« Big Brother is watching the restaurants | Main | Remittances don't help impoverished nations »

October 31, 2006

Comments

We know that muscles consume lots of energy, as does nervous tissue. Those facts along make a more than sufficient null hypothesis as to why we aren't naturally more muscular. Still, for more info on the subject you should read up on double muscled cattle.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=double+muscled+cattle&spell=1
In their case, health seems ok among males, but there are gynocological (e.g. calving) difficulties among females.

OK, that Madonna picture is scary. I wonder if she's on the Barry Bonds health plan-- its very unlikely for a woman to have such bulging muscles without some chemical assistance (though who knows, maybe she's some kind of genetic freak).

Having said that, women who lift weights and have musculature (of the less freakish sort than Madonna's) tend to be very attractive. Probably does more to make a woman look younger than even plastic surgery.

"OK, that Madonna picture is scary."

Upon further examination of the photo, she looks scary not because she has too much muscle, but because she has too little fat. All muscle and no fat doen't look good on women. She needs to eat some Big Macs.

Upon further examination of the photo, she looks scary not because she has too much muscle, but because she has too little fat. All muscle and no fat doen't look good on women.

Visible musculature on both men and women is more a function of low body fat than of large muscles. That douche bag in the gym the other night who's doing biceps curls in the squat rack, thereby making me wait before I can squat (and bringing up thoughts of justifiable homicide)? Sure, he has muscular arms with that "ripped" look that gets the girls all steamy, but mostly because he's dieted his body fat down to an extremely low level. His actual muscular development and strength are nothing to write home about. If he actually tried to use the squat rack for its intended purpose and do some actual squats (fat chance - he thinks leg extensions work fine), he'd probably stuggle to manage 135 pounds.

One of the most visible signs of aging is loss of muscle mass, and aging isn't good for you. So it seems there's good reason to think that muscle mass, at least up to a point, is healthy. Elderly people with low muscle mass are more prone to falls, breaking hips, etc., and weight training improves their health.

Actually, the Marathon Runner look is obviously the healthiest. Skinny, low mass (including muscle mass), even gaunt, is the way to be.

What about all those animal studies that show that near-starvation diets result in much, much longer longevity?

Of course, the irony is that if you tried to live the near-starvation lifestyle, you'd want to kill yourself.

The problem with muscle mass is the it puts a lot of strain on your joints. It is easier to build muscle than to build joints, ligaments, tendons, etc. You have a tendancy to overpower the connecting tissue when you start lifting the heavy weights needed to get really ripped.

This isn't a big problem when you're 20, but it is a huge, huge problem for older people.

"Sure, he has muscular arms with that "ripped" look that gets the girls all steamy... His actual muscular development and strength are nothing to write home about."

No way, you mean he chose impressing women over impressing beefy male weightlifters? ;)

There may not be any articles on whether a greater sheer volume of muscle is healthier. But, it's well-established that lower body fat (meaning, greater proportion of muscle) is healthier.

That Sailer article on blacks and drowning misses some obvious points. If blacks tend to lack access to residential pools, of course they're going to drown more in public pools, especially motel pools, because those are the pools that will be available to them.

In every one of those stories this year about black people drowning, the victims had never had any swim lessons. Sailer says black people don't learn to swim because it's harder and scarier for them, but how would they know if they've never even had the lessons?

Just about every not-poor white or Hispanic person I know was signed up for swim lessons by their parents, and signed their own kids up for swim lessons, long before the kid was old enough to have any say in the matter. I started swim lessons at six months.

Just as a side point from the token black guy who posts here.

Despite being at an income level to afford pool and having the backyard space to have one, most of my family members don't have pool, and nobody's shown any interest in learning how to swim. My cousin who was a former marine barely passed the swimming requirements in basic training. Oddly, the majority of my family comes from the Haiti, where the sea is relatively clean and there's a beach in our family's home town.

BTW, black women tend to have bigger muscles, but your average overweight black woman is overweight because of fat, not muscle mass. When I worked at the large flower retailer's call centre, the majority of the staff was lower middle class black females, and most had questionable eating habits, and I'd assure you that the extra weight was not muscle because they couldn't lift up anything remotely heavy.

Just as a useless side point, I prefer chubby white and Latina women with large asses while I prefer thin black women.

The problem with muscle mass is the it puts a lot of strain on your joints. It is easier to build muscle than to build joints, ligaments, tendons, etc. You have a tendancy to overpower the connecting tissue when you start lifting the heavy weights needed to get really ripped.

Strong muscles can help protect joints and connective tissues from injury. And they also strengthen bones, especially as people grow older.

