The Tissue System

Look At this picture.

This picture is from an article in the journal of massage science. It details the structure of the underlying system of fascia beneath the skin which stabilizes, protects and gives shape to our muscles and body structure. The fascia system is very complex and thought to spread, uninterrupted, throughout our entire body. Deep-tissue massage takes advantage of this knowledge and uses it to work out muscle and fascia adhesion’s (scar tissue) which impede flexibility, muscle elasticity, cause injury and lower a persons quality of life. Injuries are a normal cause of developing this thick scar tissue which is usually in muscles. Massage is especially important to professional athletes who rely on the sound integrity of their bodies to feed their families. Ask any truly knowledgeable massage therapist and they will tell you that this scar tissue builds up over time.

From here on out however is my own theory on how the tissue system works.

Okay so every persons body structure is determined by at least 3 things which are bones, muscles and fascia. Irregularities do not generally occur in bones as they are quite solid and unless there is a nutritional deficiency, most people will not experience problems with bone structure. Fascia and muscles however are very plastic (think of plastic as an object which fills and takes the shape of its container) and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Fascia is made from the same stuff as tendons and ligaments which means that it is very strong and can be either very stiff (ligaments) or quite elastic (Achilles tendon). In comparison to building materials, fascia could be compared to ropes because they exert a pulling force when taut and are used to stabilize body structures and prevent your muscles from tearing apart when stretched too far. When you stretch, you are actually stretching the fascia system inside the muscles to allow your muscles to extend farther. Fascia will tighten and stretch if forced into an unusual position and will adapt to that position (plastic remember?). That last sentence is important to remember, read it one more time. I want to talk about muscles briefly. Each individual muscle fiber is wrapped in connective tissue. The tendon exits bone and when it reaches muscle it branches into the muscle according to where the greatest pulling forces are. At the belly of the muscle this connective tissue has spread thin to allow the muscle fibers to do their thing without hindering movement. It is important to realize that the connective tissue is what bears the load during exertion. When someone gets a muscle tear it is the fascia that is torn and not the muscle tissue itself. When seeing things this way everything make more sense.

So with this information in mind, the tissue system is basically muscles exerting constant elastic force on the bones and keeping the fascia system taut, which will either maintain balanced posture or pull in one direction if imbalanced. The fascia system limits excessive flexibility which would damage our joints and tear our muscle fibers. With frequent exercise the fascia becomes elastic and pliable (think a professional athlete) but with disuse it becomes stiff and unyielding (elderly people). If the body is forced in an unusual position (office worker posture) the fascia will tighten and stretch, adapting in response to this new body position it must maintain. With this understanding of my body I think I can alter my physique to promote better posture, eliminate pain, reduce injuries and get better, faster.

An even shorter way to see the tissue system is as a complex system of levers (bones) attached locally by large elastic and contractible bands (muscles). The whole muscle and bone system is then globally connected and practically sheathed by the expansive layer of connective tissue which covers, supports and stabilizes everything relative to body position (fascia).

There you have it. The tissue system as I see it in a nutshell.

Now for an example, think about an office worker who spends too much time sitting down. Their spine is forced into a stooped posture, stretching the fascia on their posterior chain and tightening the fascia on their anterior chain of their bodies.

And now for a picture.

Fucking sexy I tell you.

Regardless of how much tv time this fella has at home lets suppose he had magnificent posture before he started his career in the office. He sits down letting his back and neck sag to get a better view of his computer. So in this position he is stretching the muscles and fascia covering his back entire back and leg region (Fascia covers everything, don’t forget) while his hip flexors, abdominals, neck muscles and fascia covering his anterior chain is scrunched up at the front. His body adapts to these new environmental conditions and his anterior chain tightens up while his posterior stretches.

Additionally, muscle cells can go into a chronic spasm-like state where they are constantly contracted and slow blood flow to the area. This usually only happens in small patches on muscle groups and is caused by injury or shitty posture which puts too much strain on too few muscles. This muscle tissue becomes diseased as it can no efficiently remove metabolic wastes and as a slap in the face it also hinders healthy muscle tissue surrounding it.

