Q&A with Mike Furci

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A column by Bullz-Eye Fitness Editor Mike Furci that brings you research, trends and other info to help you with your fitness, health and nutritional needs.

Q: Mike,
I am a 60 year old male and love to do squats but my technique suffers at times because I always want to go heavy. I realize that you have other things to do than answer questions but I notice in the pictures that your eyes are looking straight ahead. I have been re-evaluating my squatting technique and was told that the eyes should be looking up as high as possible as you go down in the squat. The logic given was that this keeps your back straighter. Which is the right way?

How do you ensure that you are going low enough on each rep?
How many times a week should you do squats to get the most improvement?

Thanks for any help you can give.
Dave Patterson

A: David,
Thanks for your questions.
One doesn’t have to look up in order to attain proper form when squatting. However, looking up is an excellent way to help ensure your form is correct especially for those lacking experience. The object of looking up is to get your head to extend. By looking up it will help keep your back in the proper position by helping to prevent flexion or “rounding”. If you look up w/o extending your head slightly toward the ceiling, you won’t get a benefit. The body follows the head.

Another way to ensure your back is engaged properly is to take a deep breath right before lowering the weight. This helps ensure your chest is up and builds intra-abdominal pressure which helps stabilize the entire spine.

I look straight ahead most of the time when I squat. However, he heavier I go, the more my head extends toward the ceiling and deeper my breaths get.

To ensure proper depth, have somebody watch you while your warming up. “Parallel” is what you want to shoot for when squatting. Your femur or thigh bone should be level with the floor at the bottom of the movement. An easy way to judge this is by making sure the crease where your thigh meets your hip (at the bottom of the movement) is level with the top of your knee.

If done correctly, the squat is by far the single most taxing exercise on your body. For this reason I recommend only squatting once per week at the most. You will need this time to recover.

Keep up the good work. Let me know how you do.

Mike

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Did You Know… with Mike Furci

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A column by Mike Furci that brings you research, trends and other info to help you with your fitness, health and nutritional needs.

…agriculture is trashing our environment. The Telegraph discusses what decades of agriculture has done to the life of our soil.

“American scientists have made an unsettling discovery. Crop farming across the Prairies since the late 19th Century has caused a collapse of the soil microbia that holds the ecosystem together.

A team at the University of Colorado under Noah Fierer used DNA gene technology to test the ‘verrucomicrobia’ in Prairie soil, contrasting tilled land with the rare pockets of ancient tallgrass found in cemeteries and reservations. The paper published in the US journal Science found that crop agriculture has “drastically altered” the biology of the land. “The soils currently found throughout the region bear little resemblance to their pre-agricultural state,” it concluded.”
(The Telegraph Nov 27, 2013)

It’s obvious what big agriculture and the government has done to our environment and food supply. It’s time to start supporting local farming.

…in the 1970s, researchers who believed our deteriorating diet had a profound effect on crime, tried to reduce crime through diet. “Research by Hippchen, Schoenthaler, Schauss, and others concluded that hypoglycemia, caused by a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, could account for most of anti-social behavior, they found that hypoglycemia causes the brain to secrete glutamate, a neurotoxin, which leads to agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, panic attacks and violent behavior.”

It’s becoming more apparent that our deteriorating diet in the U.S. is cause for alarm. The meteoric increase in many disorders and diseases (i.e., autism, depression, cancer and diabetes) has a linear relationship to denatured and devitalized modern foods.
((2013). Wise Traditions, 14(1), 19-35.)

…many trainers and coaches still espouse to pre-exercise warm-up that includes stretching. The objective of a study conducted by Brazilian researchers from the University of Sao Paulo was to compare the effects of static stretching, ballistic stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation on maximal strength, number of repetitions at a sub-maximal load (endurance) and total volume. All 12 participants completed eight weight training sessions. Four were designed to stretch prior to weight training. Researchers found that all stretching protocols significantly improved range of motion, but significantly reduce leg press one leg maximum, number of repetitions at a sub-maximal load and total volume. (J Strength Cond Res 26(9): 2432–2437, 2012)

…the barbell back squat (BBS) is widely regarded as the king of all exercises. It is without question. No other exercise works as many major muscle groups as thoroughly or as intensely as the squat. It is also a highly functional and safe exercise, and is used as a key component of many strength training programs including Olympic lifting. The BBS is also a mainstay in bodybuilding routines given its record for overall leg development. Because of its efficacy and versatility, the squat has been studied repeatedly for many different purposes. A review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined studies that investigated muscle activation during the BBS to clarify how the exercise can be appropriately applied for different goals. The following are some highlights of this review:

• Increasing the stance width increases the activation of the adductors and gluteus maximus, but not the quadriceps or hamstrings.
• Activation of the muscles of the legs and trunk increase as a consequence of the increase in external load not stance width.
• Free BBS elicits and higher overall EMG (muscle activation) than squats in a smith machine, leg press and leg extension.
• The squat at moderate loads is a more effective method of activating the trunk stabilizers compared with other instability trunk exercises.
• Muscle activation is not influenced by the use of a weight belt.
(The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4):1169-1178, 2012)

  

Foods you should be eating

Last week we revisited Mike Furci’s list of foods you should avoid and asked you to compare it to what you actually eat. This week we’re emphasizing the positive with Mike’s list of authorized foods.