You are correct that connective tissue injuries can be a consideration for people engaging in weight training. In most cases they result from (1) trying to lift too much too soon in one's training and (2) using improper form. Avoiding these injuries is therefore a matter of pacing oneself and always using proper form.

An example: many people - young men especially - only go down to partial depth when squatting, usually to a point at which their knees are bent at 90-degree angles. These so-called half squats allow one to handle substantially more weight than a squat done to proper depth, at which the tops of the thighs are parallel to the ground. And that, in turn, increases one's bragging rights, especailly with the girls. What they don't realize is that given the way biomechanics work, partial squats put much greater pressure on the knee joints than squats done to proper depth. Knee injuries are an all too likely result.

Spungen -
You seem to have hit the nail on the head, so to speak, when it comes to Steve Sailer's article.

"only go down to partial depth when squatting, usually to a point at which their knees are bent at 90-degree angles"

Wow, Peter, how deep are we supposed to go?

"nobody's shown any interest in learning how to swim. My cousin who was a former marine"

Thanks for weighing in, David A. This anecdotally supports it being a cultural issue (lack of interest) rather than physical.

My dad said that in the Marines, he observed many otherwise very physically able young black men, usually from the rural South (but then where else did military people come from), being absolutely terrified to do the water part of the training. Often they had to be jabbed into the water with poles or otherwise physically forced. Which sounds pretty cruel, but I guess one doesn't join the Marines for the good treatment. Evidently, they were eventually able to learn what they had to learn.

only go down to partial depth when squatting, usually to a point at which their knees are bent at 90-degree angles

Wow, Peter, how deep are we supposed to go?

At a minimum you're supposed to go until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground, which for most people means about a 100-degree bend at the knees. In powerlifting competitions it is necessary to go even lower, to the point at which the hip joints are below knee level. And some highly flexible people are able to go so low that their hamstrings touch their heels.

"are able to go so low that their hamstrings touch their heels"

I've heard this called "the Asian squat."

P.S. David A., you really should learn to swim. If the social reasons don't motivate you, at least for safety.

>>Strong muscles can help protect joints and connective tissues from injury.

To a degree, yes. But the devil is in the details.

For example, there is an epidemic of baseball players with back problems. It seems like everybody in MLB has a herniated disc. Ironically, this is an injury that was almost non-existant in the days before weight training.

These days, ballplayers are all in excellent shape year round. Everybody is so strong. It seems like the weak link is the discs in the lower back.

Pitchers have similar issues with rotator cuffs and elbows. Pitchers are in better shape than they've ever been, yet the dead arm is more prevelant than when guys came to the Grapefruit League 50 pounds overweight(if you believe the old timers).

But the devil is in the details.
For example, there is an epidemic of baseball players with back problems. It seems like everybody in MLB has a herniated disc. Ironically, this is an injury that was almost non-existant in the days before weight training.

As you say, the devil is in the details. What could well be happening is that baseball players are neglecting their lower backs when doing weight training. That's not hard to imagine. Deadlifts are the primary lower back exercise, and they're a very tough, exhausting exercise and are very tempting to skip. In addition, they don't really produce much in the line of visible muscle growth, and the carryover to improved athletic performance - though significant - isn't really obvious, at least when compared to some other exercises. So it's easy to see how baseball players, who have all sort of other training responsibilities, find it easy to omit deadlifts. Some might do other back exercises, such as good mornings or weighted hyperextensions, but no doubt many do not.

This is assuming, I hasten to add, that the rate of herniated discs among baseball players really has increased. I don't know if there are any statistics to that effect, and in any event it can be difficult to prove statistically significant changes when you're dealing with a small pool such as MLB players. It's also possible that the rate merely seems higher because of better diagnostic methods.

Spungen says:


That Sailer article on blacks and drowning misses some obvious points. If blacks tend to lack access to residential pools, of course they're going to drown more in public pools, especially motel pools, because those are the pools that will be available to them.


Well, we can easily test that by testing for drownings among poor whites ... and poor Chinese ...

HalfSigma - I think the reason that Asians live longer is due not to bf% but to IQ.

beowulf - I've heard that Madonna uses HGH, which I can believe.

The Engineer - I respectfully disagree that the runner bodytype/lifestyle is the healthiest. Long-distance running puts tremendous strain on the joints and runners tend to eat too much processed carbs and not enough quality protein.

As for baseball players and injuries today, my guess is that much of it is due to steroid abuse (leading the muscles to develop more quickly than the joints & ligaments) and the exercises employed (usually machine and single training rather than more sport-effective free weight lifts like cleans and squats)

Peter - glad to see someone else squatting correctly! Are you a recreational lifter or do you compete?


