Monday, March 28, 2011

The glove-like Vibram FiveFingers

Before all the sports advancements such as mighty sports brands like Nike, high-tech fabrics that incorporate moisture management, before the era of personal trainers or the invention of heart rate monitors and GPS . You were a runner and like all kids you probably ran barefoot.
A growing break-away  of runners, recreational joggers and an increasing number of physiologists seem to believe that running shoes do more harm than good for millions of people around the globe. With their inflexibility, thick cushioning, raised heels, it causes one to hit the ground heel- first sending the all impact of your bodyweight in every step straight into your knees and hips. 
However going barefoot does require some getting used to. If one wishes to do so the process should be done very carefully and slowly. Much of the impact that used to pass through the knees and hips now gets absorbed by the calf muscles. This will result in pain and tightness but with time will build endurance in the calves. With the increase in research regarding minimalistic footwear; a number of brands have come out with designs like the Nike Free, the Newton All-Weather Trainer and the glove-like Vibram Five-fingers.  The latter one I have chosen to further research for myself. Its unusual design has brought on much of my curiosity.
The Vibram Five-fingers made by an Italian shoe company has gained tremendous popularity in approximately the last six months. Many runners have seemed to have found a remedy for plantar fasciitis and pronation in the Five-fingers. The five-fingers have been designed in such a way to follow the contour and fit the shape of one’s foot. Its flexible sole and individual foot pockets aid in strengthening and stretching the muscles of the foot.
“Running barefoot allows a more natural foot action and more natural biomechanics,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise.
However critics say that those who endorse the barefoot trend as a way of “getting back to basics” forget the fact that our ancestors were far smaller and in much better shape than most people are today. Large, unconditioned people need a stronger foot support and barefoot running would not be advisable in the beginning.
Personally I haven’t had a chance to fit on a pair( I would love to), so from my side although the idea of barefoot running and returning to our roots as humans seems well and good; the jury is still out on the Vibran five-fingers.
 Written by: Jade Davids

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hi bloggers

This week I will be reviewing an interesting "shoe" thats recently hit the market- The Vibrin five-fingers

Alot of runners that have used it have had raving reviews relating to recovery from injury or general increase in running performance..

Im going to make it my mission to look into whats out there regarding this approach of 'barefoot running"

- Jade

Monday, March 21, 2011

So You Wanna Get Bigger Muscles?

Gym Talk:
There are so many theories out there about gaining muscle that it can be very daunting and confusing for both the newbie and even the advanced lifter. Bodybuilding mags have given people the misconception that you need to do 6 or so different exercises for your triceps and biceps alone. The truth is that many of them do work, but the extent to which they work is not always a reflection of the person using them (the big guy).
Common questions in the gym: How much do you bench? I wonder what that guy does to get so big? Should I be doing that exercise? Another thing you often see is a “small” guy trying an exercise someone bigger has just done. This is ok if he can do it with good technique, and with a suitable weight, but is often not the case. Think of this comparison: There is a guy pushing weights that are far too heavy to complete a proper rep, and another guy who is using much, much lighter weights, but executing each rep perfectly. Who looks more ridiculous? I can guarantee you the guy who is huffing and puffing and putting more emphasis into his groan looks like the clown. The point I’m making is you need to find the appropriate weight to be able to complete your designated reps, and not worry about what the guy next to you is able to do.
How does muscle size increase?
The primary adaptation that muscles make to weight training is increasing size (hypertrophy) which happens in two ways: One is that it swells during resistance training, which is that “pumped” feeling we get. This is only short term though. The other way is during post-exercise recovery period, when there is net gain in the synthesis of protein. Protein synthesis decreases during exercise and then increases afterwards during recovery, so we can see why our recovery days are so necessary.
The process of getting bigger muscles involves increasing the synthesis of the contractile proteins, actin and myosin, within the myofibril and the increase in the number of myofibrils within a muscle fibre. The new fibres increase the diameter of the existing layers. Generally, muscle fibres are organised based on the “size” factor. They are recruited in accordance to their threshold and firing rates. With heavy weight training, muscle fibres get larger. In the case of maximum force production, it’s not only the recruitment of the amount of fibres, but also the rate at which the motor units are recruited. High-threshold units are only recruited when all the other fibres below them have already been recruited. Once these high-threshold units have been used once, less activation is needed in the next session. In advanced lifters, the central nervous system can adapt allowing them to recruit larger units first, bypassing all the units below that threshold, and at a faster rate. This has major benefits for force production, as the high-threshold fibre recruitment is initialized much faster.
Let’s remember that gaining muscle without a gain in strength is useless to an athlete. So in order to build size, you should build strength. Your goal in the gym should always be muscle growth through increased strength. 
Here are some tips to help you out with your programme:
1.     Firstly, let’s look at your training as a series of movements. The basic movements include the squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull and twist.
From these basic movements, you can create dozens of muscle building exercises that can become part of routines. You will notice that these are multi-joint exercises that include major muscle groups. These will invoke the greatest hormonal response and are also the most useful movements in sports. Your muscles don’t work in isolation during sporting activities, so why train them in that way?

