For Balance, Bones, And Belonging– Tai Chi and Seniors Are Perfect Together!

Originally posted on The Senior Health and Fitness Blog:

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Many years ago, while experiencing the unique and beautiful city of San Francisco, I happened upon a sight that, to this day, brings a smile to my face.

It was about eight in the morning, on a foggy, cool Saturday. As I ambled along, turning a corner, I headed down a quaint, short street that angled into another. In the distance appeared, through the hovering mist, a large group of people in a small neighborhood park, all moving in perfectly synchronized slow motion. As I neared, the grayed hair and wrinkled faces came into focus. I was captivated by the beauty of the flowing motion of these unusually agile seniors as they practiced their Tai Chi.

This I have never forgotten.

These are some of the benefits they experienced on that still and tranquil Saturday morning.

Hip Strengthening and Development     It may be difficult for you to see…

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Over-Extending On Heavy Lifting: Wrong Technique, Wrong Results.

One of the ideas that I developed in my years of training focused on extending a little extra at the end of an exercise. For example, in a seated lat pull down, I would use the weight at the end of the rep (arms fully straight over head) to stretch as much as I could. My thinking was to fully involve the tendons and ligaments as much as possible and expand the safe range of motion.

Here’s where I think that I may have created my own problem regarding the ‘clicking and popping’ discussed in the previous post. Visualize this… When doing the bent over dumbbell row (knee on bench, using opposite arm to pull weight to chest), I allowed the arm to fully straighten at the bottom and slightly dropped the shoulder. When pulling the weight up, especially max weight, the shoulder was extremely stressed. The starting position, I’m thinking now, should have been with a slight bend in the elbow and not dipping the shoulder toward the floor to extend the stretch.

Every one of us who exercises seriously looks back at injuries and tries to figure out why. Obviously, we don’t want it to happen again, and it’s part of how we think when we can’t train.

Here’s another reason pointing me to the evidence regarding the issue of technique: still sore, but functional, I did a back routine last week including the same exercise and the same 3 rep max weight on the third set…but this time no over extending on the downstroke. The following rest days proved to be less popping and clicking.

The complicating problem here is, that with aging and use, things just wear out. I am convinced, however, that the overemphasis on extending the range of motion on heavier sets was counterproductive.

Train Safely,

Steven

Clicking, Popping, and Pain: Sidelined By Shoulder Pain

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You may have noticed a silent period. My shoulder pain has sidelined me at the time of my best gains.

For those of you reading this who are also grimacing with every move of the shoulder joint, read the excellent information posted here by Dr. Howard Luks, to gain an insight:

http://www.howardluksmd.com/shoulder-faq/my-shoulder-snaps-and-pops-and-i-hear-clicking-why/

Clicking, popping, and pain–for three weeks now; that’s me. Obviously, rest is the order of the day… or even weeks, perhaps. Those of you with the fitness mindset understand my frustration. As usual, let me share a few observations, so that you can compare your own experiences and solutions, and perhaps share them for our benefit–especially if you’ve followed through with treatment.

Observations:

The pain was not a result of a sudden trauma. As you see in the accompanying article, it can simply be worn out parts.

Having had a bad experience with Ibuprofen, I avoid anti-inflammatory medications:

https://theseniorhealthandfitnessblog.com/2014/03/24/believe-the-warning-labels-my-near-death-experience-with-ibuprofen/

My gameplan for now is to completely switch gears toward ‘light and lean’ again. I had no popping and clicking issues until this last five week emphasis on poundage.

If the pain persists, of course I’ll have further tests.

I’d wave ‘Goodbye’ but it hurts,

Steven

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Cellucor: Maximum Effort, More Sets

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I’ve never been one for pre-workout supplements before, but while shopping for my creatine on Amazon, they directed me to an item which they thought would be of interest.

They were right.

After reading the reviews of others (always a useful information source for me on Amazon), I added it to my cart and placed the order.

It’s Thursday before the 4th of July. Knowing that I won’t be able to train again until Monday, I decided to try my C4 on a full body routine but with the same number of sets as if split over two days. This is the first trial with the supplement.

