Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Dread The Sled

Here is a unique way of dynamically warming up before weight training. It is a great way to boost the cardiovascular system and to warm up the joints of the body. Give it a try!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Overload Principle

If you're are on any type of progressive resistance strength training program for sports, whether you know it or not you're trying to employ a training principle called the "overload principle."

Simply put, the Overload Principle dictates that exercise resistance should be gradually increased as the individuals capabilities improve throughout their training. Stated this way, it's a pretty easy concept to understand. You train a little, rest and you train again. As your body adapts to the training, you then add more resistance to the training. The side effect of all this is that you get stronger and active more muscle tissue, in some cases increase in muscle size.

Unfortunately in actual applied terms found in weight training rooms and gyms throughout the country, the Overload Principle is a misunderstood concept which has become an abused term among training experts. The abuse of this term is found in the fact that experts knew an athlete should increase their training stress a  little at a time, but never actually defined what "a little" was.

As a principle built into a strength program, the Overload Principle is only beneficial as long as it challenges the body to adapt to the strength training you're performing, but does not overstress it to the point that it can't recover from the training. That "but does not overstress it" part of the previous sentence is an extremely important concept. If you work with a greater load then you did previously, your body will be challenged and, after a period of recovery, it will become stronger. If you do not recover, the Overload Principle's positive effect will be lost.

To make the Overload Principle a bit more clear let's take a look at what happens to your body during strength training. When you train with weights as part of a strength program, your body's internal systems change as a direct result of experiencing stress. This is not the kind of stress you get from financial or family problems. The kind of stress being discussed is the training stress caused by lifting weights.

Generally speaking, stress may be regarded as any stimulus which creates an imbalance of the body's internal environment. When you weight train for strength, you create an imbalance or disturbance in your body's musculoskeletal system. In order to compensate for this imbalance, various systems (feeback) of your body try to get it back into balance called "homeostasis."

Homeostasis is the normal biological state of balance between energy consumption in the form of waht you eat, and the normal energy output from your working day. It seems that the human body likes things as constant, comfortable, and normal as possible. Therefore your body constantly adjust to stay in homeostasis; it doesn't like you going around making waves by training for sports and throwing everything out of balance. The idea of homeostasis is important.

The effects that these feedback systems have on the body are responsible for the various results which athletes are constantly seeking, (i.e. increased strength levels, increased power, increased muscle endurance, etc.). Since various kinds of training stress can create the environment for these different effects, it's extremely important that the stress you use be for the correct period of time, be exactly planned out, and completely evaluated. I design programs to help people train correctly without causing an overtraining effect.

The next steps in better understanding the Overload Principle is understanding the variables of training stress. These variables are intensity, duration, and frequency. Intensity refers to how hard the training is with resistance being the key component. Duration implies how long the training session should be. The key factor in duration is the number of sets and repetitions of an exercise. The final variable is Frequency.

Over the years, since there wasn't a method of training that explained how to incorporate the Overload Principle into a strength program, the majority of athletes misinterpreted this principle to mean that they should lift as much weight as possible all the time. Sometimes taking this to the point where weight loads should be increased on almost a daily basis. This has been ingrained in athletes as the "no pain no gain" syndrome.

An approach to training which goes along the lines of taking a training effort constantly to failure (meaning working to the point of complete exhaustion so that an exercise cannot be continued without assistance) has to be seriously examined, if not out of concern for the athlete, then at least out of scientific credibility. The ability of an athlete to stay with such an all-out program is highly suspect (unless performance enhancing drugs i.e, steroids are used).

Even though the idea of constant and unrestricted increases of training loads is a seductive one, the human body just does not have the recovery capacity to adapt to daily increases in weight loads or training intensity.

Training methods which completely exhaust the body for long periods of time often result in draining energy from an athlete. This results in training plateaus, injuries or actual loss in size and strength. Once this happens you're led directly into the training phenomena every athlete understands as "overtraining."

