Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too Much Testosterone Kills Brain Cells

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Too much testosterone can kill brain cells, researchers say, in a finding that may help explain why steroid abuse can cause behavior changes such as aggressiveness and suicidal tendencies.

Tests on brain cells in lab dishes showed that while a little of the male hormone is good, too much of it causes cells to self-destruct in a process similar to that seen in brain illnesses such as Alzheimer's.

"Too little testosterone is bad, too much is bad but the right amount is perfect," said Barbara Ehrlich of Yale University in Connecticut, who led the study.

Apoptosis is the body's way of killing off cells that are unnecessary or die as a natural part of growth. It is programmed cell death. An example of this is the webbing between people's fingers. As an embryo, humans have pronounced webbing between fingers and toes. The cells in the webbed tissue are normally killed off by apoptosis; if not, people are born with webbed digits.

Nerves are like this too--they're highly sensitive to signals that tell them it's time to die. Even though we're born with trillions of brain cells and nerves throughout the body, they normally die as part of their life cycle. The stuff that isn't used is like excess baggage that needs to be eliminated. The rule for the brain and for nerves (and for muscle, and for bone...) is "use it or lose it."

Apoptosis, it turns out, is triggered by high levels of testosterone. This may be analogous to the rapid bodily changes that occur during puberty in males, accompanied by a surge of testosterone.
"Anabolic steroids, which are synthetic versions of the primary male sex hormone testosterone, can be injected, taken orally, or used transdermally. These drugs are Controlled Substances that can be prescribed to treat conditions such as body wasting in patients with AIDS, and other diseases that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone. However, the doses prescribed to treat these medical conditions are 10 to 100 times lower than the doses that are abused for performance enhancement." link

Anger and Oxygen

Nearly sixty percent of people experience road rage as a part of their morning commute.

Getting angry compromises lung function.

Many experts agree that the stress reaction is triggered by one or more small cues. The stress reaction is a physiological cascade where the body prepares for the three F's: fleeing or fighting or reproduction. Stress triggers include shallow breathing and clenching the jaw; the rest of the body follows these cues that may be anchored to certain thoughts or the way we perceive things ("he cut me off on purpose!"). What we perceive is not necessarily how things are.

Getting in a rage in the morning could possibly be the worst way to start off the day.

It's tough to remember sometimes but smile and breathe deeply. Imagine that today were your last day, if your life ended at midnight, you would have spent the last day pissed off and short of breath, even though anger changes nothing.

Some people psych themselves up to do a set by getting enraged, by making their "blood boil." I wonder if that has a negative effect on performance? I dunno.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What is the Deal with Bodybuilders and Tanning?

Odd as it seems, being tan hundreds of years ago was a mark of being poor, of belonging to the working class (serfdom) whose members toiled in the fields all day long. Not being tan was a sign of affluence; people powdered their faces to appear more pallid. But today, being tan is associated with having the means, spending leisure time in the outdoors, to vacation on the beach, on the golf course, taking a boat on a 3 hour cruise, etc. Tanning has a sort of status appeal nowadays.

If you've ever seen bodybuilding competitors on stage, they're all tan; they all look brown or tried to be. Some are naturally suntanned, some are tanned artificially through use of UV tanning beds. Others with fair skin use dyes that color the skin. There are others still, who use dyes because of the dangers of developing skin cancer.

Bodybuilders don't brown themselves for status reasons. They do it because a tan brings out the definition in the muscles. It's a visual effect. For this reason, fitness models are also usually a little more tan than not. In "body transformation" photos (before-and-after pictures) the after photo almost always shows a more tanned body.

A downside of long exposure to the sun (besides skin cancer, of course) is premature aging of the skin. There are nuns in convents who rarely see the sun and even in their 60's they apparently have the skin of teens. Leathery skin from a lifetime of UV radiation is not something good. Lying out under the sun and in machines is also time-consuming; boring.

Dyes are often difficult to spread evenly and when applied to the face and ears to match the body, it often looks like some have painted themselves with wood stain, using a too-big paintbrush.

There are costs for being bronzed which may not be worth the benefits. The rising incidence of deadly skin cancer, malignant melanoma does not help this. But there is hopeful news!

