Over the past few years, exercise has emerged as a potential therapy (in conjunction with other standard treatments) to help delay cancer progression, reduce recurrence risk, and improve overall survival. Did you know that physical activity has been linked to between 30-60% risk reduction in cancer-specific mortality?
The mechanisms for the beneficial effect of exercise on cancer is complex and multifaceted. Here are a few ways exercise can work (in no particular order):
1. Improved immune system function
A good immune system is necessary to slow cancer growth. In fact, there is a whole type of treatment which aims to increase fight from your immune system called immunotherapy. Excitingly, aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the production of immune cells (i.e. natural killer cells), and infiltrate these cells into tumours. Natural killer cells can produce an approximate 60% reduction in tumour incidence. These immune cells are mobilised within minutes of your exercise starting, and maximal mobilisation of these immune cells is achieved after 30 minutes of exercise. This essentially means you need to have small doses often to get the best effects. Exercise once per week may not cut it. Exercise may also positively affect immune cell activity through muscle contraction-induced release of beneficial immune cells.
2. Increased blood flow to a tumour
The region surrounding a tumour is typically low in oxygen (hypoxic) because the body is not able to deliver enough oxygen amidst the disorganised and poorly working vessel structure of a tumour. During exercise, blood flow increases all over our body, including around any tumours. If we keep exercising, we can improve how arteries, capillaries and veins work within and around the tumour. All of which increases the delivery of our body’s own cancer killer immune cells and therapeutic agents such as chemotherapy drugs, making treatments more effective.
3. Regulating the way our genes express to help fight cancer
Epigenetics is a big word for changes in the way our genes express in the body without actually changing our DNA sequence (all of the those A, C, T, G’s that we learnt in science classes). Epigenetic alterations are necessary for cancer cells to grow and divide; however, on the other hand, exercise can modify the way our genes express and regulate and reduce the growth of cancer cells. This is a fairly new discovery, and more research is needed to understand what types of exercise are more effective for different, ages, races and cancer types. Exciting none the less.
4. Inflammation reduction
Chronic inflammation is widely recognised to encourage tumour growth in several ways: (1) Suppresses programmed cell death (apoptosis). (2) Promote cell growth (proliferation). (3) Improve the ability to spread to nearby tissues as well as distant organs (metastasis). Exercise can play a large role in reducing inflammation via several processes. Getting active can reduce pro-inflammatory markers (the bad ones) and increase the number of myokines (small secreted proteins that can reduce inflammation). All of which can prevent the growth of tumours.
It must be noted that research is still evolving in this area. The effects of exercise on different cancer types still needs more time and research funds. We cannot definitely say exercise will have a significantly positive effect on every cancer and will not cure your cancer in isolation. However, it is clear that being active has so many benefits for cancer patients.
So I figured I might as well do the same with some upper body exercises.
As I alluded to in that previous article, I have been training my upper body for a fairly long time (much longer than my lower body, to be honest…).
The term ‘meathead’ would be an apt description.
However, because of this, I have had the opportunity to experiment with a number of different exercises over the years. Some of which I have found some to be much better than others.
It is these exercises that I have then used with my clients (with great success, I might add) — and it is these exercises that I am now passing onto you.
So, without further ado — and in no particular order — what I believe to be the 7 best upper body exercises.
1. Landmine Press
Boy oh boy do I love me a landmine press.
While this great exercises is not as sexy as a bench press, nor as handsome as a bicep curl, it does offer one serious point of difference.
The landmine press is one of the few exercises that allows your shoulder blade to move freely during the pressing motion, and therefore replicating how it acts in real world settings.
This has obvious carryover to tasks of daily living and a myriad of upper body performance tasks (things like throwing comes to mind).
As a bonus, because the landmine can move laterally, this exercise also improves shoulder stability. This is important, as it can directly enhance shoulder health, while also preventing injuries.
Oh, and I should also mention that because your shoulder moves freely during this movement, it is super shoulder friendly — making it perfect for those of you with cranky shoulders.
2. Inverted Row
The inverted row is one of the few exercises that feature in most of my clients programs, most of the time.
