We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, December 29. 2021
All the same, my general advice to those over 35 or 40 is to start slowly. If overweight, tiny meals. If underweight, eat food of any sort. Begin with 3 hrs/wk at the gym for a month to get going.
Best way to do it is with a trainer.
I suggest two half-hours of light cardio, 2 half-hours of light weights/machines, and 2 half-hours of calisthenics. After that, a more demanding program.
Most people can use a guide through the journey of physical fitness. It is a lifetime journey to try to avoid eventual decrepitude.
Wednesday, December 8. 2021
Photo above is Edith Traina at age 97. A youthful 97 for sure due to many years of fitness pursuits. I think those are 50 lb. plates so she is lifting 145 lbs. Not bad for 97.
You can join that organization AARP at age 50, so I guess that's "mature." Another measure of seriously "mature" is if you remember Jack LaLanne - the Godfather of American Fitness.
Should "mature" people (50-80+) do powerlifts? Of course, and should push the weight as possible. The Maggie's General Fitness protocol calls for heavy weights only twice weekly but that's partly because it's designed to fit in all of the other aspects of fitness.
However, a group of people, whether mature or youth, male, female or confused, care mostly about building or maintaining strength and physical sturdiness. Getting buff and sexy. Like people who only want to run, they are not after balanced fitness. To each his or her own although I will debate you on the value of the single road (and Mark Rippetoe and Glenn Reynolds might debate me back).
For mature adults who want to focus only on strength, 3 days/week of heavy weights is right with the emphasis on powerlifts. In fact, I can see some value in myself occasionally taking two months to do heavy weights 3/wk to see if I can get past my current plateau. Especially in winter when hiking on ice is not fun or even sensible. Hmmm. I have to mention, though, that I had a pal who climbed Mt. Washington in January. Kudos to him, for sure. Tough SOB, Vietnam vet. Once was enough for him to check that off his bucket list.
Tuesday, November 23. 2021
Wednesday, November 17. 2021
To get the benefits of enough reps, many people (me) need the machine support for 10-15 reps/set. Fit guys and slender gals don't need it, but many of us do.
Dips, depending on form, can be either mostly tripceps or a chest+triceps exercise.
Triceps are the major arm muscle, but to balance tricep stresses it's always good to do some curls or bench presses for balance.
Dips are good, but pull-ups are one of the basic measures of physical fitness. In my first week of secondary school, we were all tested for our pullups, pushups, and running sprints - 100-yard dash.
(It's funny/sad to recall, but we were all also tested on our singing ability, math ability, and public speaking ability. Whew. As a 13 year-old nature-boy nerd, I guess, all was deeply humbling. Humbling is good for the soul, mostly.)
Thursday, November 4. 2021
For legs etc, you can do deadlift one day, barbell squats another. Or leg-press.
For HIIT, you can do stairmaster one day, treadmill sprints on another.
For triceps, you can do press-downs one day, skullcrushers on another.
For calisthenics, the list of choices is so long that you always vary what you do.
Varying the things you do reduces boredom, but also keeps your neuromuscular system nimble and adjusting.
Monday, November 1. 2021
Readers know that we like jump rope as an intense cardio (ie real "cardio") exercise. The heavier the rope, the more challenging. I have used a 1 lb rope a few times and it is brutal.
About jump ropes in general
Wednesday, October 27. 2021
Tuesday, October 26. 2021
Whether you want to view pull-ups as weight-lfting or as a calisthenic, it is a strength-builder for the entire upper body. The problem is that many middle-aged people have trouble doing reps without assistance. Does assistance really help over time?
A couple of years ago we had a one-month push-up challenge, and it worked for those who kept with it daily. The goal was 100 push-ups/day by the end of the month (not 100 at once, but 100 daily). Turned out that it was quite do-able with good results even for push-up beginners - and for women. Their reps got longer, and their muscles got tougher.
There are a couple of women I see in the gym doing 20 pull-up reps. They look fit, but neither muscular nor skinny.
A 60-day 100 pull-up challenge might work too, but I do not know how to begin it for those who cannot do a single one.
Wednesday, October 13. 2021
Here's an addendum to my past post about recovery: Do Older People Need Longer to Recover from Exercise?
What is "older"? But anyway, generally the answer is no, especially once you are into a month or so of a daily fitness program. Nobody can benefit from heavy deadlifts every day, or HIIT every day. For general fitness (maybe not for master athletes in training), mixing it up for an hour or so daily works best.
At any age, get your 20 gms or so of protein after a workout. It can't hurt.
Wednesday, October 6. 2021
From the article:
Friday, September 17. 2021
Thursday, September 2. 2021
This article applies to heavy weight training, not for the hand-weights typically used in conditioning classes.
Age is a factor. Also, there is an amount which is optimal. More is not always better. I do heavy weights (powerlifts, etc) twice weekly, but have been slacking off on the nutrition.