It’s my day off, and we had out of town guests last night, so I slept in till 9:30. Breakfast was light–a couple of eggs, toast, coffee and an orange. The directions on the C4 suggest not having caffeine in addition to the shake. I’m a morning coffee guy and not prone to taking directions seriously.

A number of users on Amazon wrote that the effects of C4 (tingling in the hands and energy surge, among others) kicked in within 5-10 minutes, while the directions said about 30. For me, the directions were correct. Drinking it on the way to the gym, I arrived in 15 minutes, and 15 minutes later I felt an overall surge of energy. Nothing dramatic, but it was there.

My workout was strong for the first hour. Normally I am done in an hour, being spent and pumped, but feeling good–you know what I’m talking about. But today I was only half done after an hour. I still had back, legs, and shoulders to do.

It got done… with satisfying intensity.

Observations:

I’m impressed.

Right now, 2 hours after the workout, I feel great. Listening to smooth jazz as I write this, I would describe it as mellow.

I have no connection to any of the products I discuss.

There are warnings on the label, so I guess I should advise you to use at your own risk to cover the legal angle of liability of recommending this product.

Having said that, I recommend it.

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven

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“It’s About You… It’s About Time!”

Creatine: The Effect Is Noticeable

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Here’s the sum of my experience with incorporating creatine in my training routine for the first time: I shouldn’t have waited so long.

Let’s take a look at what’s happened the last five weeks.

The first big change was teaming up with a training partner who is a serious and accomplished lifter. Immediately, I moved into handling heavier weights because I now have a competent spotter. Secondly, my diet changed radically; from lean and minimal to multiple meals always including the protein I needed. These facts are important because I made these changes three weeks before I started the creatine, and my body was already starting to respond.
Incorporating multiple changes at the same time makes it difficult to determine the effects individually. The one thing that definitely stands out, however, is the difference I experienced with soreness post-workout. Always, I have been slow to recover from major workouts–even in younger years, which was long ago. After taking creatine as directed for a week, the recovery difference became obvious. Hector and I had done a chest routine (and tris and abs afterwards): 6 exercises and 3 sets per group. We pushed each other to the max every last set. Normally, the next day I would be extremely sore and feeling tired because of the soreness. With the creatine, the soreness was noticeable, but significantly less than what has been normal for me all my training life! The next day, even after a poor night of sleep, I did legs and back with heavier weights than the week before.

This brings me to the next point… gains. Because three major components of my routine changed dramatically at the same time, these next few observations come from my years of training and understanding how I’ve responded in the past to a similar lifting regimen. With the creatine, size and strength gains exceeded what I have accomplished in the past. It’s that simple.

Observations:

It was a week of taking creatine before I noticed anything different.

Others have stated that some don’t respond and some do. For sure, I have.

There are no negative effects that I can detect.

To Your Health and Fitness

Steven

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Creatine, Me, And A New Routine

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Last post suggested incorporating a motivated training partner into your routine for better results. The next step, now that I’ve emerged from my unacknowledged slump, is to experiment with a diet change.

For the longest time, I’ve been training ‘calorie lean’, staying slim but no real gains in muscle bulk. Figuring it was mostly a matter of diminishing testosterone at my age, I accepted the meager results. My routine consisted of Supersets, working the entire body each session, three times a week.

Now the regimen is split: six exercises per body group, three sets per exercise. When I finished my first workout with Hector, (chest/tris/abs), I couldn’t lift my arm to wipe the sweat from my forehead.

So guess what… maybe the diminishing testosterone levels are less of a factor than I thought (another future post). The results are turning back the clock. It was the hard work that was missing.

The other major difference, which is an important component, is a dramatic diet shift to more calories and protein. Definition in the abs is a neat thing, but I’ve never found the balance to gaining bulk and trimming the waist. So now I’m putting on desired mass, and a little extra around the waist, to accomplish the mission.

What about the Creatine?

