The “best” exercise to “work” your triceps

Copy of bake bread(18)Why did I put the word “best” and “work” in quotes?  We see these terms used all the time in fitness media. While they may be great for capturing our attention, in reality they distract from how the body is actually designed to work.

Of course we would want to do the “best” of something.  Marketers know that we don’t want to waste time on sub optimal exercises. However they take us away from what is “the best” at the same time.  How?  In exercise science, there is the “principle of individuality” which reminds us that every body is unique.  There is no one “best exercise” for any body.  What is best depends on what you want from exercise and how  your unique body moves.   The word “best” is a great red flag that the information is more marketing than science based.

What does it mean when an exercise is said to “work” a part of your body?  Last time I checked, the body is one part, a unit, not a bunch of parts working independently.  If I want to strengthen my triceps, or any other part of my body I need to consider how it connects to other movements and parts.  Muscles work together with other muscles along with bones, connective tissue and nerves to produce movement.  The word “work” is another great red flag you are being sold on the myth of spot reducing, not the science of how your body functions.

So, let me rephrase that title:  “how to how to improve the function of your triceps”. Yes, you are right, it is just not as catchy!   Fortunately, I am not here to sell you anything.  If you want your arms to function better, use your triceps when extending your arms. Check it out for yourself.  Extend your arms up overhead or out in front of you.  Look at your elbows.  Are they straight?  If so, your triceps did that.  If your elbows are bent, the triceps missed the memo that they are part of that movement.  You can help them function better by thinking about them when you are doing stretching and strength training movements involving reaching.  Your triceps will be more likely to do their job of extending your arm when you are reaching overhead, forward or sideways in daily life.  What happens if your triceps don’t do their job? Then your arm reach is shorter and you need to extend your back to try to reach further.  Those little triceps muscles are more important than you might think.

Let’s give up on finding the best exercises to work parts of the body.  Exercise to help your whole body function better by moving as it was designed.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | October 15, 2018 · 6:16 pm

How to exercise if you are in pain

Copy of bake bread(16).pngThe slogan “no pain no gain” may once have motivated you to exercise.  It is useful for athletes and military training.   For the rest of us who are exercising to be healthy and well, pain is a sign something needs to change.  If you still have this slogan rolling around in your head when you  think about exercise, take a moment to look at it a different way.

Pain is a signal from your brain. Your body is constantly telling your brain what is happening and the brain takes all that information and decides what to do with it.  The pain signal is there to help stop you from doing something that could cause more problems down the road.

When you ignore pain with exercise your body sends a signal to the brain that the pain signal is not working to make you change what you are doing. The brain needs to keep the pain signal going or even send a larger one.  What makes it even worse is when you get angry at your body for being in pain.  This just heightens the level of the “problem” your brain is trying to help you fix.

So what to do when you have pain?  Listen to your body and change what you are doing.  Sometimes that pain is trying to tell you the body has been still for too long, and needs more movement breaks.  Sometimes it is that you have been moving for too long and needs shorter bouts of improvement.  Somethings it is that the movement is too intense and it does not have the strength to support that movement right now.

As many patients tell me, their pain changes with the weather and other conditions.  So now what?  Again, listening to your body is the answer.  It is always trying to tell you something, but it wont always be the same thing.  Your body is in a constant state of change because inside and outside conditions are in a constant state of change.  Do you expect your body to be able to do the same thing all the time?  Do you expect it to get stronger, improve function, and shed pounds in logical, predictable way?

This is where mindfulness is so helpful.  It lets you listen to it now, each moment, not compared to past or future.  It is the openness and curiosity of mindfulness that really allows you to listen to  what your body is trying to tell you.  It helps you not push through pain and exercise based on what it used to do or what you think it should be able to do, but what it can do now.

This is how to exercise when you have pain.  Listen to your body each moment and know that the pain is a sign something needs to change.  When you listen to it, the pain signals are much more likely to calm down and allow you do move more easily and more often.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | October 2, 2018 · 6:54 pm

Your body does not use math to solve a weight problem

Copy of bake bread(15)You are eating right and exercising and you should be losing weight.  The problem is, your body does not know this math equation.  In fact it really is not very good at something as predictable as math.  It must  consider all that is happening inside and around you, every moment of every day. Why? because this is its job, to keep you safe and well.  It may not make sense to a brain that likes logic and predictability.   But it makes sense to a body that is fully designed to sustain itself.  Your body is continually working to take care of you.  When there is pain it is for a reason.  When it is holding on to extra fluid, it is for a reason.  When there is fatigue, it is for a reason.

So when your weight loss stalls, know it is for a reason well beyond our basic math equations of calories in and calories out.  When you have to change what you are doing for exercise because of pain or fatigue, know that you are doing so to work with a body that is continually trying to help you.  When your brain and body are working together, both work better.

We like numbers because they are so concrete. We can work with them.  But our body does not go by the numbers, it has something more powerful – the intricate coordination of all cells and systems for the one single cause of keeping you alive.