Wednesday, August 4. 2021
For starters, it is still the Maggie's Fitness for Life Program which is a mix of weights, HIIT and endurance "cardio", and a broad category of Calisthenics with includes plyometric stuff and other misc things. I'm fairly sure I have a semi-retired pal who is willing to do the Cali days with me - but he won't do 5 AM.
- "Heavy" weights twice/week, with trainer. My current guy pushes me to my limits, unlike my previous guy who was a slow incrementalist. This guy feels as if I am not getting my money's worth without pushing the limits routinely. It's ok. It's powerlifts and accessory lifts, plus abs, and I can't call it fun. Failure doesn't bother me much.
- "Cardio" days: I use these for endurance and to try to keep my heart in good shape. Might work because I just had my cardiology check-up with all the bells and whistles and it's all good. "No rust in the pipes, or not much, yet," he told me. What I tend to do is a mix of HIIT on the treadmill and the stair machine, 20-30 minutes total. For the rest of the hour I'll do vigorous - no sprints - on elliptical and rower. Great way to begin a day.
- "Calisthenics" days: I use this term as a grab bag of athletic-style exertions which are not all technically calis but which mostly do not include moving any weights much heavier than my own body. I kinda like doing them in rotations of 3. It's more inspiring to do them in a group or with pals. I put samples of these rotations below the fold:
Continue reading "Workout update"
Wednesday, July 28. 2021
There is "cardio", and then there is real Cardio exercise. What many people, especially women, do for cardio is actually endurance work: Swimming a mile, fast walking, stairmaster, treadmill, elliptical. An hour or four of endurance work per week will keep you moving, but it's not really Cardio for a relatively healthy person.
Real Cardio means training the heart muscle (the invisible muscle) and stressing the cardio-pulmonary system. For the Cardio component of our Fitness For Life program, we recommend some endurance cardio but, more importantly, HIIT cardio training.
What does it do? Primarily, it builds cardiac muscle and cardiac vessels. We need those for life exertions (eg mountain hikes), for endurance, for energy, for our sports, and, sadly, to help us survive our first or second heart attacks. Since most of us will die from cancer or heart disease, why not postpone the latter if we can, and have more energy and life vigor in the process? There's some evidence that it might help postpone dementia too.
HIIT entails maximum sprints, 30-45 seconds, integrated in a regular cardio program. You want your heart rate near you max output, 90% or more. This can be done with swimming, treadmill, stairmaster, Jacob's Ladder, rower - whatever. Best not to undertake this without a stress echocardiogram and your doc to clear you first to make sure you do not drop dead in the gym. That would be embarassing for you and for them.
If you do 5-10 fully-intense, max effort cardio sprints on your cardio days, you will feel it. A bit of dizziness means you've done your best. Good calis classes offer this too, and you can, of course, exert yourself to your own best level.
Reminder: Whether you do "long-slow" exercises, or do HIIT, or jus take walks or swims, none of these will offer you any meaningful loss of abdominal fat. Fat is nutritional unless you workout 6 hours/day.
Wednesday, July 21. 2021
Is walking a part of your fitness routine? If so, be aware that ordinary walking is not valuable "cardio" except for the elderly and the infirm. However, walking and hiking can be perfect for a day of active recovery from a week of exercise.
Assuming a person in decent health, an ordinary street walking speed for men and women is around 3 mph (3.2-3.4 for New Yorkers, which is why you get jostled). Below that is a stroll. This applies to more or less level ground. 3 mph walking is not "cardio" because the heart rate is not sufficiently elevated to challenge or strengthen the heart - or to build lower body endurance.
Deliberate hikers like to move at around 3-4 mph on level ground. I can barely hike at 4 mph (15-min/mile), especially when it's beginning to get dark and I want to get back somewhere. It's a difficult pace for me, though, because my legs want to break into a slow jog at over 4 mph instead of maintaining a vigorous walk. Some fit and experienced hikers hike at 5 mph with a backpack but at 5 I am definitely jogging, not walking, and I break into a run between after that.
Fitness level and body architecture play into this. If curious about this, your phone can give you your average speed of progress during walks and hikes unless you like to pause to look at birds and wildflowers and snakes and toads. After all, exercise is so you can enjoy life so not every hike needs to be a death march. Maybe most of them, but not all.
Best ways to improve your walking and hill-hiking efficiency? Stair machine, elliptical at the higher resistances, and fast-walking or even jogging on a good incline on a treadmill (say whatever incline you can handle if fast-walking). An hour of that is a good "active recovery" from other exercises, or good for beginners.
* In the US, normal military march is 3.4 mph (17 mins/mile), but for Army Rangers it's 4 mph.
Also, walking and jogging are not for weight loss. They are for maintaining functioning and for having fun.
