Newsletter Volume 1, Number 13

February 23, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: Hypertrophy Specific Training second year, Circuit Training.

  • Strength Training: This week is the first of two weeks with medium weights, 10 repetitions per set. I love the "tens", not so demanding on endurance as the "fifteens" with their high repetition rate, nor as risky as the "fives" with their heavy loads.

    (Bryan Haycock designed HST as a rational system for building muscle mass, thus HST fits the needs of anyone who has lost muscle mass through aging, practically everyone over the age of 40. For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST).

    Some kind of tummy bug set back my exercise routine last week. I took it easy all week, with only two hours of weight training and four hours of moderate aerobics. Thursday morning sees me bright-eyed and bushy tailed, having exercised hard a total of four hours in the first three days this week. Reducing the volume of exercise for one week definitely paid off.

  • Circuit training: what is it? Months ago, when one of the trainers in my local gym said, "Oh, you're doing circuit training", he got a blank look. I had never heard of circuit training.

    As Phil Davies explains, the main criterion for circuit training is this, "you perform each exercise once before moving to the next station". In this context, performing an exercise "once" means performing "one set of a specified number of repetitions". Phil says,
    "If your goal is to improve your general health and fitness, circuit training is an obvious first choice. You can design a program to build strength, power and muscular endurance."
    I would go a little further than this: HST, performed as circuit training, is a safe and heart-healthy way to restore lost muscle mass. Circuit training may build muscle more slowly than split training, where the trainee works out four times per week alternating between upper and lower body exercises. But circuit training saves time, because the trainee does only one set per exercise with no rest between exercises. How is this possible? By changing muscle groups as you move from station to station, you switch from a fatigued group of muscles to a less fatigued group. Let me illustrate.

  • Circuit Training, an Example: On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I follow this schedule, with no rest between exercises.

    Compound exercises involve more than one joint; isolated exercises, only one joint.
    Warmup: 15 minutes, treadmill set at 15-degree incline, 3.5 mph (6 km/h)

    Abdominals: 10 to 15 minutes, crunches, reverse situps, leg raises.

    Lower back: 45-degree extension using the Roman Chair (animation).

    Upper back: four compound exercises

    Chest: four compound exercises

    Legs: five exercises, one compound and four isolated

    Shoulders: five compound exercises

    Note: For HST mini-cycles with light and medium weights, I do only one circuit. For the mini-cycle with heavier weights, I do two circuits. The time for a session varies from 45 to 60 minutes, not including warmup and aerobic exercise (mentioned below).
  • Aerobic Exercises: Recently, I added interval training and discovered that I can run again, not fast or for long, but truly run. I set up the treadmill to walk at 3.5 mph (6 km/h) and run at 6 miles per hour (10 km/h), alternating between walking two minutes and running one minute. This week, I ran for eight one-minute periods during a 33-minute session, an increase from last week's five one-minute periods. I didn't tire so quickly, not because my endurance increased, but because improved co-ordination made my running more efficient.

  • Comment: One and a half hours of continuous training may seem like a lot, especially for someone age 74, but I have slowly worked up to this level over a period of about 15 months. Circuit training allows a bigger volume of work because muscles are rotated instead of exhausted as they are with some other styles of training.

    Finally, I do not hesitate to take it easy now and then. On Tuesday, for example, I swam for 15 minutes, alternating among front crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke (5 minutes each), 10 minutes abdominal exercises and 30 minutes interval training on the ski machine. These exercises are all low-impact, and thus easier on the joints than running. Today (Thursday), my wife and I will walk in the park for an hour up and down hills. That's almost like having a day off!

Tips of the Week

  • Update on carob as a chocolate substitute: Last week, I tried carob because I have not been able to find Hershey's or Rapunzel's cocoa in the shops. This week, I jazzed it up a bit by adding one-quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon and three drops of stevia (a plant-based sweetener that is a thousand times sweeter than sugar). Still not quite the same as chocolate, but close enough until low calorie cocoa appears in the shops again.

  • Berberine, a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol and works in a way that is distinct from statin drugs like Lipitor or Zocor. No effect was seen on levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Dr. Jian-Dong Jiang of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and colleagues analyzed berberine's effect on patients who were not taking any other medications or herbs before or during the study. Among these patients, berberine lowered total cholesterol by 29 percent and LDL cholesterol by 25 percent. Health Center Online/Reuters

    Unfortunately, traditional herbs cannot be patented. So at 70 cents per day for berberine, who will be willing to develop a herbal remedy? Unless berberine can be banned. Once a substance is banned, the FDA can approve its use as a prescription drug at a much higher price. (Red rice yeast was banned because it contains a natural statin.)

  • Have Some More Benzene? "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating claims that many soft drinks continue to contain benzene, a known carcinogen, some 15 years after the soft drink industry promised to police itself on this matter." (Article)

    If someone agrees to sell you Brooklyn Bridge, do you really expect they will deliver?

