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Random Friday Thoughts – Bodyweight Exercise and Arthritis

We’re at the end of another week, and another hectic one at that!

A few things popped up this week that may well be relevant to you, so in no particular order:

1 – Bodyweight Exercises are not for wimps!

I’ve several clients who travel for business purposes, one is going away on a work trip but she’s also in preparations for a BJJ event. So this week we ran her through the bodyweight only program we created for her to follow (her request) while away. She then sent the following text message:

I don’t have any part of my body that doesn’t hurt 😀 😀 😀

Just because you’re not hoofing around lumps of iron, it doesn’t mean you’re not putting strain on the tissues and the nervous system, you will get strong!

2 – Not All Bodyweight Exercises Are Suitable for All People

There was trend a while ago suggesting that a coach should insist on a client getting better at unloaded exercises before doing loaded exercises. So they suggest training push ups to a good standard prior to doing any barbell or dumbbell presses. Same for squats etc.

The logic on this doesn’t follow through.

In a plank style push up you are pressing approx 60% of your bodyweight. And that’s not taking leverage into account (ie taller or shorter folk) So for me, at 95kg’s doing push ups is approximately equivalent to me bench pressing 50kg’s. Now, I’m fairly strong, so that’s ok.

But what about Brian who’s in his 40’s, works at a desk and hasn’t seen his toes in years? If Brian (who I’ve just made up) is 35% bodyfat at 95kg’s, he’s only got 62kg’s of lean mass with which to do his push ups. His push ups will be WAAAAAAAY more difficult than mine! So he’d be better served starting with Planks and Dumbbell Presses.

This is reversed on lower body exercises, as these are mostly performed standing anyhow. A loaded squat is a direct progression on an unloaded squat, so in this instance bodyweight absolutely should pre-empt additional load.

I also believe that it is possible to develop all the upper body and core strength you’ll ever need with just bodyweight, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get full lower body development without external load.

3 – Exercise helps prevent cartilage damage caused by arthritis

The Medical Express just published an article from the Queen Mary University of London talking about exercise and how it can reduce inflammation and therefore have a positive effect on inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

The researchers show for the first time how mechanical forces experienced by cells in joints during exercise prevent cartilage degradation by suppressing the action of inflammatory molecules which cause osteoarthritis. The study, published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, demonstrates the benefits of exercise on the tissues that form our joints and how this is down to tiny hair-like structures called primary cilia found on living cells. During exercise the cartilage in joints such as the hip and knee is squashed. This mechanical distortion is detected by the living cells in the cartilage which then block the action of inflammatory molecules associated with conditions such as arthritis.

Interesting eh? They also say that the increased blood flow from exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect, all before going on to saying how they’re developing a drug that replicates the same effects as exercise.

Read the full post here:

Two things stand out in this to me:

I – The human animal NEEDS to move and be challenged physically. Just as you feel bad for a dog or a zoo animal that doesn’t get enough exercise, we should feel bad for the human that doesn’t get enough exercise. Walking is great, but you also need to take it up a few notches, and that’s what the gym is for.

II – We can’t help ourselves but to look for the magic pill that will cure our ills. And while yes, the medicine to replicate the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise will be fantastic for thoser too severe to actually get moving, I can’t help but think it’ll end up being marketed to the public as a wonder drug to replace exercise. Call me cynical. You’d be right.

That’s it for today’s edition.

Chat soon

Dave Hedges

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