The journal Nature reports:
Fake tanner wards off skin cancer:
Plant extract triggers pigmentation to protect fair skin.
There is hope for fair-skinned people who long for a tan. Researchers have found a chemical from a tropical mint plant that works both as a sunless tanner and as a solar shield in fair-skinned mice. If the compound works for people too, it could prove a boon for the cosmetics industry and a life-saver for people with a rare genetic disorder that keeps them indoors. Unlike other sunless tanners on the market that simply dye the skin, forskolin prompts the body to produce a real tan, protecting against ultraviolet radiation.
Scientists develop a sunless tan (BBC)
Scientists have given mice a tan without exposing them to the sun.
They have developed a cream, which has not yet been tested on humans, that switches on the tanning machinery in skin cells.
Experimental Lotion Could Be Secret to a Safe Tan (NPR)
"I will confess I suspected we might see some darkening," says Fisher. "But I was fairly shocked that it was as efficient and complete as what we actually saw."

After several weeks, of applying every day, the mice became really tan.

Sunless Suntan Proves Possible (Scientific American)
Sun seekers and tanning-bed junkies take note: Researchers have induced honest-to-goodness suntans in mice without exposing them to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Estimated number of people worldwide who die each year from too much sun: 60,000

Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Fun Pictures



Number of Reps in a Set

There's no fixed rule about how many reps should be done in each set since the body eventually adapts.

If a generalization can be made, this might be close:

1-4 reps

6-12 reps

12-20 reps


Mass / Hypertrophy

Streamlining / Toning




little cardio or sprinting

Sprint-Interval Training

Cardio, Marathon, Triathlon, Cycling

Hardly winded



Workout time = mostly rest

Little, measured rest

No rest





If one does too much A or already looks like A, more C would be appropriate

If one does too much C or already looks like C, more A would be appropriate

Equal amounts of A and C average out to B

Too much B all the time is not as effective because the body adapts.

Cycling A and C with B, periodically, helps break through plateaus. This is called Periodization.

Lifting heavy weights all the time is not the best way to build muscle

The body adjusts if you lift heavy weights everyday, preventing you from progressing in your strength training. In addition, lifting heavy weights on a regular basis increases the potential for muscle pulls and strains. Exercise physiologists recommend "periodized" schedules in which you vary your weights in two- to four-week cycles in order to stimulate optimal development of bone, muscle and other tissues.


1. Do vary your workouts.

We recommend you alternate among light workouts, moderate workouts and heavy workouts. Sometimes women use very light weights because of the fear of getting too muscular. In reality, most women don't have the hormones to get the type of muscles that men can develop, but they will lose fat just under the skin and have more definition of their muscles.

You just can't go in and lift heavy weights everyday, either, because they body gets used to it and you won't progress. Lifting heavy weights can also increase the potential for muscle pulls and strains. Through the use of what we call periodized schedules, where you have variations, either from workout to workout, or over two- to four-week cycles, you can expose the body to different types of workouts that will stimulate optimal development of bone, muscle and other tissues.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Women and Thinness

Along the same lines, competitive escalation is a dynamic among women too. A well argued commentary in an audio file (NPR) about the pecularities of women's sizing:
Gaining Weight, Losing Perspective: When Sizes Grow
Obesity is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the United States. An estimated 30 percent of Americans are obese, and the number is going up. But commentator Lori Gottlieb observes that it's getting harder to tell how much weight you've gained -- if you're gauging by your pants size.

Lori Gottlieb is the author of Stick Figure and I Love You, Nice to Meet You.

Spanish fashion show rejects too-skinny models:
Women with very low body-mass index not allowed on runway
MADRID, Spain - Spain’s top fashion show has turned away a slew of models on grounds they are too skinny — an unprecedented swipe at body images blamed for encouraging eating disorders among young people.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Kind of Male Body Are Women After?

David Frederick of UCLA did a research study on male and female perspectives of body appearance. His study asked:

"Do representations of male muscularity differ in men’s and women’s magazines?"

Here is the abstract, or summary of his findings:
Men overestimate the degree of muscularity that is attractive to women, and women overestimate the degree of thinness that is most attractive to men. Consistent with the thesis that sociocultural input influences such body type preferences and beliefs, we postulated that magazines aimed at a male audience would portray a more muscular male body ideal than would magazines aimed at a female audience. Systematic comparison of popular magazines (Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness) revealed that the ideal male body marketed to men is more muscular than the ideal male body marketed to women.
We introduce the Physical Trait Overvaluation Hypothesis, which proposes that gender-specific media fuel emphasis on certain body parts in within-gender prestige competitions. The resulting
competitive escalation creates a disconnect between the preferences of one gender and the personal aspirations of the other.
What does this mean? (From Men's Health, September 2004):

