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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Escape the fat trap

Why we crave sugary snacks... and not fruit and veg


Are urges to eat unhealthy food purely down to greed? We ask experts...

It is the question that has foxed dieters and scientists alike: Why do we crave sugary snacks or fat-laden junk foods and not more healthy options such as, say, an apple? 
Some claim to have 'a sweet tooth', or 'a salt tooth'. And many believe cravings are the body's way of telling them what they need. But how true is that really?


Experts believe that cravings occur for a variety of reasons. They attribute them to evolution, psychological factors such as stress and unhappiness, and - sometimes - a genuine need for certain foods.

'It's crucial to remember that a food craving is not simply hunger,' says Professor Andrew Hill, Head of the Academic Unit of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Leeds University.

Hunger is the body's way of making sure it is provided with energy, in the form of nutrients from food. When the stomach is empty, it releases the hormone ghrelin, which communicates with the brain's command centre, the hypothalamus. This creates the feeling of hunger and is how we know when to eat.

Satiation is signalled by the release of the hormones leptin by fat cells, and insulin by the pancreas, in response to increased blood sugar.

Cravings, however, are much more complex.

'Those who are starving will eat literally anything - even foods they do not enjoy - to stay alive,' says psychologist Dr Leigh Gibson, Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton University.

'Cravings, on the other hand, are an overwhelming sensation of desire for a certain food. There are a number of chemicals in the brain that are associated with this.

'First, there is dopamine, a brain chemical that is involved in learning and concentration. When we see or experience something new, dopamine is released in the brain.

'This works in tandem with other brain chemicals called opioids, which give us feelings of enjoyment and pleasure. The combination of these two factors mean that the brain associates certain activities with pleasure, and it teaches us to do them again and again.

'From an evolutionary point of view, junk food cravings are linked to prehistoric times when the brain's opioids and dopamine reacted to the benefit of high-calorie food as a survival mechanism.

'We are programmed to enjoy eating fatty and sugary substances, and our brains tell us to seek them out.

'Today, we still have the same chemical reactions to these so-called hyper-palatable foods, causing an unignorable desire - despite there being less of a nutritional need for them.'


Another factor in desire for sugary or fatty foods is stress.

'The body produces a hormone called cortisol in response to stress,' explains Dr Gibson.

'Its primary functions are to increase sugar in the blood to be used up as energy by the body's cells, suppress the immune system and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also blocks the release of leptin and insulin, increasing hunger.

'This is why studies have shown that when we're stressed, we're more likely drawn towards high-energy foods, such as cakes and sweets. Stress in response to danger used to mean energy was burned up. Stress down to today's lifestyle may have the same effect, though these days we are less likely to actually burn off the calories.'

Then there are the psychological components to cravings.

'Mood is unquestionably a potent context - especially negative mood,' says Prof Hill.

'We crave reward foods. The pattern for this is partially set in childhood when parents give us sweet food to show love or reward.'

Anna Raymond, of the British Dietetic Association, agrees.

'Cravings are a psychological need for high-fat and high-sugar foods which taste pleasant - but which should, of course, form only a small part of our daily intake.'

Dr Gibson points out that sweet food can actively alleviate pain by releasing opioids, thus excusing us for giving sweets to a hurt child. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that chocolate causes the brain to release these euphoria-inducing chemicals.

Unsurprisingly, more than 50 per cent of reported cravings are for chocolate and most others are for highly palatable foods such as sweets or biscuits.

'Chocolate melts at body temperature which gives a pleasant sensation, and fat and sugar further increase the sensory appeal,' says Prof Hill.

Gender can influence the nature of cravings. According to Prof Hill, studies show that women predominantly crave sweet, fatty and energy-dense food and men have more savoury cravings, although it is not yet understood why.


Sometimes cravings may point to a deficiency in the body. Dr Gibson conducted an experiment in 1995 to test this theory.

His team gave a group of volunteers a low-protein breakfast followed by a high-protein lunch. The following day they were given a low-protein breakfast and a low protein lunch. Each meal was given in a variety of flavours.

On the third day they were given a choice. Regardless of flavour, all participants chose the high-protein option. This proves that if we need a nutrient - such as protein - we'll automatically choose it.

'We know that animals seek out food when they have nutritional needs - such as iron, vitamins or sodium.

Why should we be any different?' says Dr Gibson. ' Cravings for healthy food are more likely to be down to bodily needs.'



'Cravings for these are usually down to a psychological desire for a food that makes you feel better and gives a short-term ''fix''. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, antioxidants and iron - so there is unquestionably some nutritional benefit,' says nutritionist Zoe Harcombe.


'It may be an example of wheat intolerance in the case of pizza and pasta - ironically if we're intolerant of things we crave them,' suggests Harcombe.

'One theory is that if we don't digest or absorb foods properly, we desire them more as the body isn't getting what it needs from the food. For instance, diabetics can't regulate their blood sugar, leading to low energy levels. But if the condition is uncontrolled they crave sugary foods, as the body believes it isn't getting enough.' 