One Arm Chin Progress

I’ve been messing around with rope assisted one arm chins and playing with different lengths of rope to isolate one arm. So far there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between grabbing the rope farther down from closer to the top. I will work on these until i can easily get about 5-7 without rest. At the moment I am getting 3 on the first set and 2 for 4 sets after that. Once I reach 5-7 I should be ready for more strenuous training like timed holds, controlled negatives and pulley-like weight assisted chins.

 

Happy Training dude brehs.

Why Training Uncomfortably Does Not Make Sense

So I had a long argument with one of my buddies the other night who didn’t agree with my idea that training using minimal effort is the most effective way to do things. He believes that training while uncomfortable and always striving to put yourself in progressively more uncomfortable training situations will yield the greatest results. Now that’s pretty fucking vague so I’m gonna try to clear this shit up. First lets consider the word uncomfortable. What exactly does he mean? I am assuming he’s not talking about all uncomfortable situations because training while totally hung over is definitely not the way to go, nor is training with an injury. These are both uncomfortable situations but clearly not optimal for improving physical performance. So, considering my friend is speaking from a martial arts/combat perspective, I am going to have to assume that he means that training uncomfortably produces physical and mental toughness to both prevent pain from physical trauma and continue strenuous exercise under trying conditions i.e. continuing to throw punches while bleeding from your face. This makes sense because in a street fight/martial arts competition situation you cannot stop and say owwwie my face hurts, wait while I apply ice and a band-aid. So now that that’s cleared up, lets talk about training to improve physical performance while in an uncomfortable situation. I think it is reasonable to assume that pushing yourself to the limit while training is also quite uncomfortable and something he would be an advocate of. Anyways time for a new paragraph.

Ahh, that’s better. Now where was I? Right, training uncomfortably. Ok now this is the part where I tear apart his argument using logic and science. Training uncomfortable is not the optimal way to train to attain greater physical performance. There are loopholes in this statement and I will address them later but for now I will speak in defense of my beliefs. Okay, so the goal while strength training is to improve either maximal strength, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance or body composition. These are performance goals, I did not include muscle hypertrophy because it is not beneficial in many sports and beyond a certain point, it is detrimental. Now, you wouldn’t perform bench press in a blizzard, run a marathon with a fractured tibia, go for sprints on a 40 degree humid day or… shit you get the idea. These things are most certainly uncomfortable and some quite painful, they will increase your physical and mental toughness… but they will NOT increase your physical performance compared to training comfortably. It is irrational to assume that putting yourself in these situations will help you achieve your fitness goals. Example time: Go set up your bench press outside in the middle of winter. I will leave mine inside in a heated gym. We will do bench press 3 times a week for a month. I GUARANTEE that your strength will not improve more than mine because you were uncomfortable while doing bench press. Shit, lets ramp it up. Do your bench press with a drill sergeant screaming at you with a friend tickling your foot and someone else burning your hair with a lighter while doing a bench press outside during a blizzard. You are significantly more uncomfortable than me in my comfortable gym at room temperature minus people testing my sanity but once again it is ridiculous to believe that you will acquire some additional training benefit by putting yourself in such an uncomfortable situation.

Now that I’ve finished my rant about why it is silly to train with the focus of being uncomfortable, I want to discuss training to failure once again. I’ve spoken on this before and made it pretty clear that I am not an advocate of training to failure. I believe it causes unnecessary muscle soreness and undoubtedly increases the risk for injury as you are intentionally ignoring your biofeedback telling you to stop exercising. Additionally, I see no valid argument about why a person should train to failure if improved performance is their goal. Fuck, I mean think about it. In the wild, failing means you are dead! Eaten by a fucking tiger! Why someone would continuously do this to themselves, pushing their muscle and connective tissues to the breaking limit (remember that things BREAK when they are pushed to the limit), regularly draining their bodies energy systems and severely limiting the frequency of training sessions they can have is completely beyond me. If you get better at things that you do most often than by training to failure you are getting better at failing. Think about that little tidbit of logic for a moment. There is definitely a better way.

Now when I began this article I said that there was some benefit to training uncomfortably, and there is. By training in uncomfortable situations (i.e. doing a military press while being punched in the stomach and having your ass branded) you are undoubtedly improving your physical and mental toughness… if you don’t start crying that is. People who get in fist fights all the time become less sensitive to pain or at least are able to ignore that pain. This is good if you are probably going to get in future fist fights. Training to failure will also have this effect. You will be able to ignore your bodies biofeedback (pain, discomfort, burning acid feeling) and continue lifting/exercising. Do the benefits surpass the consequences? I say fuck no. But never the less, there are benefits, and who says you have to train uncomfortably all the time to get the benefits of improved toughness and pain tolerance? Lifting weights without using effort doesn’t make you a pussy. It will make you tough. Although definitely not as quickly as intentionally causing pain to your body.

