Fitness Myths Busted and Concepts Demystified

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Fitness Myths Busted and Concepts Demystified

    I have been meaning to do this for some time now and as we get to the end of the year 2018 is giving me the perfect opportunity. When The Hive was was way smaller I used to take part in threads and share some of the science-backed and evidence-backed information on fitness, strength-training, fatigue and so on. Those posts are still in The Hive and those who have subscribed to my posting have seen them. But for newer members finding them is not always easy. The Hive is one massive community now and there is so much activity going on that it is hard to find something very quickly at times. Hence this thread.

    I shall be tackling some myths regarding fitness and also looking at adding some evidence-backed ideas regarding difficult fitness concepts such as "fatigue", "strength" and "hypertrophy" (to mention but just three candidates). I will most probably be tackling this weekly (more frequently if time allows and the coffee's strength holds). Your own comments, discussion and observations and questions are more than welcome. For newbies I have a scientific background (Chemical Engineering MSc) and a competitive martial arts experience (Tae Kwon Do, Wado Ryu Karate, Kickboxing, Wing Chun Kung Fu) that goes back to 1978 (I am actively trying to forget that bit). I've trained with Bill Wallace and Henk Meyer and I am a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do (ITF), 1st degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do (WTF), 1st degree Black Belt in Wado Ryu. I have always been athletic so I was, for a while a decent tennis player and baseball player (Queensland School State finals), run track and field (100m sprint and 5km cross-country) and have done boxing and gymnastics. In Tae Kwon Do I held the British champion title in my weight division (lightweight) for five years.

    Over the years I have been exposed to a variety of training methods from traditional martial arts and "hard" training techniques designed to weed out anyone who can't take it (believe me you had to live in the 20th century to experience the level of idiocy that ran through athletics and martial arts training beliefs of the time) to more enlightened, cross-disciplinary training of today which combines a variety of training techniques from ballet, dance, gymnastics, track & field and martial arts to help the body become stronger, better, faster. None of this makes my word (or view) perfect. As a matter of fact the reason for this column is that as we get better scientific tools that allow us to more closely study the body we realize just how little we know about anything that has to do with how the body actually works.

    I will be posting here about fitness-related topics that I find interesting. Bookmark it so you can get back to this thread easily. Feel free to share it with other members of The Hive as the opportunity may arise. I will start putting in content a little later today but do feel free to add your own opinions, questions, ideas and suggestions. Needless to say, I think you guys rock. I feel, sometimes, I was born too soon. I would so love to be competing today with all the new stuff we know about the body and the mind and how the two intersect.

    #2
    Strength vs Size

    I am beginning this series with an obvious myth. Size = strength. Everyone's who's watched the World's Strongest Man series knows intuitively that size = strength and that bigger muscles will always be stronger. That however is not quite as true as we may think it is and case in point the only man to win the World's Strongest Man title five times is Mariusz Pudzianowski who despite his size (He's 6.1 ft and weighs 136kg) he's one of the smallest men in the competition.



    If size=strength held 100% true then Mariusz Pudzianowski would never have won. So why did he and what can we learn from this?

    Strength is a neuromuscular adaptation that the body acquires after specific exercises. As an acquired skill, strength has four main stages: Technique > Intermuscular coordination > Voluntary activation > Physical change. Getting stronger then, for the most part, requires teaching the body how to be strong so it's worth looking at the four stages in detail as they are also progressive:

    - A better technique always makes more efficient use of muscles and tendons and results in better results (i.e. strength). There is a study that explains this here.

    - Intermuscular coordination - Every physical action requires at least two sets of muscles working against each other: the agonist that executes a movement and the antagonist that holds it back and provides stability. When intermuscular coordination is poor (usually because the technique is poor) the antagonist works against the agonist and depletes the force it generates in each movement. By the same token when intermuscular coordination improves the antagonist no longer fights against the agonist and we have more strength and more power in the movement without any increase in muscle size. (There is a study explaining this here.)

    - Voluntary activation happens when repeated exercises produce neural changes to the strength of the signal that activates a particular muscle group. This results in the recruitment of more motor units to perform that move. As voluntary activation increases power and strength also increase, again, without any increase in muscle size. (There's a study on this here and here.)