2.     Secondly, consider your programme design. I will broadly outline some aspects of a hypertrophy programme and how it can be periodized.  Supersetting is a combination of two different workouts, usually a push then a pull that are alternated until all the sets are done. This minimizes the rest period needed as you can work opposing muscles, while the other group rests. An example would be bench-press and seated row. Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) has been found to elicit the greatest gains in strength; this will truly show you the power of “shaking things up”. This works by altering the sets, reps, and rest between daily sessions. You can for example go from heavy to medium, to light on each successive day. An example would be; Monday- 5 sets of 5 reps (90sec rest), Wednesday- 4 sets of 10 reps (60sec rest) & Friday-3 sets of 15 reps (30 sec rest). Then we get the split routines. I’m sure at some point most have tried the upper body/lower body split. This allows for the muscle groups to rest for at least a full day, while another is being worked. An example of this would be upper body on Monday & Friday, lower body Wednesday.

Remember not to believe everything you hear in the gym. By doing the exercises that you see bigger guys doing won’t guarantee you the same gains. Try using a programme that you can chart your progress with as it will keep you motivated and allow you to see your gains. You also need consistent effort.  Steer away from too much machine type exercises and use more free- weights or dumbbells. By holding the weights and doing stability exercises, such as lunges, you improve your core and grip strength at the same time. Your body adapts to workout routines, so the longer you do the same thing for, the less benefit comes from it. The longer you have been lifting, the faster your body adapts. Large muscle group exercises result in a greater testosterone production, so don’t waste too much time on targeting the smaller muscle groups by themselves. This should be able to help you with the formulation of your own programmes, or modifications of some that you might have already.
By: Jonathan Hall

Baechle, T. R. and Earle, R. W.(2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Human Kinetics.
Schuler, L. Cosgrove, C. The New Rules of Lifting (2006)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Swimwear uses micro bubble effect

Hohenstein Institute based in Bonnigheim has recently been running a number of tests on a new innovative swimsuit design. The innovation is said to lie in the make up of the material. “A special coating makes the ultra-thin and ultra-lightweight textile material super-hydrophobic”.
The mechanism of design is such that the air trapped between the fibers is not forced out but instead forms an ultra-thin chamber of air which significantly reduces frictional resistance during swimming. It is a system used in Mother Nature by birds such as the penguin.
The brain behind the technology is a competitive swimmer and Master’s student at the University Of Reutlingen, Sarah Zeim. She developed the prototype for her dissertation under the guidance of Walter Marx. When compared with a standard swimsuit there is an advantageous improvement in speed. A unique feature of the swimsuit is that it remains completely dry even after long training sessions.
An important outcome is that the swimsuit design meets FINA requirements and could provide competition for brands like the Speedo LZR. However in the coming months there is still finer tuning to be done before this product hits the shelves. There is potential that there may be swimmers sporting the swimsuit ‘powered by Hobenstien’ at the 2012 London Olympics.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sodium Bicarbonate (aka Baking Soda)

