Having looked at the crisis of chronic illness in America and the pressing need of a diet revolution, let’s turn our attention to the next critical need...physical activity. Americans were once an active people. Even as agrarian life gave way to industrialization, there was still an active workforce. Besides the large farm population, there were construction workers, factory workers, soldiers, and other jobs involving standing, squatting, reaching, turning and moving.
You might be tempted say that we still have some farmers, construction workers, a few factory workers and odd jobs that require movement. Yes, but today’s farmers plow the fields in huge air-conditioned tractors. They wouldn’t know how to hoe a row of corn. Construction workers no longer dig trenches with a shovel, they have a backhoe for that. Today’s factories are automated. The only work involved is pushing buttons and monitoring screens. Even our military is a far cry from the manly testosterone-fueled warriors they ought to be. Machines have replaced muscles and computers are replacing minds. This does not bode well for our future.
Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Additionally, it is recommended that adults engage in muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups two or more days a week. There are increasing benefits to topping that. Here are some facts:
Normal muscle balance occurs in neutral posture, which is standing. When you sit, you will notice how certain muscles are lengthened and others are shortened. Over time, in this position, the underactive muscles become weak and lengthened and can be hypotonic (chronic decreased tone). The overactive muscles become tight and shortened and can be hypertonic (chronic increased tone).
In the graphic below, you will see how muscle contractibility is dependent on resting muscle length. Passive stretching of tight muscles will gradually add sacomeres back in line and help restore muscles normal resting length. Prolonged sitting has the following effect:
If left unstretched, shortened hip flexors affect the position of the pelvis, which in turn affects the position and movement of the lower back. Over time these difficulties can lead to what is called the “pain compensation cycle,” which is a downward spiral of pain. Many people turn to pain medications which attempt to treat the symptom but does not address the cause.
An exercise training program that includes a healthy balance of aerobic, resistance* and flexibility training can completely transform a sedentary body into a glowing, energetic, cognitive, less-stressed, more focused, fat-burning machine. There are numerous benefits to the cardiovascular, pulmonary and endocrine systems leading to a reduced risk in chronic diseases that plaque modern America. Individuals will feel better, look better, and perform better!
The following list of benefits are quite remarkable but married to it is the need for proper diet and nutrition. There is some overlap in the following categories but I’ve attempted to keep it to a minimum. Please note this list has been compiled from numerous scientific studies and I'm required to say that "studies suggest, but do not conclusively prove" the following benefits:
Other Physiological Benefits
Body Composition & Appearance
Activities of daily Life
* Resistance training can be applied more specifically to general muscle fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength and muscular hypertrophy...depending on desired results.
Fitness is categorized in different ways. For the purpose of Man Up Boot Camp, we will use the ACE IFT Model. As an ACE-certified personal trainer, this is how I was taught and I believe it to be a very good approach. It breaks fitness down into two major programs, each with four phases, or progressions, of training.
The first program is functional movement and resistance training. It consists of the following four phases:
Phase 1 begins with basic assessments and exercises aimed at developing (or strengthening) core stability, progressing through proper hip mobility, and ultimately good mobility of the distal joints. This is where you will learn proper warm-up and cool-down exercises. Phase 2 begins with functional assessments and understanding the five body movement patterns. After good functional movement has been established, you can progress to Phase 3 – Load Training. Of course, this is weightlifting, where all the men want to start. However, it is important to begin Load Training only after successfully establishing a proper base of functional movement to prevent injury and muscular imbalances. Many in fitness training will stop here and never progress to Phase 4 – Performance Training. Of course, athletes will spend time in this final phase.
The second program is cardiorespiratory training. It consists of these four phases:
Sedentary and deconditioned individuals will need to begin in Phase 1 with light aerobic activity. Phase 2 begins with a submaximal talk test to determine VT1 (First Ventilatory Threshold). The program will progress with increases in frequency, duration and intensity...beginning with steady-state training and progressing to interval training. The final two phases are mainly for athletes. These phases employ exercising using the body’s anaerobic energy system.
Before beginning a fitness program design personal trainers employ three types of physical assessments to determine the needs of specific clients.
Postural assessment looks at an individual’s postural integrity to determine such things as sway back, thoracic kyphosis, pelvic tilt, forward head position, hip adduction, ankle pronation and other deviations that can be addressed through proper exercise.
The modern American lifestyle, both at home and at work, often leads to a number of repetitive movements as well as hours of sedentary low-level activity. For example, sitting at a desk all day, facing a computer screen and tapping on a keyboard can lead to poor posture, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. The good news is that much of what plagues modern Americans can be fixed with a proper fitness regime. Lack of joint stability and mobility, habitually poor posture, muscular pattern overload from repetitive movements, and imbalanced strength-training programs are all correctable factors.
The next set of assessments are movements screens to determine the contribution muscle imbalances and poor posture have on neural control, and helps identify movement compensations due to muscle tightness or imbalances between muscles acting at the joint. These result in altered neural action that can be corrected with a proper fitness program. Assessments such as the Bend & Lift Screen, Hurdle Step Test, McGill’s Battery, Apley’s Scratch Test, Thomas Test, Shoulder Push Stabilization, and others are useful in determining which muscle groups need special attention.
The physiological assessments are the anthropometric measurements you would expect, such as body weight and height to determine BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. There are also tests to evaluate muscular strength and endurance to use for determining load training starting points.
Phase 1: Stability & Mobility Training
It is important to understand the kinetic chain – the stability-mobility relationship.
Phase 2: Functional Movement
We will go over the five basic movement patterns and learn exercises that address:
Phase 3: Load Training
We will discuss various load training goals:
We will discuss key training variables:
Our mouths are designed for eating, drinking and emergency breathing only. Yet, due to our fast-paced modern lifestyle, Americans have typically become mouth-breathers.
Mouth breathing triggers the stress response, while nose breathing triggers the relaxation response. How you breathe determines several factors:
Nasal breathing on both the inhale and the exhale optimizes all of the above factors for performance and perception. Nasal breathing produces nitric oxide, a bronchodilator and vasodilator, lowers blood pressure, and improves oxygen absorption in the lungs.
Navy Seals start Day 1 training with breathing exercises, including box breathing. An important part of Man Up Boot Camp is to teach proper breathing in everything we do.
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*Note on Benefits of Exercise. This list was compiled from numerous scientific studies. It should be noted that not everything listed here has been conclusively proven. Studies involving human trials are often very difficult. Sometimes there are conflicting results. We take a skeptics approach and try our best to determine which studies are likely to be more reliable. Should time prove any of these specific points to be wrong, rest assured there is no debate over the positive benefits of exercise on our overall health.