Newsletter Volume 1, Number 9

January 26, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: HST after one year, Beginnng HIIT.

  • Strength Training: For the last six weeks I have been describing how my workouts follow a multi-week cycle, based on Bryan Haycock's HST approach(Hypertrophy Specific Training). For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training Part 1: Strength Versus Endurance.

    Last week I finished the sixth week of weight-training, working out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This week, I lift no weights to allow strategic deconditioning (SD). Without strategic deconditioning, I would have to continue increasing the loads every week, exposing myself to risk of injury and overtraining. By not lifting weights this week, I reduce my level of adaptation to weight lifting. When I begin to lift weights again, the same loads will seem heavier than if I merely continued lifting every week. With strategic deconditioning, I can start the next HST cycle with almost the same loads as the previous cycle and continue to stimulate the muscles. Besides, I want to repeat the last cycle, because on the last day, the calculated loads for some exercises were about 10% heavier than I could lift.

    How long do we need to decondition the body? Bryan Haycock mentions both one week and two weeks (9 days and 16 days, counting weekends). I used one week of SD for the first three HST cycles, two weeks for the fourth cycle, and will use one-week for the fifth cycle, which I complete this week. Why use one week SD instead of two? I confess that I like lifting weights. That's part of the reason. But the main reason is that this Friday completes my 52nd week, a full year working out with HST.

    While Friday marks the end of my first year with HST, I actually began strength training 62 weeks ago. The first ten weeks, I now call pre-training. Sounds very systematic, except that I stumbled into everything, studying madly to try to make sense of what I was doing. When I started, I had never lifted weights and had no intention of starting, aiming only to reduce chronic back pain and increase mobility—I could hardly bend my back. I bought a book on Pilates (pronounced "pee-law-tays") and then my wife bought a Swiss ball, diameter 36 inches (90 cm). I started with Pilates and Swiss ball exercises. While browsing a used-book shop, I found a tattered old manual written for Gold's Gym showing how to lift dumbbells. I added some 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) dumbbells to my home workout. By the end of ten weeks, I had progressed far enough with this pre-training to buy an adjustable dumbbell set, the entire set weighing 20 kg (44 pounds). That's when I discovered Bryan Haycock and his HST approach, which appealed to me because Bryan is an exercise physiologist and HST is based on laboratory experiments in exercise science.

    Home-based HST training is feasible. However, by the end of five months, I was lifting 10-kilogram (22-pound) dumbbells while balancing on an exercise ball, something that alarmed my wife. (I might fall off the ball, drop a dumbbell and crack a floor tile. Poor floor tile!) Reluctantly, seven months ago I joined Clark Hatch, the nearest fitness center. At US$5.00 per week and free parking, the total cost is less than parking alone at the other clubs in town. Besides, unless I invest a small fortune in home fitness equipment, I can progress faster with HST at a fitness center and more safely too.

    Progress summary at the end on one year HST: How do we measure progress? If body fat is still declining rapidly, then intra-muscular fat may be declining faster than muscle is growing. So measuring the circumference of the biceps or quadriceps may not be accurate. While increased strength may result from purely neurological adaptation and have little to do with increase in muscle mass, strength is at least measurable and widely accepted as progress. I will compare the loads at the end of March 2005 with loads at the end of January 2006, both 5-repetition mini-cycles.

    In March, my HST program included dumbbell squats with two 8.5-kg dumbbells, a total of 17 kg (37 pounds). The load lifted by the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) was 37 pounds plus about 90% of body weight (90% of 141=127), 164 pounds (74 kg). Ten months later, I was lifting 297 pounds (135 kg) in the leg press, including the weight of the sled and 10% of body weight, but ignoring friction. Since the angle of the sled is 45°, the effective vertical load was only 70% as much, 208 pounds (90 kg). This is an increase of 27% in 44 weeks, about half of one per cent per week. Not much progress, because I had already strengthened leg muscles by walking up and down hills six hours per week.

    In March, I my HST program included dumbbell presses with 8.5-kg (18.7-pound) dumbbells. By January, I was lifting 17.5-kg (38.5-pound) dumbbells, an increase of 100%, about 2% per week.

    In March, my HST program included dumbbell shrugs with two 8.5-kg (18.7-pound) dumbbells. By January, I was doing Smith-machine shrugs using 55-kg, counting the bar, an increase of 225%, about 5% per week.