Should you crave salmon, it could be a need for Omega3 fats.

'Some new evidence suggests that taste receptors respond to certain fatty acids,' says Dr Gibson.

'Maybe our system is aware of their presence. Tuna could be a need for salt - especially in a low-fat dieter who eats lots of fruit and vegetables but little meat or fish and is getting little sodium,' says Harcombe.

'Dieters are eating more potassium by consuming large amounts of fruit and vegetables, so they need to balance it out with more sodium.'


'Milk contains key nutrients, and if you crave cheese, you may need the fatsoluble Vitamins A and D, especially if you have a lowfat diet,' says Harcombe.


It seems obvious - but some experts believe a meat craving means the body needs protein. Dr Gibson says: 'A desire to eat red meat could be attributed to iron deficiency - especially in pregnant women.'

7 Habits of Highly Effective Exercisers

Day after day, working out can feel like a drill. Yet fitness devotees somehow muster the motivation to get exercise regularly. Steal their tricks and (almost) never miss a workout again.

Get Motivated, Stay Motivated

Five or six days every week, Sue Wolcott, 41, hits the treadmill in her basement. It's a habit that started after she named her exercise machine Ripley. "It's as in 'Believe it or not, I'm working out,'" says Sue, a teacher in Grand Island, New York. "I would never skip out on meeting a friend, so I decided to treat my treadmill like a person." It's become, ahem, a running joke in her set; one pal now refers to her own treadmill as Dusty. "It's just us being silly, but when I'm asked if I've seen Ripley, I really love answering yes," Sue says.

Despite what you may think, the trick to exercising regularly isn't finding your inner enforcer. Rather, "it's getting creative and tapping your natural motivations," says Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist and fitness instructor at Stanford. We asked women who work up a sweat almost every day for their stick-with-it solutions. Check out our seven fail-proof favorites.1. Don't put away your gear.

From the moment she rises, Kristina Monét Cox, 26, has exercise on the brain. That's because the first things she sees are her sneakers and workout clothes. "I've got them next to the bed in plain sight," says Kristina, the CEO of a communications firm in Houston. "I've also got dumbbells right where I can see them in the bathroom, and a balance ball, a yoga mat, and a jump rope strategically placed throughout the house." Forgetting to exercise is never her problem.

Why it works: Visual cues are a wake-up call to your brain. "We all have competing priorities like work, family, chores. Sometimes we need a reminder to keep exercise at the forefront," McGonigal says.

Do it yourself: If you don't have the space to display your gear (or if it'll mess with your decor), choose just one or two prime locations that you'll never miss. Better yet, "pick places where you spend a lot of time and can use the equipment, like by the TV or the phone," says Amanda Visek, PhD, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.2. Turn your commute into a workout.

On days that Monica Vazquez, 27, a master trainer for New York Sports Clubs in New York City, can't do her usual run, she stuffs her essentials -- keys, cash, credit card, phone and ID -- into a fanny pack and jogs home from work instead. "Running is a great workout, but it's also great transportation," she says. "Sometimes I get home even earlier than I normally do taking the subway."

Why it works: Running, walking, or biking somewhere you have to go anyway makes exercise feel time-efficient. "And you don't have to carve out another part of your day for it," says Michelle Fortier, PhD, professor of health sciences at the University of Ottawa. "It's an effective strategy for people who are busy from morning to night."

Do it yourself: Your logistics may be a bit more complex if you drive to work or don't have good public transportation at your disposal. Maybe you can carpool in the morning or park your car a mile from the office and speed walk the distance to and from your job. If you don't have a safe place at work to stash your stuff, invest in a lightweight backpack with waist and chest straps or swap your purse for a fanny pack on days that you plan to run home.
3. Invest in more workout clothes.

For years, Gina Cancellaro, 36, a paralegal in Bronxville, New York, owned only one sports bra. "I didn't want to spend the money," she admits. Then one day she realized that this was a barrier to her working out: "My usual excuse was that it wasn't clean." So she went to the mall and loaded up on bras -- and cute tops and shorts. Now she exercises five days a week.

Why it works: "Having the right clothing doesn't just remove a hurdle; it reinforces your identity as an exerciser," McGonigal says. "And when exercising is an integral part of your identity, it isn't optional anymore. It's just part of your life." Plus, you've got to wear those adorable new workout clothes somewhere.

Do it yourself: Stock up on at least a week's worth of gym outfits to eliminate any last-minute hand washing in the sink. Think of it as spending now to save yourself grief later. To truly simplify your life, you may want to get several of the same tops and bottoms. "There's no time-consuming decision making that way," says Patricia Moreno, a FITNESS advisory board member and body and mind coach. "Look for basics that are comfy and show off your assets -- whether that's your shoulders or your abs -- so you feel good just suiting up."
4. Log your workouts online.

