Volume 1, Number 16

March 16, 2006

Newsletter Archive

Subjects: 40-pound dumbbells; Consolidating new muscle; Circuit training; Firm abs; Right way to crunch; Folate for stroke? Leucine to protect muscle? Discover yourself; What's your maximum heart rate? Blogs you may have missed; What's RSS? Lower Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs

From my Diary

Recap of the Last Week

Last week was the start of lifting heavy loads only 5 times each, what I call the "5RMs" (five-repetition maximums). By the end of this mini-cycle, the last repetition of each exercise will be the maximum that I can lift 5 times, but not six times. In theory, that's what "5RMs" mean. In practice, whenever I think I will fail, I stop, because I don't want a 40-pound dumbbell to come crashing down on me.

Bouncing 40-pound dumbbells off your chest is not enough fun to become habit-forming. But it does happen! The ones in our gym are rubberized, so when you see one coming, you draw in your breath sharply and let the dumbbell bounce on your ribcage. Believe me, if you have to struggle with the weight, it's best to quit when you can get four repetitions or as many as you can get with steady movement. Leave the fifth repetition until next time.

Bryan Haycock designed HST as a rational system for building muscle, 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).

Change in Schedule

So far, I have been doing mini-cycles of two-weeks each. But I want to extend this two-week mini-cycle to four weeks, for two reasons: first, to postpone for two weeks the one-week break that I take for strategic deconditioning; second, to change over to a four-week cycle only for the 5RMs. Why?

Consolidating New Muscle

A well-known observation is that a bodybuilder equal in size to a weightlifter may not be as strong as the weightlifter. Bryan Haycock explains this by saying that the weightlifter has trained himself to recruit more muscle fibers. Also, Bryan tells us that bodybuilders have less rationally developed muscles. In effect, their muscles are "under-done"—the last stage is either missing or not emphasized enough—the stage that I call "consolidation". This final stage results in harder, stronger muscles.

Extract from: Training for Size and Strength: Advanced Training Planning for Bodybuilders, Part 1

Hypertrophy can enhance muscle function (rational) or reduce muscle function (irrational). With the development of irrational hypertrophy, the increase in volume of the muscle cell outstrips the functional ability of the vascular system. Rapid increases in the volume of a muscle cell leads to diminished nutrient and oxygen supply, slowing down the metabolic processes in the muscle and less efficient disposal of metabolic waste products from the muscle tissue (Zalessky & Burkhanov, 1981).

It is not only a matter of degree of hypertrophy, but also matter of the ratio of sarcomere/sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

Another effect of irrational hypertrophy is a decreased ability of connective tissue to repair and strengthen itself. Any increase in strength made possible by increased muscle mass without adequate increases in connective tissue deposition leads inevitably to damage to tendons and ligaments (Zalessky & Burkhanov, 1981). Rapid and excessive hypertrophy usually leads to slower muscle recovery after exercise, deterioration in contractile properties as well as an increased incidence of injury.

Source: Bryan Haycock.

The role of the 5RMs

Heavier weights with lower repetitions consolidate new muscle and increase strength. In his training program, Bryan provides options for doing this that I ignored during my first year of training. If I had pushed for heavier weights, my tendons and ligaments probably would have suffered. Last week, I discovered that the tendonitis in my right elbow that I started noticing six months ago, now lasts only 24 hours after exercise, compared with 5 days back then. Since there are 48 hours between weight-training sessions, by the time I return to the gym, the tendonitis has gone.

Yes, it's a little risky, but I feel reasonably confident that I can move on, extending the HST (Hypertrophy Specific Training) cycle to eight weeks by adding another two weeks of 5RMs. The weights will increase at just over 3% per week, half as fast as before.

