Monthly Archives: October 2007

To Fail or Not To Fail…that is the question.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what clients feel and comment on when they are at the point of momentary muscle fatigue (failure) in an exercise – the point where you are literally incapable of lifting the weight again.

When strength training, to feel as if you’ve succeeded when you fail to raise the weight for the last repetition is very hard for a lot of people to feel.

I STILL have clients who have been training with me for a decade or more apologize to me when muscle failure happens. Kills me to hear them say this because it makes me realize I have failed THEM.

Bottom line: To fail during a set of an exercise when strength training is to succeed.

To put it another way, to tucker yourself out during a set of an exercise to the point where you are incapable of lifting the weight another time means you have succeeded in utilizing most, if not all of the muscle fibers in that particular set of muscles.

In other words, you have capably become incapable of lifting the weight and thus have set in motion the metabolic milieu necessary for becoming stronger.

In other, other words, you’ve succeeded.

In tennis when you ace the opposing player on a serve, you feel very capable. You feel successful.

When bowling, getting a strike or spare feels very enlivening. It’s what you strive for every frame of every game. Again, you feel successful.

In Yoga you strive to get the movement or posture perfectly correct. When you do, success is yours.

In strength training the goal of failing is totally  counterintuitive. It’s plain ol’ weird.

Most trainers say to their clients something to this effect:

"Do 10 reps on the first set, 8 on the second and 6 on the third."

They then choose a weight for the client that will allow them to achieve these numbers. When they do they feel good. They feel like they got a strike, aced the opponent or perfected the downward dog. They feel successful.

But achieving an arbitrary number of repetitions when strength training will result in arbitrary progress.

Training to failure ensures that you have created the necessary stimulation to spark a positive physical change – a strength/growth response.

Failure to train to failure might result in results or it might not. I mean, how not to failure should you train? 1 rep less? 2?


When you bowl a 300 – a perfect game (or when you bowl a darn good one), you get satisfaction right then and there. Not so with strength training.

Benefits from strength training take time. They are in no way immediate or sudden. Strength training is more of a chore, a have-to, a ‘here-we-go, once more into the breach!’ event that eventually results in the results we desire. But immediately gratifying it is not.

The saying:

"If you fail to plan you plan to fail"

is a truism for many things in life. But in strength training we say it this way:

"If you plan to fail and fail you do, success is yours."

Audio of the Joan Hamburg Show

For those who missed me being interviewed by Liz Hamburg on the Joan Hamburg Show, here it is if you want to listen to it. We covered many topics from the non-need for stretching, the potency of strength training for kids, real food nutrition, etc.


I’ll be on the Joan Hamburg Radio Show 10/26/07

I’ll be a guest on the Joan Hamburg radio show this coming Friday October 26th at 9:10 AM. Her daughter Liz Hamburg, an accomplished radio personality herself, will be the host.

The hot topic will be adolescent obesity and how strength training along with a low carb diet is the ‘cure’ for this growing symptom. Hopefully she’ll let me launch into the myths and truths of this easliy reversed epidemic and allow me to get to the nitty gritty.

I believe she will be taking call ins so if you feel like chatting, give a shout.

As many of you know adolescent obesity and strength training for kids is the topic of my next book due to be released sometime in 2008. 

Hope you tune in!

The Medical Mind and Type 2 Diabetes

"Them Bones, Them bones Gonna Rise again. Them Bones, Them Bones Gonna…"

An irrelevant little hymnal for this post, but it got stuck in my head as I prepared to write this blog.

This recent article in the NY Times about diabetes and how the skeleton affects it while interesting, showed the true depth of stupidity that the medical mind can sink to.

A couple of things: Turns out that our bones play a role in regulating blood sugar. A hormone called ‘osteocalcin’ (osteo for bone and calcin for calcium) seems to be affected when type 2 diabetes rears it’s ugly head. A nice finding. Seems that the body produces and secretes this hormone and together with the rest of the body working in harmony, blood sugar is kept in check.

"If osteocalcin works similarly in humans, it could turn out to be a “unique new treatment” for Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Malozowski said. (Most current diabetes drugs either raise insulin production or improve insulin sensitivity, but not both. Drugs that increase production tend to make insulin resistance worse.)"