And for good reason too.
The inverted row is a horizontal rowing variation that targets all of the muscles of the upper back. This makes it perfect for improving posture and reversing many of the nasty side effects that come with sitting.
As an added bonus, it can be performed on a number of different pieces of equipment, including in a squat rack, on a smith machine, or even using a TRX.
3. Push Up
You didn’t expect me to leave the push up off this list did you?
Good — because I simply couldn’t.
Like the landmine press, the push up allows your shoulder to move freely, which makes it very shoulder friendly.
With this in mind, when performed properly, the push up offers a great way to improve should stability, as well enhance core endurance and increase upper body strength.
The trick lies with making sure you perform them properly…
And finally, they can also be loaded easily with the addition of weight plates and bands (so no, they are not just a ‘beginner’ exercise…).
4. Single Arm Dumbbell Row
I have a very special place in my heart for dumbbell rows.
Not only are they a great way to increase upper body strength, enhance shoulder function, and improve posture (all simultaneously), but I am pretty sure they are the reason I put any muscle on my upper back when I first started training.
And really, isn’t that enough?
I personally like performing dumbbell rows with both feet firmly planted on the ground, while supporting my upper body on a bench. When done in this way they also increase core engagement, which can only be a good thing.
5. Chin Up
I can picture it now.
The year is 2036, and the zombie apocalypse is finally upon us. I sprint through the streets. Lungs burning, I seek any means of escape. A thousand pair of feet shuffle quickly behind me. Groans fill the air. The taste of fear is thick in my mouth.
The cold embrace of death inches closer by the second.
Then I see it.
Down an alley way to my left, a small balcony. Slightly above head height — I think I can make it.
I turn sharply, moving down the alley as fast as I can.
Launching myself up towards the ledge, I panic — I’m not going to make it.
Somehow my fingers make contact.
I manage to hang on.
With my feet scrambling and my heart pounding, I drag myself up, arms screaming all the while.
As I slide the final few inches, I feel a hand scrape the bottom of my shoe.
The angry shrieks of the undead ring in my ears.
I will live another day.
Thanks to chin ups.
In all seriousness, being able to perform even a single chin up with solid technique is a clear demonstration of upper body strength. It also means that you can control your own body through space, which is important when it comes to managing life on a daily basis.
More importantly, the chin up itself is great way to train all the muscles of your back, and it improves core stability.
In short, it makes you a strong and resilient human being.
6. Dumbbell Bench Press
I simply could not do it — I had to chuck in a bench press variation.
And while the dumbbell bench press is not quite as snazzy as a traditional barbell bench, it is arguably a much more readily available alternative.
The dumbbell bench press allows you to keep your shoulders in a nice neutral position, which makes it very shoulder friendly.
More importantly, it trains the muscles of the chest and hammers the triceps — so you know, beach muscles and stuff.
The strength developed in the bench press has a lot of carryover to various tasks of daily living (like getting yourself up from the floor) and a number of athletic based movements (think of Dustin Martins don’t argue).
In short, its good.
Yeah, I guess I’m a fan.
7. Single Arm Cable Row
And last (but certainly not least) we have the single arm cable row.
If you have ever trained at iNform, then there is a very good chance that you have done one of these bad boys during a session.
They not only offer a great way to train all the muscles of your back, but they also require you to rotate your thoracic spine. This improves your thoracic mobility, which can help enhance shoulder health and reduce lower back pain.
Importantly, as the exercise is unilateral (AKA uses one arm at a time), it is also perfect for ironing out any strength asymmetries you may have.
Talk about bang-for-your-buck.
Take Home Message
And boom — there you have it — 7 of the best upper body exercises on the planet.
Chuck these in your program and watch all the gain train come rolling in.
Is weight training good for your bones? Yes, it certainly is — if you implement it optimally of course. So find out how you can!
Over the last couple of weeks I have written a couple of articles describing how and why weight training is good for your joints (check them out hereand here).
So I thought I might as well keep that ball rolling and answer a question that comes up more often than you might think: “is weight training good for your bones?”
What You Need to Know About Bone Health
Keeping your bones healthy and strong is pretty damn important.