A surprising thing happened when Michelle Busack, 38, started to post her exercise routines on Facebook: Old friends from high school whom she hadn't seen in years began writing comments. "At first they just congratulated me," says Michelle, a nurse in Columbus, Indiana. "But now we've bonded over this and they're my biggest cheerleaders." In fact, if she doesn't post a workout update for a few days, they'll demand to know what's going on.

Why it works: Social networking sites like Facebook and DailyMile offer an extra layer of social support. "You've got potentially all of your online contacts holding you accountable," says Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama.

Do it yourself: Choose a social platform or online fitness tool (check out ours at Then get in the habit of chronicling your progress after your workout every day so that your friends know when you usually exercise -- and when you've slacked off. Post your minutes, your miles, or whatever motivates you most.

5. Involve your causes.

A political junkie, Rachel Simpson, 31, decided to use her partisan loyalties to help herself lose weight. She vowed to exercise four times a week; for each week she failed to do so, she agreed on Stickk (a Web site that helps people stay committed to their goals) to donate $25 to the library of a former president she didn't like. "Suddenly, working out was mandatory!" says the recent law school graduate in Minneapolis. Three months later she was down 16 pounds -- and hadn't betrayed her party.

Why it works: Strong feelings, especially antipathies, have a multiplier effect. "Losing $10 to an enemy feels like $20 or even $30, so you push yourself harder," says Dean Karlan, PhD, professor of economics at Yale and a founder of Stickk.

Do it yourself: On Stickk, you can pledge to give a minimum of $5 to a charity or an individual (you provide the name and address) you like if you meet your goal or to one you dislike if you fall short. (Your credit card is charged.) Or sign up to raise money for a charity on the Web site Plus 3 Network: You pick from a list of goals that have prearranged corporate sponsors; if you meet yours, they'll pay the charity.
6. Make friends with class regulars.

The thought of spending time with her Spinning buddies pushes Marie Bruce, 24, a coach and events director in Austin, Texas, to her morning class three times a week. "We're a tight-knit group," she says. "If I'm grumpy when I walk in, they don't let me stay that way for long." During the past six years, she's grown close to her extended gym family; in fact, they're invited to her upcoming wedding.

Why it works: It's smart time management. "You get your social fix while doing physical activity," Fortier says. Both boost health, and the better you feel, the likelier you are to want to exercise.

Do it yourself: Some classes foster friendships more than others, so you'll have to do some sleuthing. "Arrive early and observe," suggests Moreno, who teaches IntenSati, a mix of aerobics, dance, yoga, and kickboxing. "Are people staking out their places in silence, or are they chatting and laughing and flitting around the room?" Another good sign: The instructor seems to know everyone's name.
7. Create an exercise contest.

Taking a page from The Biggest Loser, Elizabeth Kirat, 35, and her friends are embroiled in a sweaty battle to see who can diet and exercise off the most weight. Every six weeks, they call the winner. "There's money at stake, but it's really the bragging rights that keep you returning to the treadmill," says Elizabeth, a photographer in Denville, New Jersey. So far she's dropped 10 pounds.

Why it works: Competition turns a solitary pursuit into a fun group one. "By trying to beat each other, you're actually pulling each other along," Visek says. "Even playful heckling validates that you're working toward a similar goal."

Do it yourself: The contest can be for anything: most steps walked, most hours logged at the gym, highest percentage of body weight lost. Aim for anywhere from four to 10 participants. "Fewer than that, and one person who's not really trying can hobble the group. More than that, and it's hard for everyone to interact," Visek explains. To keep group members engaged, limit the competition to six-week rounds and have weekly check-ins, when people put money in the jar. "Your incentive is regularly refreshed in your mind that way," Visek says. Once everyone has agreed to the rules, let the games begin!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Improving your stamina

Any activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe faster and heavier will burn calories and improve your aerobic fitness. Gardening, cleaning and using the stairs are all everyday activities that are also great exercise.
If you want to take your exercise up a notch, it may sound too simple to be effective, but walking/gentle pushing is a great exercise for building your stamina, burning calories and improving your general fitness. You can increase the intensity by changing the distance you cover, your speed and finding routes that involve small hills with a steady incline.
If you feel ready for more intense activity, running and cycling are great ways of starting to develop your lung capacity and stamina. If you’re not, don’t worry, here are some simple exercises that you can do at home that will still get your heart beating faster and make you breathe more heavily:
  • Step ups – using either a step box, or just the bottom step of your stairs, repeatedly step up and down. Increase your speed and the time you do it for to increase the intensity.
  • Marching – as simple as it sounds, standing in one spot, using your arms as well, concentrate on lifting your knees up to the same height as your waist. You can develop this into jogging on the spot for more intensity.
  • Arms – a great way of warming up your muscles and raising your heart rate is lots of repetitions of movements such as punching in front of you or above your head (one arm at a time), raising your arms straight up to the sides or pointing your arms straight out to the sides and then making circular motions with your hands, changing directions every so often.
When you are ready for a new challenge and want to improve your fitness further, an exercise bike is a relatively cheap piece of equipment that doesn’t take up too much room. There is also a whole range of home cardio equipment available, including treadmills, rowing machines, cross trainers, handbikes and recumbent cycles that you could use to enhance your home exercise routine. The build quality and features of this equipment can vary a great deal, so shop around, do some research and find a machine that matches your needs.

