May the force not be with you

Working out is supposed to prevent injuries so that you can do those activities that require being fit; it should not cause injuries. Place a brick on one shoulder; have a second brick thrown at the other shoulder. Both weigh the same, but one will land you in the emergency room.  Same applies with exercise; explosive force is dangerous. From this study Slow exercise better for menopausal women: “Results showed that slower movement and fewer repetitions of exercises helped increase muscle mass in menopausal women which could aid future studies into the benefits of exercise as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. These findings will be used to design specific exercise programs for everyday use to reduce the risk of injury and thus significantly contribute to a better quality of life in old age." Google any strength training program along with the key words injury-rate, and you’ll likely see a whole lot of hits. With a program with high potential risks you might make a few steps forward barring injury, but if you are injured you will likely take many more backward. It is not the weight that injures; it is the explosive force created when attempting to move that weight. At New Orleans Strength Trainers and Austin Strength Trainers we use MedX equipment with its special medical rehab features; explosive force is not needed to move the weight.

Lifting lighter weights produces the same results as heavier weights, a point to consider

From this NYT article Lifting Lighter Weights Can Be Just as Effective as Heavy Ones:

“A new study finds that people who lift relatively light weights can build just as much strength and muscle size as those who grunt through sessions using much heftier weights.”

If lifting heavy or lighter weights produce the same strength increases you might do well to consider which produces those results in the safest manner. Increasing strength should not be the cause of injuries, but rather it should give you protection from injuries.

Whether the weights lifted are lighter or heavier in both instances the stress imposed on the body needs to be sufficient to affect a positive change. When the body is exposed to more than it’s used to handling, as an act of self-preservation, the body responds by making a positive adaptation if given enough time and resources to recover from the imposed stress.

Lifting a very heavy weight requires force that can be potentially harmful.  Additionally, momentum is often required just to have a chance of completing the repetition; momentum is counter-productive as it has the effect of unloading the muscles you are trying to work.

With a lighter weight there will be less force needed to move the weight, and if you slow down the movement just a bit it will be even safer and there will be less momentum – less unloading of the muscles. If a set is taken to volitional failure (you can’t move it) a heavier weight will have a shorter time under load than a lighter weight, but in both instances the muscles will be exposed to more than they can handle producing deep fatigue. The main difference is the potential for injury.

A characteristic of many strength exercise programs is a very high injury rate. Google any strength training program along with the keys words injury rate, and you will likely see a whole lot of hits. With a program with high potential risks you might make 10 steps forward barring injury, but if you are injured you will likely take 10 or more steps backward.

At Austin Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Trainers we place a high premium of safety and increasing strength.  We use MedX equipment with its special medical rehab features. We can show you how to safely increase your strength and avoid injuries.

A year after hitting bottom

The persistent aches and pains from old injuries were my excuse for not exercising. Not exercising led to more aches and pains, less activity, weight gain, and weakness. In a weakened state illnesses are likely to be more frequent and protracted. I got pneumonia and bronchitis, and my asthma flared up. My blood oxygen absorption rate fell to the low 80s. My heart had to work harder to get the oxygen I needed. As a result my blood pressure rose, and my resting pulse was twenty beats per minute higher. I was listless and constantly tired. My cardiologist was concerned that I may have had a silent heart attack, so he conducted a series of tests.  I passed.

That was almost a year ago, the bottom of a negative cycle. They say you have got to hit rock bottom before you commit to making a change. Since that time I have changed my eating habits. I have not missed a strength training session regardless of the aches and pains. Funny thing is, the exercise made the aches and pains go away. Pain-free, I was able to add other activities. I began biking a couple times a week. Results: Thirty-seven pounds lighter, greatly reduced blood pressure, blood oxygen absorption level in the high 90s, pulse more than 20 beats per minute slower, and no aches or pains.

Recently I went riding bikes with my tireless daughter. We spent 3 1/2 hours riding bikes one day and an hour and 45 minutes the next day through the hills of Austin where deer abound. That would have been unthinkable a year ago. As reassuring at the positive numbers have been what is most gratifying is to be able to do things you have not done in years with greater ease and to be able to get out of bed the next day and do it again - a positive cycle. This positive cycle begins with increasing one's strength.

At Austin Fitness Training and New Orleans Fitness Training we use MedX medical rehab equipment that is better tolerated by those with pain and joint problems. Our personal trainers can set up a program that will increase your strength and enduranceeliminate pain, and dramaticallyincrease your quality of life.

Chronic pain: Exercise can bring relief - part 2

A year and half ago I could not reach up and adjust my rear view mirror without shooting pain. I had trouble reaching out to close the car door. Often just laying in bed was painful. Now I do those things without a care in the world.  Exercise changed things dramatically.   

To avoid chronic pain such as arthritis those afflicted will avoid movements that cause them pain. Eventually that leads to a loss of strength, a decreased range of motion, and more pain – a vicious cycle.   Proper exercise will eliminate the pain, increase strength and range of motion, and create a positive cycle.

The right exercise will have the following components:

  • The ability to limit the range of motion to a pain-free range of motion. For some that may be just a few degrees. For most people that range will gradually increase over time. At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Personal Training we use state-of-the-art MedX medical rehab equipment that is better tolerated by those with painful joint problems. One of the features of this equipment is the ability to limit the range of motion to just a few degrees if necessary.


  • Eliminate harmful forces associated with rapid acceleration. Use slow controlled movements. We use a protocol of controlled movements that was written up in the magazine, Arthritis Today. This protocol is highly effective, and it minimizes stress to the joints and connective tissue.


