Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Neglected aspects of effective & injury free strength training

There is a lot of debate about the technical aspects of how to best lift weights for strength- and muscle gains, but, in my opinion, not enough discussion about some core psychological- and physiological aspects that can make all the difference regardless of what specific training techniques one choses.

#1: Be Howard Roark. Focus on your exercise set, and your body's signals. Don't think about what the meat-head across the room is doing, or what he thinks of you, which may switch your focus - a recipe for injury. (This is part of the reason that I'm a bit skeptical of Crossfit - many people just can't handle the "other-people" orientation inherent in the competitive element.)

Also, if you ever got repetitive strain injuries from plain office work, you may want to learn to listen to the signals of your body better. You may want to seek out a really good coach to watch your technique.

#2: Control inflammation by eating right. Train hard enough to turn some acute inflammation on - the trigger for muscle acquisition. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet (a paleo diet) to make inflammation turn off properly. (This is why pro sports teams eat gluten free diets.)

#3: Optimize cortisol to control inflammation and to maximize training intensity.

Not enough cortisol will contribute to inflammation, which weakens tissues and makes them more prone to injury and soreness. Many people aren't even aware that they have the problem (advanced "Adrenal Fatigue"), until bang! orthopedic surgery is needed.

On the other hand, chronic cortisol elevation is catabolic and hence counterproductive. Ideally, you'll want to have acutely high cortisol during training to maximize intensity, but after training cortisol should rapidly drop off to a healthy baseline. (Not too high and not too low.)

#4: Optimize androgens. Get enough sleep and control all types of stress, including stress from food sensitivities, gut pathogens, and annoying relatives.

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