Texans Fitness Corner

Welcome to another installment of Dan Riley's Texans Fitness Corner. The response continues to be overwhelming. We will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to fitness@houstontexans.com.

NOTE:Before engaging in any new physical activity, always consult your physician.

Welcome to the 10th installment of Fitness Corner. Last week was very exciting for me. It was the culmination of many hours of preparation for my 2002 Strength and Conditioning budget proposal. I met with the budget proposal committee on Friday. When (and if) I receive approval, I'll begin planning how much equipment from my total proposal, will fit into the Astrodome weight room. We will use the Dome from March 2002 until our stadium facilities are finished in August of 2002. Our stadium weight room is 10,000 square feet.

Our head trainer, Kevin Bastin, is in the process of doing the same. Kevin and I spent many years together with the Redskins. We have coordinated our equipment needs to insure compatibility with our rehab/strength training needs. There is constant communication between Kevin and myself during the rehabilitation of any injury. Our rehabilitation philosophies are very compatible. Kevin and our medical staff determine what a player can and can't do during the rehabilitative process. At some point during the rehab process Kevin will turn a player over to me to complete the final stages of regaining lost strength and conditioning.

During the season the majority of our players will be injured in some capacity. On Monday, the day after a game, our entire team will engage in a very demanding total body strength workout. If a player has an injured body part, Kevin will make a decision on which exercises the athlete should avoid. Kevin has a thorough understanding of our system and all of the equipment we use.

For an effective in-season strength program there needs to be constant communication between and among the head coach, the head trainer, and myself.

In-season training is the most important period for any competitive athlete to emphasize strength development. Strength is lost rapidly if exercise is not performed at near maximum efforts at least twice a week. If the athlete stops lifting the losses are dramatic.

One reference I had states the loss in strength is 1% (of 100% of the athletes existing strength) per day, from 48 to 96 hours from his last workout. The second day the loss is 1% from 99% of the athlete's strength reserves. The third day the strength loss is 1% from 98%. A decrease in strength will continue until the athlete engages in a meaningful strength workout. The most significant loss is the first day (1% from 100%). Each succeeding day the loss grows incrementally smaller.

Immobilize a limb (cast, splint, etc.) and atrophy (loss in muscle strength and/or size) begins within 19 ½ hours. Joint soreness, sprains and strains, hyperextensions, and bumps and bruises, also cause strength losses and interfere with the ability to maintain near maximum strength levels.

Our season is a long one. Our primary objectives are to prevent injury and enhance the abilities used to play the game. The most important period to prevent injury and enhance performance is, the first day our players arrive at summer camp until the last game of the season.

Our players must try and maintain near maximum strength levels for approximately 6 months. To keep their jobs, stay healthy, and help us win games, professional football players, must be capable of performing their best during the preseason (4 to 5 games), during the regular season (16 games), and the playoffs (3 to 4 games).

Some athletes can try and peak for district, regional, or national championships. Professional football players can't do that. They risk being hurt the first day of summer camp … and every day after that until the season is finished. A major emphasis must be placed on in-season strength development/maintenance.

Many athletes are diligent during the off-season but exert a less than maximum effort during the season. When do we want our Texans to peak? When do we want our Texans to be protected the most? When do we want our Texans to perform at their highest level? During the season!

What difference does it make how strong or fit our players are in May or June, if they do not attempt to sustain high strength levels throughout the entire season? For this reason our in-season strength program mirrors our off-season strength program.

We don't officially strength test our players. If we did we would test at the beginning of the season, in the middle of the season, and at the end of the season.

We keep accurate records each time our players work out. We use a computerized strength program to document the amount of weight used, the number of good reps performed, and any other information needed to accurately assess the strength of our players from the beginning of the season to the end. Now let's get to this week's question.

**

I've noticed in your previous installments that you really focus on overall fitness instead of gaining/losing weight using drugs or dieting. I am really interested in converting fat to muscle. I have put together a 4 day/week training regimen. I concentrate on shoulders and back on days one and three, and arms and torso on days two and four. I am interested in any suggestions you may have.