It's also been shown that when a muscle is abused and overworked for a prolonged period, the body's feedback system sends cortisone into the area to protect the muscle from this abuse.  This unique feedback effect limits physical progress and makes positive training gains even more difficult. When physical progress starts to decline, it's a common occurrence that individuals start to doubt their ability to make new gains. All athletes know what happens next; motivation begins to deteriorate and the willingness to train seriously, vanishes.

In order to put the Overload Principle to work correctly, the use of increased stress has to be considered carefully. Current information shows that a single workout is not sufficient allow the body to properly adapt its internal systems before the load is increased. To accomplish a positive adaptation from the stress of the weight loads, it's necessary to repeat the same weight loads for the duration of a whole week.  The first application of weight load stress shocks the body, the second application of weight load stress adapts the body.

The nervous system will activate more and different muscle cells than those currently fatigued. I always design programs based on an individuals physiological bio-individuality. Instead of simply lifting the same weight, you will lift slightly more weight the next set.  This will increase the challenge placed on the newly recruited muscle cells and cause more adaptation to take place. You can continue this approach three or four times before you exhaust the muscle. This training stimulus creates the proper internal environment for developing additional muscle size.

Your muscle grows as a means of defending itself. Your body mobilizes all of its resources to make available to you the ability to withstand difficult training challenges. Following the shock of the training challenge your body requires rest. You must rest adequately before you can shock the body again, and the rest, regeneration, and overcompensation basically cannot be rushed. If it is, overtraining may result.

Let's further examine this using a standard arm curl exercise for example. The body tries to be efficient. When the body reads how much weight you have in your hands, it determines how many fibers should be involved and lets only that number of fibers work. As the reps begin and the weight is lifted, ATP supplies the energy. As the reps continue CP (creatine phosphate) then glycogen supply the fuel.  Muscle glycogen is used anaerobically producing lactic acid. Lactic acid now surrounds the muscle until the muscle reaches failure and is forced to stop working due to the lactic acid build up.

When you put the weight down, the blood is able to flow back into the area, replenishing the fuel, at the same time allowing the nervous system to rest. The perfect computer, your body, says that something is going on in the biceps muscle, I had better send more blood to the area to help out, now perhaps 10% more fibers an be used. Therefore, the next set would be easier if you stayed at the same amount of weight. The body is reacting to the weight you just used. It would be easier this time if you used the same weight, but here is where we reprogram the body's computer. More weight is added, and the body again must go through the same pattern as before.

Along with more blood and fuel in the area the nervous system recruits more fiber, this time perhaps using 70 fibers, since you will lift more weight. This usually happens 3 or 4 times before the muscle exhausts itself. Now that you have tired out the muscle, the real work starts. Since the muscle has been tierd-out, the body must prepare for the next time this will happen. It calls on the replenishing systems to start working. If the proteins, vitamins, and hormones are available, the rebuilding or overcompensation now takes place. The muscle grows as its way of protecting itself from the next time you plan to put it under stress.

Intelligent strength training is a progression of continuously increasing training demands, within a training window of adaptability, punctuated by opportunities for recovery. This is simply the way human biological systems work.

The next step in understanding Overload is the Progressive Overload Principle. This principle builds upon the Overload Principle and states that, when challenges are made to the body, they must be linked in a progressive way. Linking successive practices or weeks of practices together should show a progressive increase in training load and progressive improvement in performance. Progressive Loading also states that following a significant challenge to the body, you must allow the body to rest.

The concept of the Overload Principle is so incredibly important that I base all of my training programs on this idea.  An understanding of the Overload Principle forms the foundation of how we calculate the weight loads, sets and reps used to get the desired results we seek in each program.

Over the years I have experimented with many different levels of intensity and have found that it is better to under-train slightly than to overtrain.

