Volume 1, Number 11

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February 9, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: Hypertrophy Specific Training second year; adjusting HST to your schedule.

Last week, because the gym was closed for Chinese New Year, I shifted my weight-training sessions to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It was a short week for training: I got in my 2.5 regular hours for weights and abs, but only 4 hours for aerobics, including 0.5 hour warming up for weight training, 2 hours for interval training on the ski machine and 1.5 hours for walking. While, that adds up to 7 hours, it seemed like a light week. What a change from the days when I thought walking half and hour a day was heroic exertion!
  • Strength Training: Last week I began the second year of Hypertrophy Specific Training, based on Bryan Haycock's HST program, (Hypertrophy Specific Training). For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST) Part 1: Strength Versus Endurance.

    Flexiblity of the HST Schedule: Bryan Haycock's approach to Hypertrophy Specific Training is more flexible than it appears. You can vary the exercises, the rate of weight progression, the number of sets, and the number of repetitions per set. Today, I focus on variations in the number of weeks for each level of intensity and endurance (15, 10 and 5 repetitions).

    Rescheduling the One-Week Break: Sometime in March or early April, I expect to take up a consulting assignment in a Southeast Asian country. What is uncertain is the mobilization date. Based on previous experience, I want to avoid weight training during the first week of the assignment. However, the one-week break in my training schedule is due to start on March 18, too close. To postpone the break so that it falls at a more useful time, I may need a minimum of two extra weeks added to the workout schedule. If I stop increasing the loads lifted, my progress will stop, but if I keep increasing the loads lifted, I will risk injury. The way out of this dilemma is to duplicate each day's routine using the same weight.

    For example, while performing dips, I set the machine to provide assistance because I am not strong enough to do 15 dips unassisted. Since I weigh 134 pounds, I started with 57 pounds assistance, leaving 77 pounds for to lift with my arms. For 15 repetitions, the loads for dips for this week would normally be: Monday, 77 pounds; Wednesday, 79 pounds; and Friday, 81 pounds. To extend this schedule to two weeks, the loads would be: Monday & Wednesday, 77 pounds; Friday & Monday, 79 pounds; Wednesday & Friday 81 pounds. By duplicating loads, I can add one week to the schedule while preserving the principle of progression and avoiding loads that are too great for safety. To get an extra three weeks, I could duplicate the second week of each mini-cycle at 15, 10, and 5 repetitions. Why only the second week? I need to add only two or three weeks. It's better to repeat the loads for the second week of each mini-cycle because the loads are greater than the loads for the first week. If it turns out that I have to leave earlier, I won't duplicate the second week of the last mini-cycle, with 5 repetitions.

    Further Delay? If by the end of the cycle, there is further delay and I have to add more than three weeks, then I will repeat the 15RM cycle without a deconditioning break until I start the assignment. Switching to the 15RM, is switching to endurance training, which toughens joints (ligaments, tendons and cartilage). If I were younger, I might do what Bryan Haycock suggests: repeat the 5RM mini-cycle to consolidate strength. But at my age, I am more concerned with preserving joints. I can wait for strength to develop: Hey, so what if it takes three years more training to reach 15 unassisted dips. I will be delighted to become that strong by my 77th birthday. Exercise is for life, so there is no hurry.

    Goals and the Journey: the Way of the Tortoise

    Having goals keeps us going. But how we make the journey makes us sick or keeps us well. I follow the Way of the Tortoise, progressing step by step. avoiding injury and burnout, enjoying the journey. Saturday evening after training, I was tired but felt fantastic. At first, I thought it was just an after-training "high", but it continued all weekend and has not diminished. Nowadays, "up days" are the norm, though I still have the occasional down day.

    How to describe the feeling? Can you imagine waking up and feeling 20 years younger? Can you imaging having double your strength and energy? Can you imagine looking down to see your belly flat and tight? If you can, you can imagine how I sometimes feel like jumping up and down with joy. Yes, it's hard work controlling food intake, but it gets easier after a year. And yes, it takes discipline to make time for working out, but that gets easier too. What seems no longer easy would be a return to the old ways when I accepted what I thought was the "normal aging process". Now, I no longer passively accept physical and mental decline with age: chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, muscle loss, bone loss.

    Sooner or later defeat comes to everyone, but without a struggle? The poet Dylan Thomas lamented his father's passivity:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    I burn and rage against the night because it's a hell of a lot more fun than doddering in my dotage.

  • Aerobic Exercises:

    Aerobics as warm-up for weight training: The aim of a warm-up period should be to prepare the heart and the skeletal muscles for weight training. I walk for 10 minutes on the treadmill to get my heart rate to 70% of maximum. Various combinations of angle and speed would be effective. I start with a 14° angle and a speed of only 2 mph (3 km/h), nudging up the speed every minute or so until I reach 3.5 mph (6 km/h). Since my resting heart rate is only 51 bpm, it takes me 5 minutes to reach a heart rate of 100 bpm, 70% of 220 minus my age. After 10 minutes, I cool down for two minutes and go straight to the weight-room where I do ten minutes of abs exercises that stretch and flex my back and legs.