Loki, I don't know about poor Chinese. But, I think poor(er) and working class whites and Hispanics would still be more likely to end up at residential pools. First, they'd be more likely to seek out housing, even an apartment, with pool access. Second, they'd be more likely to at least have friends with pools, thus increasing their risk for their children, say, drowning at a pool party.

As for baseball players and injuries today, my guess is that much of it is due to steroid abuse (leading the muscles to develop more quickly than the joints & ligaments) and the exercises employed (usually machine and single training rather than more sport-effective free weight lifts like cleans and squats)

Good points. Also, if they exercise other body parts but neglect their lower backs, which is quite likely if machine and isolation work predominates, they'll create imbalances in muscular development which can heighten the risk of lower back injury.

Peter - glad to see someone else squatting correctly! Are you a recreational lifter or do you compete?

I'm strictly recreational. I suppose I could compete in a powerlifting competiton just for the sake of doing so - my numbers aren't high enough for me to have any chance of winning - but for some reason that just doesn't sound interesting.


Spungen -

Something's occurred to me with respect to the drowning issue. It makes sense that for various socioeconomic reasons young black males are less likely to know how to swim than are their counterparts from other ethnic groups. But, then, why are they jumping into swimming pools when they know they can't swim? That's more than just a matter of being reckless, and in any event recklessness is a trait shared by young males of all groups. There's got to be some explanation for the massive disparity in drowning rates. I don't know what it is, but the body fat issue might be relevant somehow.

Peter, are they in fact jumping into swimming pools when they know they can't swim? It's common for people who don't swim to enjoy playing in the water. Sometimes they'll use flotation devices which may fail. Sometimes they'll intend only to go in as deep as they can stand up. I don't know if it's recklessness, or just ignorance and bad luck that leads to drownings in those situations.

For instance, that situation where the six teenagers on the church group outing drowned in a river this spring. Apparently, they had been wading in the water. One got in over his head by mistake, when he stepped in a deep spot. Another tried to help him, got in trouble himself, then the others tried to help them, and everyone got moved out by the current and drowned.


Come to think of it, does anyone know any able-bodied white Americans who don't know how to swim?

When I hear about white people drowning, it's either because they were drunk, or because they were surprised by a very strong current or bad weather.

Peter and Spungen...

Judging from what happened in my anecdotal case involving my brother, what usually happens is that somebody will go into the pool, stay in the end where his or her head stays above water, and for some reason or another (e.g: playing around with kids in the pool), they end up in the deep end without much notice and when they try and get their footing, they start to drown. Luckily in my brother's case, my cousin was able to pull him out of the water with ease. Since then, my brother has sworn off pools and beaches.

BTW, my cousin was a black Canadian from a working class background. She knew how to swim from the classes they held at the indoor swimming pool.

As for the swimming lessons, I keep telling myself that I should do it at one point or another. Maybe I'll do it next semester at the community college.

The 'Eight Americas'

Dr. Christopher Murray analyzed mortality data between 1982 and 2001 by county, race, gender and income. He found some distinct groupings that he named the "eight Americas:"


Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.

Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.

Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.

Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.

Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.

Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.

Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.

High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.

--The Associated Press

The nature has its own way to balance thing out. Asians live longer. But not so desirable for women. Blacks is short-lived. But black guys got all hot girls to ban.

At end, Asians live a long, but `unproductive' live. Blacks live short `productive' live. lol.

The nature has its own way to balance thing out. Asians live longer. But not so desirable for women. Blacks is short-lived. But black guys got all hot girls to ban.
At end, Asians live a long, but `unproductive' live. Blacks live short `productive' live. lol.

Someone has a good memory. He remembered to take his stupid pills this morning.

Interesting that rural low-income whites in northern states live LONGER than Middle America, their economic superiors. And it can't just be urban-rural because low-income Southerners live shorter. What's so healthy about all that snow, I wonder? Maybe it's all those social-democratic Scandinavian values we keep hearing about?

Where do upper middle class Northeastern whites come into the mix? Not really Middle American right?

>>I respectfully disagree that the runner bodytype/lifestyle is the healthiest. Long-distance running puts tremendous strain on the joints and runners tend to eat too much processed carbs and not enough quality protein.

Well, maybe that is so for the guys really doing the marathons. I just want to LOOK like a marathon runner. I've got a treadmill, good shoes, and I limit my mileage to REASONABLE numbers, all in an effort to save my knees.

I don't know about that carb vs. protein statement. People make too much about nutrition. If you're healthy (i.e. good bloodpressure, good cholesterol, whatever) eating more carbs than protein is not going to make a difference.

