Monthly Archives: September 2011

Accentuate the Positive as well as The Negative

The Slow Burn Repetition Cycle

The Slow Burn Repetition Cycle

When you lift weights, there are two things you have to do:

1. Lift the weights up (a.k.a the positive)
2. Lower the weights back down (a.k.a the negative)

The chart above is what we use at Serious Strength to give clients a basic idea of how to perform a repetition when exercising. The repetition is the nucleus, if you will, of any weight training program. If the quality of your rep is high, the quality of your set will be high and thus, the quality of your session will be high.

We always tell our clients, it’s quality over quantity. We’re not Nazi’s about clients keeping to this chart perfectly, but we feel that sticking to it closely gives clients a good, solid foundation for performing a quality rep. Like I say to the naysayers, how and why is it better to move faster?

Some argue that there is indeed an ideal lifting and lowering tempo, while others could care less and spout meat-heady things like: “Just lift the damn thing and lower it! Oo,oo,oo,oo,ah,ah,ah,ah grunt, scratch.”

I don’t think that there is an “ideal” or perfect weight lifting tempo. But I think some discussion on this issue is important in order to understand the issue more clearly. And a little science couldn’t hurt us.

In traditional resistance training, lifting a weight as quickly as possible results in a very fast or explosive motion – if the weight being lifted is light that is. If it results in a very slow lifting tempo, then the weight is very heavy – heavy for that particular individual.

When using good lifting form and not attempting to duck underneath a weight to lock out your joints into an infinite lever position (as on Olympic lifting), you can’t move a heavy weight quickly. Even in O lifting, the weight doesn’t really move fast – the lifters body does.

Take a look-see:


You can’t push your broken down, out of gas Hummer off the road lickety-split. If you can even move it at all, it will be slow going.

I’ve argued with trainers ad-infinitum as to whether or not lowering a weight slowly is better than quickly. While I believe that there is not perfect lowering tempo, lowering a weight slowly requires more energy output.

From Brunnstrom’s Clinical Kinesiology, page 144:

Thus less energy is required to lower a given load quickly than to lower it slowly.

A trainer friend once said to me that performing the negative quickly allows for more total positive contractions and since the positive is harder than the negative, this makes for a more intense set. Intensity (i.e., a high degree of muscular effort – not grimacing and grunting like a wild boar) is key to recruiting all of the available muscle fibers. Volume of work is not the stimulus for increases in strength and muscular growth. Intensity is the key.

Performing the negative slowly requires more energy expenditure and this makes the subsequent positive contraction harder, meaning, more intense. So the question is what’s better – more total positives contractions, or more intense positive contractions? I vote for the latter.

Also from Brunnstrom’s:

At slower speeds, the maximum number of cross-bridges can be formed. The more rapidly the actin and myosin filaments slide past each other, the smaller number of links that can be formed between the filamnets in a unit of time and the less amount of force is developed.

So it’s really better to perform both the positive and the negative slowly. But dropping the negative is not such a great idea.

In the study by Farthing and Chilibeck, The effects of eccentric (positive) and concentric (negative) training at different velocities on muscle hypertrophy, the researchers conclude that fast negative training is the most effective method for improving muscle growth.

Not so fast rabbit!

This researchers used what’s called an isokinetic training machine for the strengthening protocol. An isokinetic machine (isokinetic means “same speed”) delivers resistance via a servo motor that you can set to different velocities. It has a screen that shows you how much torque you are producing at each given speed.

An isokinetic exercise machine

An isokinetic exercise machine

For example, a velocity of 30 degrees per second on the positive (lifting) means that the trainee has to produce enough force to engage the motor at 30 degrees per second. This would be a challenging amount of force to have to produce to engage the motor. 180 degrees per second would allow you to move your limb much more quickly producing far less torque or force on the machines monitor.

When performing the negative, the servo motor acts on the limb by itself and so a faster speed will impart more resistance to the limb. So it’s sort of the opposite. The researchers didn’t think their conclusion through very thoroughly. It’s not the speed of movement that causes better strength gains, but the degree of muscular effort/tension or intensity that matters most. A more intense negative is better and a slower negative is more intense than a fast one.