    When I mentioned that I do not eat processed food, I forgot to say that I don't drink stuff in bottles, cartons, or cans. Well, maybe one or two cans of beer per month and half a bottle of wine. But no soft drinks and no fruit juice. Plenty of fresh and dried fruit though!

  • More shenanigans to be ended? The Whole-Grain Scam: For ages, we have known that whole-grain foods are good for health. When you shop for whole-grain foods, are you getting what you think you are getting? Maybe not, and that's just one reason why 50% of Americans never eat a whole grain food.
    "Degerminated corn is not a whole grain, which means most corn bread is not whole-grain. Neither is pearled barley or wheat flour or many items labeled multigrain, cracked wheat and seven-grain. And unless your pizza dough is made entirely with whole-wheat flour, it's not whole-grain, either." (Article)
    The US Federal Government would like to change this by defining "whole grains". This would make it easier for you to know whether your favorite bread, cereal, crackers and pasta are whole-grain or not.

    Mind you, any new labeling rules will not be mandatory, merely recommendations. The rule of caveat emptor, (let the buyer beware) will still allow the sale of fake whole foods.

    I won't mention the names of any countries, but I have lived in three countries where you can buy "brown bread" that contains no whole grain. You got it? Brown bread is white bread that has been dyed brown.

  • Can You Make it to 50 in One Piece? Aging begins long before you hit old age, something confirmed by the Framingham Study. Here's a new approach for those hoping to live a long and healthy life: Aim to reach age 50 with as few risk factors for heart disease and stroke as possible.
    "Cessation of smoking and maintenance of body weight are the two most readily modifiable risk factors.... If you can keep your weight down, your cholesterol will come down. And if you can keep your weight down, [your] risk of diabetes comes down as well."

    A healthy diet and adequate exercise are keys to warding off high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. "Eliminating the sedentary lifestyle that many Americans [are accustomed to] can add many years of healthy living to your life...." (Article)
    Already past 50 or close to it? Not to worry. It's never too late! You just have to work harder at it. Had I been more active when I was younger, I might be able to get away with a maintenance dose, say three or four hours exercise per week. As it is, I will need at least six hours per week to recover from neglect.

    In principle, the same is true about nutrition. In practice, we all bear the weight of culture and ethnicity, which together greatly influence our preferred foods and styles of preparation.

    These are the keys to a healthful diet:
    Aim to eat 90% unrefined food, not processed in factories

    Minimize your intake of animal fats

    Focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds, whole-grains and nuts

    Limit salt (sodium chloride)

    Avoid sugar

    Avoid excessive eating and drinking


Do you remember Admiral James Stockdale? James Stockdale was Ross Perot's vice-presidential candidate in 'the 1992 election. James Stockdale was the highest-ranking officer in the prisoner-of-war camp called the "Hanoi Hilton" in Viet Nam. For his heroic efforts in leadership, he was awarded Congressional Medal of Honor. He later became president of the United States Naval War College. As Inez Ng tells the story:
When Jim Collins met Jim Stockdale, their conversation naturally centered around Stockdale’s Vietnam experience. That’s when the “Stockdale Paradox” was born. When asked how he was able to endure his ordeal,

Stockdale said: “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of you current reality, whatever they might be.” (Jim Collins, Good to Great, HarperCollins, 2001).

As the Realist, Stockdale had to confront the brutal facts of his current reality, which were: The POWs had no idea when they would be released, and they were subject to torture and manipulation.
  • What are the brutal facts of your current reality relating to your aspiration?
  • What is one problem created by your current reality?
  • What is a solution to that problem?
  • What actions does the solution entail?
  • When will you complete the action?

To combat aging, we must confront the brutal facts of our current reality. We may have put on too much fat. We may have neglected proper nutrition. We may have lost muscle and suffered declines in strength and fitness. Perhaps we are some way down the road to chronic diseases.

The brutal facts are not reasons to abandon hope and lose faith. We have faith in the powers of the mind and body to heal themselves. We say "Reform the mind first so the mind can heal the body". But truly it works both ways: a healthy active body maintains mental health. If you have not yet started to use visualization to reform your mind, consider using the techniques outlined in the article, Reach Your Goals with Psycho-Cybernetics: Harness the Power of the Subconscious Mind.


  • What's RSS? This week I added a second way for reader's to subscribe. Not only do you not have to provide your email address, but you can access all your favorite sites using the same method. Discover why RSS is truly the easiest way to keep up-to-date with all your interests in less time.

    To be fair to readers who wish to use RSS, I have made the free e-book immediately available without asking for names and email addresses.

    How to Reduce Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs

    Download your free e-book here. (A new window will open with the request box at the bottom of the page.)

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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