All within reason, of course. Moderation is the key, as is diversity. You eat your well balanced diet, you get a decent amount of running in per week, you'll be as healthy as you could possibly be.

I also do some VERY light weight lifting to tone my upper body.

>>As for baseball players and injuries today, my guess is that much of it is due to steroid abuse

Well, they're testing for steroids now, so you have to assume that ballplayers are not on steroids (but they could still be on HGH).

The increased incidence of back problems started after steroid testing. My guess is that steroids helped build up the back muscles without the need to target them with actual excercises. With the loss of steroids, the back muscles atrophied while the other muscles (which were still being targeted with specific excercises) did not.

>>and the exercises employed (usually machine and single training rather than more sport-effective free weight lifts like cleans and squats)

So you're saying that all MLB trainers are incompetant? I find that hard to believe.

It couldn't be that the entire concept and system of year round training is at fault? Maybe althletes have pushed themselves to the limit of what is humanely possibly?

I also do some VERY light weight lifting to tone my upper body.

You're wasting your time. "Toning" is a meaningless concept.
As for the use of light weights, there's a test you should try. See if you can do more than 12 reps of an exercise with the current weight you're using. If you can, the weight is too light for you.

So you're saying that all MLB trainers are incompetant? I find that hard to believe.

It is ridiculously easy to get certified as a personal trainer. Attend a weekend seminar and many organizations will give you a nice shiny certificate even if you have no prior experience whatsoever. In fact, you can even get some certifications by mail-order.
Yes, it is a reasonable assumption that most MLB stregth coaches have excellent qualifications. That does not mean, however, that the players always listen to them, especially as most players probably consider strength training an annoyance and would rather get out into the field and practice.

I remember reading a while back that Jeff Bagwell worked to tone his "vanity muscles" (muscles that look good, but don't help him at the plate) against the advice of his trainers. Some attributed that to his later injuries, but given how common those injuries are, it's really hard to tell.

>>especially as most players probably consider strength training an annoyance and would rather get out into the field and practice.

That's true. I've heard a few players say that themselves. As they get older, they take the stretching and whatever pre/post game excercies more seriously, and wished that they had taken it more seriously when they were younger.

Actually, I think that we all probably wish we had taken it more seriously when we were younger. I do.

>>You're wasting your time. "Toning" is a meaningless concept.

Nonsense. It's the difference between the fast twitch muscles and the slow twitch ones.

I mean, essentially, it's the difference between aerobic excercises vs. anerobic ones.

It's also the difference between large, bulging muscles and smaller, more cut ones.

>>As for the use of light weights, there's a test you should try. See if you can do more than 12 reps of an exercise with the current weight you're using. If you can, the weight is too light for you.

Nope. 12 is too little. It hurts my elbows to curl weights that heavy. I go for 14 to 16 reps, going to heavier weights when I can do 20.

As far as physical trainers, you're right, the certification is a joke. But so is the whole field of "excercise science". The "studies" done are generally a waste of time and paper. Sample sizes are too small. Experimental conditions are not rigorous.

This seems an intelligent place, and the question isn't that off-topic...what do you guys recommend for someone out of shape, looking to both lose weight and tone up? Preferably something that can be done at home, or with equipment that can be purchased for the home without too much cost (related question: is bowflex worthwhile or worthless). I'm too cheap/anti-social to join a gym.

I believe most exercise equipment ends up functioning as a fitness totem rather than serving its intended purpose. Not that bowflex or some such can't be useful, but I would develop the habit of exercising first (this is the hard part) and then buy equipment if I really felt that I wasn't reaching my goals by doing crunches, pushups, or exercises with a simple dumbbell weight. Anyway equipment IMO is more of any efficiency thing, good value if you're short on time but hardly necessary. When I was 20 I put on 15 lbs of muscle in one year doing exercises with a couple of cinderblocks (cost:free), but of course that was both more dangerous and more timeconsuming than using decent equipment.

Ditto what bbartlog said. You have to make the comitment to excercise first. You do this by excercising regularly. I'd start by walking. If you can keep up a walking routine for, say, 3 months, then you have the discipline to buy some equipment.

Here is the bonus for walking: you might find some nice equipment that someone is throwing out! I've got a treadmill, an excercise bike, and a weight bench. They were all free, from the garbage. My weights are from the sixties, or maybe older. I found them in my dad's basement.

Excercise equipment is like baby clothes: they're discarded before they're worn out.

If the garbage is too, uh, poor for you, try e-bay or something like that.

I'm not a fan of bowflex or anything like that, but you can certainly find plenty of them on e-bay. I'm more into the classics: dumbells, barbells, treadmill, bike.

