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In my experience, being “young” is a decision. So, if you’re stuck in a rut and feeling older than you are, here are a few tips to get you moving towards feeling young.


“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you if you’re young at heart.”

Frank Sinatra

 

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Our hearing is just one of those things we take for granted, up until the day when it begins to decline. A lifetime of loud noises, ear infections, poor diet and other adverse lifestyle factors can all contribute to hearing loss, and by the time it starts to go it’s often already too late to […]

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Remember a time when you didn’t have to rush to the toilet every 20 minutes? You could go for long walks in the hills without needing to eye up the nearest bush for an emergency pee, au natural-style. You could enjoy a party or social gathering without looking like a total weirdo, spending half the […]

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Versatile preparations for protein such as this ancho chipotle chicken, allow for it to be served in many different ways.

Chicken and turkey are popular for being high in protein and low in saturated fats making a mealtime staple for athletes as well as in many healthy eating households. Falling back on the same old recipes starts to become mundane and a little too routine.

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Families across America have been bracing for an especially harsh flu season. First, health officials have been warning about the “Aussie flu,” which has killed hundreds and hospitalized thousands in Australia in recent months. Closer to home, in the United States, a 10-year-old boy from Connecticut and a California mom are among the latest victims […]

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Half of all Americans are at risk of a heart attack, but is President Donald Trump one of them? This week, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta sparked controversy when he concluded that Trump already has heart disease “like most men of his age.” “Trump has a common form of heart disease, relatively easy […]

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Inline_Dominant NeurotransmittersLast year I was talking with Brad Kearns and Dave Dolle when Dave said something really interesting: he was using neurotransmitter analysis to build personalized training programs for his athletes. By giving a short written T/F test called the Braverman test, he could determine whether a client was dominant in dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, or serotonin—and then use the results to determine their ideal training regimen. It was one of those instances where you hear something you know you’ll be chewing on for the next few months.

These neurotransmitters exist. They each have different effects on our personality and our physiology, which can alter our response to different types of training. Though we’re most familiar with the effects of neurotransmitters on brain function, they also have peripheral effects throughout the rest of the body.

Dopamine is the motivating chemical, promoting drive and ambition and a winning attitude. It’s also the moving chemical, interacting with the areas of the brain responsible for conscious movement. Parkinson’s disease, whose sufferers have great difficulty making basic movements, is characterized by low dopamine levels and activity.

Acetylcholine promotes focus, memory, and cognitive prowess. It’s also necessary for motor neurons to fire and make muscles move.

GABA relaxes us, calms us, and counters excitibility in the brain. Without it, we’re tense. Our muscles tense up with low GABA levels, too, as the neurotransmitter is responsible for muscle relaxation.

Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical, and deficits play a big role in depression. In the gut, it’s the “good bowel movement” chemical, regulating gut motility.

Even if it’s not measuring body levels of neurotransmitters directly, the results of the Braverman test do indicate general trends in personality and neurotransmitter levels which can affect how you should train. As someone who’s been marinating in the fitness world in a professional capacity for most of my life, I’ve seen how personality affects and even determines optimal training. The Braverman test lines up pretty well.

I’m also well-aware of just how important neurotransmitters are to the physical side of training. Take dopamine, for example, the best-studied:

First, take the Braverman test. It takes 15-20 minutes. Don’t fret too much over getting every answer perfect. Choose what feels more true or more false before your brain starts trying to justify this or that answer.

The point of all this isn’t to get a specific reading of your neurotransmitter balance. It may well serve as a rough or even precise barometer of whether you’re dopamine-, acetylcholine-, GABA-, or serotonin-dominant, but it’s unverifiable. What you can use it for is to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses, then apply them to your training.

If You Have Dopamine Dominance…

You’re always on. Motivation isn’t an issue. Mental energy isn’t a limitation. “Psyching yourself up” before a heavy set is often unnecessary.

You thrive on high intensity. Without sufficient intensity, you’re likely to get bored.

You don’t do high volume. Higher reps doesn’t allow for sufficient intensity, so you prefer lower reps.

You like variety. You get bored doing the same program.

You like explosive movements and heavy weights. You live to conquer them.

You can go too hard. Your brain can handle it, your nervous system can handle it, but your body has its limitations. Joints and muscles can still fail without adequate rest.

If you’re an endurance junkie, your ability to push through discomfort and ignore the body’s signals can win the race but land you in chronic cardio hell.

