IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  October 1, 2002

Autogenic Reflex - No Brainer

We have a great muscle protection mechanism built into each of us. It's called a stretch reflex. This reflex is responsible for protecting your muscles from overstretching. This action is made possible by two neural receptors, the Golgi Tendon (GTO) and muscle spindles. GTO's are located in the junctions of the tendons and muscles. Spindles, which sense stretch velocity, are located within and parallel to the muscle fiber. When the spindles detect a high velocity stretch, they signal the spinal cord, which in turn sends a signal back to the muscle to contract now to protect the muscle from overstretching. This can create a dilemma. Stretch, contract, relax ...which? If the contraction is sufficient enough to cause damage, the process is reversed and the muscle relaxes, contraction stops. This is autogenic reflex. The brain appears to be out of the loop.

Scratch Your Ankles Without Bending

We must learn to never be surprised at what some coaches will dream up. A concerned parent wrote in telling us of a High School coach who had his kids running with dumb-bells, and 45 pound plates on distance runs of up to 1.5 miles. Many of the kids were complaining of hip, knee, and ankle pain, as well as shoulder, neck, and back pain. The parent needed some authoritative proof that this was bad. We could offer no documented proof. However, here's where common sense bridges the gap between idiocy and brilliance. We informed the parent, this practice, in our professional opinion (read common sense), is not safe. The joints are not prepared to handle that much weight in a dynamic mode. The dynamics of running produce additional stresses in multiples of static weight. For example, if a body weighing 100 lbs falls 3 inches, the dynamic forces multiply the weight for an effective impact of approximately 3 times the static weight or 300 lbs. Now if these kids weigh about 150 and they are carrying 45 lbs each; that gives them a static weight of 195 lbs and a dynamic weight (or impact weight) of about 600 lbs. Common sense should prevail that ankles and especially knees will not tolerate these forces over extended periods without permanent damage. Hopefully these kids have been given a reprieve. Too many times we see coaches pushing kids beyond the limit. Injuries are just that, injuries. However, we've all seen coaches tell the kid to get back out there. Parents should have the final word and we will help you back it up if something dangerous is going on.

Strip and Drop

Strip sets, or drop sets, as they are also known are one of the best ways to increase intensity and get new growth. After a regular set, even if you go to failure, you can still do more if you use a lighter weight. Drop sets (strip sets) are one of the best ways to increase intensity and get new growth. After a regular set, you can still do more if you use a lighter weight. Drop sets should be done on the last or second last set of a body part and only about once a week, or every second workout. This is best done with a partner to help strip the weights off. Start with a heavy weight that you can get around 4 - 6 reps with and do as many as you can, then strip about 10% of the weight off the bar and do as many reps as you can with that weight, then strip 10 -20% off and rep out again. Take about 3 minutes rest and do it again.

Speed - Not the Movie

Ephedra is very bad. It's illegal in some countries. I know someone who has been taking ephedra for years now. He's 49 years old and just got a pacemaker. He has been active, weight training and doing aerobics on a regular basis. I can't say that there is a correlation, but I wouldn't risk taking supplements. Many just give you a temporary increase in muscle growth. Not a fair trade for temporary muscles. Just eat right and exercise regularly. Give your body a chance to rest and rebuild. Everyone has different capabilities.

The key to muscle growth is working to max and then giving them enough time to rebuild before the second onslaught. Use weights that only allow you to lift them 8 times. If you can lift it 10 to 12 times, then it's too light. Conversely, if you can only lift it 6 times, then it is too heavy. Try to work the same muscle groups only twice a week not three times. Work another muscle group for another two days a week. According to the ACSM, most of your growth (66%) occurs in the first two days and only 10% is gained by working the third day. This will give your body a chance to rest and therefore repair and grow.

Q & A

Q: Is there a different approach that one would take if they wanted to develop muscle endurance as opposed to just having muscle strength? Or do they go hand in hand...as you get stronger, you will develop more endurance? With surfing would it be better to do lat pulldowns or whatever exercise at a lighter weight, for more repetitions to develop endurance or if you lift heavier weights for fewer reps will that be as effective? Thanks for your help.

A: Yes, true but endurance is really fueled by the cardiovascular system, which delivers oxygen to the muscles. Try doing intense cardio training 3x per week. Remember, even light weights build muscle just to a lesser degree. Go ahead and do the regular weight training but get the oxygen supply system up to speed to handle the load.

Q: I just had a cardio test and everything checks out fine. However, my heart rate seems to stay high after a workout. Is that normal?

A: Well, not being a medical person, heart rate is an indication of fitness level. The fast rise may be ok, but depending on how fast it comes down is an indicator of your fitness level. The longer the time, the less fit. In a standard fitness test (3 Minutes Step Test):

The purpose of this test is to assess the cardiovascular recovery capability. Assemble a 12 inch high step, a metronome or music recorded at 96 bpm and a stop watch. The individual should not talk during this test and be advised to discontinue stepping if pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or nausea is experienced. Begin stepping with right up, left up, right down, left down to each beat or metronome click thereby completing 24 cycle per minute. Continue for 3 minutes. Keep an eye on the participant for signs fatigue, red face or shortness of breath. At the end of the 3 minute period, the individual should sit and the pulse should be located within 5 seconds. The recovery heart rate should be counted for 1 minute. Consult the table below. Check your results against the chart below:

Excellent      81 -  90  79 -  84
Good           99 - 102  90 -  97
Above Average 103 - 112 106 - 109
Average       120 - 121 118 - 119
Below Average 123 - 125 122 - 124
Fair          127 - 130 129 - 134
Poor          136 - 138 137 - 145