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Motivation May be an Overused Term in Strength Training and Fitness

10 Jun 2013 13:22

The text of this of this blog post is a of the video talk presented here, which explores whether the word motivation is a misunderstood and overused word in fitness and strength training circles. Motivation is treated as if it is a black-and-white concept, and a person is either motivated or they are not motivated. It could be, however, that motivation is much more complex than this and the word used alone, without qualification, may be too vague, or too broad to be of much use. Motivation is a Part of Pop-Psychology Have you ever heard of pop-psychology? Ever heard of psychobabble? Well, for sport and exercise psychology, the word motivation is a part of that. People throw around the word as if it is a simple thing and as if just saying the word means they are doing something about psychology. Some psychologists have argued that the term motivation is vague and overused when it comes to the gym, the locker room, life. I agree. Every article, speech, or utterance about the word tends to come from a different definition. Motivation has become a sports psychology buzzword for those who don't really have any other words to choose from. It's either so broad it pretty much encompasses the whole field of sports psychology or so narrow it becomes useless. Listen to the Voice Version Did you know that there are over 30 theories of motivation? If not more. That means, 30 different organizational (or operational ) definitions. The main thing to realize is that motivation is not a distinct thing. It's not as if you are motivated or you are NOT motivated. It's more a process. If you go to the gym, then you must be motivated to do that, right? So to say I lack motivation doesn't quite describe your problem, if you have a problem. Motivation is Specific, not General Goals are a part of motivation. You go to the gym. Showing up doesn't mean you are motivated to have a good session. So what did you hope to achieve by showing up? Perhaps your primary goal, on the day, was to avoid guilt! The avoidance of guilt is not exactly the same as the desire to achieve something positive. And this is, by the way, part of why I reject the use of guilt tactics to get people to exercise. The motivation that guilt brings is to avoid the negative emotion of guilt as much as it is to achieve something. And this brings us to one big problem with all this talk of motivation. People think that motivation is general. And they think that attitude is general. NO. They are not. They are both very specific. Your attitudes about the specific actions and tasks you undertake in your training are specific to those things. Your motivation is a part of your attitude, as well. Therefore motivation is specific. The more meaningful the task is to you, the more motivated you will be to achieve within that task! I really want this to hit home. You see all these articles about which exercises or what kind of training is the most effective. Exercising is not like buying an appliance and checking consumer reports for all the low down. I guarantee that the thing you enjoy more will be more effective if that enjoyment means you will stick to it. But effective for what? Well, that's another story Even Incentives Motivate in a Specific Way Depending on Situation This brings me to the many contests and other incentives on many websites, etc. that seek to motivate through an incentive-based approach. What you'll find is that while a person might be attracted to, say, a fat loss challenge, they may not be attracted to a lifting challenge. This underscores that their perceptions and beliefs about the two things are different, and their theory of achievement are different for those things. Theories of Motivation I have talked about task-oriented behavior and being intrinsically motivated (self, or inner motivated) and extrinsically motivated (other, or outside motivated). This is also sometimes called an internal or external locus of control. As you can see, many...

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What Does it Mean to Denature a Protein?

04 Jun 2013 15:12

What's the Big Deal About Protein Denaturing? Raw foodies, and those selling so-called raw whey make a lot of noise about proteins being denatured by cooking and so losing their natural goodness. So what does it mean for a protein to be denatured? Well, proteins are big molecules with a complex 3-dimensional shape. For a protein within your body, this shape is integral to its function. So, they have it right when they say that denaturing of a protein renders it nonfunctional. What you need to understand is that, for the most part, digestion breaks down proteins into smaller sub-units: dipeptides, tripeptides, and single amino acids. The first step in protein digestion? Well, the only thing that happens to proteins in the mouth is it's crushed and broken up by chewing, and moistened by saliva. The true digestion beings in the stomach, where hydrochloric acid is released. What does this acid do? It denatures the proteins. What is Protein Denaturing? The denaturing of a protein means that it begins to unfold them out of its 3-dimensional shape. This is of the utmost importance so that digestive enzymes can gain better access to the protein bonds. During digestion in the stomach, muscular action is churning the food contents so that they can be better mixed with the acid, resulting in more thorough denaturation! The resulting semi-fluid mixture is called chyme, by the way. Pepsin is also triggered to be released by the hydrochloric acid and this enzyme begins to break some of the protein bonds, resulting in polypeptides, which are long chains of amino acids, but shorter than they were to begin with. This accounts for about 10-20% of the protein digestion. From there, protein digestion is continued in the small intestine. The pancreas makes an alkaline juice which is released into the small intestine to neutralize the HCL, so that other enzymes can do their work. Protein digesting enzymes called proteases, released by both the pancreas and the small intestine, break down the chains of amino acids into even smaller chains. Special cells in the lining of the small intestine also release other enzymes called peptidases, and these break the chains into little chains of two or three amino acids, called di- and tripeptides, as well as some single amino acids. These dipeptides, tripeptides, and single aminos are then absorbed by facilitated diffusion or active transport, which mostly occurs in the cells that line the intestinal duodenum and jejunum. In these cells the final step occurs, and the protein chains are broken down by other peptidases into individual amino acids. The intestinal cells themselves use some of these amino acids, but most of them are transported, by facilitated diffusion, into the portal blood vessels and go right to the liver which uses them or releases them to the general blood circulation. Although it is not unheard of for di- or tripeptides, or even whole proteins, to be absorbed, this is extremely rare (except in fetal and neonatal mammals). Protein digestion and absorption by the body is very efficient and pretty much all of it is used. The little protein that is not digested goes into the large intestine where it is excreted. Cooking Denatures Proteins? So what of this cooked and so denatured food? As you have read, denaturing is an important part of the digestive process. This unfolds the proteins and makes the protein bonds more accessible by the enzymes, so that proteins can be efficiently broken down. When you cook a protein, you denature it in a similar way to how the HCL in your stomach does. In fact, professional chefs know that you can basically cook a protein by applying an acid to it. Most proteins, when they are heat treated and denatured in this way, become more available to the body for digestion. For instance, when you cook egg whites, they turn white and solid. This means they are denatured. The protein from cooked egg whites is actually more available to the body and will be more...