Listen to your body.  Keep Moving.  Be well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | September 24, 2018 · 1:00 pm

Why take a body + brain break

Copy of bake bread(14)You might find yourself doing all kinds of things to reach your step goal for the day.  Pacing while talking on the phone, marching at your standing desk while working, taking more trips up and down the stairs while cleaning.  While these are great for moving more, exercise scientists are discovering what brain scientists already know.  What is happening in your brain while you move, makes those steps really count.

A recently published article found that when workers took a mental break while doing an exercise break at work, their brain functioned much better than those whose brain continued working during an exercise break.

When you are mentally working on something, your body fatigues because stress is preparing it for movement.  Like a car that is sitting in traffic, your body is revved up, using up energy,  because it is ready to move but not moving.  This increases the work for you body while putting healing and repair on hold, until you are more relaxed mentally.  Movement is the antidote to the stress response. This is why exercise can be so effective for stress reduction.

But exercise is not always effective for reducing stress because often our brain is still working when we exercise.  This reduces the effects of exercise on the body and, as this study shows, on the brain as well.

While exercising, taking a break mentally by putting aside any work or personal problem gives you the most from the time you are investing in exercise.   This study, like so many , reinforce the knowledge that our brain and body are an inseparable two way street.  When we consider what is happening in both, we get more of what we want from exercise for our health and well being.

So right now, join me for a body + brain break.  Take a moment right now to get up, stretch, dance, walk, move in some way and at the same time put aside those work/life problems you are working in your head. If your brain is reluctant, give it something else to focus on such as how grateful for what your body can do or how good it feels to move.

Relax and enjoy the whole person recharge.

Keep Moving, Be Well,
Janet

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by | September 17, 2018 · 2:37 pm

Fitness: It’s not at all about how you look

Copy of bake bread(13)This weekend a new Miss America was crowned.  It was a big deal because she did it without having to parade in a swimsuit for the judges.   It took 98 years of Miss America pageants to get to this point in history.

In an interview after the pageant, the newly crowned Miss America said she was glad she did not have to put on a swimsuit for the competition “because I am more than just that, all these women on stage are more than that”.  (high five Miss America!)

Opponents say the swimsuit portion was important because it measured the contestants fitness level.  Let’s take a look at the definition of fitness according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and to see if how you look in a swimsuit has ANYTHING to do with your fitness level:

“Fitness is the ability to do activities of every day life with ease so you have energy left over to meet emergencies and for doing the things you enjoy”

(look to those folks pictured in the header of this blog site for examples of the real deal when it comes to fitness!)

Change takes time.  I hear from so many of you about the social struggles that come with carrying extra weight.  Clearly we still  have a long way to go when it comes to looking beyond someones body to see the  person below.  I feel privileged each day at the Weight Center to get to know the person sitting in front of me, well beyond what the scale says.   I hope today you hear the news and know we are getting closer to a time when you don’t have to worry that your weight will define you.

Change comes from our actions not our words.   How do we change the perception of fitness and health?   Do not do and exercise program because it says it will “fix” your body,  or promises of you will achieve a certain (media defined) “look”.  Walk out of any fitness class that makes you feel worse mentally and/or  physically.  Why?  Because you are more than that.  You deserve more than that.  Each time you say “no” to these marketing based approaches to exercise, you are helping to make this change in our culture.     Choose only exercises that make you feel better mentally and physically each and every time.    Exercise, not to punish your body, but to take care of your body.   Exercise in ways that bring out the “true you” every day and little by little we will help keep this trend going.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

Leave a comment

by | September 10, 2018 · 6:25 pm

Don’t let weight loss age your body

Copy of bake bread(12)I came across this great article on the loss of muscle commonly seen with aging, called sarcopenia.  I liked the article because it so clearly explains that muscle loss is part of aging but it does not have to be.  However, it’s not just aging that causes sarcopenia.   When you lose weight, especially large amounts, you are at a higher risk for this same condition that is usually seen with aging.   Since most people want to feel younger with weight loss, this is one of the hidden but essential parts of getting what you want from weight loss.  Here are some common misconceptions that cause many to miss out:

I am active so I will stay strong: Staying active is great and associated with greater health and longevity. However, exercise is time set aside to practice.  Just like any other skill, if you don’t practice, it starts to fade.  Strength training is setting aside some time each week to give your muscles the level of challenge they need to tell them to stay strong. Activities of every day life are generally just not focused and consistent enough to counteract sarcopenia .

I get enough protein so I should not be losing muscle:  If you took a class to learn to play guitar, but never practiced, would the class work?  Getting enough protein is like taking a class.  Doing strength training is like putting in the time to practice what you learn in class.  Doing strength training “activates” the protein to do its job and keep muscles strong.

I do cardio so my legs are strong:  Cardio uses a small portion of muscle fibers.  Strength training maximizes the number of muscle fibers you use.  The more fibers you use, the more you get to keep.  Cardio just does not preserve muscle as well as strength training.

  Don’t let weight loss age you!  Do quality strength training as a regular part of your exercise routine.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | September 5, 2018 · 6:31 pm