Erbal H - I would advise against the bowflex; there are more efficient ways (both montary and physical) ways to get in shape. I agree with bbartlog and The Engineer - the most important thing is that you make a habit of it. People fail to improve physically because they aren't willing to change their lifestyle and habits that got them out of shape in the first place. As a starting point, I would aim to do some sort of exercise for at least half an hour three times a week. Consistency is the key thing; you need to make it part of your week. As you improve, it gets more and more enjoyable.

R. Alex - that brings to mind the expression, "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane".

Proof that arm size isn't an accurate reflection of strength:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueUlvxLT9Cs

That's Gold Medalist Taner Sagir at the 2004 Olympics snatching 380 weighing only 170. Not bad for a teenager! (like most international caliber weightlifters, he was probably using some banned substance, even though they get tested).

Proof that arm size isn't an accurate reflection of strength:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueUlvxLT9Cs
That's Gold Medalist Taner Sagir at the 2004 Olympics snatching 380 weighing only 170. Not bad for a teenager! (like most international caliber weightlifters, he was probably using some banned substance, even though they get tested)

Olympic weightlifters are amazing athletes. Not only are they fantastically strong, but they also have tremendous explosive speed. In fact, Olympic-level weightlifters normally can sprint distances of up to about 20 meters faster than Olympic-level sprinters.
Very few people engage in Olympic-style weightlifting in the United States, however, in part because there's a great deal of technique involved and there aren't many qualified coaches available. In addition, Olympic-style weightlifting doesn't do very much toward development of the pecs and biceps, which of course are the "beach muscles" that many men focus upon.

People fail to improve physically because they aren't willing to change their lifestyle and habits that got them out of shape in the first place.

I started working out maybe three years ago. (Confession: it took an angioplasty to motivate me.)

Anyway, it kinda stuns me, how at work people want to know why I'm unwilling to do unlimited amounts of overtime. We have all sorts of people who will consistantly put in 60+ hour work-weeks for years on end. All they seem to have to show for it is a really nice set of wheels. I just don't get that attitude.

Anyway, it kinda stuns me, how at work people want to know why I'm unwilling to do unlimited amounts of overtime. We have all sorts of people who will consistantly put in 60+ hour work-weeks for years on end. All they seem to have to show for it is a really nice set of wheels. I just don't get that attitude.

Sorry, I meant to put in there that doing the overtime interferes with working out, so that's why I'm reluctant to do it.

You had an ANGIOPLASTY and they still expect overtime out of you? This is why I hate the Protestant work ethic. Ugh!

You had an ANGIOPLASTY and they still expect overtime out of you? This is why I hate the Protestant work ethic. Ugh!

It's not management that pushes the overtime, but the other workers who wonder why I'm not all that "into it." Honestly, they're so materialistic it makes me wonder if I went overboard bashing New Yorkers for being that way.

As for the angioplasty (two, as the first didn't take) I got it (them) taken care of before I had a heart attack. I was only 35 at the time, so it surpised the hell out of me.

Apparently, I inherited a very high "LPa" cholosterol, which is created by the liver. I'm taking a drug (Advicor, fwiw)for it, so I'm pretty damned healthy, far better (imho) than a lot of the people doing all that overtime. Honestly, the problem did me a favor, as it made me much more serious about being in shape.

A few nights ago, I went walking around the parking lot at work with a coworker. The guy could barely hold a conversation, he was so short of breath. I was fine.

He owns a "Z 06" Corvette, though. I think in most people's eyes, that means he's ahead. He's roughly the same age as me (40), but he was dying during that walk.

Makes you wonder what's really important.

Funny how the "World's Strongest Man" on ESPN is dominated by Northern European white men. The fact is while there are alot of big muscular blacks, at the same time there are even more skinny/fat blacks out there. Whites and Chinese dominate Olympic Weightlifting. Whites dominate Strongman competitions. Blacks have more muscular NFL players than Whites do.

There you go!

Funny how the "World's Strongest Man" on ESPN is dominated by Northern European white men. The fact is while there are alot of big muscular blacks, at the same time there are even more skinny/fat blacks out there. Whites and Chinese dominate Olympic Weightlifting. Whites dominate Strongman competitions. Blacks have more muscular NFL players than Whites do.

There you go!

It's like that cuz although we like being buff, we want to get paid to PLAY A GAME AND HAVE FUN. Sports have always been the one place where a black man can make it as well as or better than a white guy. Plus they're fun, so we gravitate toward them. We know we're strong, and have no interest in proving it. We want to have fun.

The comments to this entry are closed.