Hey yeah! A new drug! Eureka! But wait now – what about eating a low sugar diet so that we don’t need to work our skeleton and pancreas to death causing the problem in the first place – NAH!

And Land Ho – current diabetes drugs raise insulin levels making resistance WORSE?! And these are administered? But the medical mind won’t be deterred.

"The defining feature of diabetes is elevated blood sugar. But the reasons for abnormal sugar seem to “differ tremendously from person to person,” said Dr. Robert A. Rizza, a professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine."

Differ tremendously? How different could it be? Insulin insensitivity is insulin insensitivity. There are so many confounding factors that could confuse this issue making it seem as if there are such varied differences it’s astounding. But let’s make something fairly simple really complicated.

Type 2 diabetes is primarily an outcome of eating too much sugar over a long enough period of time (which usually develops into obesity). Some people may have a better pancreas than others and take longer to cause the disorder (I use the term disorder because it is self inflicted – type 2 diabetes is NOT a disease) but the cause of the disorder is ultimately the same for everyone.

In other words, type 2 diabetes doesn’t just happen – it is created by the person. I suppose the same could be said for almost any "disease" as well.

If all a person ate was meat, fish, eggs, colorful vegetables and some seasonal fruit, type 2 diabetes would essentially vanish. There you have it.

They have also unearthed another nasty little factoid about obesity – the body produces an overabundance of ‘macrophages’ (of which there are good ones and bad ones) which can lead to excessive inflammation.   

Here’s the medical mind conclusion:

“Certain cellular anti-inflammatory proteins may now be important new targets for drug discovery for diabetes treatment,”

How about just eating right? Too simple. No money in that.

The article ends:

“The picture is becoming more and more complicated,” Dr. Saltiel said. “And let’s face it, it was pretty complicated before.”

Actually it’s really simple. While it is great to study the complexity of the problem learning all there is to know about how the body works in all of it’s varied systems, the solution to type 2 diabetes is a cinch.

But the medical mind keeps complicating the issue, making it worse and keeping you FROM getting better. 

If you have type 2 diabetes or know someone who does, the answer is not waiting for a drug to save you. The answer is right in front of your very eyes – and you know it.

A Carbminder

A question was posed to me yesterday:

"I’ve been researching this topic and one site said for a 175lbs man(me) to have 32 grams of protein and 64 grams of carbs before and after a workout. I’m very skeptical that it is truly necessary or healthy to have that many carbs in one sitting twice a day to build muscle. On inactive days I feel best(and can lose weight if I need to) eating perhaps 60-80gs of carbs but I can handle more on lifting days, but this seems too much. Any thoughts?"

It is absolutely NOT necessary to have so many (64 grams) of carbs before, after or during a workout.

It’s total rubbish.

Truth be told, it may not hinder progress either – but bear in mind that if carbs are not used, they are converted to fat and are stored as fat fairly quickly.

This is NOT the case with fat and protein – not in the same way. And it is perhaps why so many bodybuilders swear by ‘cardio.’ Some do as much as 2, hour long bouts per day. This thwarts muscle building as well as jolting their appetite.

The macro-nutrients fat and protein have lots of jobs to do and if you give them some extra jobs (building extra muscle) they will comply.

The goal is to stimulate as much muscle ‘breakdown’ as possible via strength training and allow for the needed recovery all the while eating enough fat and protein to give you the added muscle and bone mass.

Carbs are of little consequence. They are only needed for their alkaline effect and for the various micro nutrients you can’t get from your fats and proteins. Very little is needed for this to occur. Most people require between 50-150 grams per day. That’s all folks.

Again, unless you burn the carbs off, excess carbs get stored as fat as they have no where else to go and nothing else to do.

Excess protein and fat will also get stored as fat BUT protein has a higher caloric rate of conversion TO fat and again aids in the bodybuilding process.

Get your carbs from veggies and seasonal fruits ONLY. Get your fats and proteins from grass-fed sources and fresh un-farm raised fish.

Strength train 2X per week tops (rest 2-3 days in-between sessions) and make each session as intense as you can tolerate safely.

If you do this leanness will come!

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