How to Increase Your Stamina When You Don't Have Any
By Denise Stern

If you haven't exercised in a while, you may notice that you have no stamina to climb stairs, walk, jog or enjoy sports or activities without running out of breath very quickly. Stamina is described as the ability to sustain prolonged physical activity, and is also known as endurance. To increase your stamina and endurance, follow a few basic tips and strategies to increase your strength, lung capacity and cardio strength, safely and effectively.

Step 1

Increase the duration or distance of your exercise or activity plan slowly, suggests Woman Junction. For example, if you can only walk or jog around the track one time before you're out of breath and your heart's pounding, repeat the process for several days, then try to walk or jog another quarter the fourth day. Take two to three days to become accustomed to this additional demand on your body and then add another quarter lap. Slowly increase the duration or distance of your activity as you feel yourself growing stronger.

Step 2

Increase the speed of your activity or exercise gradually every few days. This may also be measured as intensity, and determines how easy or hard you're exercising or working, suggests the American Heart Association. For example, if you can walk around the track without exerting yourself, next jog for a quarter of a lap, or more if you can, to increase your speed and intensity levels.

Step 3

Push yourself to engage in activities that challenge your body, but take care not to injure yourself. For example, try adding a hill-climb to your daily walk at the park, or adding a sprint to your casual jog around the track. Add an extra mile to your bike ride or swim an extra lap or two. You want to feel your heart rate and breathing accelerate, but not to the point where you're gasping for breath, can't talk, or you feel ill.

Step 4

Engage in strength training, which offers physical cardiovascular benefits as well as increasing your body's stamina and endurance, suggests the Mayo Clinic. You can perform strength training with or without weights. Body weight exercises like push ups, lunges, squats and crunches are good for beginners. Start with lower repetitions and then gradually increase repetitions and sets as you grow stronger. Move on to resistance tubes or free weights, gradually increasing both weight and repetitions during your workouts.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always check with your health care provider before starting on an exercise routine, especially if you are currently diagnosed with a medical condition.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Exercise Intensity Matters More Than Duration For Lowering Metabolic Syndrome Risk: Study

What's the best way to exercise to protect the heart? A new study suggests it may matter more how intense the exercise is, not how long you do it.
New research in the journal BMJ Open shows that brisk walking and jogging can help decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, but walking for an hour each day doesn't seem to have any impact on the risk.
Metabolic syndrome is made up of a cluster of factors, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, a large waist circumference, low levels of good cholesterol, and high triglycerides, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Metabolic syndrome raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
The study, conducted by researchers at Bispebjerg University Hospital in Denmark, included 10,135 people ages 21 to 98. All of the study participants were monitored for up to 10 years on their physical activity intensity and duration.
At the beginning of the study, 20.7 percent of the women had metabolic syndrome, and of those women, nearly one in three led a sedentary lifestyle, while one in 10 led a physically active lifestyle.
Meanwhile, for men at the beginning of the study, 27.3 percent had metabolic syndrome. Of those men, 37 percent led a sedentary lifestyle, while 14 percent had led a physically active lifestyle.
By the end of the study period, 15.4 percent of the study participants who didn't start out with metabolic syndrome and who completed the final assessments had developed the condition. Of the people who went on to develop metabolic syndrome, 19.4 percent of them led a sedentary lifestyle, while 11.8 percent led a physically active lifestyle.
Researchers found that study participants who exercised and had a fast walking speed were able to lower their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by half, while those who exercised by jogging were able to lower their risk of the condition by 40 percent.
But the researchers did not find that those who exercised by going for a walk for an hour every day were able to lower their risk of the condition.
The findings suggest "that intensity more than volume of physical activity is important," researchers wrote in the study. 
Can You Lose Weight Just by Walking 10,000 Steps a Day?
By Lisa Sefcik

If you're walking to lose weight, there may be no "magic" number of minutes, strides or miles you must complete to burn excess fat. Some studies show that you can lose weight and increase your level of physical fitness by simply walking 10,000 steps a day. However, your results also depend on the amount of energy behind your pace.

Benefits of Walking

A comfortable pair of walking shoes and a stretch of open terrain may be all you need to get in physical shape -- and to lose or maintain weight. The American Council on Exercise states that this no-cost fitness program yields other health advantages as well, such as lowering your blood pressure, reducing your risk of diabetes and keeping your blood cholesterol levels in check. Depending on the length of your stride, 10,000 steps will carry you about 5 miles.