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What Is Nutrient Density? What is a Nutrient Dense Food? Plus, What are Empty Calories?

02 Jun 2013 20:11

This explanation of nutrient density and empty calories takes the form of a video presentation. The article contains the exact transcript of the video. Definition of Nutrient Density and Micronutrients The nutrient density of foods is a factor related to the micronutrients in foods. Micronutrients are the small biological molecules in foods like vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals. Contrast this with macronutrients, which are the large nutritional units in foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Calcium, Vitamin C, and beta carotene are micronutrients. Nutrient density is defined as the amount of nutrients in a food as compared to its caloric content, or more accurately, the amount of micronutrients per unit of energy. A food with a high nutrient density or a 'nutrient dense' food is one that has a high amount of micronutrients relative to its calorie count. An easy way to see this is to compare foods to their nonfat versions. Measuring Nutrient Density For instance, nonfat or skim milk has more calcium and vitamin A per calorie than whole milk. Therefore nonfat milk is more nutrient dense. When dietitians or nutritionists tell us to choose nutrient dense foods, they are saying to choose foods with the most micronutrient bang for your calorie buck. Empty Calories and Nutrient Density Many sugary foods are called empty calories or junk food. This is because they have very low nutrient density. Sticking with calcium for our micronutrient of choice, let's ask whether cheddar cheese is more nutrient dense than nonfat milk. To be precise we would compare the amount of calcium per 100 kilocalories or even 1000 kilocalories of each item. 100 Calories worth of cheddar cheese contains about 180 milligrams of calcium. Assuming it is not calcium fortified, 100 calories of nonfat milk contains about 366 milligrams of calcium. By this measure we see that nonfat milk is more nutrient dense than cheddar cheese for calcium. Of course, we do not compare foods based on 100 calorie equivalents, we compare them based on a realistic serving. If we consider a serving of cheddar cheese to be 1.5 ounces, then that's around 170 calories and will yield around 300 milligrams of calcium. A serving of nonfat milk is usually considered 8 ounces, or one cup. That is around 83 calories, also giving 300 milligrams of calcium. So, a serving of cheddar cheese contains more than twice the energy of the nonfat milk for the same amount of calcium. Let's compare less similar foods for a different nutrient, thiamin. How about we compare a lean pork chop (say a center cut which has been broiled or grilled) with asparagus. The pork is about 150 calories (remember, we've chosen a lean cut). That's about .5 milligrams of thiamin. One cup of steamed asparagus, on the other hand, is about 40 calories for around .3 milligrams of thiamin. You can see that the asparagus gives you more thiamin for your calorie buck. In general, plant foods will always be more nutrient dense than animal foods, with certain notable exceptions such as iron and some other instances. Obviously, there is a problem with evaluating the nutrient density of foods by looking at one micronutrient. But when many common foods are compared, it is easy to see that the best way to achieve a nutrient dense diet is to eat more servings of a variety of plant based foods, including fruits, than meat or dairy products. Of course, there is more to nutrition than micronutrients. For instance, you need essential fatty acids, like those from fish, nuts, and seeds. What understanding nutrient density allows you to do is meet your micronutrient needs before reaching your maximum caloric intake, allowing you what is called discretionary calories. It is possible to loosely score general classes of foods in terms of overall nutrient density. Based on this, the most nutrient dense foods, in general, are raw leafy green vegetables. However, certain leafy green vegetables can be problematic, because of...

