Training For Less Fat, More Muscle
How To Induce A Growth Hormone Response
Human growth hormone (hGH) has been a newsmaker because of athletes’ illicit use of synthetic versions of this hormone to help them perform better on the baseball diamond, football field, or bicycle race. Bodybuilders inject synthetic hGH to help sink bodyfat levels to single digits, all the while maintaining optimal muscle mass. The last ten years of exercise science has shown what type of fitness activities induce the greatest natural growth hormone response. Specific exercise and recovery activities have a positive effect on our body’s daily hGH production.
Human growth hormone (hGH) is secreted in a pulsatile fashion throughout the day. A number of physiological stimuli can initiate hGH release, the most powerful of which are sleep and exercise. Human growth hormone has many varied roles throughout your life. For adult athletes and fitness clients, hGH helps increase fat metabolism–you get leaner, enhance muscle recovery from challenging exercise or injury, you stay stronger, and produce a healthier body composition as you age.
Resistance training produces a significant exercise-induced growth hormone response (EIGR) that can last for 24 to 36 hours. The response is greatest with full body training sessions that involve multi joint lifts and carries. EIGR is not limited to traditional barbell or dumbbell training, but is also produced with the performance of bodyweight resistance training. The post training hGH response gets better as the trainees became more proficient (gets stronger) with strength training.
The exact mechanism that causes EIGR with anaerobic exercise is not known, but it appears to be related to higher lactic acid levels in the blood. The activities that produce the greatest EIGR are high intensity exercise intervals lasting at least 30 seconds. The researchers’ current recommendations for optimal EIGR are six to eight 30 second intervals of high intensity activity. Bicycle sprints have been the most commonly used exercise modality in research studies, but other activities can be used as long as your joints and muscles can tolerate the stress. Treadmill, stairclimber, rower, as well as track sprints and hill runs are good interval training choices.
Human growth hormone is released in response to our natural circadian rhythms. If your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, the cyclical release of hGH is blunted. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important for optimal hGH production. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before retiring to sleep. Falling asleep and waking at consistent times creates more consistent hGH blood levels. Just a few nights of interrupted or decreased sleep duration have been shown to reduce fat metabolism, slow muscle recovery, reduce insulin sensitivity, and decrease hGH levels.
Natural HGH Production Activity
Inducing optimal human growth hormone production is easy: Get adequate and consistent sleep. Every week, perform two or three high intensity interval style training sessions for six to eight sets of 30 seconds duration. Two or three times a week perform a full body strength training program made up of full body multi joint exercises.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Learn how to keep your spinal stabilizers strong by performing side planks. Mike O’Hara explains this in his article, “Learning to Lean”, and includes video demonstration and explanation of the importance keeping your stabilizers strong to stand up to the demands of daily life. It’s time for another Fenton Fitness Love Your Jeans Challenge–see page 3 for more information. In his article, “The Periodization of Nutrition”, Jeff Tirrell gives tips on optimizing dietary intake.
Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the measurable parameters that keep humans healthy and fit over an entire life span. They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:
- Muscle Mass. The percentage of your body that is made of muscle.
- Strength. Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry.
- Basal Metabolic Rate. The number of calories your body expends at rest.
- Body fat Percentage. What percentage of your body is composed of fat.
The authors named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad. They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.
- Aerobic Capacity
- Blood Sugar Tolerance
- Cholesterol / HDL ratio
- Blood Pressure
- Bone Density
- Internal Body Temperature Regulation
Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers. It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age. The keys to aging well, staying durable–no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly. An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”. Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.
Less Is More
Understanding The Requirements Of Rest
The weight room at my high school was small and had only basic equipment. It consisted of two Olympic weight sets, some mismatched dumbbells, a squat rack, and a chin up bar. In the gym, we had a pegboard and a rope for climbing. No bench press, curl bar, or pulldown machine. It was the ultimate blessing in disguise. We did not have the temptation of exercise variety for variety’s sake. What we did have was solid instruction on basic lifts. We performed the same exercises repeatedly and became more proficient at squats, hang cleans, overhead presses, and pull ups. Four simple activities performed consistently with an effort to add weight to the bar on a regular basis. The results were magic.
The television fitness gurus have brought forth the latest craze of “muscle confusion”. You change your exercise activity often in an attempt to stimulate a greater adaptation response. The problem is that you never get the chance to practice the exercise long enough or with enough resistance to get stronger. Getting stronger is the performance parameter that preserves muscle mass, speeds up your metabolism, and makes you more durable–less likely to get hurt.
