Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why You Want to Skip Steroid Shots for Pain

This is not a topic specific to men, but it's from Men's Journal. Steroid injections for pain are a mixed bag - sometimes they help and sometimes they can make things worse (when you can't feel the pain, it's very easy to re-injure).

The study discussed below showed that PT (physical therapy) is just as effective as cortisol injections for pain caused by tendonitis, bursitis, or partial rotator cuff tears.

Why You Want to Skip Steroid Shots for Pain

Why You Want to Skip Steroid Shots for Pain
Credit: Getty Images
To relieve nagging shoulder pain, you might want to skip the steroid injections and try physical therapy instead. A new study found that steroid injections are no more effective than PT for treating pain caused by tendonitis, bursitis, or partial rotator cuff tears.

Researchers gave shoulder pain sufferers either one shot of steroids or six PT sessions over three weeks and then monitored their progress throughout the next year. The two treatments worked equally well. On average, both groups saw 50 percent improvement in their pain levels and shoulder functionality. However, almost 40 percent of the injection group required additional shots to ease their pain, and 19 percent wound up needing physical therapy anyway. All of this, plus the fact that there are health risks involved with injections, leads the researchers to side with physical therapy.

RELATED: A Steroid-Free Back Pain Remedy
"Although injections can help decrease pain in the short term, they don't address the underlying issue," says lead researcher Daniel Rhon of Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. "Therefore, you might need more injections and more health care visits in the long run." But getting multiple steroids shots can be risky. "Steroids can weaken and damage tissue if they are used too often," Rhon says. "There's also a low risk of skin reactions and infection."

Physical therapy, on the other hand, does address the root cause of pain and is virtually risk-free, Rhon says. "Manual physical therapy, which includes appropriately prescribed exercises, can certainly help with [the cause of the pain] and should never aggravate symptoms," he says.
This isn't the first study to come down hard on injectable steroids. Last year, Johns Hopkins researchers found that they didn't work any better to ease back and neck pain than injections of a simple saline solution.  

Bottom line? Every case of shoulder pain is different, so you need to thoroughly discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Together, you can weigh out the pros and cons of steroid injections and determine whether that, or perhaps just physical therapy, is the better route. Though Rhon adds, "I think it would rarely hurt to try physical therapy first." 

Monday, September 15, 2014

One in Five Men Reports Violence Toward Intimate Partners


That is a scary number, but it matches the number of women who report being the victims of intimate partner violence. It's worth noting, however, since it is seldom discussed, that intimate partner violence is almost equally perpetrated by women and men (53% by men, 47% by women, according to the CDC), but men cause more damage.

One in five men reports violence toward intimate partners

September 15, 2014
Source: University of Michigan Health System

Intimate partner violence is more prevalent than diabetes, research shows. One in five men in the U.S. reports violence towards their spouse or significant other, says a new nationally-representative study. The analysis also found that male aggression toward a partner is associated with warning signs that could come up during routine health care visits, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and insomnia, in addition to better known risks like substance abuse and a history of either experiencing or witnessing violence as a child.
One in five men in the U.S. reports violence towards their spouse or significant other, says a new nationally-representative study by the University of Michigan.

The analysis also found that male aggression toward a partner is associated with warning signs that could come up during routine health care visits, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and insomnia, in addition to better known risks like substance abuse and a history of either experiencing or witnessing violence as a child.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine and are based on the most recent data available from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication from 2001-2003. The survey assesses intimate partner violence and characteristics among male perpetrators.

"When people think of men who abuse their partners, they often think of violent people who they have never come across, or people they have only heard about in the news," says lead author Vijay Singh, M.D., MPH, MS, a clinical lecturer in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"However, our study showed one out of every five men in the U.S. reported physical violence toward an intimate partner. It's likely that we've all met these men in our daily environment. This is an issue that cuts across all communities, regardless of race, income, or any other demographics."

Domestic violence has become a growing health concern. In the U.S. each year, roughly 320,000 outpatient health visits and 1,200 deaths among women are due to intimate partner violence, and $8.3 billion is spent in related medical and mental health services alone. The new U-M findings show that the prevalence of partner violence in the country is even greater than that of diabetes.