It’s a new component to my list of changes and I’ll bring you my impressions in the coming months, but let me share a couple of initial points.

If you haven’t bought from Amazon before, you’re missing a great resource. Aside from the savings on the products, the comments included by verified purchasers have always been a great help to me. I had already done my homework on the value of creatine itself, and its long-term safety, but haven’t before utilized it systematically.

So I apologize if you were looking for a benefit analysis here – – that will certainly follow.
But to satisfy your craving for creatine data, peruse the following…

Here is an excellent summary article from Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/creatine/NS_patient-creatine.

Also, I came across an interesting article in The Journal of Exercise Physiology which discusses the benefit of combining caffeine and creatine and the results may be of interest to you. Apparently, there are many of you who are already doing this combination; seeking, of course, to maximize results. So here I am, after having read enough about the efficacy of creatine that I will now be on board this train–let’s look at one aspect of this creatine/caffeine combo someone actually tested.

Coffee has been a pre-workout ritual of mine for a long time. In fact, for mid-morning workouts, I prefer having no breakfast, simply coffee before workouts. For me, the feeling of any food in the stomach detracts from my workout.

There are a number of things that can be measured to evaluate improved athletic performance, such as ‘time to failure’ which would be an endurance improvement; pure strength improvement, as well as time differences. In this test, they focused on something called ‘Ventilatory Anaerobic Threshold, an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness. The activity in this experiment was simply running on the treadmill and every three minutes increasing the speed incrementally until the subjects became exhausted and unable to continue. The subjects performed the same tasks on different occasions having been given various placebos and combinations of creatine and caffiene without knowing what they were ingesting. Dosing intervals and amounts of creatine were those which had previously been demonstrated to be effective alone in other studies.

So, what happened when the subjects did the exercise when caffeine was added shortly before the workout in addition the creatine ? There was really not a significant difference in the combination versus using each separately. The article appeared in Journal of Exercise Physiology August 2013, Volume 16 Number 4, by Quesada and Gillum at California Baptist University, in Riverside, CA. I will quote their conclusion, “This study suggests that moderately active males should avoid combining creatine and caffeine supplements for performance enhancement and that these supplements may be more effective when used individually.” The explanation offered by the researchers focused on a counteracting effect of these two substances which, in this case, seemed to offset each other.

So if your pre-workout beverage of choice is a cup of coffee, ingest your creatine after your training.

Train harder, eat right, and grow!
Steven

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Take Your Training To the Next Level: Find a Training Partner!

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I had forgotten how much of a difference a good training partner can make in getting results. My focus has always been there, along with a solid routine and consistent efforts. And I’ve always been one who likes to get things done according to the randomness of my particular schedule, my way.

But if you’ve been a loner in your training routine, for whatever reason, let me share with you the ‘Why’ of weight training with a partner.

Having just rearranged priorities to train together with another experienced lifter, let me tell you what’s new.

1. I’m Learning New Techniques.

By connecting with someone who’s better, I’m getting better.

Most lifters have favorite exercises and their preferred techniques regarding grip and hand position, etc. Trying a few of my own favorites with a slight difference in form, showed me a different emphasis on the muscle groups. Nice.

2. Heavier Weights Are Getting It Done Faster.

Having a good spotter in which I have total confidence makes an enormous difference in my willingness to push my personal limits. I’ve seen immediate increases because of this alone.

3. The Competition Drives Intensity.

You know the feeling… It’s OK to slack off when you’re alone, but when your partner has shown up expecting powerful results, you’ve got to get it done!

4. Better Form.

Even though you know the proper motion, only a coach watching your movements can see if they’re being done properly. My training partner has helped me correct significant errors in technique.

5. Motivation

Nobody needs to suggest that I show up to train… but now the motivation has gotten more intense.

6. New Insights in Related Issues

When the topics of diet and nutrition came up, I was able to see the need for changes in protein intake and meal preparation, as well.

There’s always a reason that someone else is better, and more often than not, they’ll tell you what works.

Even if you feel like your workouts are good, with the right training partner your results will improve!

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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