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Painful, Swollen, Tight Shins During Exercise

02 Jun 2013 19:18

This explanation takes the form of a video. The text of this article is the exact transcript from the video and is an explanation of acute and exertional compartment syndromes for athletes and exercisers. These are easily mistaken for shin splints but are much more severe conditions. Compartment syndromes can result in severe irreversible nerve damage, cell death, and even loss of the lower limb. If you have any of the symptoms outlined in this video, consult a doctor immediately. For those in need of more in-depth medical information on compartment syndromes and other musculoskeletal conditions, I would recommend Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation by Frontera and Silver What is Acute and Exertional Compartment Syndrome? A compartment syndrome is a type of injury that could easily be confused with shin splints. Although shin splints are often used as a wastebasket diagnosis for any pain of the shin related to activity, there is a specific condition that is considered to correspond to what we commonly call shin splints, and this is MTSS, or medial tibial stress syndrome. Compartment syndromes are much more serious than common shin splints, so it is important not to confuse them. Before I explain compartment syndromes, I'll explain what a compartment is. A compartment is any anatomical space in the body that has certain defined and nonyielding borders. The compartments we are talking about in compartment syndrome are formed by the fascia that covers a group of muscles together with their nerve and blood supply, and this is usually the part of the anatomy that is meant by the word compartment. For instance, you might read about the anterior or posterior compartment of the arm or the leg. Acute Compartment Syndrome The most common site of acute compartment syndrome is the anterior, or front portion of the lower leg, which is the part we call our shin, although it can occur in other areas. An acute compartment syndrome is one that comes on suddenly and has severe symptoms. This is commonly caused by a direct blow to the front of the lower leg, such as being struck by another players foot in a sporting event. This can lead to a muscle contusion, or bruise, that causes excessive pressure to build up within the confined space of the fascia, and it obstructs the flow of blood both into and out of the muscles, which could lead ultimately to the death of cells. It could also be caused by highly excessive exercise, or by a large amount of external pressure being applied, or by a vascular injury. Severe Swelling, Pain, and Tightness in the Lower Legs Now, I should point out that acute compartment syndrome is not as common as exertional compartment syndrome, but how do you know if you have one? Well, let's say you've sustained a blow to the shin area. We all know how much this can hurt. With compartment syndrome, the pain will seem all out of proportion to the actual injury. There can be quite severe pain and swelling in the lower leg. The skin may feel tight like it is being stretched and the area may feel very firm. Later on, in severe cases, there may be a pins and needle sensation on the top of the foot and even loss of feeling between the big toe and second toe. Muscle weakness will likely also occur. These symptoms can start occurring within about 30 minutes of the injury. How Serious is This? If this starts occurring and does not subside, see a doctor immediately, because if left untreated, irreversible damage could occur within 12 to 24 hours. The usual first aid is to immobilize the ankle and ice application. Do not use compression! Remember, pressure is the problem. You don't want to produce more. Also, do not elevate the limb as this only decreases the arterial pressure so decreasing the blood supply to the tissues. If the symptoms do not subside pretty quickly or they get progressively worse, see a doctor, because it is likely that the pressure will need to be surgically released. Exertional Compartment...

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False Comparisons in Strength Training Research and Literature