Training uncomfortably is especially useful for some people and much less so for others. If you participate in an elite sport, it is very likely to benefit you if you have high physical and mental toughness. It should be noted though that many elite athletes are genetically equipped with high physical and mental toughness.

This is all I have to say on this matter. For now at least.

Peace out.

My View of the World of Fitness

Thing are about to get real philosophical, real fast in here. So for all you people who have no imaginative ability, click the back button right the fuck off this page.

Fitness, sport, exercise call it whatever you want it all means the same thing to me. Basically partaking in an activity centered around physical exertion for the goal of achieving something personal to you. I like to think of it as a mountain field. Some mountains are taller than others, some go into the clouds and you can’t quite see their summit. Some are smooth and straightforward while others are perilous. Anyone who fucks around in this mountain field is trying to get to the top of any particular mountain. Some climb their mountain faster than others and some abandon their current mountain in pursuit of a mountain they deem more worthy. Some conquer many different mountains in their time in the mountain field while others may lose their way and take a wandering path to the top of their mountain. There are of course some people who run around at the bottom as if they have blindfolds on, while others are on a mission and don’t take shit from anyone. (Chuck Norris anyone?).

The mountains are of course different sports, track and field shit, weight lifting, gymnastics. The dude brehs who lift once or twice a week to pump themselves before they hit the club or lift occasionally purely to look pretty are the guys running around aimlessly with blindfolds on. This is kinda how I view the fitness world. It’s got a few holes I know, but I like it.

 

Injuries: My thoughts on treating them

I got a minor injury. I didn’t heed the warning from my biofeedback and I hurt myself. Stupid right? It’s okay though because I’ve dealt with so many injuries to so many parts of my body that I have devised a rehab plan after much trial and error to get me back and running quickly with minimal suffering.

So what affects the healing process? Well your body first mounts an immune response to prevent infection to the area. The affected area first becomes inflamed and then there is an increase in white blood cells which prevent the spread of infecting bacteria and aid in the removal of waste materials from the area. This is a good thing but can slow the healing process at a crucial period. See, inflammation causes a decrease in circulation to the area because blood vessels are constricted, this slows the rate that materials can be brought to and removed from the site of injury and consequentially, the healing process. You may be wondering why in the hell your body would want this but it is vital as it prevents the transmission of foreign material and bacteria from the injury site to other parts of the body. Makes sense now eh?

Anyways, I think it is a good idea to take an anti-inflammatory like Tylenol or some pain-killer to reduce inflammation initially. Once the initial inflammatory response has subsided it is imperative that the injured area is lightly exercised. Exercise increases blood-flow, which increases circulation, which increases the rate at which the injured area receives new building materials and removes waste products. Also, I make sure I am getting adequate nutrition ie. vitamins and minerals. Many vitamins and minerals act as co-factors in chemical reactions and are vital for the completion of these chemical reactions. In other words, if a co-factor vitamin or mineral is not present, the reaction which is likely taking place to rebuild your broken tissue doesn’t happen.

Exercise also promotes tissue turn-over which recycles old, worn out body tissues with new tissues. This is good news if your injured. But don’t push your luck. If an exercise is painful, it’s not helping you. Only choose exercises which test well or make the injured area feel good, otherwise you risk re-injuring the area.

Following the RICE method, or, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation are a good idea to… but only for reducing inflammation. I usually don’t even bother with that shit unless I’m really hurtin.

Anyways, these are things that I have found helpful in the past and believe that they will work again.

Happy Training

Just for fun I’m going to name off injuries that I have had in the past. Right so both left and right wrists… bad ones to. I am quite ambidextrous. Left and right iliotibial bands… google it. Mild plantar fascilitis in my left foot. Slightly torn left bicep. Left quadratus lumborum… that’s a back muscle for those of you who don’t know your anatomy. Left shoulder instability which I’m still dealing with but getting better all the time… instability makes it pop out, which is quite painful. Oh yes and my chest. I was doing weighted dips one day and suddenly something in my chest popped. Which was quickly followed by pain. That was two years ago and to this day dips and bench press are occasionally painful and uncomfortable. I can do dips on rings without and problems but solid bars fuck me up. It has gotten significantly better but returns when I get overzealous with certain types of pressing work.