To accomplish proper adaptation, it is necessary to repeat similar loads several times, often for the duration of a whole week called a "progression-block", or even longer in some cases. Increases in training load from week to week result in fatigue experienced in the first 1-3 days of the progression block. As the weeks progress, the person adapts to the new loads, and feels comfortable toward the end of the progression block. This progressive adaptation represents the foundation which will lead to increases of the weight load pattern in the progression blocks to come.

The person then will need a week to re-group. Linking the patterns of progression blocks together produces a super-progression block.

As mentioned before, increases in weight loads from one step to another must be performed carefully, and gradually. This pattern of increasing weight loads is called " Step-Load Pattern". Once the progression blocks and step-loading pattern have been set for the month training, these patterns can be linked together.

It is recommended that all individuals find their 1 RM per each exercise. The Repetition Maximum lifting 100% as much weight as possible for the given exercise. The planned regeneration block is completed in order to remove the fatigue from the body's system, to restore energy, and to relax psychologically. In training, stress to the system has to be decreased in as exact a planned manner as it was increased.

Throughout the regeneration weeks, the person should not feel any discomfort in training. The athlete should feel that energy stores are being built up, getting ready to tackle the next three progression-blocks of increased weight loads.  At the end of one super-progression block or phase of training, the athlete usually tests for the 1 RM, because by now a 100% effort could mean greater weight.

Athletes who have trained using the correct interpretation of the Overload Principle and the correct step-load pattern for weight loads have had remarkable success.

tags: Daryl Conant, Vince Gironda, Ron Kosloff, Body building, Natural bodybuilding.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Exercising When You Are Sick

Should you exercise when you are sick? The answer is yes and no.  If you have a common cold, you can exercise. If you have the flu, do not exercise.

A common cold is a virus that affects respiratory processes; nose, throat, lungs.  Sneezing, coughing, headache, sore throat are common symptoms of the common cold. There are hundreds of cold viruses that lurk among. The total process of a cold lasts between 3 to 10 days. During the initial start of a cold the immune system is working hard to clear the body of the virus.  At this time if you exercise, without overtraining, you can boost your immune system to help defend against the virus.  However, if you overtrain you will weaken the immune system and allow the virus to become stronger in the system. This would cause the body to develop further problems in the respiratory tract; bronchitis, pneumonia, mononucleosis are some of the more severe conditions that can develop from a weakened immune system. If these conditions develop, exercising is absolutely out of the question.  It is best to rest and take in the right amount of nutrients, and in some cases to take the appropriate medications or herbal remedies.

The flu on the other hand is horrible virus that is transmitted from person to person in the form of an airborne aerosol. Coughing, sneezing, chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headaches, fatigue, irritability, general discomfort are all symptoms of the flu.  There are many different strains of the flu virus. Most commonly the flu virus last between 24-48 hours.  The more severe cases can last longer and can be life threatening.  The flu is extremely dangerous for infants and older folks. The immune system of infants and older folks can't fight against the virus and this poses a health risk.

Once the symptoms of the flu develop it is not wise to try and exercise. Exercise will make the condition worse weakening the immune system even more. Once this happens then the virus really takes over and the symptoms get a much worse. Matter of fact I know this for a reason.  I remember in college I started with the chills and aches and thought that if I exercised a little that I would feel better. Unfortunately, this didn't work, it made it worse.  I was so sick that I had to go to the hospital to have an IV and heavy duty meds to boost my immune system.  I had a typical flu virus but since I exercised I weakened my immune system beyond what it could do to defend against the virus.  Ever since that experience I now pay attention to the signs and will lay off from exercise when I feel that the flu is coming on.