08 May 2013 16:20

The most frequent fallacy committed in studies related (however loosely) to strength training is the false comparison, also known as the false analogy or questionable analogy. Sometimes, this happens because the researchers do not have any true understanding of overall practice of strength training, and therefore compare two things that really shouldn't be compared. Other times, however, the researchers well know that they are making a false comparison, and they are using this to discover relationships and move forward in their research, rather than to prove something. It is the strength training lay public that misunderstands this and uses these studies as evidence of something. False comparisons are used to sell products on television all the time. For instance, I just saw a silly commercial for some skin product for women that used paper that reacted like skin to show that their product was more gentle. But paper is not skin nor can paper react like skin. It is a false comparison. Another used a subtle yet entirely fraudulent comparison. This was the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow commercial. To show that their material was more supportive than memory foam, they dropped a weight into a cylinder of their foam and into a cylinder of memory foam. Except the memory foam was cut up into cubes. Memory foam comes in solid blocks, not cubes and this, of course, would make it less supportive as the weight can simply fall through the pieces. They altered the density on purpose. A false comparison, since the cloud pillow material was left in it's original normal state and the memory foam was altered. This makes the two distinctly dissimilar: one is altered, the other is not. We see many such false comparisons in everyday discussions of strength training and fitness. The Smart Car commercials that show the frame of the car supporting an SUV on its roof also uses a misleading false comparison since supporting a vertical static force is completely different than the dynamic forces of a vehicular collision. Also, we usually don't get hit from above or generally have a demand to support loads from above. Not only that, but the safety cell is mounted on a steel frame that provides atypical support compared to its axles and wheels. Now for examples of strength training study false comparisons, I'll give one that should be easy to grasp. It has to do with research on neural fatigue. Pituitary-adrenal-gonadal responses to high-intensity resistance exercise overtraining by Fry et al: Weight-trained men [OT; n = 11; age = 22.0 +/- 0.9 (SE) yr] resistance trained daily at 100% one-repetition maximum (1-RM) intensity for 2 wk, resulting in 1-RM strength decrements and in an overtrained state. A control group (Con; n = 6; age = 23.7 +/- 2.4 yr) trained 1 day/wk at a low relative intensity (50% 1 RM). Okay, do you see the huge difference in the training parameters of the experimental group and the control group? This is a false comparison. As long as you understand that this group is meant as a control you're OK. But many lay people will see this as a realistic comparison between two training scenarios: low intensity and high intensity. Now, people have used this study many times to point out that there must be a fundamental difference in the body's reaction to very high intensity muscular training, and low intensity training. They speculate that this must have to do with the neural component. That may well be true. But that is as far as you can go with it because comparing these two protocols is like comparing the quality of flip flops to hiking boots on a hiking trip. In reality, nobody actually trains like the experimental group and there is a continual mixture of intensity, volume, density, etc. within a single workout, let alone a work week or a training cycle. Metabolic and/or neural components will be at work and there will be no true way to separate one from the other. There was NEVER any intention on the researcher's part to suggest new...

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The Deadlift is an Anything-Goes Lift?

11 Apr 2013 14:37

By Eric Troy Olympic lifting experts often misunderstand the so-called slow lifts. The O-lifts are not technical and precise just because. Simply speaking, there is a much thinner line between technical precision and success in the O-lifts than in the slow lifts. This has everything to do with the amount of time you have to apply force and to maneuver the body. Therefore, when Olympic lifters with minimal true experience lifting maximum loads see the heavy deadlift they compare it to the clean or snatch and the deadlift seems to them like a loosey-goosey anything goes lift. I take exception to this portrayal. Although for some lifters it is an anything-goes type of thing, much more success and longevity, for most people, will be gained from a fairly strict adherence to good technique for most of the training load. Notice I said most. That's important. This, once again, is a difference between what we intend when we lift a maximal load, and what happens and is SEEN by others. The Olympic lifter might see what looks out of control, but this does not mean that the deadlifter approaches the lift from this perspective, nor does it mean that the lift IS out of control. It is the difference between form and technique, but it is also the difference between what an expert in the slow lifts has trained his or her eye to see and what an Olympic lifting expert has trained their eyes to see. The needs of the lifts are so much different that the results need to be viewed from different perspectives and expectations. I have yet to come across anyone who truly seems to be an expert at both disciplines. The clean and the deadlift are, in fact, often confused and conflated. Many people actually think that the deadlift is a derivative of the clean! This is absolutely not true. The deadlift came before the clean, which was not just a reaction to the deadlift. It may help to illustrate this if I describe a different version of the dead lift from the lift we call the deadlift today. Although we think of the deadlift as lifting a loaded barbell from the floor to the waist in one movement, during the old-time strongman days, such as those of Sandow, a lifter would often stand on two chairs or platforms and grasp a handle attached to a weight between the chairs. He would then lift the weight a couple of inches by straightening his legs and back. Obviously, the range of technique could be somewhat different than that of the barbell deadlift. Sometimes, the chairs were not used at all. The lifter just stood on the ground with a chain attached to a weight between his legs and the chain was used in a way that only required the lifter to hunch over at the shoulders a bit to initiate the lift. As I've explained before, the technique utilized in the lift is dependent on the implement being lifted! It is not called a deadlift because of a certain trunk angle or technique. This is a fallacy and yet many modern strength coaches, due to the ever increasing promotion of functional training, teach this fallacy. Deadlift simply means lifting the weight from a dead stop. Now, as you can see that anything to do with lifting a weight up from the ground to the waist could be considered a deadlift, you might wonder how someone could have derived the idea of the clean from this, since the clean has nothing to do with chains or chairs and the deadlift has nothing to do with getting the weight to your shoulders. Well, it is just as likely that the clean was a reaction to the Continental or the Continental Jerk. I discuss this, as well as much more information regarding the clean lift versus the deadlift in Clean Style Deadlift versus Powerlifting Deadlift I understand enough about Olympic lifting to know that there is a much greater need for precision, even in an all-out lift, within reason. But beyond this, most all of my time has been spent studying and perfecting the slow, maximum strength lifts, where a greater time to develop force means that, at times, the...

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