This experiment may take at least 12 weeks to show positive results. Negative results, if any, should start next week!
  • Strength Training: Circuit training uses one set per exercise and no rest between exercises. To avoid fatigue, we change from one muscle group to another with each exercise. So if you push a weight away from your body in one exercise, you pull it towards your body in the next exercise. (The pushing exercises are often called presses and the pulling exercises called rows (as in "rowing a boat". If you use your upper body in one exercise, you can use your lower body in the next exercise. In my circuit, I do 20 exercises of five repetitions in 25 minutes, not quite running from one gym station to the next. Two circuits takes 50 minutes, not counting the time for abdominal exercises.

    Benefits of Circuit Exercises

    • No resting, so you save time
    • No resting, so you burn more calories
    • No resting, so you increase stamina as well as strength
    • Many exercises, so you hit all the muscles, including stabilizers
    • In a crowded gym, usually one station is free that fits your schedule
    • You can burn moderate amounts of fat and grow moderate amounts of muscle

    Disadvantages of Circuit Exercises

    • If you do only circuit training, you will never become a professional bodybuilder. Big deal!

    • You may need to slack off high-intensity interval training (HIIT), at least for a while. Otherwise, you risk over-stressing your body. If you give your body a chance to adapt, within a few weeks you can gradually increase the total level of intensity until you are doing HIIT again.

  • Aerobic Exercises: I eased off the aerobic training, postponing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) completely until I adapt to the stresses of circuit training. Aerobics now consists in treadmill walking uphill at 3.5 mph (6 km/h), ski-machine at 6 mph (10 km/h) and walking in the park. The total aerobics target is 6 hours per week.

  • How to jazz up your abdominal exercises: At the end of January, I started using weights with abs exercises. I can't believe how quickly I began to see results.

    First, a little bit about the reasons why weights might work for abs too. You can't keep on doing the same thing over and over and expect progress. You have to keep challenging the muscles. Otherwise, muscles reach a certain level of capacity and then stop developing. The same is true of abs, as I have been discovering.

    On January 31 at the start of this HST cycle, I started holding a 5 pound (2.5 kg) weight close to my chin when doing crunches and reverse situps. Two weeks later, I increased the weight to 11 pounds (5 kg), and two weeks later, to 22 pounds (10 kg). By the end of six weeks, I am doing 2 sets of 24 repetitions with 22 pound dumbbells.

    With leg raises, I started with 35 repetitions and increased to 60. Two weeks later, I strapped 2.5-pound (1.1 kg) weights to each ankle and reduced the number of repetitions to 30. Two weeks later, I increased the weights to 5 pounds (2.3 kg) for each ankle. By the end of week six the sets are: 25 reps, 15 reps, 10 reps, for a total of 50 reps.

    Results? At the end of the first month, I could see gains in the abs muscles. This is contrary to what the experts say, that at just over 20% body fat, my fat level is too high to reveal abdominal muscle. Despite what the books and magazines say the abs are visible.

    From now on, I will use weights three times a week for exercising abs muscles. On alternate days and during the deconditioning break, I will do the abs exercises, but without weights.

    If you have lost weight around the middle, but things still seem loose, I suggest you start regular abs exercises without weights for six weeks and then gradually add weights.

    • With crunches, you lie on your back and raise your head and shoulders no more than 30 degrees.
    • With reverse situps, you sit upright, secure your feet and lean back about 30 to 45 degrees.
    • With leg raises, you suspend your body between bars with your legs hanging below, and raise your knees as high as you can.

      CAUTION: Conventional situps are no longer performed because of the danger of back injury.

Tips and Comments on the News

  • The Right Way to Do Crunches: Dori Ricci shows the proper way to do crunches with video and sound.

    Check out the other videos at WebMD: WebMD's list of exercise and other videos. You can scroll the inner window to reveal all 70 or so video titles. Have fun!

  • Folate May Still Be Worth Taking:

    Folic Acid May Cut Stroke Deaths
    Stroke Deaths Down in U.S., Canada After Foods Fortified With Folic Acid

    Stroke is the third cause of death for U.S. adults.

