Thursday, November 6, 2008

Divide and develop!!!!

Seems like a strange heading for an article on health? Well, what it means is that your body is divided into 6 body parts while exercise programming – to develop it optimally!

Whether you are a male, trying to get bigger muscles, or just keep fit or you are a lady who again just wants to be in-shape and fit, it is usually better to focus on specific body parts on particular days instead of working the whole body daily or often.

Working the whole body often has the following drawbacks –
o It’s a simple logic – when the effort has to be distributed, the focus on individual areas is compromised. When you know you have to work your whole body, you tend to save your energy at every stage and not exhaust your energy in just a few exercises.
The principle of weight training is that –the focused body part has to be completely exhausted, which leads to microscopic tears in the muscle (technical term ‘microtrauma’), and the body develops that part by making it stronger.
Once again, please note that women do not possess the required hormones to bulk their muscles and hence will never put on muscle mass. So, get going with those weights to have better strength and tone.
o Another very important principle is that the body needs rest to recover from microtrauma which lasts from 48 to 96 hours, with adequate sleep.
Hence re-working the same body part often, does not give body enough time to recover and could negatively affect the results.

So, usually you will see your workout safely divided into 6 body parts – Chest, Back, Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders and Legs. Advanced buffs also go for further classification as in front part of legs (Quadriceps) or behind part (Hamstrings).Usually they are combined depending on the various principles and goals of the person.

Run first or lift first?

The next few articles will look into the different goals & objectives and how they figure on your workout card. Hope you find it enlightening!

Reached there. Now hop onto the Treadmill first or finish off your weights routine first? Well, the sequence can make a huge difference.

The basic way that the body supplies energy for both the activities is quite different. Without getting too technical, remember that any Cardio activity uses the ‘aerobic’ pathway to generate energy, which burns fats reserves as fuel. Weight training uses the anaerobic pathways to generate energy which mainly target carbohydrates (glucose) as fuel.

Hold on now – its not that simple! The twist in the story is that, firstly, the body is designed to use carbohydrates reserves first and only then fats reserves, within reason. And secondly, these fuels for anaerobic pathways last only for less than 10-15 minutes, when used continuously! The body then switches over to fat reserves as the primary fuel, for all ‘prolonged and continuous’ activities.

These facts can be used to your advantage as –
o If you are targeting to lose fat/weight, choose to weight train first – it effectively burns out the carbohydrate reserves – so by the time you hop onto the treadmill, there are very little anaerobic fuels left, and fats reserves are targeted earlier.
o But, if you are targeting to build mass, ignore the above option. Heavy training requires anaerobic fuels primarily, and by doing a prolonged cardio activity (> 30 – 40 min), there is effectively very less reserve left.
o But do remember that after any weight training activity, any cardio activity for 10-15 minutes really helps get the blood pumping and wash off any muscle soreness.

However, every body is different, and what may work wonders on one, may not work on another! So, don’t take these as laws, but try them out and see if it works for you!

Workout Programming – Explained

There are 5 main considerations –
§ Current Fitness Status
§ Past exercise record
§ Goals & Objectives
§ Medical Complications or trouble-points
§ Likes and Dislikes

Usually, if you are just beginning a workout routine for the first time, you are termed as a “Beginner”. From here on, you progress on to “Intermediate” and “Advanced” or even “Management” levels.
The type of exercises and their intensity varies with each of these levels. Management level is reached when you have met your goals and just need to maintain the fitness level.

The goals and objectives are one of the most important factors – since they define the base of the program. A person on weight loss will have a different program than someone of fat loss and so on.
Also important are the timelines and the weekly time availability. There are some people who can work out for 2 hours for 6 days a week, but others due to time constraints may be able to give only 30 minutes, 3 days a week or even lesser. The workout has to take into consideration all these factors.

Medical status is required to modify or avoid problematic exercises / movements. Afterall we exercise to become fitter, not get worse!!

The last factor, often ignored, is a very important factor to ensure adherence to any program. Motivation comes when you enjoy the workout – which makes sure you are regular to the gym.

The story behind the Workout card!!

The workout card must have the following details –

Start Date – No, it’s not just so that the Tele-callers keep reminding you to renew your membership – the start date is important, since the workout must be changed every 2-3 months. This is something that is mostly forgotten by the staff, in the midst of getting new members enrolled – so take note and demand a review, every 3 months at least.

Name & Membership Number – Again, the membership number is not just a number – it could be make or break your life! Why it is important is because – this is the only way, the gym staff can access your PAR-Q information, especially in case of emergency – E.g. in case of an accident involving blood loss, the blood group information on the PAR-Q can save your life!

Metrics (Height/Weight/BMI) – helps to track progress, review your program in case results are not forthcoming. Also helps to keep you motivated!!

Also, the weight / repetitions / sets information used by some of the health clubs is the ideal way to track your progress, and make immediate changes to the program.

Understanding your exercise schedule helps to appreciate your workout and go after the results you desire or after the programmer, who designed your card, if the results are not as expected!!

Getting the best out of your Gym membership!!

Welcome to world of information overload! 10 people, 10,000 opinions on what is right and what is not!! Prod them a little further, and they make you regret the moment you decided to ask them for details (!) – either by confusing you or offering unsolicited suggestions, since it worked for one of their clients / friends etc.
Being informed is the need of the hour, just to ensure that you can sift through the tonnes of information and make the right choice – that will suit you in all respects, and not just follow popular opinion.
And what better way to start, than understanding the essentials and the ‘workout card’– the piece of paper which can define your life in the short-term and the long-term.
But before that, there are two things that set apart good gyms from the not-so-good ones – a Fitness Test / Assessment and the PAR-Q form.

The Fitness test is a short non-invasive test usually to test your present fitness status under the 3 pillars of fitness – strength, stamina and suppleness. It is very important to design an exercise program so as to suit you and give you the desired results.

Next is the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) – which asks you for information about your contact information, age, gender, blood group, physical information, present physical activity level, past medical complications, current medications, vices, daily diet and nutritional status, family history of medical complications and other relevant information.
It is very important for any gym to have these details of each and every member – so as to design an effective exercise program, as well as a measure of safety and to avoid any legal obligations / complications.
You should also make sure that your Health club asks you to submit your doctor’s approval (Physician’s Release) in case you have any medical complications or are under any major treatment.