Bodyweight Workout

Hello Blogland. I've hosted a few guest posts here on Exercise Basics, Like these

Exercise and Eating Disorders by Clare of Fitting It All In

Devaluation of Personal Training by Luke Johnson of Exerci5e

Yoga For Low Back Pain by Kaitlin Freienmuth of Adventures of The Mischief Machine

I figured I should probably try my hand at guest posting myself. I recently became a guest contributor on Hive Health and my first article went live there today. I'd really appreciate if all you awesome people gave it a read and told me what you think! Here it is:

How to Have A Killer Workout With Bodyweight

Health in The News - May 30, 2012: Nordic Walking For The Heart

Health in the news time folks. I picked this article because I was turned on to nordic pole walking when  I was working as a personal trainer. A trainer at the gym started teaching nordic pole walking on our track and it was freaking awesome. Really fun and a hell of a work out. Anyway, give this one a read you wonderful people!

Nordic Pole Walking

Also, if you're looking to get started on pole walking yourself check out your local gyms or wellness centers, you might be surprised at what local facilities offer. Also, you'll need some poles to get started, why not check these out?

Why I Don't Like Isolation Exercises

Hi Folks,

What's your least favourite type of exercise? For me it's exercises in isolation. You know why? I'll tell you - because I'm lazy! I'd much rather do compound exercise that can hit multiple muscle groups at once than spend my time doing bicep curls.

Compound exercises are more functional as well. I can envision situations where I would need to pull myself up a ledge (pull ups) or lift something really heavy from the ground (deadlift and squats). I cannot picture a situation where I need to lift something in a single plane of motion that mimics a bicep curl, unless I'm eating a super heavy chocolate bar.

Sure isolations have their role. Body builders, for example, will use isolation to tone particular areas. I've just never been much into the bodybuilding scene. To me, exercise serves to make you more able in daily life. That's why I like compound exercises, they're multi-joint, functional, and challenging. I personal find them more enjoyable than isolations as well.

What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments.

Muscle and Motion Software Review

Hi Folks,

Recently I came across Muscle & Motion. I was interested in getting a program for 3D muscle animations and exercise analysis, and someone tweeted about it, so I thought I'd check it out. Below is my review of the program. Please note that I do not receive any commission for sales, I'm reviewing the product for my readers benefit.

First, there are two options when purchasing the program. You can either buy Muscle & Motion or All About Strength Training. I have All About Strength Training. Here is the difference in the two programs:

When you open the program you'll come to the following screen:

It's very well organized and easy to use.  Since there are so many options - and since All About Strength Training has more than Muscle and Motion - I'll just click the kinesiology tab, which both programs have. I found the Kinesiology tab the most useful because it draws information from the muscular anatomy and skeletal system sections and allows a very structured view of movement.

From here on in I found that the power of the program can really be seen. By click on any of the joints you will get a list movements, such as flexion, and what plane they occur in. When you click on the action a 3D animation will play. This animation will show you the full range of that movement and give you the option to view the active muscles, and from there you can continue to deconstruct the movement.

Clicking on each of the active muscles to learn the origin and insertion of the muscles, their action, and animations of how they are involved in each action. Just a massive amount of information.

I love how easy to use the program is. The animations are beautiful and accurate - which is always a plus. The Skeletal system is great for actually seeing the structure of bones and where the muscles attach.

Finally, the energy mechanisms section is great as well, giving you concise information basic physiological principles like Huxley's sliding filament theory and anaerobic vs aerobic processes. Clicking on each process will play a short video explaining the processes and some will have interactive bits for further learning.

And that's basically the program. It's really simple to use and getting to see the actions of each muscle really helps apply the anatomy. In all honesty, the program is so extensive that I've not managed to explore every function, but everything I have seen is great. It's a tool that I think students will find extremely helpful for learning musculoskeletal anatomy because the animations really help in the understanding of movement. I know I would have loved to have a program like this when I was doing my undergraduate degree.

If you spend the little extra money for All About Strength Training you will get the very extensive exercise encyclopedia which will give you a video of the exercise being performed, information about target, agonist, and synergist muscles, and a guide to proper form. Most of the exercises will also have a 3D analysis of the exercise.

I do have just a few criticism of the program, and these are very minor. First, the videos have no sound - this doesn't really matter for the videos of different exercises, but it would be nice for the education videos in the sections like energy mechanisms. Secondly, some of the text in a few videos has not been translated to english. I'm sure this will be rectified in the future, as I've been assured by the creator that updates every month and that the amount of content is always growing.

All in all the program is fantastic and very educational. It would make for a great teaching resource and be very useful for personal trainers and physical therapists alike.

If you'd like to have a free trial of the program then go here: Download Muscle and Motion

Below are the prices for the full version of the programs.

All About Strength Training
Muscle and Motion
They also offer a complimentary subscription to professors and instructors for educational use. For more information click here: complimentary offer

Health in The News - May 23, 2012: Schools get Funding For Fitness

Good day blogland! It's time for Health in The News. This weeks article is about schools getting funding for innovative ides to get kids active. It's fan-freaking-tastic! The world needs more teachers like the ones in this article. Childhood obesity is no laughing matter yo. Read this and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Experience Wins Out

Hi folks,

it's not often that I write a personal post on here, but I thought I'd give it a go to reflect on something that happened over the weekend.

