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Strong muscles are important for the health of not only one’s body and minds but also the quality of life.  One way to keep muscles in shape is with strength training. When performing muscle-strengthening exercises, it is very important for have the right postures because wrong form can do more harm than good.  Below are some guidelines to help you to avoid injury and keep your program on track.

  • Always warm up and cool down properly.
  • Use proper form to avoid injuries and maximize gains.
  • Breathe out when you are lifting or pushing; breathe in as you slowly release the load or weight. Never hold your breath while straining.
  • Don’t lock your joints; always leave a slight bend in your knees and elbows when straightening out your legs and arms.
  • Don’t be so eager to see results that you risk hurting yourself by exercising too long or choosing too much weight. Remember to rest muscles for at least 48 hours between strength training sessions.
  • If you’ve been sick, give yourself one or two days off after recovering. If you were ill for a while and try to get back to your routine, start with lighter weights or less resistance when you first resume exercising.
  • Strength training exercises should not cause pain while you are doing them. If an exercise or movement causes significant pain, stop doing it! When performing an exercise, stick with a range of motion that feels comfortable. Over time, try to gradually extend that range.
  • Listen to your body and cut back if you aren’t able to finish a series of exercises or an exercise session, can’t talk while exercising, feel faint after a session, feel tired during the day, or suffer joint aches and pains after a session.

 

Push-ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a study of over a large population led by the University of Sydney.  The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiologytoday, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with the NHS Central Mortality Register.

This largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of exercise found that exercise promoting muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling.  The data shows that people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.

The World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.  However, the popular message on exercise has been focusing on “get moving.”  This study prompts expanding the kinds of exercise to beyond traditional aerobic activities for long-term health and wellbeing.

The analysis also showed that exercises performed using one’s own body weight — such as triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges — without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.   The take home message is that everyone can do classic exercises in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits as working out in a gym.

The key findings from the study are:

  • participation in any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality.
  • own bodyweight exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded comparable results to gym-based activities.
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO’s aerobic physical activity guideline alone was not.
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic physical activity alone.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Emmanuel Stamatakis, I-Min Lee, Jason Bennie, Jonathan Freeston, Mark Hamer, Gary O’Donovan, Ding Ding, Adrian Bauman, Yorgi Mavros. Does strength promoting exercise confer unique health benefits? A pooled analysis of eleven population cohorts with all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality endpointsAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwx345

All athletes know and have experienced that the amount of muscle glycogen storage is essential for the top athletic performance. Research shows that the level of glycogen storage in muscle is directly correlated with the onset of fatigue – the more glycogen you have in storage and longer you can work out without feeling fatigued. The highly trained athlete not only has potentially higher glycogen storages but also is able to synthesize and therefore recharge the storage more efficiently post-exercise.

You may ask – how does muscle glycogen storage get recharged?  In order to quickly restore muscle glycogen after exercise, it is useful to know that muscle glycogen synthesis following glycogen-depleting exercise occurs in two phases. Initially, there is a period of rapid synthesis of muscle glycogen that does not require the presence of insulin. This phase lasts about 30–60 minutes. This rapid phase of muscle glycogen synthesis is characterized by an exercise-induced translocation of glucose transporter carrier protein-4 to the cell surface, leading to an increased permeability of the muscle membrane to glucose. This means that, after exercise, your muscle cells become more permeable to glucose and they can simply sponge up glucose without the help of insulin.  Therefore, the more glucose circulating in your blood stream, the faster the glycogen gets synthesized and recharged.

Following this first rapid phase of glycogen synthesis, muscle glycogen synthesis occurs at a much slower rate and can last for several hours. In this second phase, insulin is required for the glycogen synthesis.  Research has shown that insulin increases the activity of glycogen synthase, the enzyme that is essential for glycogen synthesis. Therefore, during this second phase, glucose is absolutely essential and serves two functions – to spike insulin (and therefore switches on the glycogen synthesis machinery in the body) and to supply the building blocks for the glycogen synthesis.

Furthermore, timing also matters in post-exercise muscle glycogen synthesis. Research shows that low muscle glycogen concentrations following exercise cause an increased rate of glucose transport and an increased capacity to convert glucose into glycogen. The highest muscle glycogen synthesis rates have been reported when large amounts of carbohydrate (1.0–1.85 g/kg/h) are consumed immediately post-exercise and at 15.60 minute intervals thereafter, for up to 5 hours post-exercise. When carbohydrate ingestion is delayed by several hours, this may lead to ∼50% lower rates of muscle glycogen synthesis.