I never want any of my muscles, nerves, joints, or any other part of my body to be “confused” when training. I want the bodies of the athletes I train to perform better at every session. My suggestion is that you pick five or six exercises and set a goal of getting better at each of them over the next six months. The exercises you chose do not have to be a barbell or dumbbell exercise. Bodyweight exercises will work just as well and are a better choice for most fitness clients. Keep a record of your performance and work on improving the number of inverted rows, pull ups, or push ups you can perform. Single leg strength training is a good choice for nearly everyone and works wonders for athletes. Athletes should choose exercises that not only improve strength, but also mobility—front squats. Long term dedication to the mastery of an exercise will reward you with better body composition, enhanced mobility, less pain, and the strength you need to perform in athletics and daily activities.
This training approach requires mental toughness and a willingness to at times be bored. Toughen up and get after the challenge. Read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “We Need To Relax Like Roger Federer”. Better yet, go out and buy the book Starting Strength.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Keep your shoulders and spine happy and strong by following Mike O’Hara’s advice in “Pushing Up Performance”. Video explanation and performance of pushups and their variations included. Jeff Tirrell discusses the proper performance of pull ups in his article. “Movement You Should Master”. Is your mobility limited? Try massage sticks or foam rollers with the information provided in “Pain, Pressure, and Pliability”.
Train your hip adductors and bulletproof your legs by following the advice in Mike O’Hara’s article Adductors Galore. Video demonstration and explanation included. Mobilize your upper body by foam rolling. In Foam Roll T W I, Mike explains the importance of adding foam rolling to your exercise program.
That Office Chair Can Be Keeping You From Your Fat Loss Goal
For many years, I have been preaching about the negative impact prolonged sitting has on our metabolic health and musculoskeletal system. All the research has demonstrated that adaptive shortening of connective tissues and weakening of muscles occurs with as little as two days of prolonged sitting. New studies of daily movement patterns demonstrate that sitting has an even more severe impact on our ability to metabolize body fat. Take the time to read the article “Keep It Moving” by Gretchen Reynolds in the December 9, 2016 issue of the New York Times.
Once again, the answer is to get up off the Aeron, Barcalounger, La-Z-Boy, or setee and move around. Every twenty minutes, stand upright and defy gravity with some good old fashioned ambulation. Do not exercise in a seated position–train in a standing position. More and more we are learning that consistent daily movement is an essential element of human health.
Read the NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/well/move/keep-it-moving.html
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Fitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity is dramatically different. If you need proof, look around for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.
The Numbers You Do and Don’t Need
The bodyweight numbers from the bathroom scale are often misleading. A great program of exercise will add few pounds of muscle and subtract a few pounds of fat so the number on the scale will not move. The client will be stronger, fitter, have a faster metabolism but still becomes discouraged because the scale numbers have not gone down. A horrible program of exercise removes equal amounts of muscle and fat. It produces a weaker body with a suppressed metabolism but the client is pleased with lower scale numbers. In many ways, the perseveration on bodyweight numbers sets you up for failure.
Ask any trainer or dietician who works with clients on body composition goals. The general public has no food portion awareness. Knowing the number of calories present in a portion of food is critical to reaching body composition goals. You will never be able to exercise enough to counterbalance the effects of a poor diet. Consistent use of a kitchen scale can quickly educate you on the number of calories in a specific portion size.
If you want a more accurate and reliable measure of your fat composition, get a tape measure. Men measure around the bellybutton and women measure around the widest aspect of the hips. The tale of the tape will give you an accurate indicator of your progress, or lack of progress, toward losing body fat. Make that tape measurement smaller and you can be assured that you are moving in the right direction.
Consistency is king. Get a calendar and track your attendance. Keep track of the number of training sessions in every month. Most strength coaches and fitness trainers will attest that good things start to happen when the client is training ten times a month. This is one of the simplest numbers to understand but the most difficult to achieve. All the big benefits of exercise occur with long term, habitual performance of an exercise regimen. The fitness media bombards us with “21 day fix,” “30 days to six pack abs,” and my favorite “shredded in seven.” The television will never be able to sell “Three Days a Week Forever” but that is the number that will produce the best results.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
This month, Mike O’Hara discusses how to add planks to your training and how to progress this exercise to make it more challenging. Video demonstration of all the variations can be found by using the link provided in the article. Jeff Tirrell explains how it’s never too late to begin an exercise program.