I was volunteering yesterday at the Baker Hughes 10K run here in Aberdeen. It was a huge event, with about 4500 runners. Myself and about 15 people from my class volunteered to do sports massage before and following the run. It was a great success and I got to talk to some really cool people. What I wan to reflect on was one runner in particular who had come to me after the race.

She came for the massage complaining of her quads being tight - as they would be after 10k. I got her unto the plinth and started the massage and noticed her IT was extremely tight, so I put on my physio hat and gave her some advice about stretches and using a foam roller, but while she was there I said I'd try to work it out for her. I must have massage it for about 10 minutes and really wasn't getting anywhere with it, so I asked one of the senior physiotherapist to come over and have a look.

Within about 2 minutes the physio assessed the runner, flipped her onto her stomach and dug an elbow into her butt and released the tight IT band. Later the physio told me after that it the piriformis was in spasm and she did a trigger point to release it. Needless to say, I was humbled.

Sometimes I forget that no matter how much I learn as a physiotherapy student it's the experience of years in the field that will allow to work at such a high skill level. it definitely gave me something to strive for.

Sciatica Part 3 - Treatment Options

Now that we've learned about the anatomy of sciatica and some of the causes and symptoms we can get into the treatment and prevention options.

Firstly, if sciatica is related to low back pain than the general treatment options in this article are useful things to always keep in mind: Low Back Pain General Advice

Treatment of Sciatica will depend on the presenting symptoms and the severity of the symptoms. It was also depend on whether the Sciatica is related to nerve root compression, such as a bulging disk or if it is from another factor, such as piriformis syndrome. This is why it is important to get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of sciatica. The following are just some treatment options that are available. It is advised that you see your physician or physical therapist before trying any of the treatments mentioned below.

Drug Therapy

If the cause of sciatica is due to sacroiliitis or other inflammatory conditions then a common and effective treatment is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This treatment option should be short-term. While this is a common treatment option, a recent cochrane review has found that NSAIDs are only slightly effective in the treatment of sciatica. Nevertheless, depending on the diagnosis, NSAIDs can be an effective treatment option in the short-term. It should be noted that prolonged use of NSAIDs should be avoided because the damage it could cause to the liver, kidneys, and stomach. analgesics and muscle relaxants may be prescribed for pain relief, but these will not be effective in ridding the symptoms long-term.

Steroid injections may be used in certain cases. Injections are useful in the short-term, but often do not provide relief past 6 weeks. Evidence so far seems to say that injections are most effective in the acute phase of sciatica, but not really after. Nerve block injections have been shown to be effective for pain relief in chronic sciatica, but relief is short-term.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has been shown to be a very effective treatment option for people suffering from sciatica. Studies have shown that physical therapy plus physician care is more effective than physician care alone in treating sciatica. Physical will include exercise and advice like that seen in this article: Low Back Pain General Advice. It will also include more specialized intervention like spinal mobilization and/or manipulation. Depending on the background of the physical therapist one of a couple of approaches will be taken in order to centralize (stop the pain from radiating down the leg) the sciatica. Three approaches are the Maitland method, McKenzie method or Mulligan method. Physical therapist may be trained in one particular method or use a combination of aspects from all three.

You can read more about these approaches here: Rehab Students

McKenzie has also written the great book below, which I would highly recommend to anyone.

Self Care

Self care for sciatica may help reduce pain and compliment treatment of other sources. For some people, simple self care will be enough to get rid of sciatica pain. It is important that you continue with self care even when the pain has disappeared in order to prevent sciatica from returning.
Aside from the general advice for low back pain, the following self care techniques can help with sciatic pain:

Lifting objects safely. There's a reason why we're always told to lift with our knees. In the simplest terms, get yourself square with what you're going to be lifting, squat or lunge down to the object, keep it close to your body, lift straight up and try to avoid bending your back.

Avoid bad posture while sleeping. Admittedly, this is one that I find most difficult. it's so easy to curl-up in a little ball and sleep, however this puts a huge amount of flexion into the lower back for a prolonged period. Some simple things like putting a pillow between your legs or on your back with a pillow in under your knees can help. lying on your belly is actually quit good for back pain, however, this can cause neck pain because the alignment of your head when sleeping on your stomach.

Avoid wearing heels. Sorry ladies. Wearing heals causes an exaggerated tilt of the pelvis and also requires hip muscles, such as the glutes or piriformis to work harder. This means that these muscles can go into spasm. If you remember from the anatomy, the sciatic nerve runs behind, or sometimes through, the piriformis. Spasm of these muscles and an exaggerated pelvic tilt can cause compression on the nerve.

Exercises for Sciatica

Keeping fit and active is always important, especially since obesity has been linked to sciatic pain. Regular exercise also promotes a stronger core, and better endurance of mobilizing muscles - reducing the risk of spasm. Some common exercises that may help to prevent or reduce sciatic pain are:

Back extensions: lying on your stomach push yourself up on your forearms, hold for 2 seconds and return to lying flat. repeat 8-15 times. It's important to keep your hips on the floor and make sure it is only your back that is extending. This can also be done in standing. This is one of the exercises that proponents of the McKenzie method above will typically teach patients.

Aerobics: walking, jogging, aerobics classes, etc... have been shown to reduce back pain when combined with flexibility or stability exercises by up to 30%.

resistance exercise: resisted lumbar extensions, such as deadlifts will strengthen the muscles of the low back and can help decrease back pain. Following general strengthening guidelines, such as using a moderate/heavy weight and performing 8 reps x 3 sets can be sufficient. It's extremely important that such exercise be performed correctly, therefore it is advised that you been shown how to do these by a professional. Resistance exercise has been shown to decrease back pain by up to 60%.

