I’m a lifter who wants to train for an obstacle race. How do I up my endurance? —BEN C., PORTSMOUTH, NH
Perform low-intensity cardio during your workouts for an extended length of time to develop an aerobic base of conditioning. As your conditioning improves, increase the intensity by adding dumbbell farmer’s walks, lunges, prowlers, or sled pulls for distance, and body-weight circuits with minimal rest to increase muscular endurance. Then, following the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands), the most specific conditioning you can do is run an obstacle course for practice each week leading up to the event.
—JIM SMITH, C.P.P.S. is the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning.
Tip: Sandbag lunges will strengthen your legs and enhance conditioning and core stability leading up to an obstacle race.
Is there any danger to switching your grips frequently on lifts like the deadlift? —ANTHONY M., TOMS RIVER, NJ
Its safe, depending on the task at hand. The overhand grip is better for high-rep sets with moderate weight since it stresses the forearms more. When pulling with maximum weight, though, a mixed grip—dominant hand up and support hand down—will allow for less forearm strain, so switch when grip becomes a factor. Remember to keep your elbows straight since the mixed grip stresses the biceps of the underhand more.
—GINO CACCAVALE is a N.A.S.M.-certified personal trainer.
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Melatonin for Flights
Is taking melatonin before flights an effective sleep aid? —CARLOS G., EL PASO, TX
Absolutely! When we travel we are prone to sleep difficulties without even knowing it—the brain becomes more alert, and we have a harder time powering down. Melatonin, or another natural remedy like valerian root, can, when taken according to instructions and in conjunction with other recommended sleep practices— such as avoiding heavy meals or alcohol before bed—allow you to get good rest while traveling.
—REBECCA ROBBINS, PH.D. is the co-author of Sleep for Success!.
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Is there any benefit to using the adductor and abductor machines? —JULIAN P., BALTIMORE, MD
Injury prevention. Pain in the IT band is often the cause of weak glutes, which can also hamper hip rotation—a significant factor for strong squats and deadlifts. By using the machines to strengthen them, you can help to heal and prevent adductor strains while improving your form and technique on hip-focused lifts.
—PAUL CARTER is a strength coach and hypertrophy expert.
Tip: Using the abductor/adductor machines can help you move more weight on squats and deads.
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Squatting on the Potty
Is the as-seen-on-TV Squatty Potty a gimmick? —WAYNE R., LANCASTER, PA
Not at all, I always recommend to clients that they use a squat stool whenever they’re defecating since we are naturally designed to squat when we go to the bathroom. The toilet incorrectly aligns our pelvic floor at a 90-degree angle from our knees, constricting the rectum and preventing complete elimination of waste. Elevating the knees opens this passageway up.
—JEN GONZALEZ is a colon hygienist and the founder of Doody Free Girl Colonics.
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What’s an adaptogen, and what can it do for me? —PAUL F., HARTFORD, CT
Adaptogens are a class of herbs used to improve the health of your adrenal system, which is in charge of managing your body’s hormonal response to stress. Adaptogens have the unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific needs. They can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without leaving you feeling overstimulated. The most common adaptogenic herbs include Asian ginseng, eleuthero, ashwagandha, and Rhodiola rosea.
—FRANK LIPMAN, M.D., is an integrative medicine practitioner and the founder of Be Well.
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Skipping Rest Day
Is it OK to skip a programmed rest day if I’m not sore? —RICARDO V., BOSTON, MA
If youre training for strength and power, then no. You need to make sure your central nervous system is rested and recovered. You can get away with skipping an occasional rest day, but your goals will suffer if you make it a habit. If you’re training for hypertrophy, the answer is yes, but it depends on how you recover. Two important factors for you to monitor are your day-today energy levels and making sure that injury doesn’t occur from overtraining.
—DON SALADINO is a fitness expert and owner of Drive Clubs in New York City.
Tip: Drinking water before, during, and after a workout aids blood flow and recovery.