How fast can you run up a really steep hill?

We all know the song by Mercer and Arlen, Accentuate the Positive. But if you don’t, take a listen:


While the songs title is a terrific way to look at life, it’s not a good recommendation for weight lifting. So do indeed accentuate the positive, but don’t eliminate that negative by going fast. Accentuate it by going slow!

Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly is a new book by William Davis, M.D., a brilliant cardiologist who will tell you to your face that saturated fat and cholesterol are good for you and that a low carbohydrate, real food diet is the go-to approach for human health.

He is a breath of fresh air.

His book describes in incredible detail how bad wheat is for you and how, like a swarm of locusts, gets into everything you eat.

Here is my review:

Read this book. It could save you and your family’s life.

Now, scroll up, click, buy, read, know.

‘Nuff said.

My Buddy LDL

Not all LDL particles are created equal!

Not all LDL particles are created equal!

That’s it! I’m sticking up for my friend poor, old LDL cholesterol (mind the pun of course. Get it – sticking up for…sticking…). From now on Dr. Oz or Ornish, if you want to bad mouth my little buddy, you’re gonna have to go through me:

Let's see your guns Oz!

Let's see your guns Oz!

Anyhow, LDL cholesterol (the so called “bad” cholesterol) the stuff that clings to your arteries like a barnacle to a pier isn’t exactly bad per se. It’s actually a good friend and serves a very useful purpose.

LDL has two main sizes – small dense and large “fluffy.”

They look like planets or suns - the beauty of nature

They look like planets or suns - the beauty of nature

Both are very different, serving very different purposes.

Question for y’all: When was the last time your doctor told you at your yearly physical that there are sub-classes of LDL and that some are responsible for turning your arteries into sticks of solid margerine and some are not? What’s that you say? She never told you?

My doctor (sweet as she is) was completely unaware that the difference in LDL particles size mattered. All that did (and still does) matter to her was that my total LDL number was low. But a low LDL reading alone doesn’t tell you squat. You need more information.

It’s sort of like a police captain being radioed by an undercover cop that there are 20 criminals robbing a bank he’s in. The captain asks “How many of them have guns?” He replies, “I don’t know.” This lack of information forces the captain to assume that all the criminals have weaponry when maybe none do or just one does. He has to go overkill with armament and risk killing them all – some that are not killers and never have been.

It is generally accepted that the small dense LDL particles are the ones that stick to your arteries and the large buoyant ones don’t. In other words, the small dudes are packing and the large ones aren’t. So what you want is very little small, dense LDL particles floating around in your blood stream.

You want your LDL pattern to look like this:

My pattern is similar to this but a tad more towards the A side.

My pattern is similar to this but a tad more towards the A side.

Ask your doctor for a VAP test at your next physical so that you can see what your pattern is.

Truth is, without any nasty, beastly, gooey, sticky, LDL cholesterol, you’d croak. You need these little dudes in the same way you need plaster when the walls of your home get damaged. Imagine that the walls of your house could bleed when damaged and if you didn’t plaster the walls quickly enough, your house would die. But also imagine that the plaster pushes the walls a little closer together than before. Imagine this happening over and over again until you can’t get in the house. (You’ll see why I say “pushes the walls closer together” a bit later in this post.)

So, what’s good is when small, dense, LDL cholesterol comes to your rescue and “patches up” your damaged artery walls. What’s bad is when too much of this goo builds up and either A: breaks off and sends itself careening down your arteries to who knows where:

This is bad news!

This is bad news!

or B: the build up is so great it occludes (disallows) blood flow.

Arterial occlusion by cholesterol

Arterial occlusion by cholesterol

This is how cholesterol actually builds up in your arteries:


See how the build up doesn’t occur on top of your arteries but rather, builds up from within? This is why I said that the walls of your house get closer together rather than the plaster building up on the outside of the walls.

However, what’s really bad, bad, bad, is when gurus like Dr. Oz and Ornish and movies like Forks Over Knives misinform you and the rest of the universe about the role LDL (and about cholesterol in general).

Dr. Oz actually said in a recent Times magazine article that a Paleo Diet can cause ketoacidosis. Incredibly, he mistakes ketosis with ketoacidosis. Tells you a lot about what he knows. I’ll be blogging on the Time article soon.