Surgical Treatment

It has been shown that early surgical treatment is no more effective than conservative treatment 1 year after starting treatment, but relief from pain was much quicker in those who had surgery than those who had not. It's important to remember that everyone is different, and there are times when conservative management will not be effective and surgery will be. This is obviously a subject that has to be discussed with your doctor. Any one of the above interventions may be effective on it's own, but it's likely that a combination of two or more will be most effective. Any decisions should be discussed with your healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me directly, use my forum, or comment below.



Leggett, S. et al. (1999), Restorative Exercise for Clinical Low Back Pain: A Prospective Two-Center Study With 1-Year Follow-Up, Spine, 24(9), pp. 889

Legrand, E. et al. (2007), Sciatica from disk herniation: Medical treatment or surgery?, Joint Bone Spine, 74(6), pp. 530-535

Kumar, M. et al. (2011) Epidemiology, Pathophysiology and Symptomatic Treatment of Sciatica: A Review, International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archives, 2(4), pp. 1050-1061

Rainville, J. et al. (2004), Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain, The Spine Journal, 4(1), pp. 106-115

Salahadin, A. et al (2005) Epidural Steroids in the Management of Chronic Spinal Pain: A Systematic Review, Pain Physician, 10, pp. 185-212

Wilco, C. et al (2007) Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica, New England Journal of Medicine, 356, pp. 2245-2256

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Healthy Living Blogs.

slight delay

Hi folks. There will be a slight delay in part three of the sciatica series. A couple unforeseen things crept up on me and I wasn't able to finish the post today. It should be ready to go in the next couple of days though. My wife is coming home from a 2 1/2 week vacation tomorrow so things need to be done before she gets back and, well, I haven't seen in her in 2/12 week - so don't expect a post tomorrow. Cheers for now, Brandon.

Sciatica Part 2 - Causes and Symptoms

Now that you've learned the Anatomy of the sciatica nerve we can get into what causes sciatica. As I said in the introduction, I am using sciatica to describe a bunch of terms that are commonly debated. Some professionals believe "true" sciatica comes only from the nerve root, but I would argue that sciatica is any change to function, sensation, or pain caused by compromise of the sciatic nerve. Feel free to debate this in my forum.

Intraspinal Causes

Sciatica is most often spinal/discogenic in origin. This is why many clinicians take the nerve root compression stance for sciatica. Up to 90% of all cases of sciatica will be cause by on of the following intraspinal conditions.

Bulging or Herniated Disc

This will be the "typical" cause of sciatic for someone with low back pain and radiating pain down the leg.  The exact symptoms that you get depend on what level the disc is bulging or herniated. For example, compression at the L5 nerve root may cause low back pain and radiating leg pain numbness and/or pain on the top of the foot and in the webbed space by the big toe. It my also cause weakness in the big toe and a foot drop - inability to lift foot up. This is because the L5 nerve root innervates the extensor muscles of the lower leg and provides sensation to the top of the foot.

This is by far the most common cause of sciatica. Interestingly, recent research has shown that a bulging disc typically causes loss in function and sensation, but not always pain, whereas a herniated disc will cause pain. This is because the nucleus pulposus (the jelly like substance inside the disc) will leak out when the disc is herniated. This jelly has a lot of inflammatory proteins and will act to inflame/irritate the nerve.

Degenerative Disc Disease

In degenerative disc disease there is narrowing of the disc between vertebrae. Degenerative Disc Disease can cause sciatic in a few ways:
  1. This narrowing of the disc can cause the vertebrae above and below the disc to shift and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. 
  2. Bone spurs from form in and around the disc space - these spurs can sometimes compress nerve roots.
  3. The nucleus pulposus can leak out of the disc and come into contact with sciatic nerve roots causing inflammation/irritation.


Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebrae has slipped out of position. This can cause compression at of the nerve. Spondylolithesis can be caused at birth, degenerately (such as above with degenerative disc disorder) or by extreme force.

Lumbar Stenosis

Stenosis means narrowing. Lumbar stenosis can be either central - narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar vertebrae or foraminal - narrowing of pathway where the nerves exit. This condition causes compression on the sciatic nerve and is usually positional, meaning that being in an awkward position can cause the sciatic pain and moving positions can relieve pain.

Extraspinal Causes


Sacroiliitis is inflammation in the sacroiliac (SI) joint. Sacroiliitis can affect the sciatic nerve in a couple of ways:

1. Inflammatory mediators released from the SI joint can inflame/irritate the nerve.
2. Oedema (swelling) from the inflammation can compress the nerve.

Sacroiliitis itself can be caused by a range of different things. Pregnancy and heavy lifting being two common ways. In pregnancy a hormone call relaxin is released in order to allow ligaments in the pelvis and ilium to move more freely. This can cause instability around the sacrum and lead to sacroiliitis.

Piriformis Syndrome

If you remember from the anatomy, the sciatic nerve runs behind the piriformis muscle, or at times through it. If the piriformis muscle goes into spasm then it can cause compression on the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome is more common in women and in runners.


Occasionally, a tumour may cause sciatica - it all depends on the location. For example, a tumour in the femur or pelvis may cause compression of the sciatic nerve.


Obesity may be seen as a cause because it is a risk factor for some of the above mentioned pathologies, such as degenerative disc disease, or disc herniation.