If you’re a strength junkie, you’ll feel like you can handle yet another heavy day of squats and deadlifts, but your physical tissues may suffer.

If You’re Acetylcholine-Dominant…

You can handle intensity and volume, but you need rest. You need your sleep.

You can stick to the same program for longer. You’re good at focusing, at honing in on and really sinking your teeth into a routine.

If You’re Serotonin-Dominant or GABA-Dominant…

You may have difficulties pushing yourself to train.

A major benefit of exercise is that it prioritizes the delivery of tryptophan into the brain for conversion into serotonin. If you’re already swimming in serotonin, that’s one less reason to exercise. You don’t need the increased brain tryptophan uptake it provides, and I suspect that this partially explains some people’s aversion to exercise.

Another benefit is stress reduction. If you’re so relaxed from an abundance of GABA, you don’t need that effect.

Play is probably more your style. The benefits of exercise still apply to you, so you may have better luck training through play.

As you can tell, this isn’t an exact science. I’d call it an intriguing concept and a worthwhile tool, but it’s not something you’re going to submit to a peer-reviewed journal for acceptance and publication. That doesn’t matter for our purposes, of course. For us, it offers some useful feedback that can shed light on our training preferences and strengths.

The big lesson here is to do what feels right. I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of heeding your intuition and how failing to do so rarely goes well. Every time I ignore the little voice inside my head or down in my gut telling me to hold back, to cut the workout short, to try something different—things go wrong.

When I pushed past that voice to attempt a PR on the bench, I tweaked my shoulder and was out of commission for weeks.

When I lived a lie for decades, logging insane amounts of miles on the track, road, bike, and pool because it was “what I was good at” and “the harder I worked, the healthier I was” despite having no time for family or friends and my actual health suffering, I was a mess. In the end, it turned out well because it led me to the Primal Blueprint, to doing what I love and leading a life full of meaning. But, man, if it didn’t have some major downsides….

“Feels right” doesn’t mean easy. It just means “don’t fight your nature.”

The exercises we do should be difficult, challenging, and engaging. But they shouldn’t cause existential dread that we just can’t shake.

Training shouldn’t tank our sleep, ruin our quality of life, and make us crave junk food. Impending workouts should give us butterflies in our stomachs when we think of them, but not enough to prevent us from doing them. Our training should improve our quality of life, help us sleep better, and make eating healthy easier. Knowing ourselves—strengths and preferences—is part of that picture.

Now For the Giveaway…

Today I’m giving away a $50 gift certificate to PrimalBlueprint.com. Use it for Primal Kitchen products, supplements, books, a course—whatever floats your boat.

Just share your comments about today’s post topic and/or what future book  or publication offerings you’d like to see from Primal Publishing. Something on a certain area of health? More cookbooks? Calendars? What would you be interested in reading and recommending?

*Be sure to comment before midnight tonight (1/18/18 PST) to be eligible.

That’s it for today, folks.

So, let me know…how’d you score? What are your thoughts? How will the feedback inform your training?

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Inline_Live-Awesome-645x445-03Habit #2 of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers: Be Selfish

In our ancestors’ day, there was certainly a sense of obligation to the group, an expectation of contribution to the joint welfare. That said, in an economy of ample free time, a social network of extended kin, a culture nearly devoid of material ambition, no one was likely required or motivated to drive themselves to exhaustion.

I believe the “pack mule” mentality is a thoroughly modern neurosis. Why would any single person in a band ever accept grossly inordinate proportions of responsibility in our Primal ancestors’ time? With all members free to leave at any time in the natural ebb and flow of band to band interchange, why would any of them lived a wretched life of literal or approximated servitude? If you ran yourself into the ground healthwise in evolutionary times, you put yourself at risk. You were a liability to the group. What was the possible benefit?

Be Selfish Yet, here we are in modern times making excuses for neglecting our health, giving away the chance (and true responsibility) for reasonable self-care and personal fulfillment. Part of the logic is the modern focus on the future. We’re planners, sacrificers for the sake of a presumed future security. It’s amazing what we’ll give up in the interest of a vision twenty years out. The result? We live in a kind of chronic self-debt. Yes, we’re seeking to serve our long-term good, but we’ve distorted that intention with the extremity of its terms.

This flies in the face of our ancestors’ culture of immediacy. There’s something to that living in the here and now rather than for the sometime-down-the-road. I think it’s possible to balance the two for the benefit of both, but it’s a deal with the devil to think we can continually neglect ourselves for the people and projected future of our lives. Our sense of balance must demand current and continual well-being for ourselves. When we are nourished and sustained today, we have more to offer to those around us and to our futures.