The University of Alberta published results of a walking study in the March 2010 issue of "Journal of Physical Activity and Health." A total of 128 inactive adults were randomly assigned to various groups. One group engaged in a fitness program four days a week; another group was given pedometers and assigned a walking program that involved taking 10,000 steps each day; and the last maintained their existing level of physical activity. After six months, researchers found that body mass index and waist circumference was reduced in all groups; however, only the fitness group noticed a change in rate of perceived exertion, or RPE. Researchers concluded that supervised training sessions yielded the best results when it came to reducing RPE and blood pressure; however, they further noted that "not other fitness and health-related variables compared with a pedometer-based walking program matched for total energy cost."

Walking Intensity

If you want to lose weight, the amount of energy you put into physical activity matters. According to Harvard Medical School, research shows that some people who walk 10,000 steps each day don't exert themselves enough for the activity to meet "moderate" criteria, while others who don't make this goal exercise at just the right intensity -- according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking on a level surface between 3 mph and 4.5 mph is considered a moderately exhaustive physical activity. Harvard states that walking energetically for 30 minutes is better for your cardiovascular system -- and better for weight control -- than taking 10,000 steps at an easy amble.

Other Information

The U.S. Surgeon General and American College of Sports Medicine recommended that healthy adults put in a half hour of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity at least five days a week, but preferably as many days as you can. And, according to ACE, walking 10,000 brisk steps a day is consistent with these guidelines. However, Harvard Medical School reports that 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day might not be enough if you want to lose weight, citing data from the Institute of Medicine which suggests that an hour of exercise is better at burning up surplus calories.

Harvard Medical School: Exercise Your Right to Health
"Journal of Physical Activity and Health"; A Comparison of Fitness Training to a Pedometer-based Walking Program Matched for Total Energy Cost; G.J. Bell, et. al.; March 7, 2010)
Harvard Medical School: Counting Every Step You Take
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General Physical Activitys Defined by Intensity
American Council on Exercise; How to Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Feel Happier and Get Healthier – At No Cost?; Marion Webb
American College of Sports Medicine: Physical Activity Guidelines

Friday, 21 June 2013

Troy Workout to get ripped

Brad Pitt Troy Workout

Pitt has several nude scenes in Troy and confirms "that's my butt. After working that hard to get my body in shape, I wasn't about to ask for a butt double."
Director Petersen says it was Pitt who suggested the nude scenes.
"Brad came to me and suggested we do the nude scenes. He said he worked so long on sculpting his body that it was time to show it. He'd really done his research and explained it was part of the whole Greek myth of the human body."

Look Like This - Get Ripped Now!

In order for Brad Pitt to get ready for the role in the movie Troy, He dropped cigarettes and sharply cut back on beer and chips, although he did allow himself the occasional treat: McFlurry shakes from McDonald's, "though it was more for a little taste of home, you know, a little Americana."
Brad used a low-carb, high-protein diet during the training for his role. Physically, Pitt prepared for the role with a year of intense training. "The first three months were daunting and not fun at all." His days included two to three hours in the gym, two additional hours of sword work and four high-protein, low-carb meals. As a result, he gained about 10 pounds of brawn.

Bench press - 5 sets, 6-10 reps
Incline bench press - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Cable crossovers - 6 sets, 10-12 reps
Dips - 5 sets, to failure
Dumbbell pullovers - 5 sets, 10-12 reps

Front wide-grip chin-ups - 6 sets, to failure
T-bar rows - 5 sets, 6-10 reps
Seated pulley rows - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Straight-leg deadlifts - 6 sets, 15 reps

Squats - 6 sets, 8-12 reps
Leg presses - 6 sets, 8-12 reps
Leg extensions - 6 sets, 12-15 reps
Barbell lunges - 5 sets, 15 reps

Standing calf raises -10 sets, 10 reps
Seated calf raises - 8 sets, 15 reps
One-legged calf raises (holding dumbbells) - 6 sets,12 reps

Wrist curls (forearms on knees) - 4 sets, 10 reps
Reverse barbell curls - 4 sets, 8 reps
Wright roller machine - to failure

Barbell curls - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Seated dumbbell curls - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Dumbbell concentration curls - 6 sets, 6-10 reps

Close-grip bench presses (for the all three heads) - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Pushdowns (exterior head) - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Barbell French presses (interior head) - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
One-arm dumbbell triceps extensions (exterior head) - 6 sets, 6-10 reps

Seated barbell presses - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Lateral raises (standing) - 6 sets, 6-10 reps
Rear-delt lateral raises - 5 sets, 6-10 reps
Cable lateral raises - 5 sets, 10-12 reps

30 minutes straight until failure.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Superman Workout

Discover how Henry Cavill sculpted the body of a superhero

Soon after wrapping Immortals, actor Henry Cavill began prepping for his role as the next Superman. To become a little more super, he turned to Mark Twight, owner of Gym Jones in Salt Lake City—the same fitness expert who transformed the cast of300 into an army of men with washboard abs. Twight uses a punishing training routine called the "tailpipe": a 100-rep workout that'll smoke calories, torch fat, and leave you exhausted (ha!). The tailpipe has two "sides," exercise and recovery, explains Dan John, Twight's colleague and fellow strength coach. "The exercise portion is designed to get you gassed," he says. "but the recovery is just as important." 

