The idea that brain and brawn are mutually exclusive is fairly well embedded in our culture; the popularity of phrases used to describe weightlifting enthusiasts, like “dumb jock” or “meathead,” make its pervasiveness pretty clear. But is it true? In a word, no. Anyone who’s ever heard Mark Rippetoe assess a novice squatter like a master mechanical engineer, Keith Norris wax poetic about the savage grace of physical culture, or Robb Wolf employ a Battlestar Galactica reference to explain the biochemistry of a glutenous assault on your intestinal tract knows it to be false, but the rest of society tends to lag a bit. Luckily, a few recent studies suggest that resistance training actually promotes neurogenesis – the growth of new neurons in the brain – while another links overtraining to impeded cognitive ability later in life. It may be high time to start disseminating the image of the dumb jogger instead.
A few studies caught my attention this week, not for being all that surprising or groundbreaking or even new, but because they jibed with something I’ve been mulling over: physical activity in old age.
Studies: the first and second. I grouped these together because they largely deal with the same thing. The first, actually a review of a couple dozen separate studies, discusses how basic physical capability seems to predict mortality later in life, while the second focuses entirely on the predictive ability of a person’s walking speed. This is redundant to anyone who’s ever felt a euphoric post-workout rush or the satisfaction of completing a physically taxing task, but judging from the number of people who make endless loops in the parking lot to score that sweet spot by the door and avoid empty staircases in favor of crowded escalators, we are in the minority. Things like grip strength, the time it takes to rise from a chair, the ability to balance on one leg, and walking speed were strong determinants of mortality. The death rate was 1.67 times higher in folks with weak grips, 2 times higher in those who were slowest to rise from the chair, and 2.87 times greater in people who walked at the slowest pace. Most of the studies reviewed were of older subjects, but the physical activity markers were predictive in young people, too. The walking study found that normal gait speed was an indicator of mortality with predictive power similar to BMI, smoking status, blood pressure, and other chronic conditions.
For this next introduction – or re-hashing, for some of you – of an essential Primal concept, I’ll be covering the three basic Primal laws of fitness (click the image to zoom in). This one can be the most difficult hurdle for some. If you’re carrying a personal history of weight gain, for example, you’re most likely somewhat inactive, too. Being overweight, you see, leads to inactivity. And yeah, being inactive can perpetuate the weight gain, but it usually starts with a bit of added weight and the sluggishness that comes along for the ride. Good times, right? They end this month.
This is the last in a series of posts (Pushups, Pullups/Chinups, Squats) covering proper technique for the 4 Essential Movements of Primal Blueprint Fitness. Check back tomorrow when I’ll be covering the first of many ancillary movement patterns that will be featured in Workouts of the Week (WOW).
I don’t like situps, crunches, or most of their derivatives, as “core workouts.” Yeah, doing a ton of crunches day in and day out will get you perpetually sore abdominals, but that’s an improper usage of our torso. The core does not exist to contract or bend over and over again; it’s there to resist force. We need strong cores in order to maintain a stable torso while putting in work, whether it’s lifting heavy things, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from our hips while throwing a punch or a ball. Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces is far more important than having the capacity to perform a million situps.
Simulating the overhead press using just one’s bodyweight is the trickiest essential Primal movement yet. The standard bodyweight replacement for the standing overhead press is the handstand pushup. I’m a huge fan, but the reality is that it’s not a realistic prescription for most people right off the bat. Can you imagine Grandpa busting out a set of ten handstand pushups? Not very likely (yet). It’s a tough, tough movement (which is why it works so well and why it’s level 8 in the PBF progression), but luckily you can target the same muscles with a much more elementary movement: the shoulder press pushup.
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