Fitness & Strength

I had to post this because my mother just totally annoyed me by telling my daughter that stretch bands are good for women because they don’t give you manly muscles.  I want to make it clear right now, bands develop muscle and they are not isolated for women only.  Where did she hear that?  My mother is 60 years old and I know for a fact that I have exposed the “manly muscle” myth to her.  My point here is, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, please do not engage in conversations if you don’t have facts. 

bodybuilder.jpgMyth #5: Women should focus on performing aerobic activities because weight training will give them a “manly” appearance.

This myth just won’t go away, mainly because of bodybuilding magazines. People associate females who strength-train with the female bodybuilders pictured in bodybuilding magazines. Professional female bodybuilders usually resemble men because of the massive amount of anabolic, androgenic drugs they consume. However, these “females” shouldn’t be confused with drug-free women who incorporate resistance training into their fitness programs. The next time that this topic comes up, remember the following facts: 1) Much of the difference in muscle mass between males and females is attributed to hormones, specifically, Testosterone. On average, men produce ten times more Testosterone than females. Unless you’re a female who’s taking anabolic steroids or other male hormones, lifting weights will not make you look like a man! It’s actually harder for most females to build muscle compared to their male counterparts. 2) There’s also a difference in muscle mass distribution between men and women, especially in the upper body. If you do build a significant amount of muscle, you still won’t look masculine. So, it’s important to remember that male hormones and muscle mass distribution are the two main reasons that men usually carry more muscle than woman. Ladies, get in the weightroom!


J. Defranco           #5 of Top Ten Traininig Myths



Most fitness enthusiasts typically tend to overemphasize flexibility training, to the neglect of developing functional strength while in the stretched position.  Significantly improving your joints’ range of motion without also improving the strength of your surrounding musculature (especially at its new range of motion) can be an invitation for injury.

For example, when you improve your flexibility (in a given joint or group of joints) to the point where an additional five degrees of motion exists, the affected muscles now have a reduced amount of overlap between the actin and myosin filaments, resulting in a substantial reduction in force output ability.  For this reason, strength and flexibility training programs must occur concurrently.

During the stretch, the fibers elongate as each sarcomere extends to the point where no overlap between the thick and thin filaments exists at all (specialized elastic filaments comprised of titin keep the sarcomere together in the absence of overlap).  At this point, the remaining stress is taken up by the surrounding connective tissue (sarcoplasmic reticulum, sarcolemma and endomysium).  If the stretch tension escalates beyond this point, microscopic tears develop both in the connective tissues and within the sarcomere itself.  Such microtraumatic injuries eventually heal, but at the cost of scarification and micro-adhesions that may leave the muscle fiber less capable of contraction and extension.

Rather than short, intense bouts of stretching (which tend to trigger the proprioceptors), opt for longer, frequent periods of stretching where less tension is used.  Soreness after a stretching session is a sign that hydroxyproline (an amino acid found in connective tissue) and other biochemicals have been released into the muscle fiber to help repair damaged tissues.  It is probably a sign that you are stretching too hard. 

Warming up before stretching is important in two regards. First, core body temperature is elevated. Second, muscles are subject to thixotropy, which is the tendency of gels (e.g., body fluids) to become less viscous, following a period of being shaken or otherwise disturbed by outside forces. This explains why periods of inactivity tend to cause muscular stiffness, and why muscular viscosity is reduced when muscles are active. The most appropriate time to stretch a muscle (from the perspective of body temperature and the thixotropic effect) is after training.

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)  8th Edition Text

People often wonder why there are so many injuries in baseball when it is the least physical sport in terms of running, jumping, or physical contact.  Stretching is just another form of physical fitness and should not be taken lightly.  I have added a few thoughts worth considering when planning to stretch.