So the $64,000 question is WHY? Why is cholesterol – a substance vital to life – hell bent on killing us all? First let’s learn a bit about cholesterol. From Wiki:

Cholesterol is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals.[2] It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes and is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity. In addition, cholesterol is an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones, and vitamin D.

Yeah, it sure is bad stuff.

So, why does it sneak around looking to settle in our arteries attempting to kill us? Is it angry that we ate it? Some gurus say well, sure – cholesterol is an important substance but eating too much of it is no good. Really? I didn’t know that when too much is eaten, it sails through your body of blood like a Spanish Galleon looking to land and stake claim on the continent of Artery. If that were the case, Atkiners would be dropping like flies in the middle of the street on a daily basis.

And what about the vegans and vegetarians that get heart attacks and heart disease? They do you know. Oh yes, I forgot – it’s just their genetics. They’d have died even sooner had they not adopted a plant-based diet. (Well, not plant based – plant only diet. It’s a sneaky little term “plant-based.”) Yeah, right.

Speaking of vegans, here’s a pic of President Clinton when he was eating plenty of cell-building cholesterol:

Bill looking robust

Bill looking robust

Here’s a pic of him now, bereft of dietary cholesterol:

Poor Bill.

Poor Bill.

But of course, the zeitgeist that fat and cholesterol are evil is so deeply embedded in his brain, even looking at himself in the mirror and seeing that he’s a shadow of his former self isn’t enough to wake him up and smell the lipids. Sigh.

Anything that causes damage to your artery walls gives your body a reason to create SDLDL (small dense LDL) and send them on their merry way to fix the problem.

You can’t blame policemen for riots or firemen for fires.

Doctors who give you drugs to keep your liver and intestines from making LDL cholesterol are like mayors firing their policemen to handle crime better or laying off their firemen to stop fires.

Yes, it’s better to have very little small, dense LDL floating around inside your body. But it’s only better if you are taking measures to keep your body from needing these particles. Capeesh?

So, stop smoking. Stop drinking like a fish. Handle your stress better. Eat a real food, fat-based diet. (Wait I think I coined a phrase there…). Research shows that a low carb, real food diet alters the LDL particle size/pattern from SDLDL to LBLDL. Why? ‘Cuz it’s a healthful way to eat that significantly decreases systemic stress and inflammation that’s why!

Take a look-see.

So the next time you hear Dr. Oz, Ornish and all the other cholesterol bullies spouting their vitriol against our little friend, tell them to stick it .

Charts, Charts, Charts…

I was tooling around online and found something interesting.

Take a look at this chart:

As you can see, since the 1970’s, we’ve been chowing down more on carbs and less on fat. And the types of carbs we’ve been imbibing more of are not (and I think we all agree), more carrots and kale.

Take a look at this one:

This is the NHANES data for macronutrient intake from 1970 to 2000. NHANES stands for National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. This chart supports the chart above on macronutrient intake till 2000. More carbs, less fat.

As you can see from this next chart, we’ve been getting fatter since 1980 – after roughly a decade of increased carb consumption and decreased fat consumption.

US Weight trends over the past four decades

US Weight trends over the past four decades

So it’s pretty clear from these charts that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. So those of you who still hold that eating fat makes you fat, ditch that idea now and forever. It just ain’t so.

Here’s another NHANES chart showing the same. Round about 1980, BAM!



Now, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that carbs are to blame for this. Bad carbs, bad! Tsk, tsk.

But take a look at this chart:

Food, food, food, everything is food...

"Food, food, food, everything is food..."

So it appears we have been slowly and gradually eating more calories as well (of course those calories are all from carbs), about 250 calories per day max from 1980 to 1990 where it levels off. Calories – you know, those little gadgets that our bodies have no receptors for. Think about that for a sec or two or three, or…

We hear the same R.D./fitness guru mantra in our sleep explaining fat regulation: “Calories in = calories out…yaddya, yaddya, yaddya…” “The law of thermodynamics, yaddya, yaddya, yaddya…”

Hey meng – jour body doesn’t know from no stinkin’ calories, meng.