There are other causes of Sciatica, but these are the ones that I would say are most common. It's important to note that sciatica does not always present itself in the same way. As was mentioned above, the exact symptoms you get depend on where the nerve is compromised. It's also interesting to note that not all sciatica will come with low back pain. For example, some people with sacroiliitis will have absolutely no back pain, but yet have pain that radiates from the buttocks down the leg.

Signs and Symptoms

Sciatic can have a combination of the following signs and symptoms. The symptoms you get will depend on the cause and where the sciatic nerve is compromised.

  • Low back pain with pain, numbness, or loss of function in legs
  • Sharp pain in one part of the leg
  • numbness or decreased sensation in all or part of the leg
  • Tingling and/or burning sensation in all or part of the leg
  • Pain that is worse when lying down or in certain positions
  • occasionally an electric shock type feeling in the legs, possibly triggered by movement.
  • Weakness in lower leg, foot, and/or toes.



Legrand, E. et al. 2007, Sciatica from disk herniation: Medical treatment or surgery?, Joint Bone Spine, 74, pp. 530-535

Kulcu, D. G. and Naderi, S. (2008), Differential diagnosis of intraspinal and extraspinal non-discogenic sciatica, Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 15, pp. 1246-1252

Kumar, M. et al. (2011) Epidemiology, Pathophysiology and Symptomatic Treatment of Sciatica: A Review, International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archives, 2(4), pp. 1050-1061

Stafford, M. A., Peng, P., and Hill, D. A. (2007) Sciatica: a review of history, epidemiology, pathogenesis, and the role of epidural steroid injection in management, British Journal of Anaesthesia, 99(4), pp. 461-73

Wong, M., Vijayanathan, S., and Kirkham, B. (2005), Sacroillitis presenting as sciatica, Rheumatology, 44(10), pp. 1323-1324

Sciatica Part 1 - Anatomy

To learn about sciatica, you need to know a little about the anatomy of the sciatic nerve. Below is the anatomy of the sciatic nerve explain. Now, I appreciate that not everyone is a geek about this stuff like I am, so I summarized the anatomy at the end of the post. If you want to skip all the scientific mumbo-jumbo then click here: skip to summary

The sciatic nerve arise from the nerve roots of L4 through to S3 It is the longest nerve in the body, and is about 2cm thick. It is essentially a combination of two nerves the common peroneal nerve (L4-S2) and the tibial nerve (L4-S3) wrapped in a common sheath. Occasionally (~10%), the two nerves around enclosed in a common sheath and one part may go through the piriformis muscles.

The nerve exits the pelvis below through the infrapiriform foramen, beneath the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris, along the posterior aspects of the adductor muscles, down the the knee joint. Once the sciatic nerve reaches the knee it splits and the two nerves within go their separate ways.

Before bifurcation at the knee, the sciatic nerve innervates the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, the short head of the biceps femoris, the hamstring part of the adductor magnus

The peroneal nerve runs through the lateral edge of the popliteal fossa to the head of the fibula and wraps around the neck of the fibula and enters the peroneus longus. Inside the muscle, the nerve divides into the superficial and deep peroneal nerves.

The superficial nerve is mostly a sensory nerve and runs the length of the peroneus longus to the back of the foot. It innervates the peroneus longus and the peroneous brevis, and also provides sensation to the dorsum of the foot (except the first web space).

The deep peroneal nerve is mostly a motor nerve and it turns to the front of the lower leg, innervating te anterior compartment of the lower leg on it's way down the lateral surface of the tibialis anterior and branches off into lateral and medial terminal branches at the front of the ankle. It also provides sensation to the first web space.
anterior view knee
posterior view of knee
The tibial nerve travels straight down the back of the leg underneath the gastrocnemius, behind the achilles tendon and wraps behind the medial malleous. Underneath the ankle it branches off into the medial plantar nerve and the lateral plantar nerve, the nerves. It innervates the popliteus and the posterior compartment of the lower leg.

The medial plantar nerve innervates the first lumbrical, adductor hallucis, flexor digitorum brevis, and flexor hallucis brevis muscles and provide sensation to the plantar surface of the foot. The lateral plantar nerver innervates the quadratus plantae, flexor digiti minimi, adductor hallucis, interossei, lumbricals, and the abductor digiti minimi. Together these nerves provide sensation to the plantar surface of the foot.


Here is a brief about the anatomy of the sciatic nerve:
  • The Sciatic nerve is a combination of two nerves
    • The tibial nerve
    • the common peroneal nerve
    • it innervates the hamstrings and other muscle in the back of the thigh and provides sensation to the back of the thigh.
  • Once the sciatic nerve reaches the back of the knee it splits and these two nerves go their separate ways
    • The tibial nerve runs straight down the back of the leg to the inside ankle
      • the tibial nerve then branches off into two smaller nerves that go into the foot
      • it innervates the calf muscles and small muscles in the foot, and provides sensation to the bottom of the foot.
    • The common peroneal nerve enters into the long peroneal muscle where it splits again into the superficial peroneal nerve and the deep peroneal nerve
  • The superficial peroneal nerve is mostly sensory and it runs down the length of the long peroneal muscle, close to the skin, all the way to the back of the foot. It innervates the peroneus longus and peroneus brevis, and provides sensation to the top of the foot. 
  • The deep peroneal nerve turns and goes more to the front of the lower leg. It runs down the outside of the anterior tibial muscle and ends on the outside of the foot. It innervates the extensor muscles on the lower leg, and provides sensation between the big toe web space.