Twight's tailpipe recovery method: the moment you finish an exercise, calmly take eight controlled breaths in and out of your nose. "Fight the urge to gasp, throw yourself around, or change songs on your ipod," says john. Then immediately start the next exercise. 

Bonus: The tailpipe can also improve your sports performance, John says, because it helps manage "the stress of extreme fatigue." After your final tailpipe recovery, attempt a fundamental sport skill. For example, take three free throws, using three basketballs that you've placed nearby ahead of time. "Become better at dealing with this stress, and you might suddenly find yourself becoming a clutch player." 


Use this routine at the end of your regular workout, or as an intense circuit you can do almost anywhere. Perform the exercises in the order shown; a 16-kilogram (35-pound) kettlebell or dumbbell is recommended for the movements that require a weight. (If that's too hard, downsize.) Do 25 reps of each exercise, using the tailpipe recovery technique between each move (and after the last).

1. Goblet Squat
 Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and stand with your feet just beyond shoulder width. Cup the weight with both hands and hold it vertically next to your chest, your elbows pointing down. Keeping your back naturally arched, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body as far as you can. Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat. 

2. Kettlebell Swing Bend at your hips and hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands at arm's length down in front of you. Rock back slightly and "hike" the kettlebell between your legs. Then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward forcefully, and swing the weight to shoulder height. Allow momentum to swing the weight. Reverse the move between your legs, and keep swinging. 

3. Squat Thrust Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Bending at your hips and knees, squat and lower your body until you can place your hands on the floor. Kick your legs backward into a pushup position, and then immediately reverse the move and quickly stand up from the squat. That's 1 rep. To add to the challenge, jump up from the squat instead of standing up. Want to learn more great moves to sculpt your body?

4. Jumping Jacks Stand with your feet together and your hands at your sides. Simultaneously raise your arms above your head and quickly kick your legs out to the sides. Without pausing, reverse the movement. That's 1 rep. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Knee Strengthening Exercises

The following knee strengthening exercises are designed to improve strength of the muscles of the knee. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.
Begin with the basic knee strengthening exercises. Once these are too easy, they can be replaced with the intermediate knee exercises and eventually, the advanced exercises.

Knee Strengthening – Basic Exercises

To begin with, the following basic knee strengthening exercises should be performed approximately 10 times, 3 times daily. As your knee strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions and strength of contraction provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction 

Tighten the muscle at the front of your thigh (quadriceps) by pushing your knee down into a towel (figure 1). Put your fingers on your inner quadriceps (VMO - vastus medialis obliquus) to feel the muscle tighten during contraction. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible pain free.
Knee Exercises - Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction
Figure 1 – Static Inner Quadriceps Contraction

Quads Over Fulcrum 

Begin this exercise lying on your back with a rolled towel or foam roll under your knee and your knee relaxed (figure 2). Slowly straighten your knee as far as possible tightening the front of your thigh (quadriceps). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible pain free.
Knee Exercises - Quads Over Fulcrum
Figure 2 – Quads Over Fulcrum

Static Hamstring Contraction 

Begin this exercise in sitting with your knee bent to about 45 degrees (figure 3). Press your heel into the floor tightening the back of your thigh (hamstrings). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times as hard as possible pain free.
Knee Exercises - Static Hamstring Contraction
Figure 3 – Static Hamstring Contraction

Knee Strengthening – Intermediate Exercises

The following intermediate knee strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 - 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your knee strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain. 

Resistance Band Knee Extension in Sitting 

Begin this exercise in sitting with your knee bent and a resistance band tied around your ankle as shown (figure 4). Keeping your back straight, slowly straighten your knee tightening the front of your thigh (quadriceps). Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.
Knee Exercises - Resistance Band Knee Extension in Sitting
Figure 4 – Resistance Band Knee Extension in Sitting

Resistance Band Hamstring Curl

Begin this exercise lying on your stomach with a resistance band tied around your ankle as shown (figure 5). Slowly bend your knee tightening the back of your thigh (hamstrings). Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.
Knee Exercises - Resistance Band Hamstring Curl
Figure 5 – Resistance Band Hamstring Curl

Squat with Swiss Ball 

Begin this exercise in standing with your feet shoulder width apart, your feet facing forwards and a Swiss ball placed between a wall and your lower back (figure 6). Slowly perform a squat, keeping your back straight. Your knees should be in line with your middle toes and should not move forward past your toes. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.
Knee Exercises - Squat with Swiss Ball
Figure 6 – Squat with Swiss Ball

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ankle Pain and Strain - Prevention and Rehabilitation

“Bulletproofing” the ankle

Duncan Ogilvie (MSc, CSCS, ASCC) – Director of DO Training

The ankle can be an Athletes worst nightmare, and is the main injury suffered in sports such as basketball, volleyball, and handball.  It is rare to find an athlete that hasn’t had some type of history of ankle issues. With this is mind perhaps it’s wise to prepare for what some might say is an inevitable ankle sprain or strain, and “Bullet Proof” it.

