Intensity & Homeostasis: How Manipulating the Weight You Use Will Help You to Grow

In the very first post of this series, I discussed homeostasis and stress. Our body wants to keep everything in balance (homeostasis), but to grow, we must introduce something to disrupt the balance (stress). 

Think of it like Ancient China. The Chinese were constantly getting invaded by surrounding countries like Mongolia. China is our body, and the Mongolians are stress. Rather than let themselves be constantly invaded China built the Great Wall to keep invaders out. In other words, in response to the stress of invasion, China created stronger defenses. If China never had to worry about attacks, there's a good chance they would never have constructed the Great Wall. I may have watched Mulan recently...

Like all analogies, it does not quite do the justice of how our body responds to stress, but I hope it gets the point across. Stressors will help us get stronger, if we manipulate them, and utilize them correctly.

As mentioned in prior installments, five key strategies can help force our body to adapt. The last post I discussed volume, and today I will discuss intensity.

Intensity could also be redefined as difficulty, or how hard are you going? For weight, training intensity is often defined as the weight on the bar relative to your one repetition maximum. However, I just like to think of it as the poundage used, period. Compared to volume there is less to consider in regards to managing intensity. To manipulate intensity change the weight on the bar.

For those of you counting at home, that looks like some pretty high intensity. Also this is what I like to think I look like when I lift...

For those of you counting at home, that looks like some pretty high intensity. Also this is what I like to think I look like when I lift...

However, where it starts to get complicated is when we start to think of the relationship between volume and intensity. In many cases, as intensity increases volume decreases. There is usually a good chance that if you double the weight, you will not be able to do as many sets and reps with that weight.

For instance, let's say you rep out five sets of 10 reps at 100 pounds. Since volume is sets*reps*weight, this would equal 5,000. But if you did 150 pounds you might only be able to handle five reps. The weight has increased by 150%, but the volume has decreased to 3,750 pounds. To quote Hamlet, "Ay, there's the rub."

What do we do then? If volume can help disrupt homeostasis and incur growth, but intensity does the same, what do we manipulate and when? 

I know this may be getting a bit confusing but before you go Avril Lavigne on me allow me to answer your questions. Do not worry about when to manipulate the stressors, I'll explain this later. But in regards to what to manipulate, you can manipulate both. 

Some times, when you just want to go hard and go all out, (these should be few and far between), you can push both volume and intensity up. Your body will hate you for it, but it can be effective every so often. I reiterate though; these should be few and far between.

However, one strategy I like to utilize can be called intensity cycling. Let's say you're doing a three-week program. Well, it may look something like this.

  • Week 1: High Volume, Low Intensity
  • Week 2: Moderate Volume, Moderate Intensity
  • Week 3: Low Volume, High Intensity

By now you should have gotten the hint to read my volume post. If you haven't already, please go back do that. However, if you have, the question may become, "Why is intensity necessary? Couldn't you just keep increasing volume?"

Well, there lies the difficulty. Remember if our body adapts to a stimulus eventually the stimulus is going to cease to be effective. So this is one reason why having another stimulus involved can help with getting stronger.

Along these same lines, each stimulus will cause slightly different adaptations. For instance, volume, more times than not, will help improve muscular endurance, mental toughness, and muscle size. While increasing intensity may help with these as well, it will increase your bodies ability to recruit muscles more than anything. Or as nerds such as myself like to call say, the intensity will help improve your motor unit recruitment. 

Regardless of the vernacular, the better your body can use its muscles the stronger you will become, the stronger you become the higher volume you will be able to endure, the higher volume you can take the bigger or denser your muscles become, the larger more dense your muscles become, the more potential you have to become stronger. And this is the house that Jack built...

Alright, you made it. How are you feeling so far? Take a deep breath.

There is a lot of info in just this little post, but I hope you are starting to get a better grasp of how to make sure you are constantly growing, getting stronger, or getting the physique you've always wanted. Regardless of your goals, forcing your body to have to build more solid walls is the key. 

However, volume and intensity cannot be the only two variables we use. Otherwise, we will eventually cease to keep adapting. This is why in the next post I will discuss exercise variation. But for now, take some time to absorb what you've just read.

- Dave

 

Holiday Fit Tips + Free Thanksgiving Day Fat Burning Workout

Three days away from Thanksgiving. The one day a year where the amount of food I eat isn't considered abnormal. The holidays are also one of the leading contributors to the rise of our nation's overweight population. Much of what is gained during this next month is rarely, completely burned away. 

