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Lifting Weights Won’t Make You Musclebound

In 1937, Dr. Peter Karpovich of Springfield College in Massachusetts published a ground-breaking paper showing that lifting weights helped men improve their coordination. At the time, his paper was ridiculed by most athletes, particularly professional baseball players. They were afraid that lifting weights would cause them to develop such large muscles that they would lose the fine coordination necessary to hit and throw a baseball. Today we know there is no such condition as “muscle bound”. Baseball players all lift weights and they are so much better as athletes that the best baseball players in the world before 1940 probably would not even make today’s professional teams.

Training for strength improves coordination. Your brain is a master switchboard that coordinates your muscles. Lifting weights does not interfere with brain function; it improves coordination in activities that require strength, such as playing sports, working as a carpenter or opening a stuck door. Strength training also makes you faster. Muscles are made up of slow and fast twitch fibers. The slow-twitch, red fibers are used primarily for endurance such as running long distances or performing continuous work. The fast twitch, white fibers are used primarily for strength and speed. The same fast-twitch fibers that are strengthened by weight-lifting are used for speed, so the stronger your muscle is, the faster you can move it. Lifting weights will improve your performance in every sport, since they virtually all require power.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I be concerned about raising my growth hormone levels, as all those supplement advertisements claim?

As you age, blood levels of growth hormone drop. A 1990 study from the University of Wisconsin showed that taking growth hormone enlarges muscles. Since then equal numbers of studies support and refute that growth hormone increases muscles and decreases fat. But over-the-counter growth hormone releasers do not contain ANY growth hormone. The advertised products are amino acids, the building blocks of protein, the same as the protein you get in your food. Eating anything raises your blood level of growth hormone temporarily, and protein raises it a little bit more than fats or carbohydrates. So any food can be sold as a growth hormone releaser without lying, but food sources of protein are a lot less expensive than the pills.

Several studies have shown that vigorous exercise also raises growth hormone levels temporarily. We have no dependable tests for aging. The commonly used tests to measure aging actually measure fitness. At this time, the best recommendation we have for reducing the effects of aging and improving your performance on all medical tests of aging is to start and maintain a regular exercise program.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What’s the proper way to pedal a bicycle?

You should pedal with the ball of your foot, not your arch. The ankle is the fulcrum for the force you generate with your feet. The ball of your foot is further away from the ankle than your arch so you generate far more force with the ball of your foot.

As you straighten your knee, pedal at a 45 degree angle down and forward for the greatest force. Bicycle shoes have cleats that attach to the pedals to keep the ball of your foot over the pedal, where you generate the most force. Don't wear soft-soled shoes that allow the pedals to press against your feet, which can cause pain. Experienced riders know that you should not bend your foot up when you pedal up because it wastes energy and tires you earlier.


Recipe of the Week
Here’s a tasty recipe for Oatmeal Bars sent to me by a reader. If you’d like to share your favorite healthful recipes, please send them to

Oatmeal Bars

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes


June 27th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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