1. Be sure to improve strength while improving range of motion.  

2. Although you may use stretching as a warm-up, such a practice is often counterproductive. 

3. Prior to performing stretching exercises, core body temperature (not surface) must be elevated. 

4. Always stretch after intense workout sessions. 


My marathon runner (Keir) is racing today in his first 5k of the season.  Even though I do realize what we have done so far has only helped with his endurance, I also know that it has had a minimal effect.  Today I will share the first two of the five strength and conditioning phases that we have to go through in order for Keir to be in peak conditioning for the September marathon. 

Our first phase is his Adaptation period.  This period is utilized to help his body become accustomed to the new demands that strength-training will place on him.  Even though Keir has maintained some conditioning year round, we still utilize this brief period of training to avoid shocking the central nervous system and potentially injuring muscles or joints with this added stress.   

The second phase is his Foundational period which is pretty much where we are right now.  This is where I have placed a little more stress on the muscles to prepare his body for heavier weights (strength).  During this period of training I will incorporate high reps with about 55% of his one repitition max.  This is where I need Keir’s body to respond to strength-training by developing total body-strength and muscle endurance. 

We all have to realize that becoming an above average athlete is a slow gradual process, sometimes taking multiple years to peak.  Some novice runners or weight-lifters fall prey to the “more is better” fallacy.  When we take on this “more is better attitude” we are more susceptible to injury, overtaining, and failure (burnout).  It is imperative that we take the human body through its much needed transitional phases of training to ensure a positive training effect.    

You can read my previous entries here on Keir’s strength- training in preparation for this years marathon.


Well, yesterday I managed to figure out a recipe to accomplish my daily 4200+ calories.  With my son’s baseball game last night I was forced to train later than I normally do, therefore, my post-training meal would have to be later than normal.  

During the time I was training, my wife went to the grocery and for whatever reason decided to buy two half-gallons of ice-cream.  Naturally, I wasn’t happy because I knew I would eat some and because I have a sweet tooth, I might not be able to stop.  On the other hand, I knew I needed more calories and because she buys natural ice-cream (no additives or high fructose corn syrup),  I began to rationalize and justify why eating this ice-cream wouldn’t hurt.  Boom, here’s my bright idea. 

About 30 minutes after training I always take a protein supplement, glutamine, and my BCAA’s.  At this point I knew I was way under my caloric requirements and because I had a three hour window of opportunity post-workout to consume about 1/3 of my calories, I was going to take full advantage.  This is when I looked at my protein, looked at this ice-cream, then looked in the cupboard to see if the blender was still there (you never where anything might be around here).  My last ditch efforts to consume these calories were between 8:30 and 11:30 pm.  During this time frame I managed to mix 96 grams of protein with 2 cups of Oreo cookie ice-cream, in two separate shakes.  🙂  With milk added that’s a grand total of 1340 calories in a 2 hour period of time.  I’m pretty sure I got my 4200, but the problem came when I went to mix a protein shake today, I almost got nauseated. 

If you have read my MENTAL TOUGHNESS post, it explains that I am on a mission to gain 15 or more lbs. by eating like a pig, training hard, and eliminating all cardio so that I can build muscle then lean back down to around 8% LBM.  It’s not a matter of gaining that worries me, it’s a matter of hating cardio and seeing if I have the mental toughness that it requires to attain my goals.    


Myth #7: It’s important to build an aerobic base of conditioning before getting into more intense anaerobic work.

There’s no physiological basis for this statement. Having an aerobic base doesn’t help you perform or recover from anaerobic work. Think about this, do you think a marathon runner would be able to withstand the demands of an intense football game? On the other hand, do you think that one of the NFL’s superstars would be able to complete a marathon?

Of course not! This is because the physiological demands of both sports have about as much in common as Howard Stern and Kathie Lee Gifford. Yet athletes who participate in anaerobic sports still tend to associate getting in shape with long, slow, distance training. Nothing can be further from the truth.

A more productive alternative to jogging or cycling a couple of miles would be to perform multiple anaerobic activities with short rest intervals over a prolonged period of time. For example, performing a GPP (general physical preparedness) workout that consists of bodyweight calisthenics (jumping jacks, bodyweight squats, squat thrusts, etc.), movement skills (power skipping, side shuffling, backpedaling, etc.) and mobility drills, is far superior to linear, slow, long-distance running.