    Interval Training: Two weeks ago, I started high intensity interval training on the ski machine (elliptical trainer). Since I have just come from the weight room, I already warmed up. So I do 3 minutes at 8 km/h, race at 18-20 km/h for 45 seconds, repeating the fast-slow cycle and finishing with 5 minutes cool-down, the whole workout taking 30 minutes. These fast-slow intervals cycle my heart rate between 70% (100 beats/minute) and 85% (125 bpm). I try not to exceed 125 bpm, because a stress electro-cardiogram showed that my mitral valve is not stable above this level.

    Progression Some studies indicate that short high-intensity intervals are effective for training. On the ski machine, I can manage no more than 45 seconds, because my heart rate reaches 85% in that time and I have to ease off.

    Does it Work? I feel great after one and a half hours in the gym and since starting HIIT, I feel more energetic outside the gym.

    On Wednesday, I experimented with interval training on the treadmill, walking at 3.5 mph (6 km/h) and running at 5.5 mph (9 km/h). I plan to experiment more and report my findings.

  • Abdominal Exercises: After one week of deconditioning, when I did no abs exercises, I began with half the volume of abs exercises, 30 repetitions, finishing with 40 repetitions at the end of last week. At the end of this week, the volume will back to 60 repetitions. Knee raises in the Captain's Chair are the most difficult for me to do. I split the volume into two sets because I cannot yet get above 30 repetitions. Yes, leg raises are a real pain, but laboratory studies have shown them to be effective. Best abdominal exercises.

Tips of the Week

  • Choose navel oranges because they are seedless and the peel comes off easily. Fruits with smaller navels are best, because big navels indicate that the fruit may have been over-ripe when picked. Unlike some other types of orange, navel oranges are not dyed to make them orange. Because navel oranges are seedless and sweet they are ideal for blending with plain whey protein powder for a protein shake. This avoids chemical flavorings and sugar substitutes added to protein powders and ready-made shakes.

  • Consider DHEA for Mid-Life Depression: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can be effective for midlife-onset minor and major depression, according to the results of a placebo-controlled, randomized double-blind crossover trial published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Medscape article. The authors concluded:
    "We find DHEA to be an effective treatment for midlife-onset major and minor depression.... [The] response to DHEA did not differ between men and women."
    This is a highly significant result because of the severity of the trial conditions, a placebo-controlled, randomized double-blind crossover trial, rare for a supplement sold in health food shops. Yet such strict conditions are necessary for DHEA because most mainstream healthcare professionals claim that it is ineffective or dangerous.

    DHEA is the precursor of a steroid that occurs naturally in the body, but declines dramatically after middle age. Unlike synthetic steroids, DHEA is not used by athletes and is not banned by sports associations. Possibly, DHEA is ignored by athletes is because it has no effect on most people under 35, whose bodies already produce plenty.

    Until DHEA is banned as a supplement, pharmaceutical companies won't touch it because there is no money to be made selling a generic substance. Perhaps that's why opponents of the supplement supported a bill introduced in the last Congress to criminalize the possession of DHEA. (The bill expired before Congress recessed.)

    Making DHEA a controlled substance would place it under the control of the US federal Government, requiring doctors to follow federal rather than state guideline for prescribing. Doctors and pharmacists would have to report every DHEA prescription to the federal government. The penalty for unauthorized possession would be a term in a federal prison.

    Why not just make DHEA a prescription drug? I'm not an expert on US drug laws, but as I understand it, the Constitution limits federal control over the use of therapeutic substances. State governments could probably authorize doctors to prescribe DHEA, but could not stop individuals from buying DHEA by mail order. Congress may criminalize DHEA because that is the only instrument the federal government has it has for limiting sales. A scalpel might do a better job, but if all you have is a cleaver, you use a cleaver.

    Fidelin is the only form of DHEA approved as a prescription drug, for adrenal insufficiency. Fidelin is prescribed for people who lack cortico-steroid hormones because their adrenals have been removed. I see a future in which DHEA as a cheap supplement will be banned, but DHEA will still be sold as expensive prescription drugs under various brand names by various drug companies, each for a different chronic condition.

    Just wait until prescription drugs containing DHEA hit the market. You will see full-page ads by the pharmaceutical companies assuring you that DHEA is harmless. That's not the song we hear now in the Congressional lobbies.

    As with all supplements, prescription drugs and even vitamins, you need to be cautious in using DHEA. Vitamin D, for example, is also the precursor of a powerful hormone, but in America, it is as freely available now as DHEA. Compared to most prescription drugs and many over-the-counter drugs, DHEA is well tolerated, probably because the people who use DHEA are deficient in the natural hormone the body produces from DHEA.