The sciatic nerve provides sensation to the back of the thigh, and the entire lower leg except for the medial aspect, as well as most of the foot. It also provides motor function to this movements. The symptoms you get will depend on where the nerve is compromised. The reason that back pain commonly has sciatica as a symptom is because it compromises the nerve directly at the origin of the nerve, but we'll get more into that in the coming post.

Sciatica - Introduction

How many of you in your life, at one point or another, have had low back pain? How many that have had low back pain have had sciatica? How many of you really understand what sciatica is? In the next few articles,  I hope to answer A few questions about sciatica.

I will be using sciatica as a blanket term for: nerve root pain, nerve root entrapment, nerve root irritation, radiculopathy, and lumbrosacral radicular syndrome all of which try to better describe the condition.

First we'll start with the anatomy of sciatica. I feel it's essential in understanding just what sciatica is. I'll then move on to the causes and symptoms of sciatica - did you know that pain in the leg is not the only symptom of sciatca? Finally, I'll end with what to do if you are having sciatic pain.

You may want to bookmark this page for quick reference in the future. In that way you can get access to all of the following articles:


I'll be posting these in daily instalments. tune in tomorrow for Part 1.

Also, feel free to ask me questions in the comments section or head over to my forum where I just started a thread about sciatica for discussion.

Hypoxia Training: Point-Counterpoint Essay

Hi folks. I was going through some of university work from my undergrad and came across a paper I had written about training at elevation. I thought I would share it with you. Feel free to be as critical as you want about it, I was in my third year of the degree at the time and I will not take offense if you think this is a pile of garbage.


Altitude training, or in a more general sense hypoxia, has been used as a means of improving an athlete's performance in endurance sports. Three methods of inducing hypoxia via altitude training exist; Live High-Train High, Live High-Train Low, Live Low-Train High. For simplicity this paper will not separate these modalities, but will look at the general effects of hypoxia on an athlete's performance. Many reasons have been suggested as to why hypoxia can improve performance. Two of the more controversial reasons are the change in red blood cell volume (RBCV) and haemoglobin mass which results better oxygen transport, and changes at the muscle site which result in better oxygen diffusion/uptake. This paper will discuss how the altitude training affects RBCV and haemoglobin with regards to oxygen carrying capacity versus changes at the muscle site.
"For more than 40 years, the effects of classical altitude training on sea-level performance have been the subject of many scientific investigations in individual endurance sports" (Friedmann-Bette, 2008). Bartsch & Saltin (2008) suggest that the aim of altitude training is "securing the oxygen supply to tissues and organs of the body with an optimal oxygen tension of the arterial blood." Many mechanisms have been suggested as the limiting factor for improved performance. Researchers such as Levine & Stray-Gunderson are firm believers that that change in RBCV as well has haemoglobin account for a better oxygen carry capacity and thus improved VO2max. Still others, such as Michael J. Ashenden á Christopher J. Gore Geoffrey P. Dobson á Allan G. Hahn (1999) have found that RBCV does not change when living at a high altitude. Finally, Researcher Hans Hoppeler been involved in numerous studies that point to changes in the skeletal muscle as being a significant factor.

Changes in Blood Characteristics

Those who advocate that changes in blood characteristics more greatly influence an athlete's performance than any other factor will point to the apparent increase in RBCV and haemoglobin mass. "One of the most documented physiological adaptations to [hypoxia], is the increased release of erythropoietin, which causes a transient increase in red blood cell mass" (Bailey & Davies, 1997). Coupled with the fact that an increase in red blood cell mass has been shown to elicit an increase in VO2max, it is not difficult to see why many researches advocate changes in blood characteristics as the main reason for improved performance.

Halle, Marti, Wehrlin, and Zuest (2006) completed a 24 day Live High-Train Low study involving ten elite Swiss athletes who lived at an altitude of 2500m above sea level compare to seven Swiss national team skiers who served as a control. In their study they found that the athletes who lived at altitude had an increase in RBCV of 5% from pre-test to post-test as well as an increase in haemoglobin of 5.3%. It was also observed that the Live High-Train Low athletes exhibited a 4.3% increase in VO2max. Levine & Stray Gunderson (1997) report similar findings. They found that athlete's living at moderate altitude (2500m) and training at sea-level observed a 9% increase in RBCV as well as a 5% increase in VO2max.

As can be seen from the above examples there seems to be clear correlation between increased RBCV and haemoglobin mass on VO2max. It can also be easily observed that persons living and training at sea-level do not elicit the same benefits as their altitude trained counterparts.

Changes at the Muscle Site

Those who are not supporters of an increase in RBCV and haemoglobin mass as the factor will point to numerous studies that do not show any increase in haemoglobin as a result of altitude training. Billat et al. (2006) found that haemoglobin and hematocrit counts for athletes were similar before and after altitude exposure. Similarly, Ashenden, Dobson, Gore, and Hahn found that total haemoglobin mass did not change in male endurance athletes after exposure to simulated 3000m altitude for 23 nights.

Researchers suggest that changes at the muscle site, not changes in blood characteristics, account for improved performance in endurance athletes. Hoppeler, Klossner, & Vogt (2008) state that "it is well established that local muscle tissue hypoxia is an important consequence and possibly a relevant adaptive signal of endurance training in humans."

