News You Can Use
Janet Alexander and Chris Maund
July/August 2014
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Welcome to the July/August edition of our newsletter. In this issue we take a look at how strength training can help if you have low testosterone and we ask "Are you breathing correctly?"

Can Strength Training Help Improve
Low Testosterone?

The short answer to this question is "YES", strength training CAN increase testosterone levels. HOWEVER, if you do not have good sleeping habits, if your diet is not appropriate, if you have too much stress in your life and if you are exposed to environmental estrogens then you cannot expect strength training to do very much for your ailing testosterone levels.


Let's talk about some of these other factors before we look at what kind of strength training might be helpful.


1. need AT LEAST 8 hours every night and sleep MUST start by 10pm AT THE LATEST


2. Diet...most guys with low testosterone do not eat enough protein and fat. Eat fish or meat or eggs or poultry AT LEAST 3 times every day i.e. with EVERY meal. You should also add AT LEAST one tablespoon of olive oil, coconut butter, butter or half an avocado to EVERY meal.


3. Stress...this comes in a variety of forms. It could be work related, domestic or financial. The first thing to do is to recognize that it is there. Write down the 3 major sources of stress in your life then either hire somebody to help you or figure out how to reduce your stress load yourself.


4. Environmental far the major problem here is PLASTIC, particularly plastic food/drink containers. Don't drink water or milk or juice (or any liquid) that has been stored in plastic containers, don't buy food that has been packaged in plastic. There are MANY chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogen that leach from plastic into your food/drink.


OK...let's assume you have taken care of steps 1-4. Now you are ready to consider adding strength training to your weekly routine. What should this workout look like? It's going to be different from one person to the next but here are a few guidelines:


Frequency...3 days a week e.g. Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It's not a good idea to do two days in a row unless you have an extensive background in recent strength training.


Types of lifts...generally you will get better results with compound lifts like squats, lunges and deadlifts i.e. lifts that involve MANY muscle groups and lots of joint motion. This does not mean that you should NOT do ANY isolation exercises...but put these in at the end of the workout.


Sets and Reps...if you are new to strength training then 3 sets of 10 reps is a good place to start. If you go heavier than this (e.g. 3 sets of 4) there is a much greater chance that you will injure yourself. Give your body a few weeks to get used to a 10 rep load before going to 8 reps. NEVER go to failure unless you have plenty of strength training experience and a skilled spotter! If you are a beginner don't do more than 20 sets per workout. Intermediate lifters can usually handle 25-30 sets per workout. If you are an advanced lifter you don't need to be reading this article!


Rest between sets...try to keep this down to 60s or less.


One more thing to note...body fat converts testosterone to the leaner you are the better off you will be.


If you need help with all this then please ask.


Are You Breathing Correctly?
Breathing...we all do it and we all know that without oxygen we die pretty quickly. However, it might surprise you to learn that most of us do not breathe as well as we should. Here are some of the most common breathing problems:

1. Not using the diaphragm to initiate inspiration i.e. the belly does not expand as you breathe in.

2. Insufficient use of the ribcage towards the end of each inspiration i.e. little or no rib cage expansion in the last half of each inhale.

3. Over use of the mouth and underuse of the nose to move air in and out of the body i.e. mouth stays open all the time even when asleep and breathing is noisy, shallow and rapid.

4. Overuse of scalenes and sternocleidomastoid when breathing in i.e. anterior neck muscles are used to lift the rib cage up on each inhale.

Let's discuss all this in more detail.

The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that sits behind the rib cage and should contract when you breathe in. When it contracts your diaphragm flattens and increases the volume in the lungs thus creating a pressure difference between the air outside your body and the air inside your lungs. This pressure difference causes air to move into your lungs.
If you watch an infant sleeping you will clearly see its belly rising (expanding) as it breaths in and falling when it breaths out. You will also notice that infants breathe through their noses when asleep. We are ALL supposed to breathe like that when at rest. This includes sitting in front of a computer, driving and slow/easy walking. Only when we start to perform physical work e.g. brisk walking uphill, running, weight lifting, chopping wood etc should our mouths be used to get air into our lungs. Even then we should be using our noses WITH our mouths.
If you can hear yourself breathing when you sit at your desk or if you always have bad breath, then you are almost certainly a mouth breather. This is not good! Chronic mouth breathing tends to go hand in hand with underuse of the diaphragm. This is because it's very hard to use your diaphragm if you do not use your nose during inhalation. Chronic mouth breathing coupled with under use of the diaphragm results in all of the following:

1. A systemically acidic internal physiology.

Carbon dioxide accumulates in your body when you don't use your diaphragm to breathe with. In order to expel carbon dioxide effectively you MUST use your diaphragm when breathing. When carbon dioxide is dissolved in water a weak acid called carbonic acid is formed. Many people feel better when they drink alkaline water. In our experience this usually indicates a very dysfunctional breathing habit. Poor breathing mechanics create an acidic internal's far better to improve the way you breathe rather than cover up the problem (i.e. buffer the acidity) by drinking alkaline water!

2. Autonomic nervous system imbalance.

When you breathe correctly the major nerves that regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) are stimulated in a manner that keeps the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the ANS in a balanced state. If you are a mouth breather who has no idea how to use his/her diaphragm you end up driving your sympathetic nervous system into a frenzy. This can result in adrenal problems, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, "panic attacks", fatigue, headaches, poor sleep quality, lack of appetite...the list goes on! If you find that you feel much better after meditating, doing yoga or going for a brisk walk you can be sure that you have a breathing problem. The trick is to teach yourself to breathe the way you do when you meditate (or do yoga with CORRECT breathing) ALL THE TIME.

3. Poor posture.

If you do not use your diaphragm when you breathe in, you MUST use other muscles to create the increase in lung volume that is needed to get air into your lungs. This usually means that you rely on your scalenes, sternocleidomastoids, upper traps and intercostals, making these muscles do much more work than they should need to do. Overuse of the scalenes and sternocleidomastoids often results in a lot of forward head posture. This tends to reinforce a mouth breathing habit. Most people who have poor posture cannot correct it permanently until they correct their faulty breathing mechanics.

As you can see, there is a lot that can go wrong when you breathe! In addition to the things already mentioned there are two more common dysfunctions which are worth noting:

1. Many people have rigid, stiff rib cages that are so immobile it is impossible to expand the rib cage optimally when breathing in. The solution here is to get help with thoracic spine and rib cage mobility. There are MANY stretches and exercises that can be done to improve rib cage dynamics. Performing some easy aerobic exercise every day is ESSENTIAL...if you do not use your entire breathing apparatus EVERY day then you WILL lose rib cage mobility eventually. Use it or lose it!

2. Like all muscles the diaphragm is encased in fascia. The state of this fascia determines the shape and level of function of the muscle within. If the encasing fascia has lost its elasticity then the diaphragm will NOT work optimally. Many individuals are completely unable to figure out how to contract their diaphragms because the encasing fascia is so tight/inelastic that they have "forgotten" how to use the muscle within! This sounds incredible but we see this EVERY week with our clients. Once again, there are MANY stretches, exercises and proprioception techniques to sort this problem out.

In our next newsletter we'll talk about what good quality breathing should look and feel like. We'll also explain how to check the quality of your own breathing behaviour and show you some exercises to help improve your breathing mechanics.

See you next time!