    This experiment with HST confirms that strength can be increased dramatically even after the age of 70. The weakest muscles progress the fastest. Arms and shoulders progress more than legs. Progress during the first year is mostly neurological, with limited gains in muscle mass. Upper arms and thighs may be no bigger at the end of one year, but the amount of intra-muscular fat may be less and the amount of muscle greater. I am hoping that the one-year point may a platform on which to build real gains in muscle mass during the second year using HST.

  • Aerobic Exercises: On Monday, I started HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training on the ski machine (elliptical trainer). For three months, I have been doing 30 minutes per day about five days per week on the ski machine at 8 km/h (5 mph). This has been mostly steady-state training, though I have occasionally speeded up to 12 km/h. To convert this to HIIT, I first do 6 minutes at 8 km/h to warm up, race at 15 km/h for 1 minute, drop back to 8 km/hr for two minutes, repeating the fast-slow cycle 8 times in 24 minutes. Including 5 minutes for cooling down, the whole workout is 35 minutes. That's the theory. The practice is not so tidy.

    How Do I Determine the Correct Speeds for HIIT? The key to HIIT is to determine heart-rate targets first and then note the speeds needed to achieve the heart-rate targets. I know that I can stress my heart safely up to 85% for short periods, because a stress electro-cardiogram showed a regular pattern up to that level. I calculate 220 minus my age to get 146 and take 85% of that to get 125 beats per minute. I reach that upper target by momentarily hitting 20 km/h (12 mph). The lower limit is arbitrary, somewhere around 70%, 100 beats per minute (70% of 146). I reach the lower target by dropping to 5 km/h momentarily and then gradually increase to 8 km/h, which sustains me at 100 beats per minute.

    Why HIIT? First, high intensity training improves fitness, as Dr Mirkin tells us: Fitness is determined more by how hard you exercise than by how long you exercise. Exercising at a casual pace does not do much to strengthen either your heart or your skeletal muscles. When you work harder, more blood returns to your heart, and this increased amount of blood fills the inside of your heart and stretches it, so your heart has to pump against greater resistance and the heart muscle becomes stronger. Abe Mirkin, M.D.. But I am not fit enough to train for long at high intensity. The solution is to introduce short intervals at high intensity, hence high intensity interval training (HIIT). Dr Mirkin cites a study conducted in Denmark: At the University of Copenhagen, Danish scientists studied experienced runners who had been running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. One group was told to cut their mileage in half to only 30 miles a week, but to run a series of around 50 to 100 yard dashes as fast as they could. The other group continued running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. Runners who ran fewer miles at a faster pace had a 7% improvement in their body's maximal ability to take in and use oxygen. Abe Mirkin. M.D  
  • Dr Mirkin concluded, "If you don't run very fast in practice, you won't be able to run very fast in races. "

    When I was young, I was a good runner, but now I can't run for more than 15 seconds. This experiment will test the idea that HIIT can restore the ability to run. I plan to do this by progressively increasing high intensity intervals relative to the low intensity baseline.

    Progression I have not seen much about progression. What I will try is this. The first week, I will do 35 minutes on three days, as described above. The following week, I will increase the low intensity period to five minutes and the high intensity period to two minutes. Meanwhile, I will research the question of where to go from there, perhaps decreasing the low intensity component each week from 5 minutes to four to three, etc.

    Before attempting HIIT, beginners should build up their level of conditioning to at least 20 minutes, aiming to keep heart rate at 70% of the maximum for their age, warming up and cooling down at least 5 minutes. Machines are not very responsive, so high intensity intervals of less than one minute may not be practical on a treadmill or ski machine. If jogging on the ground, the high intensity interval (running) might be as little as 15 seconds before dropping back to a jog. If walking, jogging would form the high intensity component.

    Once reaching 20 minutes at 70% of maximum heart rate, a beginner should also consider having a stress electro-cardiogram before increasing intensity. The purpose is to determine if there are irregularities in the heart beat that would limit maximum heart rate below that indicated by the formula 220-AGE. For example, I know that I cannot safely go over 130 beats per minute, 90% of the maximum for my age. I wear a heart rate monitor and make sure that I don't push past 125 bpm. OK, so I did go as high as 133 a couple of times for a few seconds, but unintentionally.