Getting sick is no fun and will play games with your ego. You might lose some weight and muscle while being sick, but that will all come back once you get to feeling better.  It can get a little discouraging to see all of your hard earned efforts melting away when you are sick.  But there are greener pastures ahead and once you get back on your feet you will be back in action and will start gaining again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Best Bicep Exercise

The best bicep exercise in my opinion is the preacher curl.  However, you must have the right type of preacher bench in order to reap the benefits. The bench has to be well padded and the pad has to be rounded, not flat. Most preacher benches that are made are too steep and are flat. (45 degree pitch). This type of bench is poor because you cannot get enough support behind the humerus to get a deep contraction on the bicep. I have found that sometimes the more expensive a piece of equipment is does not necessarily mean that it is a superior product. I have developed many of my own pieces of equipment to develop the muscles more accurate. These pieces of equipment have saved me so much time. I find that  some pieces of equipment are poor in isolating the muscle to get the response I want.

When the exercise does work you will feel an immediate response. You can actually feel the blood rushing in to the muscle. Sometimes I need to get more torque on the muscle in order to get new growth patterns to develop. So I will tweak a particular piece of equipment to get the result I desire. It is great when the body responds to the stimulus.  I have found that the preacher bench is the greatest piece of equipment for building biceps. The preacher bench I have at my gym is not pretty or labeled with a big manufactures name on it, but it works incredibly. Now go to the gym and get on that rounded preacher bench and build the guns.

tags: biceps, preacher bench, vince gironda, ron kosloff, daryl conant, diet EARTH, organic food, GMO, Iran, Egypt protestors, Iran revolt

Saturday, February 12, 2011


With all the negativity and the continuing angst of an unsettled civilization. There are moments in time that make you stop and put life in perspective, giving rise that there is still wholesome and peace in this chaotic world.  There is nothing more precious and inspiring than the innocence of a child. A child has no idea what this world is and they create some of the most beautiful moments in life. This picture was taken by my wife when she saw our daughter Faith quietly sitting in a dog feeding dish looking at the pictures in her favorite book.  It is one of the most cutest pictures I have ever seen and had to share it with you all.  Sometimes life can get a little crazy and unpredictable, but it is the gift of a child that can bring you back down to what really matters in life.  My little girls innocence and contentment teaches me that life is a precious gift and that we must cherish even the littlest things no matter how hectic and competitive the rat race gets. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Give This A Try

Hello Folks,

Give this a try the next time you train your chest.

Neck Press  4 sets 8 Reps

1st Set:  90% maximum weight:   Go four seconds on the eccentric contraction (bar coming down to chest), then push up (concentric) counting one one thousand, two one thousand, 3 one thousand, 4 one thousand 5 one thousand.  Do this count for the entire 8 reps.  Don't cheat!  Real men take the pain and love it. You should be almost spent by the last rep.

2nd Set: 80% maximum weight: Same as set one.

3rd Set: 70% maximum weight:  Come down stop half way and hold isometric contraction for 4 seconds, then proceed to the neck, push back up and stop half way hold isometric contraction 2 seconds then push all the back up to the starting position.  Don't lock elbows in the extended position, more pain less rest.

4th Set:  60% maximum weight:  Bring bar down to the neck hold at the neck 3 seconds then push the weight up fast without locking the elbows.

If you are not pumped up after this chest sequence then you are either doing something wrong, you can't count or you are a superior genetic freak.  This routine will break you out of any rut you are in with your chest training.  Give it a try today and shock those muscles.

Intensity x pain= muscle growth.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hello Folks,

For those that live in or near Kennebunk I will be giving a small presentation on my book "diet EARTH" and signing at KENNEBOOKS (a very nice bookstore in Kennebunkport).  Come on down!