    For more information see: Save Our Supplements.

    American citizens may contact their representatives in Congress. See below.

  • For High Blood Pressure Try More Vegetable Protein "Vegetable protein intake was inversely related to blood pressure. This finding is consistent with recommendations that a diet high in vegetable products be part of healthy lifestyle for prevention of high blood pressure and related diseases." Paul Elliot and colleagues from the INTERMAP Cooperative Research Group, Association Between Protein Intake and Blood Pressure. Archives of Internal Medicine 2006;166:79-87.

    Vegetable protein is high in many foods, including nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, especially those known as pseudo-grains, ("false grains", such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and sorghum).

    Nuts are almost as high in protein as fish and meat. To make up a complete protein from plant sources combine beans and grains or beans and nuts. Peanuts plus almonds would be a good combination, because peanuts are actually beans, high in lysine but deficient in arginine, which is supplied by the almonds. Around the world, many traditional diets combine a grain and a bean. The ancient Romans marched on beans and millet; the Incas, on beans and quinoa; the Aztecs, on beans and amaranth. Buckwheat, often used in America for pancakes, is not a wheat but a seed that originated in north China arriving in Europe a mere 500 years ago.

    Health food shops often stock vegetable protein isolates based mainly on soy, containing the complete range of essential amino acids. I mix one scoop of vegetable protein powder with every two scoops of whey protein powder.

  • Try glucosamine and chondroitin for treating joint conditions, especially knee joints. What is less well known is the role of chondroitin sulfate in heart health.

    Nakazawa and Murata report a five-year plus trial with 40 age-matched elderly subjects given chondroitin sulphate orally.
    The death rate in the groups treated with chondroitin sulfate was lower than the age-matched untreated control group. Serum cholesterol (LDL) dropped below the pre-treatment value. Clot formation time was prolonged 150% in the treated group compared with the untreated group. The size of the clots was reduced in the treated group. This experiment indicated that chondroitin sulfate is clinically effective for the treatment of artery disease. (Paraphrased from the abstract.) Nakazawa K, Murata K. Comparative study of the effects of chondroitin sulfate isomers on atherosclerotic subjects. Zeitschrift fur Alternsforschung 1979;34(2):153-9.
  • Policosanol and Gugullipid are two plant-based extracts shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol. How effective are they? How safe are they? How can we be sure that a specific product has the active ingredients? I propose to write another chapter for the cholesterol e-book, which I expect to have finished by the end of February.


  • J.I. Rodale was a pioneer in the wellness revolution. Today, J.I. Rodale is best known for the magazine he founded in 1954, Prevention, which is still a beacon for the wellness community. But I remember J.I. Rodale for a different reason. In 1949 at age 18, I started gardening, inspired by Rodale's magazine, Organic Gardening. Though I gave up gardening when I went off to college, my mother took over the gardening and subscribed to the magazine for the rest of her life.

    J.I. Rodale wrote two books during the 1950's, How to Eat for a Healthy Heart and The Pace is Not Killing Us. During the McCarthy era, Rodale could not find a publisher because his name was not on the list of authors who had been cleared as American patriots. So Rodale published his own books. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to stop him from advertising his books because they claimed that Rodale was not qualified to write about medical subjects. Many doctors testified at the FTC hearings in support of the FTC and at the close of the hearings, the FTC issued a "cease and desist" order. Rodale appealed, claiming the FTC order infringed his right of free speech. Rodale won, but the FTC hounded him until his death in 1971. Oddly, in the years before his death some of the experts who had testified for the FTC switched to the defense, refuting their own testimony given more than a decade earlier.

    Why? In the 1950's and early 1960's, the US Government was urging people to eat lots of meat and whole-fat dairy products. Doctors were instructing people with heart disease not to walk, but to stay on their couches. The heart-damaging effects of inactivity, smoking and cholesterol were not officially acknowledged. By 1970, scientists were accumulating evidence that diet and exercise are critical to heart health. Rodale's pioneering work was not vindicated until long after he died.

    I remember J.I. Rodale because he taught me the nutritional value of fruit, vegetables and whole-grain foods. But most of all I remember Rodale because of the garden he inspired me to grow. I can almost taste the tomato, lettuce and cucumber sandwiches made with toasted whole-wheat bread, stuck together with the thick relish my mom made from green tomatoes.

    Rodale's family still publishes a vast list of books and magazines. (Links to Rodale Inc. do not generate income for this site.)


  • Don't Forget the Fatty Acid: Scientists have confirmed the folklore that some foods are good for the brain. Fish oil and olive oil can protect not only the heart, but also the brain.

Coming Soon

  • Sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss, may be the main cause of decline in metabolic rate with age. Thus, muscle loss with age may be sufficient to make middle-aged people overweight.

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Bye until next week...
Fred Colbourne It's never too late!
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