    - Physical change changes muscles and tendons. The most obvious form of physical change is muscle growth or hypertrophy. Yet that is expensive in terms of energy for the body. Before the body even gets to that it can replace current muscle fibers with slightly different ones. Different muscle fibers can have different angles of contraction under load (in muscle architecture this is called pennation). The angle at which the muscle fibers contract changes the rate at which flexion is transmitted laterally across a muscle group which then changes its ability to take a load which then reflects on its strength. Another physical change that occurs is a stiffening of tendons which leads to greater joint stability and the generation of more strength and power. (A study that cites this can be found here.)

    These four pathways lead to increases in strength without any visible increase in muscle size. Obviously, at some stage, muscle will need to increase in size and, there is bodybuilding training that is designed to optimize the body for size. Those techniques do not necessarily optimize it for strength so there is always a difference to exercise that's intended to produce gains in size and exercise that is intended to produce gains in strength.

    I really hope this helps. Please let me know your thoughts on this by commenting below.

    Comment


      #3
      Damer, I read through the second sentence on size versus strength and Pudzianowski was the first guy I thought of. I'm so glad he was your go-to for disproving that myth, because you're absolutely right, if size equaled strength, he would have been beaten every year by Magnussen, Pfister, and the other monstrously huge guys against whom he was competing. There is another group of people you didn't touch on, though: military special forces like the SAS, SEALs, Spetsnaz, and the many others across the world. Functional strength over strength by mass. Sure, they generally aren't lifting cars or pulling cargo planes, but other than that, is their strength all that much different from your WSM example?

      Comment


        #4
        wjs excellent observation and yes, functional strength, relies on the second of the four points I made above: "Intermuscular coordination" primarily and then everything else builds around it (and there is never getting away from the benefits of good technique). Ballet dancers and martial artists fall into this group as do gymnasts who display incredible strength yet their size is nowhere near strongman style. I used Pudzianowski as an example because he competes in a setting where strength is the one thing being tested and the connection of size=strength is the one being cited all the time. You're 100% correct in your citing of military special forces. Functional strength is their core training, not least because it also brings about cognitive gains which studies have shown just lifting heavy weights do not. The main point here, which your comment really draws attention to, is that being strong is more about having control over your own body and being able to use it as a tool you control than just having big muscles.

        Comment


          #5
          Another take away from that man that I've always kept in the back of my mind (that also feeds into what has already been pointed out) is that his core and core strength is usually by far the strongest on the field. He is able to use his core to stabilize himself and apply the force exactly where he needs it. From watching his performances for years I've always chased after keeping my core strong and well balanced. I used to chase after the six pack and made myself ad dominant for a few years but watching and analyzing him really helped me understand why I should fix that.

          Comment


            #6
            Azercord that is also a very important point and thank you for making it here. The transverse abdominis link the lower body with the upper body. Every kind of link becomes a transfer medium. Power comes from the two halves of the body working as a whole and a strong transfer medium (i.e. a strong core) minimizes the loss of energy (and might possibly augment it further). Ballet dancers are a case in point, they have incredible core strength and because of that they have a lot of power and yes Pudzianowski appears to have a rock solid core.

            Comment


              #7
              Damer But why would the energy from the lower body transfer to the upperbody, or vice versa? Say I am running, and there's a lot going on in the legs. Does those energy in my moving legs go up to the torso and the arms? If yes, why is it so instead of the energy just staying within the legs or being absorbed by them or simple dissipating out to the air and the ground.
              And just why is the core a transfer center and how? What does core stability means to athletic performance? Or, again, why does a stable core enhance performance?

              Sorry if these are stupid questions... I was researching on the function of the core and found this thread. For some reason I find the energy transfer part to be quite abstract.

              Thanks.

              Comment


                #8
                kandy the human body is most efficient when it's working as a whole, meaning it can recruit other muscles and muscle groups to assist the motion. You probably won't be able to push away a heavy object ONLY using your arms. But once you got a wide stance and you push with your legs and put your shoulders into it you will be able to generate so much more force. That's where the term "lift with your legs, not your back" comes from.

                It works the same the other way around: in order to sprint fast you need more than strong legs. Your arms, your shoulders, your entire upper body is used to generate momentum (or energy if you will) that will help to explode forwards.