  • Eliminate certain pain-causing movements entirely. If possible perform similar movements at a different angle. One client with arthritic shoulders cannot perform an over-head press without pain, but he has been doing the bench press for years now with no difficulty.


  • Do just enough exercise to facilitate a positive change. The body, when exposed to more that it is used to handling, will make a positive adaption as a form of self-protection. The proper amount of exercise is the amount that stimulates that positive change. Anything more that is at best a waste of time and at worst, especially for those suffering chronic pain, counter-productive bringing on more pain and repetitive-use injuries.


Following these guideline we have helped several clients make profound improvements in their lives.

Chronic pain: Exercise can bring relief

Exercise can be a great way to ease chronic pain. There are risks associated with inactivity and benefits associated with movement.

When you're in pain, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind, but regular exercise can be a versatile weapon in the fight against chronic pain.

When you're inactive, your muscles — including your heart — lose strength and work less efficiently. Your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes increases. Inactivity can increase fatigue, stress and anxiety as well.

"Years ago, people who were in pain were told to rest," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "But now we know the exact opposite is true. When you rest, you become deconditioned — which may actually contribute to chronic pain."

As tough as it may be to start an exercise program, your body will thank you. Exercise can:

  • Prompt your body to release endorphins. These chemicals block pain signals from reaching your brain. Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety and depression — conditions that can make chronic pain more difficult to control."Endorphins are the body's natural pain relievers," Dr. Laskowski says. "Endorphins have the potential to provide the pain-relieving power of strong pain medications, such as morphine."
  • Help you build strength. The stronger your muscles, the more force and load you'll take off your bones and cartilage — and the more relief you'll feel.
  • Increase your flexibility. Joints that can move through their full range of motion are less likely to be plagued with aches and pains.
  • Improve your sleep quality. Regular exercise can lower your stress hormones, resulting in better sleep.
  • Boost your energy level. Think huffing and puffing through a workout will leave you wiped out? Not likely. Regular exercise can actually give you more energy to cope with chronic pain.
  • Help you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise burns calories, which can help you drop excess pounds. This will reduce stress on your joints — another way to improve chronic pain.
  • Enhance your mood. Exercise improves blood and oxygen flow to your muscles and contributes to an overall sense of well-being. Looking and feeling better can improve your confidence and self-image as well.
  • Protect your heart and blood vessels. Exercise decreases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.


For those with chronic pain consult your doctor to be cleared to exercise. It's natural to be worried about hurting yourself or making your pain worse, but with your doctor's reassurance and guidance, you can safely exercise with the knowledge that your pain isn't serving a useful protective purpose. Regular exercise actually eases chronic pain for many people.

Even if you recognize the benefits of exercise, staying motivated can be a challenge. "Remember to start slowly," Dr. Laskowski says. "Don't rush into a strenuous workout regimen before your body is ready. Consistency is more important than intensity — especially if you have severe pain." It's also helpful to build your exercise program around activities you enjoy. As your energy increases and your mood improves you may actually look forward to exercising.

Also it helps to have the very best equipment. At Austin Fitness Training and New Orleans Fitness Training we use MedX medical rehab equipment that is better tolerated by those with painful joint problems.

Can trying to get one extra rep result in the set being less safe and less intense at the same time?

You got nine repetitions the last workout session. You sure would like to get that tenth rep.  As a result of getting the extra rep, and as a form of self-protection, the body will make a positive adaptation (become stronger). This is a protocol that works if it's done correctly.
The trouble is, in the process, corners are often cut, and the exercise can become less safe and less intense. If the work is not of a sufficient intensity there is no reason for the body to become stronger.  High-intensity work places place demands on the system that require the system to adapt positively to survive.

When there is a bias toward more reps there will be a bias away from intensity. In order to get that tenth rep the subject will often make those preceding nine reps as easy as she can possibly make them. The only way to get the tenth rep is to save yourself on the first nine.
There are many ways of saving yourself. One way is to blast off at the beginning of the rep so you can ride momentum through the sticking point. Another way is to lock out at the completion of the rep and get a short reprieve.  Another way is to cut the range of the reps short to do less of the demanding work.  While the preceding reps may be easier that last rep will be a bear. That should be enough to stimulate a change. 
Another way of doing it is to have a bias towards intensity. Make every repetition as difficult as possible. Instead of blasting off at the beginning of the repetition such as the overhead press, lift the weight slowly with uniform speed. About halfway up on the overhead press you will experience serious difficulty. That is the sticking point. Instead of rushing through the sticking point move slowly - like walking through Hell wearing a gasoline suit.

If you do it that way you'll not likely get 10 reps. “Yeah, but I want to go fast”. Towards the end of the set much of your strength will have been dissipated and you cannot create the force necessary to cause injury, plus your muscles are very warmed up by this point. Try going fast then and you might get past that sticking point and just barely achieve another rep. The end result is a safe set and one of very high intensity through the entire set.  

Doing a set in such manner you won't be able to lift quite as much weight. What's a deeper state of fatigue, if you can't budge hundred pounds or if you can't budge 150 pounds? I contend it is the former. 
“Yeah, but I want to lift heavy weights”. There is another protocol called the rest pause. You might want to do a warm-up set before this. You lift a very heavy weight as intensely as you can and complete one repetition and rest and then repeat the sequence for as many reps as you can.  
There are many protocols, and all can produce results if performed correctly.  Whatever the protocol at Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we can help you do it safely and productively.