Newsletter Volume 1, Number 10

February 2, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: Hypertrophy Specific Training second year, Beginning HIIT.

  • Strength Training: This week I began the second year of Hypertrophy Specific Training. My aim is to recover from age-related muscle loss—sarcopenia—a process that affects everyone over the age of 30. To do this I will have to gain about 15 pounds of muscle and lose the same amount of fat. The hypertrophy-specific approach to resistance training is 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.

    This week I began my sixth cycle of seven weeks HST. I will work out with weights three sessions per week for the first six weeks and then take a week off to allow deconditioning. Each session, I work out with weights for about 45 minutes, not including resting time between exercises or sets. In this two-week mini-cycle, the number of repetitions is nominally 15 for each exercise, actually 13 to 17.

    On the first day, the weights were about one-half what they were on the very last day of the previous cycle, but the number of repetitions increased from 5 to 15. The difference seems incredible. For example, on the last day of the previous cycle, I was lifting 91 pounds with both hands for 5 repetitions on the Chest press machine. This week, I started with 45 pounds for 15 repetitions.

    For the first 10 repetitions, I thought, "This is child's play", but as I counted past 12, my muscles started to burn and I wondered if I would make it to 15. This shows how fast endurance is lost and confirms the value of deconditioning: the muscles can be stimulated without increasing the weights.

    This is also a reminder, if I ever need it, that if I stop working out, I will begin again the natural process of physical decline that started around age 30 and accelerated at age 50, leaving me almost senile by age 70. Make no mistake: exercise is no more natural than brushing your teeth every day. But without daily maintenance, you will lose your muscle and bone just as you surely as you will lose your teeth.

  • Aerobic Exercises: Last week, I started HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training on the ski machine (elliptical trainer). This week, I continued with 6 minutes at 8 km/h to warm up, raced at 15 km/h for 1 minute, and dropped back to 8 km/hr for two minutes, repeating the fast-slow cycle, finishing with 5 minutes cool-down, the whole workout taking 35 minutes. In practice, I was cycling my heart rate between 70% (100 beats/minute) and 85% (125 bpm), the upper limit based on risk determined by a stress electro-cardiogram.

    Progression: My research is continuing, but has not yet shown that long intervals are better than short intervals: the relevant studies are not conclusive. So I will continue with one-minute high-intensity intervals. On the ski machine, the intervals turn out to be no more than 45 seconds, because my heart rate reaches 85% in that time and I have to ease off.

    Does it Work? I didn't expect to see much result in a week and a half, but I did! What happened, when my wife and I were walking in the park, it started to rain. My wife said, "Shall we run to the car?" While her age is only 51 and up until five years ago, she played tennis every week, I haven't run for 40 years. We ran a hundred yards or so and she quit first, not too soon for me though! OK, so we didn't run very far or very fast. However, it was true running—not jogging—with strides as long as we could manage. I can't imagine ever becoming a sprinter, but will definitely try for longer distances. The lesson? It's never too late!

  • Abdominal Exercises: After ten days strategic deconditioning, I resumed abdominal exercises with fewer repetitions. During the first two weeks of this cycle, I will build the volume up to 60 repetitions per exercise and in the weeks following begin to add weights. Conventional wisdom is that we cannot see abdominal muscles if body fat is higher than 10% or so. Well, my best estimate is 20% body fat and I can see the start of a 6-pack. The abs exercises must be working.

    While we need regular abs workouts with lots of repetitions, we have to make sure that the exercises are effective. We must avoid obsolete and even dangerous exercises, like the traditional sit-up. Laboratory experiments have defined the best abdominal exercises. Of the ones described in the article, my favorites are the 30° crunch with the knees elevated, the Captains Chair (knee raises), and reverse crunch. A Swiss exercise ball is a superb tool for developing abs for beginners and veterans alike.

Tips of the Week

  • Visualize exercise: A considerable body of evidence is accumulating that shows people can develop muscles with mental exercise. Dreaming about exercise is an effective way to increase the impact of training in the gym.

    If you have not tried psycho-cybernetics, why not apply it to exercise. One way is to sit quietly visualizing an exercise before going to the gym. Some days, when I don't feel like working out, I sit for a few minutes visualizing lifting weights and soon find myself getting my gear together and heading for the car.

  • Avoid food poisoning: Bacteria in food can make you feel sick for days, even weeks. Use one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and one cutting board for vegetables. If you use only one cutting board, then wash it in hot water with detergent after preparing each type of food. Avoid boards made of wood, since the pores in the wood soak up germs. Nylon boards are best. Why not get two boards, since they are so cheap?

  • Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid essential to the body. Recent research indicates that lack of leucine may be a factor in age-related muscle loss. Leucine could be the secret of 'muscular' old age. A study has shown that long-term supplementation with excess leucine may be effective in maintaining muscle.

  • Impotence, once thought to be mainly psychological, is now known to be mainly physical, as Ray Sahelian, M.D. explains.

    [NOTE: I provide this URL for information only, not to promote Dr. Sahelian's product, about which I express no opinion.]

    I think the most important point in Dr. Sahelian's article is that most impotence is related to chronic conditions, some of which can be corrected by exercise, weight-loss, diet and changes in the use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances.

  • Policosanol and Gugullipid are two plant-based extracts shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol. This week, I intended to post more info on these herbal remedies. I found the job too big to do in a week. Instead, I plan to include the information in a new chapter to be added to the cholesterol e-book. My target date is the end of February.


  • Moe's Journey In my very first newsletter, I reported Maureen's story, how she lost 72 pounds of fat from February to December 2005. Moe has lost another 3 pounds since then, a rate that is slower, but safer for health. She says, "Picture yourself at your goal, say to yourself I WILL BE AT MY GOAL, I WILL LOOK GREAT AND FEEL EVEN BETTER!" Moe's Journey.

    Moe has agreed to be interviewed for Combat-Aging, an apparent inconsistency, since the focus of this site is aging and Maureen's age is not much above 30. Yet the message we are getting from the latest research on aging shows us that the process starts early, that muscle loss starts around age 30 and that without exercise and adequate protein, 5% of muscle will have been lost by age 40.

    We are filling in some gaps in the interview and selecting photos, but we are nearly finished. The crucial aspect of motivation and goals comes shining through as you can see in the following excerpt from the interview.

    I quote Moe's words just after she has talked about her parents and their struggle with chronic illness related to lifestyle:
    "I want to stop that pattern in my family and change the future for my own children. I can do this by changing my behaviors and giving them the knowledge of how we need to treat our body for a long and healthy life."
    I have never heard a better statement for a healthy lifestyle. What Moe says underlines the importance of fixing a goal in your mind. What do you really want so much that you are willing to spend time, effort and money to secure? If what you want most is not your health and well-being or that of your loved ones, what is it you do want? And can you achieve what you want without health and well-being?


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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