To read more, check out “10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers” and Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness.

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Strength needs to be integrated into many other training modalities to have relevance. Olympic lifting transforms strength into speed.

I am often asked, when should one use Olympic-style weightlifting exercises in the training of competitive athletes, especially at the high school and collegiate level? Should athletes be bigger, faster and stronger in order for them to survive? It’s not a provocative question, or at least it does not mean to be.

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If you’re working with a new mom, you probably know how important it is for her to take some time after welcoming her baby into the world to focus on loving, bonding, and healing. Getting back to her pre-baby workouts — or a new routine altogether — could take some time.

However, there are some exercises that you can encourage her to do immediately postpartum to help her body heal well. They’re what I call the 4R Post-Pregnancy Protocol and prescribe to all my postpartum clients.

What Are the 4 Rs?

  • Rest
  • Recover
  • Rehab
  • Retrain

These are all important steps to help a new mom feel more comfortable in her body, allowing her body to truly heal itself from the inside out, and getting back to the gym in a strong, safe manner in due time. In this article, I’ll be focusing on the rehab portion of this series.

Helping your client regain function of her body is really where your focus should be with your client in the early days post pregnancy, or she can fall into the tricky territory of struggling with core and pelvic floor issues for much longer than necessary.

Have your client start with Exercises 1 and 2 from the first few days postpartum, and add Exercise 3 after the first 10 days or two weeks postpartum, if she’s feeling comfortable.

Exercise #1 — Core & Floor Connection Breath

The core and floor connection breath will help your client regain tone throughout her entire core. When I’m talking about the core in a postpartum body, I’m talking about the diaphragm, the abdominals, the muscles that support the spine, the pelvic floor muscles, and the glutes.

Doing a million crunches or contractions of the pelvic floor (e.g. kegels) will not help train the whole core. However, practicing the connection breath, your client will learn how to gain and release tension in the abdominals and pelvic floor. Her inhale breath will help to release tension, and her exhale breath will help to gain tension in those muscles and connective tissues.

Coaching Cues

  • As she inhales, your client should feel like her ribcage, belly and the base of her pelvis (around the vagina and anus) are gently filling up with air.
  • As she exhales, she should breathe the air “out” of her ribcage, belly, and base of her pelvis.
  • Perform two sets of 10 breaths daily. She can do the breaths in any position: sitting, side lying, standing, or lying supine. Of these four position, it should feel easiest in the lying or side-lying position. Sitting will be slightly more challenging, and standing will be the most difficult of the four positions.

Exercise #2 — Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch with Overhead Reach

This stretch will help your client improve body stability, as the position itself is a bit unstable. She’ll really need to squeeze her glutes to feel stable over the back leg.

It’s a nice opening side stretch for the diaphragm and the ribcage which can become cramped and stiff with the daily positions and movements involved in caring for a newborn!

Coaching Cues

  • Instruct your client to get into a short lunge stance on the floor, with both knees at a 90-degree angle, placing her weight evenly on both legs, or more so slightly on her back leg.
  • Squeeze the back leg’s glutes tightly, so she feels a stretch along the front, through the hip flexors and the quadriceps
  • Whichever knee is on the floor, reach that arm up in the air. Stretch the fingertips up towards the ceiling, and then take a gentle side stretch over the front leg side. She will feel a nice openness through the side of the ribcage.
  • Perform two sets of six to eight reps each side daily.

Exercise #3 — Squat

Squatting helps your client maintain good mobility and movement through her pelvis.

She will regain core stability through the whole core by controlling the movement as she lowers into the squat and stands back up from the bottom with power. When she uses the breath to inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up, the abdominals and pelvic floor stretch and then contraction.

Coaching Cues

  • Stand tall and inhale in preparation to sit back, into the hips.
  • Cue your client to squat “between” her legs. Her feet should be slightly turned out, and her knees will track outward slightly, following the line of the feet.
  • Squeeze the glutes and quadriceps to stand up, exhaling while returning to the standing position.
  • Perform two sets of 10 squats daily.

I urge all new moms to start doing these three simple exercises from the Rehab part of my 4R Post-Pregnancy Protocol. Remember, it’s OK for your client to start with Exercises 1 and 2 just a few days postpartum, and Exercise 3 after the first 10 days or two weeks postpartum, if she’s feeling comfortable.


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