The structure of the Ankle

The ankle is designed to be a mobile joint; this is something that is very important for efficient movement. Below are pictures of the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that make up the ankle.

Muscles of the Ankle

The Ankle - Muscles

Ligaments of the Ankle

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Tendons of the Ankle

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As stated already, the ankle is a mobile joint. If mobility in the ankle is lacking, be it by a saggital blockage from previous injury or taping, strapping or braces, this can lead to problems. With a lack of mobility in the ankle, more range of motion will be needed by other joints further up the chain to compensate. As a result the knee often gets asked to take up the mobility slack. Not idea for a joint that is build for stability (1,2,3,4). The ankle is a complex structure and has many bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that allow it to function optimally. I won’t go into detail about the structure of the ankle; if you want that there are some great resources out there that can give you all you need. However it’s important that you know the ankle is made up of 3 main bones, the Talus (foot), tibia and fibula (leg). The joint of the ankle is a synovial hinge allowing Plantar Flexion, Dorsi Flexion, Inversion and Eversion; there is movement through all 3 planes, making it a mobile joint. The most common ankle injury is a inversion sprain, and this most likely leads to damage to the Anterior Talo-Fibular Ligament (ATFL).

Common Injury prevention measures.

With such high instances of ankle injury in sport there are many preventative measures out there to help reduce the instances of them. These measures include such things as rigid and semi rigid braces, strapping and taping. Much research has been done of the success rate of these types of preventative measures, and has shown that the use of lace-up ankle braces reduced the incidence but not the severity of acute ankle injuries (5). However this research often fails to look at the effects of kinematic on other joints, and much research has stated as mentioned above that reducing the mobility of an ankle can increase likelihood of injury to the knee, hip, and lower back while also having a negative effect on power, speed and agility (6,7,8,9). While providing a quick fix for an unstable and weak ankle following injury, bracing in any form might not be the answer. Again we can look at the research that shows chronic bracing of the ankle can hinder and regress joint stability and strength.(10, 11)  Resulting in a reliance on bracing, which would then give you all the negatives already stated.
Strength and Conditioning | Personal Training | DoTraining | Bracing
There are limited studies that show the effects of chronic bracing, but you don’t need research to tell you this. Ask any athlete who has braced for a number of seasons in a row, and ask them to take off the braces. No chance…they will hold onto them like a mother does to a new born baby, proclaiming they can’t live without them. This is enough real world evidence for me to think that maybe braces and strapping are not the answer. One thing I am certain about and all the evidence and research backs it up it, and that is if you strengthen your ankle and its surrounding musculature as well maintaining adequate mobility it will definitely help you reduce the instances of injury to your ankle, and make it more resilient to further injury, or “bullet proofing” it.

 STEP 1 – First and foremost, lose your shoes, strengthen your feet.

A sense of foot position in humans is precise when barefoot, but is distorted by athletic footwear, which accounts for the high frequency of ankle sprains in athletes. With all the shoes in our collections, high tops, low tops, boots, high heel for the women (or men if your into that) our feet get beaten up. Cushioned heels and arch support are all un-natural to the natural foot, and thus over time will change the software of our foot. Spend as much time (upto 80% of your time) barefoot or in minimalist shoes (some protection for the sole from sharp stuff is always a good thing). Why do I make such a statement, and I know what you’re thinking…no I’m not some bearded hippy naturalist.
Here is why -
Proprioception – A large number of our proprioceptive receptors in the body are in our feet. It makes sense right? Our foot is the first point on contact with the floor in movement. This feedback is essential for use to adjust and react to what we are experiencing while in motion. So why dumb down these receptors by thick soles and cushioned heels.  You can’t engage the muscles of your feet, thus improving stability, if your brain can’t feel them.
Strength – Walking and working out barefoot will allow your feet to breath, your toes to move, and your arches to spread on impact, what they are designed to do. All this will allow you to strengthen your feet and make them more robust.
Mobility – Walking, running and working out barefoot or in minimalist shoes will allow your ankle to move through its full range during gait, improving your mobility at the ankle, (pretty sure your Nike high-tops that you hoops in don’t allow much ankle range of motion). We should know now what issue a lack of ankle mobility can cause.
The best solution for reducing ankle sprains in shod (foot wearing) athletes is the use of more advanced footwear (minimalist) to retain maximal tactile sensitivity, thereby maintaining an awareness of foot position comparable to that of the barefoot state or perhaps even improving on it.