Billat et al. found in a study involving 18 athletes (with nine training under normal conditions and nine training under hypoxic conditions) that only the hypoxic group realized an a significant change in VO2max (~5%) and these changes were not due to blood oxygen-carrying capacity.

Dufour et al.(2006) found that hypoxia induced modulations in mitochondrial function including decreased sensitivity of mitochondrial respiration to cytostolic ADP and increased coupling to phospho-transfer kinases, which contributes to a better integration between ATP demand and supply. Fluck, Hoppeler, Vogt , & Weibel (2003) found that there is actually a decrease in mitochondrial content in the muscle. However, they did find that better coupling between ATP demand and supply pathways as well as better metabolite homeostasis account for improve performance.

According to Freidmann-Bette, Mizuno et al. (1990) and Saltin et al. (1995) report that muscle biopsies taken from the gastrocnemius or triceps brachii of elite cross-country skiers after two weeks of living at altitude and biopsies from the vastus lateralis and grastrocnemius of elite runners living and training at a similar altitude, showed significantly increased muscle buffering capacity. An increased muscle buffering capacity will increase time to fatigue and thus improved performance.

Mazzeo (2008) states that while RBCV increases with altitude training, the net oxygen delivery to exercising muscle does not increase accordingly. He continues to say that "this is the result of an actual decrease in muscle blood flow during exercise, thereby offsetting the improvements in oxygen content. He suggests that the reason VO2max can increase as a result of hypoxia is that the muscles ability to extract oxygen because of the increased (a-v)O2 due to the difference in pressure from sea-level to altitude.


In reviewing the available literature pertaining to the differing opinions of why altitude training can improve performance I am inclined to believe that changes in blood characteristics may play a greater role than changes at the muscle site. One of the main reasons I support blood characteristics as the most convincing argument is the lack of definitive research and support of the changes at the muscle site. In fact, studies, such as those done Green et al., 1989; Hoppeler et al., 1990; MacDougall et al., 1991 as sited in Hoppeler, Klossner, & Vogt found that permanent exposure to severe hypoxia (~5000m) leads to a appreciable deterioration of skeletal muscle.

While Mizuno et al. found that muscle biopsies showed significantly increased muscle buffer capacity in elite cross-country skiers (Freidmann-Bette), a more recent study by Levine and Stray-Gunderson found that muscle biopsies taken from runners did not yield an increase in the buffering capacity of muscle or oxidative enzymes.

Also, increased RBCV and haemoglobin mass is very well documented in studies byLevine & Stray-Gunderson; Prommer & Schmidt (2008); Convertino; Chapman, Levine & Stray-Gunderson (2001), and many other studies.

In looking at the effects of hypoxia on an athlete's performance one must not only look at oxygen carry capacity and the ability of the muscles to to use that oxygen. There are a number of other factors that can come into play such as iron deficiency due to increased haemoglobin (Bailey & Davies), an increased cardiac output and substrate utilization by the muscle (Mazzeo) as well as structural adaptations of the muscle ( Fluck, Hoppeler, Vogt , & Weibel). While I agree that the changes in blood characteristics play a greater role that the changes at the muscle site, I do not feel that lone benefit of hypoxia. Rather, I would suggest that a combination of factors are responsible for improve endurance performance. Mazzeo suggest numerous adaptations to hypoxia, and this presents a convincing argument that compounding factors lead to improved sea-level performance.

Further research is required in this field. I would suggest that should studies completed at a moderate to high altitude (>=2500m), for a duration of at least 16 hours a day for four weeks with the same type of athlete (i.e. endurance runner) and that these studies investigate all plausible adaptations to hypoxia to expand upon our current base of knowledge.


Ashenden, M. J., Dobson, G. P., Gore, C.J., Hahn, A.G. (1999) "Live high, train low'' does not change the total haemoglobin mass of male endurance athletes sleeping at a simulated altitude of 3000 m ` for 23 nights. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 80: 479-484.

Bailey, D. M., & Davies, B. (1997). Physiological implications of altitude training for endurance performance at sea level: A review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 31(3), 183-190.

Bärtsch, P., & Saltin, B. (2008). General introduction to altitude adaptation and mountain sickness. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 18, 1-10.

Chapman, R. F., Levine, B. D., & Stray-Gundersen, J. (2001). "Living high- training low" altitude training improves sea level performance in male and female elite runners. Journal of Applied Physiology, 91(3), 1113-1120.

Convertino V. A. (1991). Blood Volume: its adaptation to endurance training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 23(12):1338-48

Dufour, S. P.,, Doutreleau, S., Geny, B., Lonsdorfer-Wolf, E., Ponsot, E., Zoll, J. et al. (2006). Exercise training in normobaric hypoxia in endurance runners. I. improvement in aerobic performance capacity. Journal of Applied Physiology, 100(4), 1238-1248.

Dufour, S. P.,Doutrelau, Geny, B., S., N'Guessan, B., Ponsot, E., Zoll, J., et al. (2006). Exercise training in normobaric hypoxia in endurance runners. II. improvement of mitochondrial properties in skeletal muscle. Journal of Applied Physiology, 100(4), 1249-1257.

Fluck M., Hoppeler H., Vogt M., & Weibel, E.R. (2003). Response of skeletal muscle mitochondria to hypoxia. Experimental Physiology 88.1, 109–119.

Friedmann-Bette, B. (2008). Classical altitude training. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 18, 11-20.