Many athletes supplement large amount of amino acids and/or proteins thinking that the supplement would facilitate muscle glycogen synthesis. However, the addition of certain amino acids and/or proteins to a carbohydrate supplement may increase muscle glycogen synthesis rates, but only because the amino acid/protein increases insulin response. In fact, when carbohydrate intake is high (≥1.2 g/kg/h) and provided at regular intervals (which likely would max out the insulin response), the supplementation of protein and/or amino acids does not increase the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. As amino acid or protein is not efficient in triggering insulin response, the most effective supplement benefiting post-exercise muscle glycogen synthesis is still carbohydrates.

Volumes of research suggest that carbohydrate availability is the main limiting factor for glycogen synthesis. There are a few factors limiting glucose availability post-exercise. First, a large part of the ingested glucose that enters the bloodstream appears to be extracted by tissues other than the exercise muscle (i.e. liver or other muscle groups) and may therefore limit the amount of glucose available to maximize muscle glycogen synthesis rates. Second, intestinal glucose absorption may also be a rate-limiting factor for muscle glycogen synthesis when large quantities (>1 g/min) of glucose are ingested following exercise. Therefore, in order to maximize the post-exercise glycogen synthesis, it is essentially to take carbohydrate supplement that can be readily and quickly absorbed into blood stream.

Energon Qube Recover post-work gummy is designed to address the rate limiting factors and maximize the post-exercise muscle glycogen synthesis. Recover gummy contains high Glycemic Index carbohydrate complexes to quickly spike up blood glucose and insulin. In addition, SGC’s functional gummy delivery system (FGDS) taps into mucosal absorption avoiding the delay in digestive track absorption.   Whatever you do post-exercise, the goal is to get as much glucose as possible into your blood stream as quickly as possible to pike up insulin and therefore maximize the glycogen synthesis.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Roy Jentjens, Asker E. Jeukendrup, Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short-Term Recovery, Sports Medicine 33(2), pp 117-144, February 2003

Skeletal muscles such as biceps, pectorals, and quadriceps are the muscles attached to the skeleton; they are responsible for pulling the skeleton and generating movement—they are literally how we move. These muscles are composed of very long, thin cells that include the full sets of cellular components needed for general functions. However, more than 90 percent of the total volume of a skeletal muscle cell is composed of muscle proteins, including the contractile proteins—actin and myosin. When a muscle cell is activated by its nerve cell, the interaction of actin and myosin generates force through power strokes. The total force a muscle generated depends on the sum of all the power strokes occurring simultaneously within all the cells of the muscle.

Research has shown that two processes appear to account for the mechanism by which exercise enhances strength: hypertrophy and neutral adaptions.

Hypertrophy refers to the enlargement of muscle cells. Enlarged muscles cells lead to that sought-after “bulging muscular” look. Research has shown that muscle cells subjected to regular bouts of exercise followed by periods of rest, with sufficient dietary protein, undergo hypertrophy as a response to the stress of training. Dietary protein provides amino acids, the building blocks for muscle protein. Enhanced muscle protein synthesis and incorporation of these newly synthesized muscle proteins into cells cause hypertrophy: i.e. enlarged muscle cells. Because there are more potential power strokes associated with increased actin and myosin concentrations, the muscle can exhibit greater strength.

Neural adaptations refer to enhanced nerve-muscle interaction.  In untrained muscle, the cells take turns firing in an asynchronous manner. Training enhances a process called synchronous activation, meaning training increases the body’s ability to recruit more muscle cells — and thus more power strokes — in a simultaneous manner.  In addition, training decreases inhibitory neural feedback, a natural response of the central nervous system to feedback signals arising from the muscle. Such inhibition keeps the muscle from overworking and possibly ripping itself apart as it creates a level of force to which it is not accustomed. This neural adaptation mechanism can generate significant strength gains with minimal hypertrophy (i.e. muscle cell enlargement) and is responsible for much of the strength gains seen in women and adolescents who exercise.  In addition, because neural adaptation utilizes nerve and muscle cells already present, this mechanism also accounts for the strength increases recorded in the initial stages of training.

Because hypertrophy depends upon the creation of new muscle proteins, it is a much slower process. Thus, it is important to adhere to an exercise regime involving both the vigorous exercise and strength building session as well as resting intervals to achieve muscle building effect and producing stronger and bigger muscles.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

The core is the mid section of your body including the torso muscles and their corresponding ligaments and tendons.  It is in this section that all sport and functional movements originate.  Core muscles allow you to control your center of gravity, which has a direct impact on balance and posture.  Strong core muscles make it easier to do many physical activities and therefore are important for a healthy living.

Core exercises are sets of exercises designed to strengthen your core muscles, with the focus on building abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis.   Core exercise should be an important part of any well-rounded fitness program. Aside from occasional sit-ups and push-ups, however, core exercises are often neglected. It pays to get your core muscles in better shape. Here is why.

