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Military Muscle columns Posts

Military Muscle: Jacobs Ladder won’t let you loaf like other machines

Military Muscle: Jacobs Ladder won’t let you loaf like other machines

Just so we’re on the same page, this column isn’t about the 1990 Tim Robbins thriller, or the Biblical Jacob’s dream of a ladder joining heaven and earth, nor about the rope ladder with wooden rungs that can be used to get from a large ship to smaller craft. And it’s definitely not about the device by which an electric arc travels up two metal rods.

The Jacobs Ladder I’m referring to is a cardiovascular device, 65 inches high by 31 inches wide, with a closed loop of maple wood ladder rungs. It works similarly to a treadmill on a 40-degree incline — but you provide the power. A digital readout shows elapsed time, feet climbed, rate of climb, calorie burn and heart rate (with a chest strap).

You have a choice of holding onto the handles along the side of the machine or grasping the wooden ladder rungs and using a hand-over-hand method to simulate a climbing action. My personal preference is grasping the handles on the sides. I admit I feel a bit more in control (which is probably why I should challenge my stabilator muscles more by grasping the rungs).

I took a trip to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to look at the fitness center devoted to spec-ops training and found one section that had 10 Jacobs Ladders set up in two rows of five facing each other. They were situated near two rows of Concept2 indoor rowers.

I knew these guys were serious.

Military Muscle | Weight vest amps up simple exercises cheaply

Military Muscle | Weight vest amps up simple exercises cheaply

I look for fitness equipment that’s inexpensive, simple to use, portable, allows for a wide range of applications and allows you to maintain a fitness level commensurate with your age and goals.

Over the past five years, the TRX suspension trainer, stability balls, resistance bands and jump ropes all have appeared in this column.

Now we come to the weight vest.

We use weight vests every day at my gym in Pensacola, Fla., and we don’t practice age discrimination. A 77-year-old woman will put on a 12-pound vest for modified horizontal pullups with the TRX straps alongside an active-duty man who is doing step-ups on an 18-inch box with a 50-pound vest.

Military Muscle | 6 therapeutic stretches to help you look & perform better

Military Muscle | 6 therapeutic stretches to help you look & perform better

You’ve probably heard of the two principal styles of stretching: dynamic and static. 

Dynamic — holding the stretch for about a two-count — looks almost like a continuous movement. The focus is on warming up and loosening the muscles.

Static — some call it “passive” — is the familiar 20- to 30-second stretch typically done at the end of an event or competition when the muscles are already warm and ready for the lengthening that they will undergo.

These static stretches are normally done in two, sometimes three, reps. The most lengthening happens on the second and third rep.

The stretches listed here are static and work you through the majority of your muscles. Do these after your workout. If you have a stretching day in your plan, do some mild exercise first so your muscles are warm prior to stretching.

Military Muscle | Foam rolling for the masses — but know the do’s & don’ts

Military Muscle | Foam rolling for the masses — but know the do’s & don’ts

In the past, foam roller massage exercises were for elite athletes. Now the rollers are being touted for everyone, and every sports store carries them.

Foam rollers fall into that area of fitness known as recovery — an area that unfortunately is too often ignored by trainers and athletes alike.

Think of this bottom line: Consistent use of foam rollers will help you get well faster if you have an issue and keep you healthy longer. They also improve blood circulation in the skin, give you better spine mobility and lengthen tight muscles.

Military Muscle: 5 drills for a stronger back

Military Muscle: 5 drills for a stronger back

A lot of folks come to me with back problems — some as young as 25 and, of course, plenty of others in their later years. To help them, I’ve had a great deal of success with the program outlined here.

In the interest of full disclosure, my go-to guy is Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He is considered one of the foremost experts in the world on back strengthening and improvement.

These exercises can be worked in both the strengthening phase as well as a treatment phase for people with back pain.

Remember: These are focused on the muscles and tendons that surround the spine.

Write to me if you have specific questions or want to go further. Bottom line: If you have back issues, always start with your doctor to find out exactly what is going on.