The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2009 issue 3



Rope Jumping

For boxers, wrestlers, and many combat athletes... jumping rope is an integral part of the workout routine.  One of the primary reasons for this is the high level of conditioning that is required for these sports and the high effect that rope jumping has on the aerobic system.   

Jumping rope is a high-intensity exercise that builds aerobic and high intensity exercise capacity.  You can easily push heart rate to maximum if you turn the rope as fast as you can.  If you go slower, you still push harder than when you jog with a friend.  So, you get in shape faster than you could running, swimming or cycling.  Scientists found that you work harder jumping rope than you do jumping in place or jogging because you're concentrating on a skill and don't notice the pain.  Rope jumping is a great exercise because it improves fitness quickly, develops fast, powerful legs and cuts fat.

Jumping rope is a simple, low-maintenance activity.  All you need is a good pair of shoes, a rope and a place to jump.  Choose shoes that absorb shock, such as cross-trainers or tennis shoes that provide stability and cushioning under the balls of your feet.  Running shoes are not appropriate because they provide poor lateral support.

Buy a rope that fits you - one that can move easily around your head and body.  A rope that's too long or too short will prevent fluid movements.  The rope is the right length when you can stand in the middle of it and lift both ends up to your armpits.  The rope should turn easily in your hands and not bunch up around the handles.

You can jump rope almost anywhere.  Choose a well-lit area and a flat surface that isn't too hard.  Avoid hard concrete surfaces.  Instead, choose a springy wooden floor (gymnasium), artificial turf, or carpeted surface.  Skipping rope on a mat is dangerous because you can slip and get hurt badly.

Jump Rope Workout
Rope jumping is fairly intense exercise, so use interval training to make it doable while still getting the benefits.  Turn on some music with a good rhythm that inspires you.  Begin by jumping rope for 15 to 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds.  Turn the rope slowly at first - about 120 turns per minute.  As you become more skilled and fit, build up to 140-160 turns per minute and extend the time of each interval.  A good workout is 15 sets of 1-minute rope jumping with 1-minute rest between sets.  Start off slowly and build up.  Jump rope for 30 minutes (including rest).  Scale down the workout if it's too intense.
    (Fitness Rx for Men - July 2008)

Stretching Decreases Muscle Strength Power

Pre-exercise stretching was once part of the normal warm-up ritual of almost all strength, power, and endurance athletes.  Most fitness experts said that stretching increased muscle and joint range of motion, which made movements easier and reduced the risk of injury.  It turns out that pre-exercise stretching is a bad idea that decreases performance and increases the risk of injury.  Pre-exercise stretching reduces muscle strength and power and interferes with the brain's ability to control the muscles.  Greek researchers found that muscle power decreases the longer you stretch the muscle.  They measured the effects of stretches lasting from 10 seconds to 60 seconds on isometric strength and power.  Stretching for 30 seconds decreased isometric strength by nearly 9 percent, while stretching 60 seconds decreased power by 16 percent.  Stretching 30 seconds or longer has similar effects in decreasing muscle power.  They recommended that athletes avoid static stretching of muscles for 30 seconds or more before activities requiring maximum strength and power.  (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 22: 40-46, 2008)

Keep in mind that this article is referring to "stretching" only and has no reflection on warming up!  It is still recommended to warm up prior to resistance training with 5-10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise, followed by a "light" set of the exercise that you are doing (or similar movement) with reduced weight.

Muscle Strength Highest in the Afternoon

What is the best time of day to train?  Most studies show that muscle strength, power and endurance are greatest between about 4pm and 7pm.  Muscle temperatures are generally highest at this time, which probably accounts for the difference.  A study from Finland showed that daily variations in strength and power cease to exist in people who train in the morning.  They examined 27 men who weight trained either in the morning (7am to 9am) or in the afternoon (5pm to 7pm).  Initially, all subjects were stronger in the afternoon than in the morning.  But these differences disappeared in the morning training group, but not in the evening training group.  This study showed that you should exercise in the morning if you have a morning competition, because morning training will eliminate normal strength differences between early and late times of day.  (Journal Sports Sciences, June 12, 2008)

I used to wake up at 4:50am every day in order to squeeze in a workout between 5am and 6am.  As the article above described, it was very challenging to start a routine like this.  My energy was not the greatest, and I definitely did not feel as strong at first.  It probably took me a week or so to get into the swing of things, but exercising before my daughter woke up was so much less stressful at the time... plus it kinda set the tone for the day, giving me a sense of accomplishment.  Hey, I didn't say it was easy, and I like sleep as much as the next person, but I made myself a promise and had to set the priority to get it done.  No excuses! 



Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Plate Climber

My friend Bill told me about this one, so I had to try it.  He said, "Pete, I heard about this exercise that climbers use with paper plates".  I figured that it sounded crazy enough to try, and it certainly was!  You basically use 4 paper plates under your hands and feet so that you can slide them easier on the carpet.  This exercise is very close to total body, although I would say that it primarily targets your core, chest, and shoulders.  Climbing an actual rock wall is easier than this one!


Target:  abs, chest, shoulders (rectus abdominus, pectoralis major, deltoids)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Start in a push-up position with your hands and feet each on a paper plate.  Alternate reaching forward with your left arm while extending your left leg, and stepping with your right leg so that your right elbow comes close to touching your right knee.  Then slide the plates while shifting to the other side.

Senior Strength

Recently I've had a few questions regarding strength (resistance) training and muscle growth with respect to seniors.  This is a tricky question to answer since I, for one, am NEVER going to admit when I'm a senior!  However, in the interest of answering the question, I've done some research on the topic.

The simple answer to the question is "no matter how old you are, your body can still increase its strength and muscle mass."  Muscles are more important than you may realize. For diabetics, more muscle means better control of blood sugar. If osteoporosis is a concern, strength training will not only preserve bone density, it will increase it. If your health problems are made more serious by excess weight, adding lean muscle to your body will increase the number of calories your body burns, even while you are resting, and will make it less convenient for you to store body fat. That's just a sample of the reasons why strength training should be at the foundation of any exercise program.

If you are a senior, bodybuilding can be great for your health but also for your heart and it just may help to prolong your life. Did you know that men and woman who body build tend to look about 10 years younger, feel better and are more confident about them selves?

Seniors build muscle just like anybody else.  Just because you may be a senior citizen does not mean that you have to build muscle mass a certain way.. you just may have to do it slower then younger people. Of course if you have any health problems then you should definitely go and see a doctor before starting any exercise routine. Even if you are perfectly well you should most likely visit your doctor and discuss with him your bodybuilding goals. Remember safety first.

So how do you build muscle? Well you need to lift enough weight to achieve muscle failure this means that you need to lift with enough intensity and enough weight to heat and break down your muscles and then when they heal they will be stronger. This is how you build muscle mass along with a high protein diet. You need to eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight everyday. This is a lot of protein but when it comes to protein supplements then this is easily achievable. Vegetables are great for your body as they help with the healing of muscles and fruits do pretty much the same thing.

Everyone can reap the many health benefits that come from a proper weight training program. Senior citizens may need to exercise with a bit more caution, but will definitely be able to tell a difference in the way they feel after starting such a program.

I found a really good article on written by John Pasco, a 74 year old bodybuilder.  Click here to check it out.  How old is "too old"... I think that the question is really, "when is it ok to be lazy"!  That's a question that you face your entire life!

It's Go Time!

I don't know about you, but I've had just about enough of this cold weather already!  Don't get me wrong, I like my elliptical machine well enough and I've been keeping up with my workouts, but it's definitely not as easy to work up my motivation when it's cold outside and gets dark early.  Be that as it may, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  If it's a priority, you have to make time to make time for it!  I talk to people all the time that say, "I just don't enjoy working out".  Well, I've got news for you... I don't always enjoy it either.  Part of working out involves taking your body out of it's comfort zone and challenging it to improve.  This involves some degree of stress on your system, whether it be cardiovascular or resistance training and stress is not something that is easy to like!  However, the sense of accomplishment after a workout and the results that you begin to see long afterwards is well worth the price of admission : )

Anyhow, I'm getting off the subject... whether March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb doesn't matter to me.  I just want the warmer weather now!  For me that means cycling, rollerblading, maybe some kayaking... there's plenty to do and the warmer weather is awesome for that energy boost that everyone needs!

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


"OBSESSED:  Just a word the lazy use
to describe DEDICATED"

youtube video of the month --> Sledgehammering
I like the fact that he's not wailing on something (ie. a tire) which means he has to stop his momentum each time he changes directions. | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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