The subject has also recently been in the headlines, with the case of NFL running back Ray Rice. The Baltimore Ravens released Rice after a video of him hitting his wife in a casino elevator surfaced in the news.

The U-M study found that more than half of the men who reported violence toward a partner had at least one routine health visit over the last year and nearly one third noted at least one emergency room visit over the last year.

"Most of our efforts to prevent intimate partner violence have focused on screening and improving outcomes for women who are victims, because their health and well-being is our priority. Very little work, however, has been done on how to identify male perpetrators," says Singh, who is also a member of the University of Michigan Injury Center and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"Our research shows that male perpetrators of intimate partner violence seek routine medical services, and they have physical symptoms that are common reasons patients seek medical care. This suggests that we may be missing an important opportunity in the primary care setting to identify their aggressive behavior and potentially intervene."

Singh says further work needs to be done on developing identification and intervention programs focused to on male aggression toward a partner.

The nationally-representative sample included 530 men with an average age of 42. Roughly 78 percent were non-Hispanic white, 56 percent were educated beyond high school and 84 percent were employed.

Intimate partner violence was defined as pushing, grabbing, shoving, throwing something, slapping or hitting, kicking, biting, beating up, choking, burning or scalding, or threatening a partner with a knife or gun.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
V. Singh, R. Tolman, M. Walton, S. Chermack, R. Cunningham. (2014). Characteristics of Men Who Perpetrate Intimate Partner Violence. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine; 27(5): 661 DOI: 10.3122/jabfm.2014.05.130247

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) infographic

Gender Studies, Masculinity and Television (via Utne Reader)


This is an interesting look at the dearth of analysis of male characters on television in gender studies. The majority of characters are male, yet they are seldom studied within their gender performance context, while women have been often studied over the last several decades.

This brief article is an excerpt from the Introduction to Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century (NYU Press, 2014), by Amanda D. Lotz.

Gender Studies, Masculinity and Television

Why gender studies should examine male television characters like Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano more closely.

By Amanda D. Lotz
September 2014

Despite the number of male characters in American television, the study of these men—and their roles as men in society—are not among the popular topics when discussing gender studies. Photo by Fotolia/migfoto

Women’s roles on television have been analyzed over the course of television’s history. Through the 20th century and into the 21st century, the evaluation of gender roles has come mostly through the analysis of women. Why not men? In Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century (NYU Press, 2014), Amanda D. Lotz attributes the lack of analysis and typology to the abundance of types of male characters in television, which leads to an audience who is more accepting of the male characters they see on television. In the following excerpt from the introduction, Lotz examines why male television characters have not been analyzed in depth under gender studies while many male film characters have. 

What Do We Know about Men on Television?

It is revealing that so little has been written about men on television. Men have embodied such an undeniable presence and composed a significant percentage of the actors upon the small screen—be they real or fictional—since the dawn of this central cultural medium and yet rarely have been considered as a particularly gendered group. In some ways a parallel exists with the situation of men in history that Michael Kimmel notes in his cultural history, Manhood in America. Kimmel opens his book by noting that “American men have no history” because although the dominant and widely known version of American history is full of men, it never considers the key figures as men. Similarly to Kimmel’s assertion, then, we can claim that we have no history of men, masculinity, and manhood on television—or at best, a very limited one—despite the fact that male characters have been central in all aspects of the sixty-some years of US television history. It is the peculiar situation that nearly all assessments of gender and television have examined the place and nature of women, femininity, and feminism on television while we have no typologies of archetypes or thematic analyses of stories about men or masculinities.

For much of television studies’ brief history, this attention to women made considerable sense given prevailing frameworks for understanding the significance of gender representation in the media. Analyses of women on television largely emerged out of concern about women’s historical absence in central roles and the lack of diversity in their portrayals. Exhaustive surveys of characters revealed that women were underrepresented on television relative to their composition of the general populace and that those onscreen tended to be relegated to roles as wives, love interests, or sex objects. In many cases, this analysis was linked with the feminist project of illustrating how television contributed to the social construction of beliefs about gender roles and abilities, and given the considerable gender-based inequity onscreen and off, attention to the situation of men seemed less pressing. As a result, far less research has considered representations of men on television and the norms or changes in the stories the medium has told about being a man.