I mean, if they become weak and brittle, then you are going to be at a much higher risk of incurring bone fractures and breaks.
Now this obviously not a good thing.
In fact, it can be an absolutely terrible thing.
I mean, while a fractured bone will be an uncomfortable experience for most, it can be a literal death sentence for some individuals (particularly those entering their golden years).
So, to put it simply, strong bones = healthy life.
Bone Health and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease is typified by a significant reduction in bone density.
This occurs when your rate of bone production is outweighed by your rate of bone degradation (which i should mention is a normal process). In this scenario, your bones will become weak and brittle, in which you become much more susceptible to breaks and fractures.
It would be rhetorical to say: that your body is special. And you would only want the best to be guiding you through your health and well-being safely. And yet, one can still be suggestible- picking up dodgy anecdotal tips from ‘that guy’ on the lat-pull-down machine.
I have personally experienced the exercise benefits, being safely loaded, and moving with confidence with one of my colleagues. Leaving my body and surrendering to an expert has given myself a deeper appreciation of the importance of finding an expert in human movement.
I have always been on the other side to what I have been accustomed too- and as bias as it sounds: my colleagues here at iNform health really know how to manage and care for their clients.
Here are three reasons why you should be exercising with an expert.
1. Your tissues need time to adapt to load.
Your tissues, all the way down to the extracellular matrix- are for ever adapting to stressors and making proteins. Prescribing appropriate load- will ensure ones tissues will safely adapt; which will add a host of benefits to ones neuromuscular system. Reduced risk of tendonopathies, appropriate motor learning and myonuclei growth (muscle hypertrophy). On the contrary, excessive loading that exceeds the capacity of the neuromuscular system can induce the contra effects to the aforementioned. Tendon pathology, disorganised motor learning due to inappropriate load and systemic inflammation (abnormal prostaglandin levels) due to poor tissue healing.
2. Assessing the capacity of the neuromuscular system before undertaking load is paramount- and if neglected, your ‘health professional’ is going in blind.
If there is a muscle inhibition due to de-conditioned tissues, or a previous pathology that was poorly rehabilitated, would you feel safe to be loaded? Or if you were unable to co-contract your gluteus maximums, or have adequate lumbo-pelvic control? And yet, you may still be subjected to axial loading in your first session…! A thorough musculoskeletal assessment can identify any red flags and give your health professional valuable subjective/objective information to prescribe appropriate exercise correctives. This will then ensure more complex movements are performed safely.
3. Co-care is so important in addressing the whole individual.
Here at iNform, our clients are closely monitored by a wonderful internal/external team of allied health professionals; ranging from: GP’s, physio’s, osteo’s, chiros, pod’s and psychologist (without exhausting). All working and communicating together for the greater good of your physical and mental health. Co-care leads to better clinical outcomes, a proper working diagnosis, and the right form of treatments that benefit you the individual.
So, next time you are wanting to move with confidence. Be interrogative with your research. Find an evidence based approach that doesn’t involve a lecture from ‘that guy’ wearing a weight belt with a skimpy muscle singlet (stereotyping much?).
The holiday season is fast approaching, organized sports are coming to a halt, work is winding up and many of us are embarking upon holidays. The Christmas break is a time where we are often given the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family while having a break from a regular schedule. While this opportunity to recharge may be necessary, it can also be to the detriment of any fitness progress and goals you have achieved throughout the passing year. Fitness loss is commonplace, not only during the Christmas holidays but during any extended period of reduced physical activity and we often refer to this effect as detraining.
Detraining and the Residual Training Effect:
Lets talk about detraining, you may have heard about it somewhere along the grapevine or maybe you have had first-hand experience with it, most likely the latter. The relationship between detraining and the residual training effect revolves around the idea that after cessation of training or an acute reduction in volume the body begins physiological processes which slowly untie any positive adaptations to training we may have made (detraining/deconditioning). It is these physiological characteristics that when grouped together make up what we call fitness components. These components include speed, maximal strength, aerobic endurance, strength endurance and anaerobic endurance. Now, while these may not all relate to you, there are most likely one or two which are inclusive in your fitness goals (no matter how basic or specific they are).