You’ll see that he breaks it down by proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables. You’ll also notice that there’s plenty of delicious food for you to eat. You don’t have to sacrifice taste or enjoying food in order to eat healthy.

Now that you have both lists, the basic idea is to reduce and replace. Reduce your consumption of the banned foods, and then replace it with something you like on the approved foods list. For example, if you’re eating sugary cereal each morning, replace it with oatmeal or fruit. If you like pasta, trying replacing some of it with whole grain pastas. The key is taking an honest look at your diet and then replacing bad foods with better options.

  

The dangers of sugar consumption

If you’ve been a regular reader of Mike Furci, Bullz-Eye.com’s Fitness Editor, you’ve known for a long time that you should be limiting the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates in your diet. The dangers of sugar consumption are now getting much more attention, and a recent “60 Minutes” story is getting a lot of attention.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses the dangers of sugar with Dr. Robert H. Lustig, who explains how many of our health problems like obesity and Type 2 diabetes. His YouTube video, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” has over 2.5 million views.

This isn’t just about the table sugar you put in your coffee. Most processed foods you buy at the store are loaded with sugars or high fructose corn syrup (which is basically the same thing as sugar). The biggest offender has to be soft drinks, which are probably the worst thing you can have in your regular diet.

As Mike has said for years, it’s not just about calories. You have to pay attention to what types of calories you are consuming.

Watch both of these videos and you’ll gain some perspective on your own diet and health. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cola or a pastry from time to time, but if these are regular parts of your diet, then you need to start making changes. You’ll love how you feel and look with some of these simple changes, and in the long run you’ll be much healthier as well.

  

Get your golf groove back

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Spring is definitely in the air, as March Madness has just produced another Duke championship, and the Red Sox and Yankees kicked off the baseball season on Opening Day. It’s even warm now in C-Town after the nasty snowstorm from last week.

Now we have The Masters this week, with Tiger Woods trying to get back his mojo on the most famous golf course in the world. We now know that he previously had an incredible advantage, as he was able to use his babe posse to ensure he never let any sexual frustration or pent up sexual energy impede his game. Can he still perform at peak levels without this constant release? It has to be more difficult now that he isn’t getting any. Not only that, the whole world knows about it and will be reminding him of it for years to come. This week we’ll see just how good he really is.

While watching Tiger and the other golf pros this weekend, you’re bound to get the itch to get back out there yourself. Most of you avid golfers are way ahead of us on this. With that in mind, think about ways you can take your game to the next level this year.

Naturally, much of your focus will be on your swing and whether you can improve your game by upgrading your gear, but spend some time thinking about your own fitness and how that might impact your game. Sure, this isn’t basketball, and you can still do well in this game with your usual beer intake and your growing pot belly, but improving your general fitness, your strength and your flexibility can give you an edge.

Our Fitness Editor, Mike Furci, has two articles in the archives that you should check out as you approach the new golf season. His first article covers the importance of strength training for golfers, particularly exercises that strengthen your lower back. Here’s what Mike said in 2000, well before Tiger sculpted his body and took his game to the next level.

Many golfers I talk with think that injuries like low back pain and shoulder problems are just a part of the game. What if I told you that a strength and conditioning program can cure most of these ailments, and can dramatically improve the risk of experiencing future problems? In addition, a proper program can dramatically improve your game. Many pros, including Nancy Lopez will tell you that their strength and conditioning programs helped their game, and it also saved their careers.

Many top professionals are seeing the benefits of getting into, and staying in top physical condition. Professional golfers are finally looking at themselves for what they are…athletes. That’s right, golfers are athletes. To be successful in what many consider to be a game of frustration and skill, one need’s strength, endurance, balance, coordination, finesse, and timing. These aspects of the game cannot be found in a pro shop. Most people focus on the latest ball or most expensive club to be competitive. They do not look toward their bodies for the answer. These same people with the finest equipment money can buy, can’t walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air.

Mike followed up that article with another that took a closer look at ways you can prevent golf injuries.

So, if you’re happy with your scores, keep guzzling that beer and inhaling those hot dogs. But, if you want to improve your game, and also look a little better in your new golf clothes, forget about the expensive golf clubs and get your ass in shape!

  

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