                Let's look at boxers. A heavy punch starts at the ground, or rather the right foot position. You generate power by pushing into the ground with your legs, twisting at your hips and support your punching arm with your entire upper body. And here is where your core comes into play. If it wasn't for your core your upper body would just dangle from your hips. Your core is what holds your upper body upright (well that and your spine, if even that would bend), so it is literally what connects your upper to your lower body. Imagine holding a heavy object in front of you and NOT engaging your core. Your body would just fold at your hips. It's the exact reason why you start to feel your lower back (with your lower back being part of your core) when you lift heavy.
                "A chain is just as strong as its weakest link", and if you think of your body as the chain then a weak core will reduce the transfer of energy between upper and lower body (and vice versa) - with energy being the force produced.

                There is not a single part of your body that is 100% isolated from the rest of your body, so whenever you engage a muscle to produce force or if external force is being put on any part of your body that force will travel through your body (more or less depending on the force and the part of your body that is affected), and the better your body can transfer that force the more supporting muscle groups will take care of that load and the more effective your body will work.

                I hope that makes sense.

                Comment


                  #9
                  kandy I think TheRaven has brilliantly covered this. Whatever else I will add will be extra information backing up his explanation. I won't put anything else here at present because I don't want to take away from the precision with which he has nailed this, but if there are any follow up questions please let me know.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    TheRaven Damer Maybe it comes down to biology or chemistry. In the example of pushing a heavy object, how does the energy/force from your legs travel to your arms? Is that control by the brain or what? How do you "push with your legs" when it's not the literal pusher (the arms and hands)? What does it mean when you say boxers "generate power by pushing into the ground with your legs" and how?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by TheRaven View Post
                      kandy the human body is most efficient when it's working as a whole, meaning it can recruit other muscles and muscle groups to assist the motion. You probably won't be able to push away a heavy object ONLY using your arms. But once you got a wide stance and you push with your legs and put your shoulders into it you will be able to generate so much more force. That's where the term "lift with your legs, not your back" comes from.

                      It works the same the other way around: in order to sprint fast you need more than strong legs. Your arms, your shoulders, your entire upper body is used to generate momentum (or energy if you will) that will help to explode forwards.

                      Let's look at boxers. A heavy punch starts at the ground, or rather the right foot position. You generate power by pushing into the ground with your legs, twisting at your hips and support your punching arm with your entire upper body. And here is where your core comes into play. If it wasn't for your core your upper body would just dangle from your hips. Your core is what holds your upper body upright (well that and your spine, if even that would bend), so it is literally what connects your upper to your lower body. Imagine holding a heavy object in front of you and NOT engaging your core. Your body would just fold at your hips. It's the exact reason why you start to feel your lower back (with your lower back being part of your core) when you lift heavy.
                      "A chain is just as strong as its weakest link", and if you think of your body as the chain then a weak core will reduce the transfer of energy between upper and lower body (and vice versa) - with energy being the force produced.

                      There is not a single part of your body that is 100% isolated from the rest of your body, so whenever you engage a muscle to produce force or if external force is being put on any part of your body that force will travel through your body (more or less depending on the force and the part of your body that is affected), and the better your body can transfer that force the more supporting muscle groups will take care of that load and the more effective your body will work.

                      I hope that makes sense.
                      it does. Beautifully so. Thank you!

                      Your statement motivates me again to try and do a balanced sequence of workouts that strengthen all parts of my body as well as the cardiovascular system. Currently, I'm planning to do the Power Cardio program next which seems to incorporate exactly that on a high level. I am looking forward to that.
                      cheers, martikkk

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by kandy View Post
                        How do you "push with your legs" when it's not the literal pusher (the arms and hands)? What does it mean when you say boxers "generate power by pushing into the ground with your legs" and how?
                        Well, your legs are the literal pusher. As much as your arms and chest. When we say "force travels from your legs to your arms", it means the motion starts from your feet, but the muscles in your whole body come into play.

                        The fact is, it's perfectly possible to move a heavy object (let's say, a sofa) only by leaning on it and pushing with your legs. Use your arms as well and their strength will add up. It's more a sum than an actual transfer, it that makes more sense to you. But for that to work properly and efficiently, you will also need a strong core to make sure your whole body can be engaged into the movement.

                        And it's exactly the same when you punch. While it's perfectly possible to punch with your arms only, your punches will be much more powerful if they carry your whole bodyweight. In other words, if you also push with your legs while punching.