We are living entities. Our bodies do different things with different macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates), in different ratios, at different times and in different states (cooked, not cooked, etc.). It ain’t just in/out, open/shut, up/down, fat/thin. Badda bing, badda boom.

Take a hypothetical pair of identical twins – one eats 2000 calories a day (assume this is the amount of calories is what they both need to maintain their body weight. This is a totally bogus concept mind you, but I’m too dim to explain it any other way) of fatty meat. The other twin eats 2000 calories a day of rice. Do you think that at the end of a decade of eating like this their bodies would look exactly the same (aside from the fact that the rice-twin would be dead)?


Now, look at the total caloric intake chart again and eye-spy the total calorie intake between 1970 and 1980. By gum, it goes down! But if you look at the chart above the energy intake chart, you’ll see obesity rose during this time. Do tell! The law of thermody-what? As a nation, we were eating LESS total calories but were still getting fatter. Wassup wit dat?

After 1980, we started eating more food – for whatever reason (I have my hunches as to why) and as the chart shows, we continued to get fatter still. How can this be? Since it clearly has nothing to do with the total amount of calories, might it be the type of calories we are eating? Perhaps? Maybe? Possibly? Hypothetically? And what then did the increase in carbs and the decrease in fat do to some of our metabolisms and hormonal profiles?

OK, it’s time for another chart. Here ya go:

The carb-tide is turning...

The carb-tide is turning...

Kinda looks like Americans went to the library and pulled out a copy of The Protein Power Lifeplan! (BTW, this is an affiliate link.) Less carbs, more fat and adequate protein. Calories? Who cares, as we learned above.

I think that the title of the book – Protein Power – is a tad misleading. It really should be called Fat Power because this is the macronutrient you want to swap the carbs for, not more protein necessarily.

I’m not criticizing my co-authors mind you. I’m just pointing out that many people think low carb diets are high protein diets and that is not so. Americans have always eaten adequate protein more or less.

It’s nice to see that people are slowly realizing that fat is not so bad after all and that it’s the carbs that have to be curtailed – specifically the refined carbs. Obviously no one is denigrating spinach and cabbage.

The change in American’s macronutrient intake is due, in large part, to all the low carb/sugar, high fat bloggers out there who continuously shove science down the gen pops gullets. These would be folks like:

Gary Taubes
Jimmy Moore
Mike Eades, M.D.
Dana Carpender
Tom Naughton
Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.
William Davis, M.D.
Laura Dolson
Richard Feinman, Ph.D

And a host of others.

But what’s really interesting here is this. Carb consumption is going down and fat consumption is going up and, at the same time obesity rates have somewhat plateaued starting around 2004-5. (I think sugar consumption also plateaued a few years earlier). Take a look-see:

You can see that in both the obese and the overweight, things have slowed down here and there. Obviously not ALL people have dropped their carb intake and increased their fat intake. All these charts reflect a national average.

I put to you that, if you put 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 together, you’ll see what I’m seeing. That as calorie intake plateaued and carbs consumption fell, weight gain halted too. Again, the increase in calories over 10 years by a max of 225 calories cannot account for the obesity epidemic because from 1970 – 1980 calorie consumption fell and weight gain continued.

Given this fact, I think it’s pretty clear that the increase in carb consumption along with the decrease in fat consumption, which drives up blood sugar and thus drives insulin which then drives insulin resistance which then drives excessive fat storage which then drives hunger which then drives more fat storage is to blame.

You are what your body does with what you eat.

Have you ever met a person who was obese and has never eaten refined carbs and has always kept total carb intake low? No you haven’t and you never will. The only way you can become obese from food intake is by eating most of your calories from carbohydrates, specifically, refined carbs and starches.

This is not to say that there aren’t some people who can and do eat most of their calories from carbs who aren’t fat (usually, if not always, the carbs these people eat are predominantly veggies and fruit). But that is beside the point. You can smoke and not get emphysema or lung cancer. But smoking directly causes these two maladies.

There’s a reason why it’s not called a “meat belly!”

I’ll be blogging on the bogus concept of food reward soon – a hypothesis that is just the calories in, calories out concept in disguise.

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