Core exercises improve your balance and stability

Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities.  Most sports and daily physical activities depend on stable core muscles.  Whether you want to perfect your baseball swing or power up your tennis backhand, you need a strong core.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities

Strong core muscles make it easier to do many activities, such as swing a golf club, get a glass from the top shelf and bend down to tie your shoes. Strong core muscles are also important for athletes, such as runners, as weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and injuries.

Weak core muscles can leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Strengthening core muscles may also help improve back pain.

It’s well worth including core work in your exercise plan. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend the following well-rounded plan:

  • At least two-and-a-half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, or one-and-a-quarter hours (75 minutes) of vigorous activity per week, or an equivalent combination of the two. (During moderate activity, such as a brisk walk, you can talk, but not sing; during vigorous activity, such as running, you can’t say more than a few words without needing to catch your breath.)
  • Strength-training sessions twice a week for all major muscle groups, including your core.
  • Balance exercises.

Core exercise falls under the second and third categories: strength training and enhancing balance. Incorporate yoga practice is a great way to build the core strength.  Effective core building yoga poses include high plank, low plank, side plank, boat, bridge, locust, and superman.  Effective balance poses include dancer, tree, warrior III, half moon, and warrior.  Here are the graphic illustrations, enjoy!

High Plank

Low Plank

Side Plank

Boat

Bridge

Locust

Superman

Dancer

Tree

Warrior III

Half Moon

Warrior

 

We tend to take our hands for granted; in the meantime, we all know that without our hands our life definitely would come to a sudden stop. Despite being so useful, most of us do not take care of our hands properly. This is one reason why people end up suffering from hand pain and reduced mobility over time. If you find daily tasks difficult to do because you suffer from stiffness, swelling, or pain in your hands, the right hand mobility exercises can help get you back in motion.

Your muscles and tendons move the joints through arcs of motion, such as when you bend and straighten your fingers. Range-of-motion hand mobility exercises move your wrist and fingers through their normal ranges of motion and require all the hand’s tendons to perform their specific functions. They should be done slowly and deliberately, to avoid injury. Hold each position for 5–10 seconds. Do 10 repetitions of each exercise at a time. Repeat three times a day.

  1. Wrist extension and flexion
  • Place your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding with your hand hanging off the edge of the table, palm down.
  • Move the hand upward until you feel a gentle stretch
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same motions with the elbow bent at your side, palm facing up.
  1. Wrist supination/pronation
  • Stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees, palm facing down.
  • Rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down.
  1. Wrist ulnar/radial deviation
  • Support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding with thumb upward.
  • Move the wrist up and down through its full range of motion.
  1. Thumb flexion/extension
  • Begin with your thumb positioned outward.
  • Move the thumb across the palm and back to the starting position.
  1. Hand/finger tendon glide
  • Start with the fingers extended straight out.
  • Make a hook fist; return to a straight hand.
  • Make a full fist; return to a straight hand.
  • Make a straight fist; return to a straight hand.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Strength training is important for everybody, regardless of age or gender. Strength training helps shed excess fat, maintain healthy bone mass and prevent age-related muscle loss, which can start as early as your 30s if you do not actively counteract it. Strength training should be a part of any comprehensive exercise program. The following tips help you get the most from your strength workouts.

  1. Focus on form, not weight.Good form means aligning your body correctly and moving smoothly through an exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains. If you just start training with weight, start with very light weights and make sure to get your alignment and form right. Concentrate on performing slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents whenever you learn a new exercise. You can add weight to challenge your muscles once you know how to move with good form.
  2. Tempo, tempo.Control is the key. Tempo helps you stay in control rather than undercut gains through momentum. Switching speed — for example, taking three counts to lower a weight and one count to lift it, instead of lifting for two and lowering for two — is a useful technique for enhancing power.
  3. Breathe.Blood pressure rises if you hold your breath while performing strength exercises. Exhale as you work against gravity by lifting, pushing, or pulling the weight; inhale as you release.
  4. Keep challenging muscles. The “right” weight differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain good form. If you can’t do the last two reps, choose a lighter weight. When it feels too easy to complete all the reps, challenge your muscles again by adding weight (roughly 1 to 2 pounds for arms, 2 to 5 pounds for legs); adding a set to your workout (up to three sets per exercise); or working out additional days per week. Make sure to rest each muscle group for 48 hours before exercising it again.
  5. Practice regularly.Performing a complete upper- and lower-body strength workout two or three times a week is ideal.
  6. Give muscles time off.Strenuous exercise, like strength training, causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. Muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always allow at least 48 hours between sessions for muscles to recover. For example, if you’re doing split strength workouts, you might do upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, upper body on Wednesday, lower body on Thursday, etc.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

The perfect exercise routine involves the right mix of cardiovascular and strength training. Whether your exercising goal is weight loss, body-building or strength training, you should always include a warm-up session (to warm up the muscle and prevent the sports injury) and a cool-down session (to reduce the muscle cramp).

