Friday, September 24, 2010

Inertia and Entropy

What with one thing and another, we haven't made it to the gym in the last couple of weeks.

Well, actually ... make that the last couple of months.

Oh, all right, if we are being honest and all, the last couple of years

It's not like I've been sitting on the couch all that time. I weigh the same. I have a couple barbells at home, a chinning bar, punching bag, the little strider machine, and there's silat and walking the dogs and all. I worked up several ways to use muscle-against-muscle resistance and walls and chairs, and have been doing that. I have lost a little muscle mass, and I know I'm not as strong as I was. Last time one of the Italians came to silat class, he used more muscle than he he should and he had some to spare. Back in the day, I'd have just shoved him around. This time, I had to depend on technique. Which is what you train for, of course, to be able to overcome pure strength with skill, but, of course, I want it all.

Older you get, the harder that is to pull off. 

Two years back, my wife started taking yoga teacher training. After she finished the course and passed the test to be certified, she started teaching classes, and going to work the iron and machines at the local rec center kind of fell off the radar.

So we decided to rejoin, now that things have settled down a bit. Kind of spendy for Parks & Rec  -- living in the district sets us back us eight dollars a month each, with the senior discount. Not many gym bunnies in spandex, mostly older folks in sweats. You go there to work out, not to be seen. There's a pretty good weight room, and another room full of bikes, walkers, and stair climbers for aerobics. Basketball gym at the end of the hall, and a baseball and soccer field out back. 

Friday nights are not busy. There were three other people in the weight room with us, and maybe five in the aerobics room. 

Tonight was the first session in two years. Couple things I noticed: First, I hadn't lost as much strength as I thought. After than long a lay-off, I knew better than to try and push my former maximum reps on anything; but I didn't have any particular trouble doing sets with 75-80% of those weights. So you can maintain a certain base level with less than full gear. (Things like lat pull downs, I wasn't worried about, since I do bodyweight chins or pull-ups every other day.)

Second thing was, my endurance was less than it was. I got tired quicker. Half an hour, I was done. We went to the book store afterward and at one point when I sat on the floor to check out the books on a bottom rack, my triceps were really weak when I shoved off to get back on my feet. 

Twice a week is probably going to be what I can manage doing full body workouts. Be interesting to see if I can regain the strength I had, or improve on it. At this stage, I don't want to be tearing ligaments or muscles or burning up my joints, so I ain't going down the heavy iron road in any case. 


Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Heavy isn't the biggest issue. Speed, that is the real killer. Keep it slow and you can push the bigger weights with little danger.

I have trained people decades older than you with weights that make most eyebrows rise with no issues or danger. The people who taught me how to teach have done the same with hordes of clients. (They are in Phoenix, large retired client base for them.)

The real danger is the speed.

Have fun at the Gym!

Anonymous said...

What are the muscle-against-muscle resistance exercises that you do?


Bobbe Edmonds said...

Jason said;

"I have trained people decades older than you"

...Making me wonder which one of the twelve apostles was your client.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, that was my thought, too: Many more decades older than I am, we're talking about petrified wood.

And I think the real danger for me isn't speed because these days I push slow. It's making sure I'm warmed up properly and that I don't let my ego talk me into moving more than I should because some teenage jock is standing in the corner sneering at where I stick the pin into the stack ...

Steve Perry said...

Muscle against muscle. My variations on the old Chas. Atlas Dynamic Tension (going back to the 1920's. Google Charles Atlas, it's a fascinating story.
His selling point for his course: You ever see a tiger with a barbell?)

You figure out what works a particular muscle, then a way to oppose that with antagonists.

Take the curl. Hold your right arm in mid-curl position. Lay your left hand into your right. Pull up with your right arm, working the biceps. Push down with the left arm, working the triceps. Go through the full range of motion. One arm curls, the other does press-downs. There are intrinsic drawback: Triceps are stronger, so they won't get as much work, but you can get some tone.

Lean back in a recliner or against a wall. Pull your heels up to your butt so your knees are up. Relax your legs so they spread wide at the knees. Put your hands on the outside of your knees and use your pecs to push your knees together; resist, using your hips.

There are a bunch of these. Some work better if you have a wall or the floor and you can use bodyweight.
Push-ups. Invisible chair or wall squats, like that.

Nope, you can't get the same level of development and strength doing this as with heavy iron. But take a look at male gymnasts who never lift -- they manage to build a lot of useful muscle just using bodyweight.

Steve Perry said...

Three years ago, I posted this on my blog:

Pretty much outlines my concept of personal fitness.

AF1 said...

Steve, recently I underwent a 5-week experiment in working out just by doing some Chinese forms/katas/whatever.

Wanted to see if it would be viable exercise option for when I get old.

And I have to say that I was surprised to notice muscles popping out in my shoulders, the biceps growing, and the legs getting strong and springy.

My core and back especially seemed to thrive from this regimen due to all the twisting punch and kick combinations...I even have little bit of a V-shape going now.

Has it been your experience that silat djurus don't give these benefits? Or they do but you still want the bigger muscle mass that weightlifting provides?

Steve Perry said...

Silat, like most martial arts I've played with, does maintain tone. And I have strength in my legs, which, if I stay low enough, is plenty.

I don't want to be any bigger or more muscular. I've already got as much of a V-shape as I want. But it's pretty well established that the fastest way to maintain or build structural strength is with progressive resistance.

A punch -- which is nothing more than a hard push -- done frequently will help with endurance and with tone, but it doesn't do much for strength. Pushing against resistance, whether it be weights or something else, gets you there faster for the time and energy involved.

Progressive resistance isn't the only way to build power, but it is quicker than most alternatives for the non-weight-bearing muscles.

Once you get to the point where the resistance is relatively easy to overcome -- say you can do fifteen or twenty reps with a weight -- then if you want to get stronger, you have to add to it so you can't do that many without flagging.

A gymnast uses his body's weight, a lifter uses iron or machines. Swimmers use water. Punching in air offers little resistance. If you do a couple thousand of them a day, that'll help, but not as much as a few bench presses ...

Take two martial artists of equal strength, have them do the same routines, in re punching, kicking, etc., then have one of them add progressive resistance. Check them both in a few months, the one doing both will be stronger -- assuming s/he doesn't overtrain.

First time I recall seeing something about this was an article by Leo Fong, back in the early seventies, in Black Belt. Fong's research showed that lifting helped and didn't cause a player to become "musclebound."

Something every strength coach in the country has figured out. The days when the football team was told to stay away from weights because it would make them slow and too tight are long gone.

The questions are -- as my old link above says -- how strong do you need to be, and how strong do you want to be? They aren't necessarily the same.

I don't need to be able to squat a Mac truck or bench a Volvo, nor do I want that enough to risk injury. But I do want to be strong enough to feel good, and to have something in an emergency.

Plus muscle augments testosterone, and vice-versa, and that hormone has, um, other uses ...

Scott said...

"If you can squat heavy and have solid shits, what more can you ask of life?"
Jon Pall Sigmarsson

Two plates for a 60something would be damned impressive; Scott-like, even. ;-) One plate for reps would be pretty good.