By performing exercises that challenge an athlete’s relative strength, balance and coordination in a continuous fashion, we’re able to improve their endurance without the loss in muscle mass, strength and speed that’s associated with the slow distance method.

Joe Defranco’s            # 7 of Top Ten Training Myths



It seems like my goals change on a monthly basis.  I’m sitting here early this morning wondering how I will manage to consume 4200 calories every day until I reach my goal.  If my math is correct that’s six meals per day at 700 calories per meal.  Consuming these many calories for any length of time, seems totally impossible.  I do realize that eating this many calories is a gradual process, however, I cannot think of a healthy way to consume them.  How much oatmeal or salad can a person eat in a day?  What about egg whites or plain chicken breasts?  I could do it the lazy way by ordering out and eating a ton of empty, unhealthy calories then pay for it in the gym.  I could also eat high fat chemically laced fast food, but I know that’s counterproductive.  The crux I’m at right now is a classic example of not having a clear cut goal.  Do I really want to build this size?  I’m 204 right now and at 6’2 I look skinny in comparison to others.  (What has motivated this entire thought process is a bodybuilding show coming up).  So, once again I ask myself, “do I really want to get up to 220″  Regardless of what I want, I realize that I have to make a commitment that requires courage, self-discipline, motivation, and complete mental toughness.  

Since I’ve had all day to ponder these thoughts I realized that it is no different when it comes to losing weight for some people, especially when a person doesn’t know if they want to put forth the effort and commitment that losing weight requires.  I also realize that once I gain this size and muscle I will have to lean back down by eating less and participating in some type of aerobic exercise.  Right their is the problem, I literally hate doing any type of aerobic activity for an extended period of time.  For myself, twenty minutes on a treadmill is too long.  I do it now, however, I need to do 40 minutes or more to burn a significant amount of fat.  I guess I’m afraid that if I do gain that much weight (15lbs.) I will not have the motivation to lean back down.  In other words, will I stick to the program. 

It really does take a conscious effort and commitment for people to accomplish their goals.  The easier softer way is my natural response to anything that requires hard work.  Some people may be reading this saying, ” I wish I had the problem of having a hard time consuming 4200 calories”.  I’m not writing this to say “look at me” I am writing this to say “wow, what a commitment and a self-discipline it requires to realize your goals”.  I give credit where credit is due and I honestly don’t know if I had to lose a mere 15 lbs, I could do it.  I know how to do it, however, everything that gaining/losing weight entails, is quite difficult.  I guess what it boils down to is commitment, courage, motivation, self discipline, and mental toughness. 

Champions aren’t made in gyms, champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.- 

                                                                                                                                  Muhammad Ali 


Where did this obesity epidemic come from and when did it happen?  It was just a few years back when we were all talking about world hunger.  Now we’re talking about people being grossly out of shape and overweight.  Just look around you.  Once you begin a physical fitness program and begin eating nutritionally healthy meals, you will immediately notice how many fat people are out there.  Sure, there are medical conditions that cause obesity, however, I’m not talking about the morbidly obese.  I’m talking about the overweight glutton that’s eating a triple cheesburger and sipping a milkshake while driving in bumper to bumper traffic.  This disease concept (eating disorder) is a way for  doctor’s to make more money.  Tummy tucks, gastric bypass, liposuction.  Gimme a break!  (People, please do not put one more dollar in the hands of a doctor that would rather cut you open instead of advising you to visit a health club).  Not everyone is blessed with elite athletic genes, but not everyone is born with obese genes either, and you wouldn’t believe that if you just look around any food court in your local mall.  

People, you’re being bamboozeled by fad diets and supplements that just don’t work.  There is a safe and effective way to losing weight and getting in shape, however, you must put forth the effort.  Do yourselves a favor, strength train, walk, and eat small meals throughout the day.

Work Hard, Good Luck!