Warm-up

Warming up pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to the muscles as the movement speeds up your heart rate and breathing. A good warm-up should last five to 10 minutes and work all major muscle groups. There is no fixed move for a warm-up session. For best results, start slowly, then pick up the pace. Many warm-up routines focus on cardio and range-of-motion exercises, such as jumping jacks and lunges. You can do a simpler warm-up by walking in place while swinging your arms.

Cool-down

After the workout, it’s best to spend five to 10 minutes cooling down through a sequence of slow movements. This helps prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing your breathing and heart rate. An effective cool-down also incorporates stretching exercises to relax and lengthen muscles throughout your body and improve your range of motion. To get the most out of these exercises, hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. The longer you can hold a stretch, the better for improving your flexibility. As with the warm-up, it’s best to flow from one stretch to the next without rests in between.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

With health and diet fads coming and going faster than a toupee in a hurricane, the need to innovate is constant. The juice cleanse—specifically the green variety—has been the latest, and perhaps longest running health-oriented “cleanse.” It’s meant to reset your gut, and get you on track for your health goals.  A recent Washington Post article is claiming that juice cleanses are ‘so last year;’ supposedly the latest movement is the so-called “gummy bear cleanse.” Since our name is Seattle Gummy Company, our interests were certainly piqued.

We wanted to understand exactly why this would work, and what the effects might be (nasty, is what we discovered). After some research it seems the company offering this week-long cleanse, Sugarfina, is offering more of a tongue-in-cheek gimmick. However, there is, perhaps, a more niche trend out there that involves “sugar-free” gummies; more specifically, gummies that contain pass-through sugars. “A pass-through sugar is a type of carbohydrate that is not absorbed by the digestive track,” says Brenden Carlson, our resident gummy scientist.

The more niche version of this cleanse works because one notable property of these sugar-substitutes is that they aren’t absorbed by the digestive tract. These sugars are also very hydrophilic and can lead to more water being absorbed into the colon. Without going into too much graphic detail, this may lead to gastric distress. “Long after eating about 20 of these all hell broke loose. I had a gastrointestinal experience like nothing I’ve ever imagined,” said a reviewer of some sugar-free gummy bears.

To be clear, none of our products should be taken to fulfill your gummy cleanse; they won’t have any of the above-mentioned effects.

Did you know that the perfect training partner could be one who can offer you emotional support, rather than strictly practical? The benefits of exercising with a partner (or even a larger group) have long been discussed. From the motivational benefits to the opportunity to learn new techniques and making sure you never miss a session – all things you can miss out on when you’re responsible for motivating yourself. Whether that’s a regimented gym regime, a simple jog or home circuits, it’s common wisdom that having a partner to motivate you is a great boon to your effectiveness.

There are, however, great benefits that can be gathered from trying out something new and doing exercise with your significant other, something which the research shows can boost you to an even higher level.

A Competitive Edge

Aside from the obvious benefits of being able to motivate one another and behave competitively to enhance your workouts, there have been studies demonstrating the specific benefits of exercising with your partner.

Your body releases endorphins and various other hormones when exercising. Merely being in the presence of your partner when you’ll be feeling on top of the world is reason enough and can help to strengthen your relationship.

Diversifying Activity

Working out with a person you are intimately involved with on all levels can bring the benefit of diversifying your workout. Imaginative fitness exercises for partners can become second nature with someone you feel physically comfortable in the company of, as opposed to a close friend or partner you might feel physically awkward with, regardless of the depth of your relationship.

Building Mutual Interests

The benefit of exercise via sports cannot be underestimated, either. Couples frequently report not being interested in their opposite halves’ interests, and the common trope we see is the disdain with which a stereotypical girlfriend views a stereotypical boyfriend’s football interests.

By playing a mutual sport or doing a mutual activity, however, you can build a hobby together; a shared interest and a chance to share your passions, or rivalries, and always have something to enjoy and debate together. Researchers have even suggested that mutual activities of this type are crucial to a long relationship. That’s not to say every interest should be cooperative – you still need ‘you’ time.

The Long Term

Bear in mind that physicality is not the be all and end all to a happy relationship. Whilst research has showed that, in under 35s, weight is very important, over that age it’s seen as less of an issue.

If you put aside the obvious issue of physicality and think about the holistic benefits, exercise with your partner is a very effective and versatile way to get you feeling closer and enjoying your time together even more than you may already be.

Thanks for reading.

by blog contributor Jackie Edwards