Hallén J., Marti, B. P. W., Zuest J. P. (2006). Live high-train low for 24 days increases hemoglobin mass and red cell volume in elite endurance athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology, 100(6), 1938-1945.

Hoppeler, H., Klossner, S., & Vogt, M. (2008). Training in hypoxia and its effects on skeletal muscle tissue. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 18, 38-49.

Levine, B. D., & Stray-Gundersen, J. (1997). "Living high-training low": Effect of moderate-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training on performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 83(1), 102-112. Mazzeo, R. S. (2008). Physiological responses to exercise at altitude: An update. Sports Medicine, 38(1), 1-8.

Prommer, N. & Schmidt, W.(2008). Effects of various training modalities on blood volume. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 18, 57- 69. 

Guest Post - Exercise & Eating Disorders

The following is a guest post by Clare Brady of Fitting It All In The views expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Exercise Basics

Hi everyone! My name is Clare and I blog at Fitting It All In. On it I share my attempts at balancing life in the working world and write about my favorite workouts, healthy meal ideas, outfits, amongst other rambling. Currently I live in Dallas, Texas and work full time as an account executive, seeing clients as a Certified Holistic Health Coach on the side.  Please pop over and say hi!

I started my blog almost two years ago as a way to join a community that helped me recover from my own eating disorder. I battled anorexia in high school and college, and after getting to a healthy weight I struggled with binge eating. Reading about other women that were eating big complete meals and challenging their bodies with exercise while still being healthy and happy really inspired me to do the same. Eventually this passion for wellness expanded beyond the blog as I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and graduated this past April as a health coach.

Today I’d like to talk about a controversial topic - the role exercise plays in eating disorder recovery. Please note that while I am a certified health coach, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or personal trainer.

I think the first important piece to consider is what type of eating disorder you have. Exercise obviously exerts energy and burns calories, so it fits totally differently into the life of someone who under eats than someone who overeats.

When I was in the depths of my anorexia, I stopped exercising at the gym. My nutritionist (and mother, who is a pediatrician) allowed me to continue one day a week of dance classes and my low-intensity tennis practices under the condition that I was eating more to make up those calories burned. This helped me maintain sort of normalcy in my life while everything else in my head was kind of crazy.

While I appreciate that I was allowed to continue that part of my life, I don’t necessarily think it is right for everyone. I agreed to the higher calorie intake and continued to gain weight, otherwise my privilege would have been taken away. In addition, dance classes and tennis weren’t forms of exercise where I could obsessively count the calories I was burning, so I did them for fun instead of as a form of control. After all, exercise addiction is a problem too.

For those that are battling anorexia and are severely underweight, the first urgent concern is gaining enough weight back that their lives are no longer at risk and their bodies can function properly. 

Exercise, particularly going to the gym with the intention of burning calories, detracts from that goal. I would assume that many other doctors or nutritionist would agree that exercise should be banned or limited until the person has gotten to a healthy weight and a healthy mindset. At that point, adding exercise such as weight training can be crucial in helping to build muscle and bone strength that may have been compromised during the eating disorder.

Dealing with binge eating or an eating disorder that has led you to be overweight is an entirely different scenario, as exercise can help get you to a healthier weight and provide stress relief. When I was struggling with binge eating I ended up 30 pounds overweight, and learning to really push myself with exercise played a key role in my recovery. For me, it was starting to run and training for a half marathon that taught me how to fuel my body well and treat it with respect, but it could take a different form with someone else. For more on how running changed my eating, read my guest post on MizFit.

I hope that provided some insight into a part of exercise and health that isn’t always discussed. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Thanks, Brandon, for the opportunity to guest post!

Health in The News - May 9, 2012: Longer Commutes May Steal Health and Fitness

Hello Blogland!

well, I'm back. I haven't been able to do much blogging in the last few days because I've been busy with work for University. I'd like to give a big thank you to Luke Johnson of Exerci5e for providing me with a guest post to fill the time that I wasn't able to post.

Right now it's time for health in the news. This weeks story may interest any of you that have to sit in traffic or take the train to work. Apparently there are links between long commute times and obesity. I'm not sure how accurate these claims are, but I guess they make a little bit of sense. If you're sitting for longer you can't burn calories right? Read the article and let me know your thoughts.

Traffic jam on the Thurmaston By-pass - - 133521

Also, I want to thank my subscribers! I haven't really been checking up on my stats for the last two days but, my subscribers double since monday, so I'm tickled pink! If you read this blog then please follow me in whatever way works for you. just use one of the buttons in under my profile on the left.

Oh, and I'm now a top blogger with Wellsphere and my posts will start to be published there as well. I encourage any of you check out the site. Alright, that's it for now, cheers until next time.

Guest Post - Has Personal Training Lost Its ‘Personalisation’?

The following was written by Luke Johnson of Exerci5e and does not necessarily reflect the views of Exercise Basics.

I tweeted about Personal Training being devalued a few weeks ago and one of my fellow University mates agreed with me. We both felt it had, and there were plenty of reasons why this was; below are just a few:

1. No pre requisites
You do not have to have any previous experience or qualifications in fitness to be able to do a personal training course. So, someone who has literally never been in a gym or even exercises could pay the fee to do the course - which is getting smaller and smaller might I add. They may have no previous knowledge what so ever and get a place on a course. Not really a thorough screening process.