-- Carlos (Denver, CO) **

It's a great question and one that is frequently asked. It is a misconception to think you can convert muscle to fat. It is physically impossible to convert fat to muscle or muscle to fat.

A muscle is predominantly water (72%) and protein. Fat is a gooey oily substance. Each is composed of separate compounds. You can add muscle (hypertrophy) with some form of resistance training or weight lifting. Stop lifting and your muscles (atrophy) soon return to their normal size.

To add fat you must consume more calories than you burn off. To lose fat you must burn more calories than you take in.

I've frequently had male adults grab their bellies and state, "I want to move this (their big belly) from here, up to here," (pointing to their chest). I always tell them, "You already have a fat belly, why do you want a fat chest?"

The thought process is that somehow they can convert their fat belly into a lean muscular chest. Unfortunately no can do. Lose the excess fat by monitoring caloric intake and expending additional calories. This will take time…. a significant amount of time …. for most people.

Your four-day a week lifting routine is called a "split routine." There are many ways to split a routine. Many years ago a "double super split routine" required lifters to train six days a week in the morning and the evening.

I encourage most fitness enthusiasts to train the entire body each time they work out. The only split our players will use is an upper body workout (to include neck, torso, arms) one day, and the lower body the next (to include the hips, legs, and midsection).

Keep in mind Carlos that all routines work. You can split your workout in any manner you want, and you'll get results, if you expose your muscles to some overload. At some point however, progress may prematurely level off. This could be due to using the same muscle on consecutive days.

We divide the body into five major segments.

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  1. Neck (biggest area of priority).

  2. Hips & Legs.

  3. Midsection (abs & low back).

  4. Torso (chest, shoulders, upper back).

  5. Arms (biceps, triceps, forearms).

I always encourage total body fitness. As you grow older it becomes more important to develop general overall strength. Currently your routine targets the muscles of the torso and the arms. Continue with this protocol if this is your preference and you are satisfied with the results.

There are two basic multi-joint movements you can perform while developing the upper body. They are pushing movements and pulling movements. You can push and pull through four basic planes.

Listed below are the four basic planes and sample exercises performed through these planes.

Plane -- (Pushing Movement, Pulling Movement)

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  1. Vertical -- Seated press & Dips Lat pull down & Upright row

  2. Incline -- Incline press High row or High pull

  3. Supine -- Bench press Seated row or bent-over row

  4. Decline -- Decline press Low row

When you perform any pushing movement you primarily engage the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. We can change the pushing plane to place more emphasis on one muscle. Pulling movements primarily employ the muscles of the upper back and biceps.

If you want to prevent exercising the same muscles two days in a row you could perform all pushing movements on one day and all pulling movements on the next day.

In your current workout regimen you perform exercises for the shoulders and back on days 1 & 3. You will use the pushing muscles to work the shoulders (seated press or military press) and the pulling muscles to work the back (lat pull down, seated row).

On days 2 & 4 you perform exercises for the torso (I'm guessing you call your torso exercises movements for the chest) and arms. You will use the pushingmuscles to work the chest (bench press, incline press, dips). You will use both the biceps and triceps to work the muscles of the arms.

You can see from the above that the pushing muscles are used directly or indirectly on consecutive days. If you are training really hard this may prevent your muscles from recovering completely from one workout to the next.

On days 1 & 3 you perform pulling exercises for the upper back. Remember, pulling movements, primarily involve the lats and the biceps. While performing any pulling movement the biceps perform a significant amount of work. Your triceps and chest muscles are also used to assist the shoulders when performing a seated press or standing press.

On days 2 & 4 you work your arms, exercising both the biceps and the triceps. Splitting your routine in this manner will directly or indirectly force some of the same muscles to be used on consecutive days.

As I stated earlier, I encourage a total body routine for most people. It requires fewer trips to the gym, consumes less time, and decreases the chance of missing a workout, or quitting altogether.

More important than how you split your routine, what equipment you use, what combination of sets and reps you utilize, is that you perform meaningful exercise with some degree of frequency for the rest of your life.

Keep on keepin' on. Best of luck with your workouts and Go Texans!

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