one of these is not working correctly, the rest of the joint suffers some sort of a loss.

Part five-Functional training: The implications to athletes and coaches 
By Danny M. O’Dell, MA. CSCS*D

The active straight leg raise assesses flexibility of the hamstrings (back of the upper leg) and the gastrocnemius (calf muscle, back of the lower leg) while keeping the pelvis stable and the opposite leg fully extended or straight.

Description of the test
Begin by laying supine on the floor (lay on your back). Your arms are at your sides with your palms facing up. To relieve undue stress on your back place a 2x6 under your knees.

The tester must identify the location of the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) which is the point of the hipbone closest to the center of the body and the joint line of the knee.

The person being tested lifts one leg keeping it straight and the toes pointed towards the head (Doors flexed). Keep the opposite leg straight with the knee touching the 2x6 board and the back and head in continuous contact with the floor.
Once in this position the tester lines the dowel up by placing it next to the medial malleolus (the bony part of the ankle that sticks out to the sides) of the raised leg and perpendicular to the floor.

Test for full range of motion three times.

Three points are scored if the person is able to raise the leg up and have the dowel end up between the mid-thigh and the ASIS. The raised leg is about perpendicular to the floor.

Two points are given if the dowel ends up between mid-thigh and the lower legs knee joint line.

One point will be received if the dowel finishes up below the knee joint line.Zero points are scored if any pain is felt during the testing activity.

Implications for the active straight leg raise.

An ability to perform this in the correct manner requires functional hamstring flexibility or range of motion about this joint. This same flexibility is required in training for your sport or in competition. The active straight leg raise is a different test than a passive straight leg test, which is more commonly tested. In the active straight leg test, the person must show hip mobility of the opposite leg as well as being able to maintain the lower abdominal's in a stable manner.

Poor results can be from several causes. Functional inability of the hamstrings, inadequate mobility of the opposite hip, which may come from a tight iliopsoas and an anterior tilted pelvis, are just two reasons the test results may not have been a total success. This particular test is a good one to demonstrate the limitations of the hamstrings and the iliopsoas.

A score of less than three can be further checked out by using a sit and reach test.

Youth and Strength Training
Daniel Pare

I train youths regularly, so I though I would give you some good information on what is needed and how to approach strength training at a young age.  Most kids are involved in sports.  This means that they are required to have a good conditioning base in order to be successful at their sport(s).  The right amount of cardiovascular training and a strength training program is the key to proper conditioning.  The training program should emphasize on a strong strength base.  I find out that some kids are just not strong enough for their own body weight.  An agility test will easily determine the overall strength of the young athlete and it will help determine what is needed in order for this young athlete to improve his/her strength level.    

What does that mean?  As an example, let’s take a young hockey player.  The bulk of his/her workout session should be spent on exercises emphasizing on strength and speed.  Improved strength and speed will greatly improve agility.  We are not looking at a “muscular physique”, we are training for a “Strong Physique”.  They need to be trained for acceleration and deceleration and over all strength.  If they are not trained to improve those sports skills, they could get injured. 

Here are some of the exercises that should be prioritizes.  Deep squats for leg strength.  Deep squats will strengthen all the leg muscles and also the back and abdominal muscles to name a few.  Cleans, power cleans, snatches and power snatches (Olympic weightlifting).  Those will condition the young athlete for acceleration, deceleration and speed.  Did you know that Olympic weightlifting will improve your cardiovascular fitness!  The standing shoulder press will emphasize on the upper body strength like stronger back, stronger abdominal, stronger shoulders and stronger arms.

In order to build great overall strength, one should focus on the deep squats.  Why?  The deeper one squats, the stronger the knees, back and the abdominal muscles will become.  The young athlete should focus on deep squatting with his/her bodyweight.  Doing squats this way not only improve knee and abdominal strength, it will prepare it is concerned it should be applied in a way that it remains beneficial and efficient. 

Trade the stationery bike for the more productive and beneficial skipping rope.  Here were are looking at improving cardio for a sport that requires frequent stops and change of direction… you must train yourself for that and the bike does not do that.  This approach to sports performance can also be applied to teens and adults with great success.  Season’s Greetings to all of you. 

Daniel Pare, NCCP, CSO, CSPS, CSTS.
Strength and Conditioning Coach,
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
email stsa1258@aol.com
web at www.stthomasstrengthathletics.com   

Stay strong mentally and physically, and remain passionately committed to your hearts chosen path. Danny M. O'Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Providing medical advice is not the intent or purpose of this site. We assume no liability for the information contained in these pages if it is taken as medical advice. Always consult with your primary health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

Privacy statement

We abide by the The CAN-SPAM Act of 2004




Copyright © 2003 to present Explosivelyfit.com
Site created by: Fire Creek Photography and Design Studio™

If You Can't See All Of This Page Please Update Your Browser, It's Free JAVA & Flash Player