When rating desirability of varying builds for sexual partners, [325 college-age women] rated:
"average bodies as somewhat desirable;
muscular men as very desirable;
and extremely muscular men somewhere in between.
Least desirable: soft, fat guys."
"Frederick...says very brawny guys were viewed as likely to attract other women--and cheat."
Women associate pronounced muscularity with...
[+] dominance
[+] sexiness
[+] sexual ability and skill
[+] popularity
[+] ability to acquire resources and provide protection
[+] health and genetic fitness
[+] money and ambition

[-] decreased likelihood of sexual fidelity
[-] decreased sensitivity to their needs
[-] greater likelihood of narcissism and a bad temper
Note that whether or not women's associations are "correct or incorrect," or simply stereotypes, is a different subject.

Fun test for your degree of narcissism.

'Echo and Narcissus' 1903
John William Waterhouse

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Shrugs on a Standing Calf Raise Machine

I work my trapezius on the same day as shoulders (deltoids). I don't like doing barbell shrugs. It feels like I'm effectively taking a heavy bar and rubbing it up and down the front of my crotch.

So I do shrugs on a standing calf raise machine if I'm not using heavy dumbbells. This site calls it the "gripless shrug." It works the trapezius exactly the same way (straight up, straight down). Plus I don't have to deal with loading 2-3 plates on each side of the bar. It's much easier to just change the weight by moving the pin to the appropriate weight. Standing calf raise machines usually have 400 to 500 lbs available with the change of a pin. Loading the same amount onto a barbell is a waste of time and energy, IMO.

Also, I don't have to worry about my grip giving out later; I can save my grip strength for deadlift.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Steroid Cautionary Tale

Just to warn you, don't watch the video link below if you're squeamish or dislike needles. Yuck.

The subject of the video compares animal protein farts as a "small side effect" with "big side effects" from steroids as if there is any comparison. His ability to reason has left him, if he ever had one. Apparently, he has no conception of long-term consequences. From the way he speaks about it, it is obvious that he has always believed (falsely) that steroids are a "normal" or necessary part of bodybuilding. From his point of view, it's a given that people who want to build muscle will take steroids. Some people believe what they want to believe so they can do whatever the hell they want.

He's an exception among those "in the know." There are other juicers who would say that he was stupid and didn't take the drugs "correctly" which is to inject into his buttocks and use sterile technique. They're not much better than he is.

People who "correctly" abuse steroids end up saying things like this:
Confession of a steroid user
That (30 lbs of) muscle came at a price. I've spent close to $30,000 on steroids and now stay on them at least two-thirds of the year. I have masses of scar tissue in my glutes from hundreds of injections. People I meet are intimidated, and some automatically assume I'm a jerk, which I'm not. But that's all trivial compared with this: A few months ago, after a cycle in which I had used a lot of oral steroids to prepare for a contest, a blood test showed liver damage comparable to that of a hepatitis patient...

My liver has almost fully recovered, but now my wife wants me to quit. She says that at some stage I have to give up the idea of getting bigger and focus on my health, and I don't disagree. It's also getting harder to conceal my steroid use from the older of our two children.

Here's my advice to anyone considering steroids: Unless you're at or very near your maximum genetic potential, don't waste your time. Using steroids too soon will keep you from learning how to make gains without them. If you're under 23, you have no business juicing. Besides the fact you have enough natural testosterone, you could stunt your growth if you haven't reached your full adult height. Finally, most guys who set out to do "just one cycle" end up using steroids for years.

If you think you'll be the exception, you've just joined a very big club. Once you've started, it's tough to go back.

It's a personal choice, but one you have to think through as carefully as any other decision you make in life. Be sure you aren't going to let the desire to be huge take precedence.

It takes at least a year of hard lifting to even find out what kind of genetics you have. I learned that from Arnold's book and I agree with him. How many people give bodybuilding a sincere effort for a year or two in order to find out?

video link. yuck

Friday, September 01, 2006

Genetic Potential

Many people talk about "genetic potential" regarding one's natural ability to build muscle. Sometimes people use it as an excuse, "I don't have good genetics like that such-and-such a person." Making a determination like this, judging your body, but without doing any actual training, is not wise. Using "I don't have good genetics for muscle" as a rationalization ("good reason") to abuse steroids is not wise.

You cannot even know if you have good genetics for bodybuilding unless you do it sincerely. It takes a year or two of hard lifting to find out. Some people carry, under a layer of fat, muscles of high quality and potential.