    How Does IT Feel? Weird, because I never imagined I could hit 12 mph (20 km/h). Monday was easy, because I did not really push myself to do the full one-minute high intensity. Wednesday, I tried hard to keep to the schedule and it was challenging. This morning (Thursday) my calf muscles were stiff and a little sore, a sure sign that HIIT is doing something already. The biggest benefit may be the fact the HIIT is not boring. To do HIIT, you have to concentrate on speeding up fast enough to hit the heart-rate target and maintain it. Then you have to concentrate on slowing down at a rate that will get you back to the baseline heart rate. HIIT is definitely not boring, like walking on a treadmill at a steady pace for 35 minutes.

  • Abdominal Exercises: No abs exercises this week as part of strategic deconditioning.

Tips of the Week

  • How Much Coffee is Too Much? Robert Superko, M.D. and his colleagues studied 187 subjects enrolled in a clinical trial, the Coffee and Lipoprotein Metabolism Study. The subjects drank three to six cups of coffee per day. Superko's team found no overall difference between groups that drank regular or decaffeinated coffee. However, regular coffee raised blood pressure and decaf raised LDL, the bad cholesterol. Dr Superko cautioned, "People should not freak out if they drink one or two cups a day." Depending how cautious you are, two cups of coffee per day seems to be OK. I personally drink one cup per day of espresso diluted with water (an Americano). Once a week, I drink a second cup.

  • Mom Was Right About Catching a Chill! Researchers at the Common Cold Centre in Britain found that 10% of students who got their feet chilled also developed symptoms of the common cold. The scientists speculated that the students may have already had the infection, but the chill caused a cold to develop. Johnson C, Eccles R., Common Cold Centre, Cardiff School of Biosciences.

    Other research has shown that covering the head may be even more important than covering the feet, because more heat is lost from the head than from any other part of the body.

  • Try Pilates for Backache: Curing backache is actually a by-product of strengthening the core and increasing flexibility. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council for Exercise (ACE) described Pilates as providing, "...a long list of benefits including improved body mechanics, balance, coordination, strength and flexibility....” ACE search results for Pilates.

  • Exercise with a Swiss Ball: Paul O'Lone tells how the Swiss Ball helped him in his struggle. The story of Paul O'Lone, Muscular Dystrophy and the Swiss Ball..

    Preview of Next Week's Tips

  • Policosanol and Guggullipid 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? Next week, I will post more info on these herbal remedies. I will try to include another, artichoke extract.


Jim's Diet Blog

  • Jim Foster Many readers will know of Jeremy Likness and his dedication to the health and fitness lifestyle. Jeremy posted a message to say he will no longer be sending out a newsletter. He sent an email last week to introduce Jim Foster whose blog dispels the hype about weight loss. I asked Jim for some background information and this is what he wrote:

    "I guess I got serious about fitness sometime in 2003. As a child I was lean, but as I progressed thru my late 20s it become very easy to gain fat (especially around my stomach). Despite always being interested in nutrition, it wasn't until I read Tom's BFFM, that I really felt motivated. It's also been a joy to watch my wife suddenly become interested early last year (after watching me I guess).

    These days lifting weights are an everyday part of our life. I'm not a bodybuilder - my body just doesn't build big muscles - but I enjoy the lifestyle, and it was rather pleasing to hear my doctor say to me the other day "you have the blood pressure and cholesterol of a 15 year old. I'm 34 - so nutrition, weights, and cardio really can work. Of course it's all been a journey, I am no stranger to sickness - but that's another story!

    Over the last 2 years I have become extremely interested in diet and weight loss - and realized there was so much hype out there. Thus - - which (I believe) is a unique resource in the nebulous world of weight loss. I try and mix humor, psychology, tips, reviews, and all sorts of things. I have about 3000 subscribers and plenty of people who come in from the search engines.

    Have a delve in the archives -- there is a huge amount of stuff in there now. I didn't want Jeremy's site to be abused, so I have taken over, and will continue to maintain the site - however I've no time to run a newsletter. Diet-Blog is something that I update every single weekday, so there is always new material." Jim's Archives for Diet Blog.


  • No new reports this week.

  • Chronic diseases: Last week, I added a new section on chronic diseases, their causes and cures.

  • The Milano gene may be a harbinger of things to come. Last week, I posted an article about gene therapy for chronic diseases. The Milano gene is the basis of the first successful medical procedure for curing artery disease. Vaccination may soon be available to combat bad cholesterol. Lifestyle change turns out to be a form of self-administered gene therapy called epigenetics. It works by switching on good genes and switching off bad genes.

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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