Wednesday, July 14. 2021
Wednesday, June 23. 2021
Image shows two things: the difference between half squat and full squat, and terrible form in the second image
Squats (and deadlifts) are the two most functional muscular exercises. The former is getting up, and the latter is picking up stuff.
Squats are known as "The King of Exercises" because so many muscle groups are stressed. They are also said to be beneficial for knee joints.
Squats come in many forms: the basic barbell back squat (a power lift), and calisthenics like body-weight squats, squat-and press, side squats, squat jumps, heavy ball wall throws, etc.
I have been thinking about how to deepen my barbell squats. With body-weight or hand weights, I can do full squats easily, but with heavier weight I do not go below 45 degrees. It's partly confidence and partly weakness.
To do full squats with barbell weights (instead of half-squats, 90 degrees) I think I need to reset my barbell squat program with the plain bar (45 lbs) or light weights and to try to work up quickly from there. I'm convinced that the full squat is the real deal.
What about you?
Below the fold, image depicting all of the muscles engaged in a full squat. She's using dumbells, but it is not as if gals cannot do barbell squats. They sure can, and using the bar makes it more reliable to keep a chest-up posture. On the other hand, dumbell squats get you low if you touch the dumbells to the ground...but on the third hand, barbell back squats let you squat with more weight than your grip is strong.
Continue reading "Squats, reposted"
Wednesday, June 16. 2021
I include recreational sports (other than running, biking, or swimming) as calisthenics.
Calisthenics are about agility, endurance, general fitness, athleticism, balance, and things like that. Our list and variety is long. Some of them: Pushups, pullups, planks, heavy ball throws, burpees, body-weight squats, inclined pulls, Farmer walks, sled pushes and pulls, jumping jacks, band walks, step-ups, box jumps, lunges. As we've said often, just 3 hrs of calis/wk, with nothing else, is a lot better than nothing.
What do you do for this aspect of fitness?
Wednesday, June 9. 2021
There are several reasons, but for me time efficiency comes first. Second, it's more natural in life for different muscle groups to work together.
No single exercise counts as a full body strength workout, but the deadlift comes closest to that.
Thursday, June 3. 2021
Thank you, reader.
The Case Against Stretching: Scientists are increasingly skeptical of the benefits of flexibility, but the fitness world doesn’t want to hear it
Stretching science has shown that this extremely popular form of exercise has almost no measurable benefits
Of course, these articles do not apply to physical rehab and physical therapy.
Wednesday, June 2. 2021
I see many people doing fairly-aggressive stretching before sports or a weights work-out. Wrong. Except for calf stretches, which are a good idea.
A warm-up for a sport or weights is a 5-minute jog, elliptical, or calisthenics things like jumping jacks. Stretching cold muscle is a bad idea. You can actually hurt yourself that way.
Stretching after a sport, a calisthenics hour, or weights might be a good idea or maybe a waste of time. If you take a calisthenics group program in a gym, you will see that they spend the last 5 minutes or so doing stretches on the floor. That feels good, if nothing else.
Wednesday, May 26. 2021
Best summary I have seen on the topic. Deadlift vs Squat – Comparing Strength and Muscles Worked
It is clear that it is worth doing both, but not on the same day. For what it's worth, I do back squats once weekly, deads once weekly, and leg press once weekly for lower body resistance exercises.
It is difficult and slow to build lower body power with my particular physical architecture (runner's build), but I work at it. Just increasing the wts by 5 lbs/month is great.
Wednesday, May 19. 2021
My gyms have no dedicated body-builders but I notice that strength-oriented people will do an occasional treatmill run or 10 minutes on the Jacob's Ladder. They also tend to be the only people, besides me, who jump rope regularly. (Jumping is great HIIT cardio, and almost fun if you mix up your jumps. Takes a little skill and practice, but that's a cool challenge.)
I also notice that some gym regulars do almost entirely weights, some only take daily calisthenics classes at 6 am (30 people in my classes), and some only do "cardio" on the treadmills, ellipticals, or Stairmaster. To each his or her own.
Because the Maggie's Fitness for Life program is designed for endurance, energy, athleticism, and to stall or reverse the effects of sloth and age (and to look good, too) more than to build intimidating muscle mass, I think general fitness is worth any possible compromise in growth of muscle.
Also, strength and muscle mass are not necessarily equivalents. I know a gal who does deadlift reps at 300 lbs, and does not look "muscular".
That said, no reason not to keep trying to improve one's deads, squats, and benches. Sturdiness.
Addendum: I have little doubt that training for distance running is a problem for weight training. I was just thinking about gym work. Distance work training (for marathons, +) takes a serious toll.
What do our readers think?
Tuesday, May 18. 2021
Tuesday, May 11. 2021
The classic plyometric exercise is Box Jumps, but I would include Sled exercises in the same category. The general category is Calisthenics.
(Page 1 of 19, totaling 459 entries) » next page