Clearing Up Some Confusion

When I talk about increasing protein I am suggesting that a person increase their protein to meet their recommended daily allowance. Most folks aren’t taking in enough protein to meet their daily recommended allowance. Sometimes the information that I provide gets a little misconstrued.  When I tell folks to increase their protein, I am merely suggesting that they reach their recommended daily allowance of protein for their body.  So when someone, such as a doctor, over hears a random discussion of clients discussing what I have told them to help improve their body composition. The doctor automatically assumes that I am telling people to be on an “extreme high protein” diet with no carbohydrates.  The doctor begins to explain that being on a high protein only diet will influence the development of ketosis and ketoacidosis which are dangerous conditions for the body. 
Though I agree that extreme cases of high protein diets are not advisable for some folks and that ketosis and ketoacidosis are conditions that develop from high protein diets, I disagree agree with the idea that eating protein to match the persons recommended daily allowance is harmful.  Let me explain what ketosis and ketoacidosis are so that you can know what we are talking about.
Ketosis is often misunderstood.  It is believed that ketosis is a “dangerous state” for the body to be in.  But the truth is, is that ketosis is a result of fat metabolism.  When the body is not using sugar as fuel, fat is used. Ketones are produced during fat metabolism. As I have discussed in earlier blogs, fat metabolism is essential for producing ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) the high energy compound produced in the mitochondria of the cell. The more fat you metabolize via aerobic pathways the more ATP is produced.  This is why when you increase your fat and protein to the daily recommended allowance, limiting the high sugar foods, you feel an increase in energy and strength.  
During the fat metabolism process some of the ketones known as acetoacetate and ß-hydroxybutyrate are used for energy.  In fact, the heart and kidneys like ketones more than glucose. Even the brain uses ketones for some of its energy. There is one ketone called Acetone that is not used and is eliminated in the urine.
Ketosis is not necessarily a bad thing.  What confuses people is the idea that burning lots of fat for energy is not allowing for enough glucose to burn. Which will cause blood sugar levels to drop and can be dangerous to all the functioning systems that depend on glucose. There have been many studies conducted that prove this to be incorrect.  The body is so sophisticated that it will adjust to accommodate for this type of event.  When fat metabolism increases and sugar metabolism reduces, the body will convert protein into glucose. This again, is why a person feels so good when they are on a balanced fat, protein, low glycemic diet, because they are not causing an insulin spike from ingesting too many sugars.  The body regulates itself better in a fat metabolic state, than a high sugar ingested state. 
There is a condition known as ketoacidosis that is predominantly associated with folks that have type 1 diabetes.  This is often mistaken as “normal ketosis.” With type 1 diabetics their pancreas is unable to produce insulin to buffer out excess glucose. Therefore fat metabolism takes over and this produces an over abundant amount of ketones in the bloodstream, way beyond what is considered normal.  The liver tries to remedy the situation by producing glucose, but this doesn’t work because the cells cannot suck up the glucose without the presence of insulin.  
People who are Type 2 diabetic are rarely effected by ketoacidosis.  Proving that the bodies regulatory system is very efficient in balancing ph levels and ketones.  It is only in severe cases such as illness that ketoacidosis can become life threatening to a Type 2 Diabetic. 
So now that you know the differences between ketosis and ketoacidosis I want to say again that the folks that I consult and are following my advice are not affected any dangerous malarky about their blood system being too high in ketones or acid. I prescribe balanced nutrition and the recommended daily allowance of protein, fat and low glycemic carbohydrates.  
I don’t advocate “extreme” high protein diets.  The only time I would eat only protein with out any carbohydrates is when I would get ready to compete in a bodybuilding show. During the last week of preparation would I cut out all carbs to lose the last bit of excess fat. After the contest I go right back to my regular balanced meal plan.  
Just because I talk about protein does not mean that I am a Dr. Atkins disciple.  The Atkins plan scientifically works and has some merit. But I feel that my approach is well balanced and works just as well.

Sometimes those that listen in on only part of a conversation without all the facts can often misinterpret the meaning of my madness.  If anyone has any questions or concerns about my methods, I am always available for discussion. Just email me your questions I will be glad to answer them. Unless however, you are a New York Jets, New Yankee Fan or any one who enjoys seeing the Red Sox or Patriots lose then a reply to your question might take longer than expected:)

tags: daryl conant, diet EARTH, Ron Kosloff, Vince Gironda, ketosis, ketoacidosis