2. Intensive short courses/distance learning routes:
I have experienced both of these types of courses. The first one was a Level 2 Fitness Instructing course that was two weeks long. At the time I was doing the first year of my Sports Science Degree, having completed my A level in physical education the year before. I found the course easy because of my studies and experience of being in the gym. However, if you had no experience or knowledge it would have been quite challenging, but achievable since the job role is not too challenging. Having completed my degree I had to do a Personal Training qualification to be qualified to train people.

I chose the distance learning route because I didn’t want to go through all of the anatomy and physiology process that I had just done and at a higher level. Completing the level 3 is difficult for someone with no experience or prior knowledge. If you decide to do the distance-learning route you will be sent learning resources to study and revise and then go in for certain days to perform practical and theory assessments. Pass these and you will achieve your certificate.   

The short intensive courses can be done within 3 months or less. Now, this is ok to pass exams, but to really become a Personal Trainer (and a good one) in 3 months just isn’t cutting it. I currently work in a college where I teach and assess students to become Personal Trainers. The program is run over a year and even then I say to those that are high achievers that they are only 30% of what I feel an established and long-term successful Personal Trainer is.

3. Price of a Personal Trainer and their delivery
Having started my own personal training company and mentoring those that I feel have potential; part of my role is to look at my competitors. Just have a look on Gumtree and type in ‘Personal Trainer’ in London. What you will see is people that cannot spell correctly and their grammar is poor like dis!!. I remember when personal trainers were charging a going rate of £40 per hour but now there are people charging as little as £10-£15 per hour.

These people are not competitors in terms of delivery, but people are attracted to cheaper options, which is a natural response. If you value all of your specialized training and hard work then £15 per hour is just devaluing your service of as a personal trainer. What you have to think about is, “what are you really going to get for that price?” I bet it wouldn’t be what a personal training service should be.
I always say that personal training should not be looked at as an hourly rate, but the whole service that your clients should experience.

Everyone will have their opinion on whether they feel that personal training has been devalued. My opinion (and many others) is that it has been. Let us know what you feel.

With the financial difficulties that we find the nation in we have to adapt. There are a few options, for example, you can stick with higher prices, targeting clients who have a high income and can afford the service. Another option could be to make personal training more affordable for clients’ by doing more fitness/bootcamp classes. Remember there are only 24 hours in a day - whether you charge £50 per hour for one client or do a class that has 10 people in for £5 each. There is no right or wrong option, just what the personal trainer prefers.

About the Author

Luke Johnson is the founder of Exerci5e. Luke has worked in the fitness industry for over 7 years, where he started off as a fitness instructor, transitioning into a Personal Trainer, after completing his BSc Hons in Sports Science. Luke understands the barriers that all young qualified Personal Trainers experience in trying to get a client base. With his knowledge and experience of being in the industry he is passing on his wisdom to the younger generation. You can read his blog here: Exerci5e Blog

Other Great Exercise Blogs

I thought that while I'm getting some other posts together and writing oen of the last essays of my university career i would point you guys toward some other great bloggers out there. These are people that I read regularly and who influence me in some way.

Exerci5e - Exerci5e is actually was started by Luke Johnson of London in 2011. It's a company that offers a range of fitness classes and personal training to people in South East London. I stumbled across them through mutual twitter contacts and got pointed towards the blog run on the website. It has great, practical advice, tips, and stories. Definitely worth a read, and if you're in London, take advantage of the services they offer.

HealthHabits - I'm surprise it took me so long to come across this amazing health blog. It was started by Doug Robb of Toronto (Go Canada!). It is perhaps one of the biggest health and fitness blogs I've seen. In connection with HealthHive media, HealthHabits has a huge collection of articles written by a true professional.

Fitting It All In - This wonderful blog by Clare provides a unique perspective. While most of the blogs I read are more science based, Clare is able to personalize her blog and provide insight from the view of a person who has went through having anorexia and turned their life around. She not only blogs about fitness, but also has nice posts about daily outfits, recipes, and life in general.

Mike Reinold - For the physiotherapist inside me, Mike Reinold is an inspiration. His blog contains concise, clear, well written articles from topics ranging form weight loss to SLAP lesions. He also has a great collection of resources available. If you subscribe to his site you get 3 free gifts as well. Who can argue with that really?

So there you have it folks. 4 of the exercise bloggers than influence me most. Give all these guys (and gal) and read and follow them if you like them.

Oh yeah, if you like me I'd very much appreciate it if you followed me as well. I have many options for following located to the right.

Have a good day all!

How to Follow This Blog and Guest Posting

I've just finished writing a paper for University, so excuse my late of posts in the last few days. I'll get back to regular scheduled programming soon, I promise. I have a few drafts almost ready to go and I'm networking with some great bloggers right now to possible get more guest posts. I realyl enjoy getting guest post because it provides a fresh perspective on things, and can provide you guys with some information that I'm not an expert on, such as this fantastic post by my colleague Kaitlin Freienmuth of Adventures of the Mischief Machine:

Yoga for low back pain

or this great post by Ted Uhler:

Preventing blood clots while flying

If you have a particular topic that you would like me to write about let me know in the comments, or head over to my forum and start a thread.

Don't forget to share my blog with your friends using the share buttons below the each bost, or that nifty looking think on the left of the screen. Also, I have many options for following. You can subscribe to my Feed , follow me on facebook, google+, twitter right here on blogger or subscribe by email below or in the box in my sidebar.
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Also, if you'd like to write for Exercise Basics let me know. That's it for today folks.