Monday, July 23, 2018

Occupational Strength and Health - By Burt Gam

One of the the most neglected aspects of weight training and conditioning is he topic of occupational health and wellness. As a 35 year career postal employee I can personally attest  to this. Postal workers and workers in many industries perform hard physical labor routinely for 40 or more hours a week for years on end with just short interruptions for vacations and other scheduled or sick days off. These industries employ a wide variety of workers who sacrifice their bodies and health at times to make a living and provide necessary services we all depend on if not take for granted. Many of these employees are given 'safety" training on how to lift properly during orientations by some pre-elected  human resource employee who may never have lifted a weight in their life other than perhaps performing "beer curls". They are given safe advice on how to lift with your stronger leg muscles to avoid back injuries. In some cases workers are issued back braces to help provide lumbar support. They are told to remain "for for duty" throughout their careers and then turned lose to fend for themselves. Rather than providing real help and training that would be truly beneficial it seems more geared to removal of company liability for injuries of workers. To be fair,some more progressive companies have taken the steps to provide gym on-site exercise and wellness programs or perhaps gym memberships which is a step in the right direction but may still fall short of providing useful help or training in proper exercise performance. The focus tends to be about injury prevention as it relates to list work days. Since injuries are often related to overuse , lack of muscular strength and flexibility plus poor lifting .mechanics, certainly something is lacking.                                                    
                                                         Enter the Worker Athlete 
The first concept about physical labor and it's relationship to strength is simple but vital to understand. A person who performs physical labor in a regular basis will become only physically strong enough to meet the requirements of job performance.That is, simply put if your job requires you to lift or move 50 pounds daily over a given period of time, you will only become strong enough to lift or move 50 pounds, regardless of how many times you do it. You may move or lift more once or twice but that is a different topic. Your body will only allow you to get strong enough to do your job based on a lack of progressive overload. The body only becomes strong enough to accomplish the task(s) that are demanded of it. And this worker will be performing work at 100% capacity. But suppose this worker decided to start a weight training    program and through hard training developed enough strength to lift 100 pounds. Now the lifter returns to work and now lifts the 50 pound weight. The worker is now working at 50% capacity.The weight will seem considerably lighter. The net effect is the workers job becomes much easier to perform. And very likely the workers chances of injury drops drastically because he has literally become twice as strong as necessary to perform the job! He will go home less tired and fatigued. Perhaps with enough reserve energy left to perform an exercise program. It is a win-win.This worker will possibly even receive recognition for job performance due to higher work production. He will likely  have fewer sick days. Couple a basic resistance training with some flexibility work and perhaps light cardio to round out the program. It seems clear to me that the laborer and the athlete are highly correllated. The same factors that make an athlete great makes the Worker great! These things are increased strength,flexibility and overall conditioning. A worker sacrifices their bodies just liked an athlete and are paid to do so. They get injured. They are required to perform under similar harsh conditions day in and day out.Their bodies are subjects to similar stresses. Increased strength and conditioning and injury prevention is vital for optimal performance for both. Therefore, does it not follow that both should train for the same results, perhaps in a similar fashion? Designing a sensible program for the Worker to increase strength, endurance, flexibility and overall conditioning.To increase productivity and longevity.That is how I made it through 35 years of physical labor.Something to think about.

Editors Note: Welcome Back Burt! Good article.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lifting Heavy Dumbbells - By Jim Duggan