However, it may not be all doom and gloom. It is important to know that not all of these characteristics deteriorate at the same rate, some are much more resilient to detraining than others.
The table below gives an outline of how long the physiological adaptations are maintained during a period of detraining.
The Residual Training Effect
What effects the residual training effect?
Duration of training before reduction or cessation
Training age and physical experience
Intensity used during the detraining period (moderate to high-intensity exercise reduces rate)
You may be asking “how does this relate to me?”
As shown in the table above we can see that speed is the most susceptible to change (2-8 days), whereas maximal strength and aerobic endurance are the most resilient (25-35 days). If your goals are to maintain speed and strength endurance it would be counterproductive to completely stop training, these components would best be maintained with a few short sprint and full body hypertrophy sessions during the break. Whereas if your goals are to maintain maximum strength and aerobic endurance; While it would not be ideal to completely stop training, the reduction in training volume would not have such a detrimental effect as the components mentioned previously.
So what should you take out of this?
Try to integrate some moderate to high-intensity training into your break to slow down these detraining effects.
Short sessions with a focus on the components that are most susceptible to change or relate closest to goals are recommended.
Sports where repeated sprint ability (RSA) is critical to performance (AFL, Soccer, Basketball), should focus training on sport-specific needs for the athlete and include short sprint sessions. There is not a great need to prescribe or complete long aerobic/anaerobic endurance sessions during the break where time is often scarce.
Reflect on your current and previous goals and how this concept relates to you if you are planning on taking a break.
With Christmas around the corner, we are entering a period of overwhelming enjoyment.
Days off work, weekends that are filled with staff shows and family functions, and of course lunches and dinners with friends.
How good is it?
But, as always, there is a small negative associated.
Namely the fact that we have a tendency to go absolutely crazy across the entire Christmas period, throwing caution to the wind, and eating our weight in goodies.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am a firm believer that a bad meal isn’t going to derail your progress.
A single piece of fruit isn’t going to make you skinny, and a single donut isn’t going to make you fat. As we all know, it is the accumulation of good habits that keeps us healthy, while alternatively, its the accumulation of not so good habits that makes us unhealthy.
However, despite knowing this full well, we as humans seem to love a good blowout.
I’ll use myself as an example.
The Cadbury Effect
I am a sucker for chocolate.
I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, and to be completely honest, chocolate is my proverbial kryptonite.
Interestingly, my wife and I could have an unopened block of chocolate in the fridge for the better part of a year, and I wont touch the thing. However, if we were to open it, I can guarantee that it will be gone within the hour.
Now, I realize that this doesn’t really make sense, but the reason I do this is to get rid of it.
Somewhere in the depth of my subconscious, I think to myself: ‘stuff it, I’ve already blown it, I might as well eat the whole thing‘.
We know it doesn’t make sense, but we still do it every damn time.
Not just for chocolate either (which is still not great) – we as humans have a tendency to do it for absolutely everything.
Even things that last for days or weeks at a time…
The Christmas Blowout
When it comes to Christmas, things can go downhill pretty fast.
A bad afternoon can easily turn into a very bad weekend. And that weekend can very easily roll into an extremely bad week.
All of which comes down to that same mindset.
“Welp, Ive blown it – ill get back on track after new years…”
Extremely common, and extremely stupid.
All in all I completely understand where we are coming from, but that doesn’t make this mindset any less flawed.
We know that one single afternoon of eating and drinking isn’t going to derail a years worth of progress.
Hell, outside of a little bit of bloating and a potential stomach ache, the likelihood of this single night doing any lasting damage is pretty slim.
But two weeks of eating, drinking, and being merry?
That’s when the damage starts to accumulate.
Diet Damage Control
So in my mind, diet damage control over Christmas comes down to mindset.
Take a step back and realize that a single meal isn’t going to derail all of your hard work and progress.
Enjoy that meal as much as humanly possible. Be social, drink, and be happy.
But don’t let it become a two week binge.
Keep physically active (as normal) over the Christmas period.
Eat as you normally would outside of those key social situations.