Give Your Muscles a Boost, And Help Them Beat “The Burn”:
Sodium Bicarbonate Loading

Improvements in performance during endurance events focus on carbohydrate and oxygen supply to the muscle. In short-term (anaerobic) all-out performances however, our concern changes to buffering Hydrogen ions (H+) produced by the muscles, in order to improve performance.
Why does this happen? If you partake in high intensity all-out sports or you are doing repeated sprint sessions as part of your training, you should be familiar with that “burning” sensation in the muscles during training. Commonly called “lactic acid burn”, this is a major contributor to fatigue in all out sprint performance and repeated sprint training. The cells in the muscles have a limit to how much lactate they can buffer (remove). A major contributing factor to this ability is the pH (acidity) of the blood at the onset of high intensity exercise. During sprint training, muscle glycolysis generates a large amount of lactate and H+; this lowers the muscle pH from about 7.1 (resting) to less than 6.7 (more acidic). This type of training is mainly anaerobic in nature, and this tends to produce high amounts of Hydrogen ions in the muscle. These ions interfere with the contraction of muscle fibres by inhibiting Calcium binding to troponin as well as the capacity to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the muscles major energy supplier.
How much should be used? Oral intake of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), called “bicarbonate loading”, typically involves a dose of 300 mg per kg of body mass (with 1 litre of H2O), split into 5 equal parts over a 1-2 hour period, and taken 1-2 hours prior to the session. The chronic bicarbonate loading protocol typically involves five days of 500 mg per kg of body mass, split into four doses (500mg divided by 4) over each day.
How does it work? It is believed that this elevation in bicarbonate levels in the blood will increase alkalinity at the beginning of exercise, and neutralize excess acid. In other words, the ingestion of bicarbonate allows the muscle to handle higher levels of lactate by increasing the transport of H+ from the muscle fibre to the blood. This H+ ion is then transported to the lungs where it is exhaled as CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and H2O (water vapour).  This is one of the reasons why our respiration rate increases with exercise, in order to get rid of the extra H+ ions.
Increasing these amounts will not improve performance. Side effects may include diarrhoea and gastrointestinal distress, both of which will affect performance (and may be a little embarrassing), so it is therefore important to remember everyone will react differently and that this should never be taken for the first time before any major competition. This should help you beat the burn and improve your performance during sprint events and during repeated bouts of high intensity exercise with short recovery periods (events between 1-10 minutes).

By: Jonathan Hall

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Creatine Chronicles:an insight on this misunderstood supplement