     Dumbbells can- and should- be an integral part of any serious strength-training program.  For competitive Lifters looking to increase their strength, dumbbells are an excellent way to increase overall body strength, which will translate to success on the lifting platform.  For those who seek to increase their muscular size and mass, dumbbells have been a proven bodybuilding tool for many decades.
     Many trainees, myself included, were introduced to weight training through the use of dumbbells.  I vividly recall my early workouts with a pair of 14" adjustable dumbbells with plastic weights and collars.  And even though we've all progressed to various other training modalities, dumbbells still play an important role in my training.  And rightfully so.  You can build great strength and power with heavy dumbbell training.
     For many beginners who train at home, one disadvantage of dumbbells is having to change more plates than when using a barbell.  This is one time when training in a commercial gym may be an advantage over training at home.  Most gyms will have a large selection of fixed ( or pre-loaded ) dumbbells from which to choose.  Of course, if you have the space, you can obtain a collection of fixed dumbbells for your home gym.
     Another reason why some people avoid using dumbbells is that, pound for pound, dumbbells are more difficult to handle than a barbell.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Lifting a pair of dumbbells makes it necessary to control each one individually.   This is the opposite of handling a barbell, which is lifted as a single unit.  Sometimes, one arm may be slightly weaker than the other, which means that one arm may falter or lag during an exercise.  Even if both arms are equal in strength, a lack of concentration can cause the same thing to happen.
     There is one more reason why some people avoid dumbbells.  Some movements, like the Bench Press or Incline Press, require the help of one or more spotters just to get the dumbbells in the proper starting position.  Even cleaning a pair of dumbbells to the shoulders for a standing Press can be tricky, especially for a beginner.  However, learning to get a pair of heavy dumbbells to the shoulders is an important skill to master.  Lifting heavy dumbbells is an excellent way to build good, rugged power.
     There are two ways to clean heavy dumbbells.  You can either stand in between them, or your feet can be on the outside of the dumbbells.  Personally, I prefer to stand between them, with the dumbbells on my sides.  By keeping your back flat, and straight,  drive with your legs and hips with a strong pull and bring the dumbbells in one sweeping motion to the shoulders.  You can bend at the knees slightly to help get them to the shoulders. You want to keep the dumbbells close to your body and concentrate on pulling the dumbbells.  You do NOT want to swing them.  Once they're at the shoulders, then you're ready to do either strict Presses or Push Presses, whichever you prefer.
     While I prefer doing strict Presses, you can also Jerk the dumbbells overhead.   It may take a while to find out the precise timing and coordination while combining the slight leg dip while throwing the dumbbells overhead.  If you re pressing them strictky, then you must keep the knees locked and push the dumbbells overhead with minimum arching of the back.
     There is one very important thing to remember:  Don't assume that just because you can Clean and Press a 250 Lb. barbell, that you should be able to handle 125 Lb. dumbbells in each hand.  It doesn't work that way.  The same goes for dumbbell Bench Presses.  Like any other movement,  you'll just have to determine, through trial and error, the correct amount of weight to use.
     One thing that I've neglected to mention is that you don't necessarily have to lift the dumbbells overhead.  Dumbbell Power Cleans are an excellent exercise just by themselves.  You can develop great power doing heavy dumbbell Power Cleans.  And, in my opinion, dumbbell Power Cleans are easier to do than Power Cleans with a barbell.  And you will greatly increase the size and strength of your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.  One of my favorite movements is dumbbell Power Cleans with my Ironmind thick-handled dumbbell bars.
     For those of you who want to really push yourselves, I suggest the Sig Klein Dumbbell Challenge.  As most of us know, or should know, Sig Klein is one of the legendary figures of the Iron Game.  He was a Physical Culturist, gym owner, bodybuilder and one of the strongest men of the early 20th century.  At a bodyweight of slightly over 150 Lbs., he was able to do twelve strict reps in the dumbbell Clean and Press.  He felt that this was an accomplishment that few men could perform.  A casual glance through a typical commercial gym would prove that he is still correct today.  Anyway, here is the challenge:
     Take two 75 Lb. Dumbbells and Clean and Press them for 12 perfect reps.  Perform a separate Clean and Press for each rep.  The Press has to be strict. Legs locked, back straight, complete lockout. While it may not seem very daunting on paper, after a few reps, most people will quickly realize that it is harder than it looks. Much harder.
     Whether your goal is to challenge the great Sig Klein, or simply build more size, strength, and power, learning to lift heavy dumbbells is a worthwhile endeavor .
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