Functional vs. Non-Functional Muscle Hypertrophy

Anyone reading this article is going to need to know what I am talking about first. So what is “functional” muscle hypertrophy? Well… whats the function of a muscle? To contract! Therefore, functional hypertrophy is hypertrophy which results in a direct increase in the amount of force that a muscle can contract with. For those of you who do not know what hypertrophy means… it’s basically a fancy and well defined word for biological growth or increase in size. It is fancy but I like it and will not dumb it down.

Anyways, below is a muscle cell! Important bits to note are the myofibril bundles and the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

What you need to know about the sarcoplasmic reticulum, here after referred to SR, is that it is much like a fuel tank. The SR contains calcium ions, glycogen molecules, creatine phosphate, ATP, myoglobin and many other substances important for muscle contraction. It is important to note that hypertrophy of the SR results in longer possible sustained muscle contraction as it increases the storage of energy molecules (gylcogen, ATP, CP) and molecules important for the continuation of the contraction cycle (myoglobin and calcium). Hypertrophy of the SR is referred to as non-functional hypertrophy because it does not directly increase the force of contraction a muscle fiber is capable of. This hypertrophy is commonly seen in bodybuilders as they generally lift weights with lower weight and high repetitions, increasing their need for greater storage of substances in the SR for prolonged muscle contraction. This tends to result in large, bloated looking muscles. BTW I am not bashing bodybuilders as I respect what they do… but this is how it is.

Functional hypertrophy, or hypertrophy brought on by weight training using heavier weight with low reps and high sets, affects the cross-sectional area and density of the myofibril bundles. It is called “functional” because it directly increases the force at which the muscle fibers can contract. It makes sense that training with heavy weights at low repetitions will influence functional hypertrophy as the limiting factor will be the muscles raw force of contraction and not endurance, its all about where the most stimulus is at. A lot of power/olympic lifters train with this idea in mind because lifting very heavy weights is their sport and objective. It doesn’t matter to them what their endurance is like.

There is no fine line between these two types of hypertrophy and there is a great deal of interaction between the two. Many sports require a balance of these types of hypertrophy as too much of one will most often negatively impact an athletes performance. This is, of course, sport specific, and there are many sports out there.

Anyways, that is all I have to say on this matter for now.

Happy training.

Motivation

I think that a lot of people lose their motivation to lift weights and get fit in a relatively short amount of time. I have a few lazy friends and sometimes I ask them why they don’t start going to the gym and throwing some weights around to lose their fat gut. They always answer by saying something along the lines that they just aren’t motivated to do it and that exercising sucks.

I know what their problem is, really I do.

You can not expect to continue exercising consistently for any period of time if exercising is just a serious pain in the ass and makes you want to cry. Personally I like workin out, Shit, if anything I enjoy it and look forward to it. I usually don’t get really pumped up for a workout, I just relax and calmly work my way through it. Makes for a pretty good time I think. But somehow I get the feeling that my method won’t work for a lot people. I think that getting strong is really quite easy and letting the testosterone control you by acting like some kind of animal is pretty much a waste of energy.

Now my friends problem is that he starts lifting because he wants to look good. Nothing wrong with that. But, if it’s not something to look forward to for him then when he does finally look good he will quit. Hahaha, no that’s only if he has insane willpower otherwise he’ll say fuck it and quit long before he reaches his goal.

Anyways, I challenge anyone who reads this to figure out if they actually enjoy exercising or just put up with it. If your one of the guys who just puts up with it then you should find a way to enjoy your time in the gym. Try relaxing and staying calm. Set a bad ass goal for yourself. But never define your own limits before you have reached them and never set goals that cannot be trumped by another goal. There is no mountain top when it comes to fitness and while it may only be possible to achieve greatness in one strength skill at a time, there is always another mountain to take a stab at. I think this is critical for maintaining long term adherence to an exercise plan. Never let a day pass that you don’t improve and always strive to get closer to your chosen mountain top. Damn, I think a post describing this hazy mountain analogy is in order.