Happy Valentine’s Day/ I’ve Been M.I.A.

Immediately, I have to say that this is the most time intensive and difficult semester I’ve had in my 5 year college career thus far.  I must also add that it is by far the best semester, and with week 4 under way, I’m already learning a ton and having a blast.  I’ve been seriously missing in activity on the blog, so I’m taking some extra time I have today to compile some content and thoughts I’ve had.  After a weekend that made swallowing water feel like swallowing glass, I visited a doctor and was given Amoxicillin for my first case of Strep since middle school.  Since I’ve been observing in my old elementary school for 2 weeks now, I blame the kids.  According to the doctor I saw, there is an “epidemic”, so at least I’m not in the minority.  Less then 24 hours after being on antibiotics, I feel way better, and I’m going to take a day to recover before I’m back in the gym.  Hence, some much needed time to blog, and show you (the reader) some love!

I’m a huge proponent of eating healthy, but I’m also a fan of bacon, chocolate, and eating big meals.  Fortunately, Epic Meal Time put together a Valentine’s Day Meal worthy of my affection, and I’d like to share it with you.  I’m not sure about their use of real hearts in the recipe, but candied bacon probably makes anything taste good.

A friend of mine recently shared a link with me from Women’s Health Magazine, which listed 7 reasons why you should lift weights.  HERE is a link to the slide show, and I’d suggest both men and women click through; ladies will learn why Zumba is over rated and squatting never is, and men will people able to convince their ladies to dance on the weekends and work out like someone who actually wants results. (I just set a record for shots taken at Zumba in one sentence; win.)  The article was written by Men’s Health editor Adam Campbell, who is very proactive and involved in the training community.  He consistently publishes articles about strength training, and interviews top coaches around the country.  Thanks to Adam walking the talk, the contributors for Men’s Health magazine are consistently the best of the best.  I have been following a number of coaches that now regularly contribute to Men’s Health, or following coaches because I first heard of them in Men’s Health.  Regardless of the chronology, using a coaches website and their articles helps to provide a clear picture for many of the exercises and plans that they recommend.  Editors frequently cut 3 pages of writing down to a few hundred words, so reading a trainers own articles helps to clarify many of the points that they make in the magazine.  In the latest issue I’ve picked up (March 2011), I’ve already read tips and articles from Bill Hartmann, Mike Boyle, Todd Durkin, Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove, Martin Rooney, and plenty more.  If you’re not a huge exercise physiology nerd (like yours truly) and want to cut straight to the take-home information, I’d suggest you pick up a copy and start learning.

Even though I can admit that I ran cross-country in middle school, few things irk me as much as distance runners proclaiming that all they need to do is run.  I recently listened to an Adelphi runner telling me that he uses the leg press every once and a while, but it’s really the miles and miles he puts in on his feet every week that make his legs strong.  You can bet that I kept my mouth pretty quiet after I heard that.   It doesn’t take very much education to know that running doesn’t make your legs very strong.  Sure, you may build endurance for a variety of time periods or energy systems, but stronger? I don’t think so.

Thankfully, a Danish researcher named Lars Nybo completed research comparing the the effectiveness of brief intense interval training as exercise intervention for promoting health and evaluated the potential benefits about prolonged exercise (aerobic training) and strength training.  The results of the study reinforce what we’ve known for a while, which is that total exercise should consist of a combination of all three.  The aerobic training group experienced the greatest improvements in lowering their resting heart rate, fat percentage, and reducing the ratio between total and HDL plasma cholesterol.  Interval training provided the greatest increase in VO2 max, while, only strength training increased total bone mass and lean body mass.  (HERE is a link to the study.)

While the study reinforces what we know about strength training and interval training, I’d be interested in seeing one comparing interval training combined with strength training, to aerobic training combined with strength training.  Based on the research I’ve read and my limited exercise physiology background, I’m going to say that aerobic training offers the least bang for your buck.

If you’re not genetically gifted with log-sized legs, and understand that developing leg strength can help you in almost every sport you can play, you may be wondering what exercises you can incorporate into your programming.  Hopefully you understand the importance of unilateral training (in addition to bilateral training) and know that loading exercises in the Goblet position allows for additional demands on the ‘core’ musculature.  One of the best bang-for-your buck exercises you can be doing is the Goblet Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, and I’ve conveniently found a video of Ben Bruno banging out a kick-ass set of 21 reps with a 120lb dumbbell.  I doubt you’ll be able to make an exercise this challenging look that easy, but give it a try and get stronger, leaner legs.  You’ll also get faster, increase your balance, and if you do 21 reps on each leg like Ben, you’ll get one hell of a cardio workout.

Finally, I leave you with a Happy Valentine’s Day!  While my schedule isn’t going to be getting any easier, I’m going to work hard to set aside time to blog and create content, as well as keeping up my grades.  I’m off to the mall now to pick up last minute Valentine’s Day gifts lacrosse balls for self myofacial release.  Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

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