                        I hope this helps.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          kandy I think Redline's additional explanations have helped here. Your question has been raised before and the deeper implications of it weren't that well known until very recently when we have had the tools to look deeper inside the body (and brain) while working out, to understand how it all works. Since both Redline and TheRaven have covered it so well I will add some broader concepts here for the benefit of everyone on this thread.

                          Force is generated by the contraction of muscles. So if, for example, you tense your arms you indeed generate force as the muscles contract. But force on its own doesn't do very much. In order for it to become useful it has to be directed. Directional force requires action. Your example of pushing a heavy object is excellent so I will borrow it. In order for us to push it we need to lean against it (with our back and push with our feet) or, more classically, place our hands against it and lean into it and push with our feet. That's directed force. As an action it creates an immediate and opposite reaction. So when we push against, let's say, a 200kg weight, that weight pushes back at us with equal force (due to its mass). Although we are using our arms to push, our arms are only part of the muscle groups employed. We also use our shoulders, back, abs, core, glutes and legs. But none of these would be enough if we didn't also have contact with the ground. So if we could somehow hover in midair, all our pushing and tensing would be insufficient to move a 200kg weight. But because our feet are on the ground we use the reaction of our initial push to create a secondary reaction against the ground and overcome the inertia of the heavy object so we can push it.

                          So, think of our initial push as an arrow travelling from us to the 200kg object. That's the first amount of push we generate, then the resistance we feel travels through us. Think of this as a second arrow that travels from the heavy object we are pushing, through us, to our feet. At that point the ground we stand on 'pushes back' as a secondary reaction. This one travels from our feet to our hands pushing against the heavy object. This reaction gets added to the first one we have generated augmenting our strength, which is usually we can push something pretty heavy after an initial push or two where it doesn't badge.

                          Because we are always in contact with the ground we generally use our legs to "push" through things. When we throw a ball, for instance, the power comes from our legs which contract, hips, core and abs, shoulders, triceps, arm. That's why technique (which helps align all these perfectly at just the right time, increases power). The same with a punch. It is almost like we are "throwing" our fist through a target (which is why we call it "throwing a punch"). In order to throw a punch we twist our hips and in order to twist our hips we push off the ground with our feet. The punching guide here: https://darebee.com/punching-guide.html explains most of this.

                          Also look at the foot positioning and how feet help generate power for the punches in this video: https://darebee.com/exercises/jab-jab-cross-hook.html

                          Hopefully my added explanations have helped create more clarity. Again, if not, please just ask. This has been a great thread and the subject, although it appears to be basic, really is not. So it has been a great opportunity to revisit some fundamentals.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            ​​​​​​Thanks every one a lot for the replies! I find the way Redline puts it really speaks to me and clears some doubts. Then Damer expands it which makes the whole thing educational.

                            Can I put it this way? There is a huge heavy box in front of me and I need to push it. Somehow my brain decides that it will be a great idea to push it by leaning my entire mass of the body forward with my hands resting on it and just moving my feet in a walking motion. After I get into such position my brain then asks my feet to contract in order to generate forces. Therefore my feet become the primary force generator. Then the force travels through the body to my hands which are the one touching the object, and the push happens. The reason why my brain chooses such a strategy in the first place is that it instinctively understands the mechanics or I have learned it from the past.

                            I can also consciously choose to utilize the other muscles of my body to assist the pushing. What and how is probably just instinct in this case but how powerful I can be is determined by the strength of muscles I recruit, which then comes down to training them. In other more complicated tasks the "what and how" becomes a matter of technique that you will need to learn.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              kandy you made me smile. Your comment above adds a real depth of understanding to what we just said plus one more dimension that I will unpack for the benefit of readers of the thread (now and in the future). You said:

                              The reason why my brain chooses such a strategy in the first place is that it instinctively understands the mechanics or I have learned it from the past.
                              The psychological (and, these days, neuroscientific) name for that is "embodied cognition". Basically, we learn what we can and cannot do by applying our body and skill level to situations, learning from them and extrapolating from there. A powerlifter who can deadlift 300kg will approach the problem of pushing a 200kg object with a lot more understanding and confidence than your average person.

                              This also points to how we change with Darebee. As we do more physical things and become stronger and better coordinated our own awareness of the world changes. Our capabilities get an upgrade. We then behave differently in it.

                              I feel obliged to point out that the things we've covered in this thread could easily make a 2,000 - 3,000 word article. Yet, through the conversation here they came out easier to digest and easier to understand. Kudos to you all!

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X