The age old debate of creatine usage can be found in almost every gym locker-room and amongst the supplement aisles at your local pharmacy. Many a time you would find a group of newbie gymers attentively listening to every word said by one of the gym bunnies as if it were the next training prophecy. If you’re one of the newbies then this one is for you (if you old to the game then still read on you may learn something new).
More often than not you will hear questions like “Does creatine work? What does it do? Is it safe?” and the ever popular “Does it cause kidney damage?” If you had to ask those that train around you these questions you’re most likely to get an interesting array of answers and stories. Here are some of the facts to set the record straight (and to lay some of the myths to rest).
Creatine, or methyl guanidine-acetic acid, was first discovered in 1832 by a French scientist. However its claim-to-fame was in the 1990s, due to an increase in elite athlete’s performance being attributed to creatine use and widespread media coverage of this. Today it is one of the most popular supplements used.
What is creatine?
It is a nonessential dietary compound that is found in food sources such as meat and fish. It can also be produced within the body by the liver. Research studies indicate that creatine supplementation causes an increase in performance of high intensity exercises performed for short periods, especially if the activity is separated by short rests (30-60seconds). Activities such as resistance training (aka weight training), 100-200m sprinting, repeated jumping, 400-800m running, swimming, kayaking and rowing may benefit from creatine usage.
How does it work?
During bouts of high intensity activities, the energy used to perform the activity is primarily generated through the ATP-PCr energy system. Phosphocreatine or creatine-phosphate (PCr) is crucial as it donates its high energy phosphate (the P in PCr) to ADP to generate ATP (in simple terms… to generate energy). Therefore it is easy to understand that if there is a higher concentration of creatine and PCr in the muscles, there will be more high-energy phosphate available to generate ATP from ADP, thus more energy (light bulb moment…). Higher concentrations of muscle creatine have also shown to assist the re-synthesis of PCr from Cr and P during rest periods between sets (so after your set, when you’re walking to the water cooler the creatine is assisting in recovery so you can pound out the next set). Another added benefit (I sound like a salesman…) is due to the chemical structure of creatine phosphate it has a buffering effect on acidity, “soaking” up any increase in acidity which helps to improve performance.
Seems too good to be true, right? But what about the dreaded side effects?? Studies have shown that with the correct dosages there are no side effects. Yes, you read correctly. There are no adverse effects on kidney and liver function nor does it cause cramping (yes, you’ve been lied to.. it was all a myth). In many users a short-term weight gain occurs during the loading phase, this is attributed to an increased hydration within muscle cell (aka water retention) due to elevated osmotic load from the increased creatine concentration.( this is how certain creatine supplements like Creakic claim to give you ‘7 pounds in 7 days’..But let’s not play the name game). One should note that there isn’t enough research done on long term creatine usage.
So how much should be used?
There are two phases ie. The loading phase and the Maintenance phase. During the loading phase, the first five to seven days, a dosage of 20grams a day is usually consumed. This dosage is divided into four 5gram servings. An extended loading phase of a high dosage beyond a week is pointless as the extra creatine is excreted in the urine ( it’s not a case of the more the merrier). The maintenance phase follows and the dosage is decreased to 2grams per day just to maintain creatine levels( hence the ingenious name maintenance phase). Combining creatine with carbohydrate intake, in the form of fruit juices or carb-loading drinks, has shown to enhance creatine retention. (creatine with grape juice works well)
Creatine usage isn’t as ‘bad ‘ as it is made out to be. I hope the above reading is of use to you and will help you the next time you’re shopping for supps. Not forgetting clearing up some of the myths that some believe are carved in stone….
Till the next article, keep it Anabolic….
Written by Mo Ebrahim

References: Creatine Supplementation and Enhanced Sport and Exercise Performance (Dr Andrew McKune), Creatine: cutting through the myths (Peak Performance)

The New Breakout Category in Athletic Footwear

EasyTone Reebok Advertisement
I’m sure you have come across an advert in a magazine or have at least seen one of the many “toning shoes” available in shop windows. In the last 6 months there has been an emergence of a number of toning shoes made for women by a variety of leading sports brands. The manufacturers seem to promise similar outcomes namely of increased leg muscle activation that would result in a firmer butt and more toned leg muscles by simply walking in their shoes.

However being an exercise scientist I had my reservations of the accuracy of the above claims. I began doing my homework reading a number of different reviews of the Easy tone (Reebok), bodytrain (Puma), trubalance (New balance) and shape-ups (sketchers). All these reviews touched on design, price, color and the level comfort experienced by the wearer. I must say after reading the reviews I was impressed with the aesthetic attributes of the shoe. 
But my search for scientific based evidence was not over. There is a variety of “scientific evidence” available on the web. Most of the brands that have launched toning shoes have claimed to have done studies backing the effectiveness of their particular shoe. But it must be noted that these studies have not been open to peer-review and have often followed a questionable experimental design. These research studies have often been funded by the respective brands themselves. This in my opinion raises some suspicion to the reliability and validity of their findings.
In my pursuit of some validation the American Council of Exercise (ACE) came to my aid. The ACE devised a study to test the effectiveness of the shoes and to test the claims. “Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during any of the treadmill trials .There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone."

Results of the ACE study
I got my answer -the shoes don’t work. Regardless of my findings that would not stop me from buying a pair, purely on the basis of making a fashion statement. ;-)

To read the actual ACE articles go to the link above
Written by : Jade Davids