    Quanhe Yang and colleagues compiled data on stroke deaths from 1990 to 2002 in the U.S., Canada, England, and Wales. By 1990, stroke deaths had been declining in all of these places. In the U.S. and Canada, stroke deaths declined faster after folic acid (folate) was added to "fortify" certain foods. But in England and Wales, where the law does not require fortification with folate, stroke deaths didn't decline as fast as in the U.S.

    The results of this study are not conclusive, because many other factors are involved. But the study does show that further study is justified.

    Q. Yang, L.D. Botto, J. D. Erickson, R. J. Berry, C. Sambell, H. Johansen, J.M. Friedman. Circulation, March 14, 2006. American Heart Association.
    My Comment Folate may benefit some people for other reasons apart from stroke and heart disease.

  • Are You Getting Enough Leucine? Researchers from the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, asked this question.

    Amino acids and muscle loss with aging

    "Aging is associated with a progressive loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), which increases the risks of injury and disability. Although the mechanisms of sarcopenia are not clearly elucidated, age-associated alterations in the muscle anabolic response to nutritional stimuli and a decline in protein intake may be significant contributing factors."

    "Specifically, aging is associated with changes in the muscle protein metabolism response to a meal, likely due to alterations in the response to endogenous hormones. Nonetheless, the older muscle is still able to respond to amino acids, mainly the essential and BCAAs [Branched-Chain Amino Acids], which have been shown to acutely stimulate muscle protein synthesis in older individuals."

    "Recent data suggest that excess leucine may be able to overcome this age-related resistance of muscle proteins to leucine. For this reason, long-term essential amino acid supplementation may be a useful tool for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia, particularly if excess leucine is provided in the supplement."

    Fujita S, Volpi E. Journal of Nutrition, January, 2006.
    My Comment Whey protein is an ideal supplement for getting extra leucine. Just blend unflavored whey powder with water, and sweeten with a navel orange and prunes or dried apricots.

  • Check out these blogs that you might have missed:

Discovery: Why not discover yourself?

  • Start with where you are now. What's your health profile?

  • What are your prospects for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia (mental decline) and cancer?

  • What controllable factors are you controlling? (Like: weight, nutrition, smoking, alcohol, sexual risks, exercise, sleep).

  • Imagine what aging will be like if you do and if you don't control these factors. (Saying you don't expect to live that long is a cop out. Nowadays, almost everybody lives long enough to become an invalid. The question is: Do you want to become an invalid for a long time sooner or for a short time later?)

  • If you could transform yourself, what would you want to be like right now? Maybe you can't have it all and maybe not right away, but you can have some of what you want.

  • Can you turn this wanting something into a plan for achieving something?

  • Of course you can! You've done it lot's of times before as part of an outside job or as a homemaker or as a hobby.

  • What could you achieve if you really put your heart and mind into it? This could be the most creative and challenging project of all: taking control of your life in a way that hardly anyone does. Taking control of your health and well-being. Radically changing your prospects for the future.

  • What would you have to do to get started?

  • How many hours a week can you spare to get started?

  • How many months would it take to show some results?

  • Why not get out a notebook right now and write the outline of a plan? Later, you can build the outline into a concrete program?


  • What's Your Maximum Heart Rate? Dr. Mirkin explains, "As you age, your maximum heart rate slows down. The fastest your heart can beat is supposed to be 220 minus your age. When your leg muscles contract, they squeeze veins near them to push blood toward your heart. When you leg muscles relax, the veins fill with blood. Intense training that strengthens leg muscles can increase maximum heart rate so you will still be able to compete against younger athletes."

    For some people, there may be other factors to consider when they set heart rate targets. More about maximum heart rate.

  • What's RSS? I have added a second way for readers 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.

  • Blogging: The Anti-Aging Blog is my mini-journal about I add items whenever I see something that might be interesting to readers.

  • Blog Archive: The Blog Archive compiles only those blogs that are not also Web pages on

    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.

Go to Top

Bye until next week...
Fred Colbourne, It's never too late!
Site map for