 

Here are some tips to make the most of your holidays. Helping you stay fit and still enjoy delightful delicacies, and time with your friends and family.

  1. Stay Well Hydrated - Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated will help improve satiety levels and reduce cravings. This means you won't eat as much during get-togethers, nor will you have as much of a desire to pig out.
  2. Go hard on protein, but easy on gravy - Much liking staying hydrated protein will help keep you satieted. However I recommend sticking with more of the dry type condiments like salt and pepper. This being said, if you do add gravy to your meal just don't go crazy. Also real, grassfed butter can be a nice substitute.
  3. Don't skip your workouts - It's very easy to explain away working out because the gym is closed or with your family. However what I am about to give you is a fast and easy 15 minute workout that only requires using your body. Are you ready?

This routine is to be treated as a circuit. You will rest and perform as prescribed, and you can even perform this circuit several times per week.

  1. Bodyweight Squats - 8 to 10 reps
  2. Push-ups (Or Hands Elevated Push-ups) - 5 to 8 reps
  3. Plank - 15 seconds
  4. Jumping Jacks - 15 reps
  5. Reverse Lunges - 6 reps per leg
  6. Glute Bridges (Single Leg or Double Leg) - 10 reps

If you're a beginner you will perform these exercises resting 30 seconds between each. After doing all 6 exercises you will rest 90 seconds than repeat 4 more times.

If you're intermediate you will add 10 seconds to plank. Rest 20 seconds between each exercise, and rest 75-90 seconds after all 6 exercises. You will repeat 5 times

If you're advanced you will add 20 seconds to the plank. Rest 20 seconds between each exercise. Rest 75 seconds after all 6 exercises, and repeat 6 circuits.

There you have it. Two really simple tips to help you eat healthier along with a killer workout.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Dave

 

The Skinny on Achilles Tendinitis

Many runners and athletes have a lot in common, talking about the latest gear, new exercises, the weather, and of course, injuries. One in particular is Achilles tendinitis. In high school I was a sprinter and a long jumper, practicing 6 days a week for basically 4 years straight. Of course, I ended up in a boot up to my knee and missing the end of my senior season from Achilles Tendinitis, which Physio Works says “refers to tiny tears in the tissue in and around the tendon caused by overuse.”

 

The Achilles is a thick tendon that attaches your Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscle to your heel; it is one of the thickest tendons in our body. According to Physio Works “ Achilles Tendinitis is a term used that commonly refers to an inflammation of the Achilles tendon or its covering. It is in overuse injury that is common especially to joggers and jumpers, due to the repetitive action and so may occur in other activities that require the same repetitive action.” Runners are especially prone to injury there due to the repetitive foot strike of our sport. If we do not have hip flexibility this makes our foot strike shorter and in turn puts more strain on the back of our lower leg. Another common cause of Achilles tendinitis is over pronation, this occurs when your foot strikes the ground and rolls inward. Pronation is our bodies natural response to gravity and ground reaction force, this is how we naturally move, but over-pronating puts extra stress on our calf muscles and pulls on the Achilles.

           One of the best ways to prevent Achilles tendinitis is to keep your hips and calves loose. 

  1. For the hip: place one foot on a stair or a secure chair, stand nice and tall while holding on to a wall or railing and with your rear foot and front foot both pointing straight ahead, gently shift your weight to the front leg until you feel a stretch in front of your hip, hold for 30-60 seconds, gently release the stretch and duplicate on your other leg. (1st picture below)
  2. As for your Gastrocnemius muscle: borrow a tennis ball from your dog or child and place it under your lower leg, while sitting with legs straight on the ground, find a tender spot and hold for 30-120 seconds, once complete slowly come off of that spot and repeat until you have found all of the tight spots. For an example of this please checkout our IBJI HPI Wellness video from January. After that you can do a  traditional calf stretch. (Second picture below)

 

 

These two tips not only help with prevention but are also good for recovering from an injury. Following these easy steps will keep you outside enjoying these beautiful days on a nice long run. For me, these two key stretches and releases allowed me to still participate in a sport that I love and also to complete my first half marathon.

As the great George Sheehan said “ Running is play; racing is sport. Play is the preparation; sport is the performance. My training is play; my race is sport in its purest expression (Sheehan 128).” Keep yourself healthy so that you can keep playing.

- Angie Gonzalez, LMT

 

Sheehan, George. The Essential Sheehan: A lifetime of Running Wisdom from the legendary Dr. George Sheehan. Rodale, 2013. Book

http://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/achilles-tendonitis-tendinitis