STEP 2 – Strengthening your ankle

As mentioned already strength is important, conditioning the musculature of the lower leg will go a long way to getting you bulletproof. Resisted planter and dorsi flexion as well as inversion and eversion with a band is a great way to increase strength through your ankle’s range of motion.
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Adding some calf raises, jump rope, and bunny jumps (small jumps with maximal plantar flexion), that can be added into the warm up is also a good way to condition and strengthen the ankle musculature.

STEP 3 – Balance (Propioception)

Balance in essential to maintain a healthy ankle. Most people with a previous ankle injury will struggle to maintain balance on 1 leg, due to reduced proprioception post injury, so this is a good place to start (remember go barefoot to not dumb down your receptors). Once balance can be maintained add movement to arms and the opposite leg, or close your eyes to challenge your balance even more. A good progression from this is 1 leg jump- lands. Make sure you stick the landing and maintaining your balance. I implement all these forms of balance into my warm ups with my athletes on a daily basis.

STEP 4 – Mobility and Flexibility.

By now you should be sold on the benefits of a mobile and flexible ankle joint. Getting out your shoes and staying away from saggital blockages such as taping and restrictive shoes will go a long way to improve this. Here are a couple of great stretches and mobility drills that you can do every day
Ankle Mob Touches -  Ensure that the heel is kept down, push knee forward to touch the box/wall in front of you. To progress move your toes further away from the box/wall and repeat.
Strength and Conditioning | Personal Training | DoTraining | Ankle Mob
Downward Facing Dog – A popular yoga stretch, but great for ankle mobility and improving posterior chain flexibility. Start on all fours, drive ups up and back and aim to get your heels down flat onto the floor. Push your shoulders back and extend your thoracic spine.
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Over-Head Squat – Quite possibly the king of all mobility exercises. It is great for spine, shoulder, hip and ankle mobility. A good depth of squat aiming to get your “ass to grass” while keeping your arms locked out and above and slightly behind your head, will give you great mobility through your ankles. Often the limiting factor in the overhead squat is ankle mobility. If you struggle with this try to raise your heel on a 1 inch block, and give it ago. Work to get the block thinner and thinner until you have no need for it and you can perform a great OH squat like little buddy below.
 Strength and Conditioning | Personal Training | DoTraining | OH Squat

Take home message.

No athlete wants to get injured or enjoys injury but in reality, it’s part of sport. The best cure, however, is prevention. Following these 4 steps will help you get out of the braces and bullet proof your ankles. Give it a go and remember progression is the key, don’t just rip off your braces and forgo strapping and continue with your routine. Bulletproofing your ankle is a process that will take some time, adding these steps every day and doing them routinely with good progressions you are on the right track to playing without the braces and strapping, while they will help you reduce the instances of an ankle injury.

1.Santos MJ. Et al. (2004) “The effects of ankle bracing on motion of the knee and hip joint during trunk rotation tasks.” Clin Biomech. 19:964–971
2. Gardner JK. Et al. (2012) “Effect of ankle braces on lower extremity joint energetics in single-leg landings.” Med Sci Sports Exerc.  44(6):1116-22.
3.Teitz CC. et al (1987) “Evaluation of the use of braces to prevent injury to the knee in collegiate football players.” J Bone Joint Surg Am. 69:2-9.
4.Venesky K. (2006) “Prophylactic anklebraces and knee varus-valgus and internal-external rotation torque.” J Athl Train. 41(3):239-244.
5. McGuine TA. (2011). “The Effect of Lace-up Ankle Braces on Injury Rates in High School Basketball Players” Am J Sports Med. 39(9): 1840–1848.
6. Paris DL. (1992). “The Effects of the Swede-O, New Cross, and McDavid Ankle Braces and Adhesive Ankle Taping on Speed, Balance, Agility, and Vertical Jump” J Athl Train. 27(3): 253–256.
7. DiStefano LJ. (2008) “Lower Extremity Kinematics and Ground Reaction Forces After Prophylactic Lace-Up Ankle Bracing” J Athl Train. 43(3): 234–241.
8. MacKean LC. (1995). “Prophylactic ankle bracing vs. taping: effects on functional performance in female basketball players.” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther.  22(2):77-81
9. Shaw MY. (2008) “Ankle Bracing, Fatigue, and Time to Stabilization in Collegiate Volleyball Athletes” J Athl Train. 2008 Mar-Apr; 43(2): 164–171.
10. Gibble PA. (2010). “Bracing does not improve dynamic stability in chronic ankle instability subjects.” Phys Ther Sport. 11(1):3-7.
11. Robbins S. (1998) “Factors associated with ankle injuries. Preventive measures” Sports Med.  25(1):63-72.