Transitioning the frameworks used for analyzing women on television is not as simple as changing the focus of which characters or series one examines. Analyzing men and masculinity also requires a different theoretical framework, as the task of the analysis is not a matter of identifying underrepresentation or problematic stereotypes in the manner that has dominated considerations of female characters. The historic diversity of stories about and depictions of straight white men has seemed to prevent the development of “stereotypes” that have plagued depictions of women and has lessened the perceived need to interrogate straight white men’s depictions and the stories predominantly told about their lives. Any single story about a straight white man has seemed insignificant relative to the many others circulating simultaneously, so no one worried that the populace would begin to assume all men were babbling incompetents when Darrin bumbled through episodes of Bewitched, that all men were bigoted louts because of Archie Bunker, or even that all men were conflicted yet homicidal thugs in the wake of Tony Soprano. Further, given men’s dominance in society, concern about their representation lacked the activist motivation compelling the study of women that tied women’s subordinated place in society to the way they appeared—or didn’t appear—in popular media.

Gender Studies: Focusing on Men

So why explore men now? First, it was arguably shortsighted to ignore analysis of men and changing patterns in the dominant masculinities offered by television to the degree that has occurred. Images of and stories about straight white men have been just as important in fostering perceptions of gender roles, but they have done their work by prioritizing some attributes of masculinity—supported some ways of being a man—more than others. Although men’s roles might not have been limited to the narrow opportunities available to women for much of television history, characteristics consistent with a preferred masculinity have pervaded—always specific to the era of production—that might generally be described as the attributes consistent with what is meant when a male is told to “be a man.” In the past, traits such as the stoicism and controlled emotionality of not being moved to tears, of proving oneself capable of physical feats, and of aggressive leadership in the workplace and home have been common. Men’s roles have been more varied than women’s, but television storytelling has nevertheless performed significant ideological work by consistently supporting some behaviors, traits, and beliefs among the male characters it constructs as heroic or admirable, while denigrating others. So although television series may have displayed a range of men and masculinities, they also circumscribed a “preferred” or “best” masculinity through attributes that were consistently idealized.

The lack of comprehensive attention to men in any era of television’s sixty-some-year history makes the task of beginning difficult because there are so few historical benchmarks or established histories or typologies against which newer developments can be gauged. Perhaps few have considered the history of male portrayal because so many characteristics seemed unexceptional due to their consistency with expectations and because no activist movement has pushed a societal reexamination of men’s gender identity in the manner that occurred for women as a component of second-wave feminism. Male characters performed their identity in expected ways that were perceived as “natural” and drew little attention, indicating the strength of these constructs. Indeed, television’s network-era operational norms of seeking broad, heterogeneous audiences of men and women, young and old, led to representations that were fairly mundane and unlikely to shock or challenge audience expectations of gender roles.

One notable aspect of men’s depictions has been the manner through which narratives have defined them primarily as workers in public spaces or through roles as fathers or husbands—even though most male characters have been afforded access to both spaces. A key distinction between the general characterizations of men versus women has been that shows in which men functioned primarily as fathers (Father Knows Best, The Cosby Show) also allowed for them to leave the domestic sphere and have professional duties that were part of their central identity—even if actually performing these duties was rarely given significant screen time. So in addition to being fathers and husbands, with few exceptions, television’s men also have been workers. Similarly, the performance of professional duties has primarily defined the roles of another set of male characters, as for much of television history, stories about doctors, lawyers, and detectives were necessarily stories about male doctors, lawyers, and detectives. Such shows may have noted the familial status of these men but rarely have incorporated family life or issues into storytelling in a regular or consistent manner.

This split probably occurs primarily for reasons of storytelling convention rather than any concerted effort to fragment men’s identity. I belabor this point here because a gradual breakdown in this separatespheres approach occurs in many dramatic depictions of men beginning in the 1980s and becomes common enough to characterize a subgenre by the twenty-first century. Whether allowing a male character an inner life that is revealed through first-person voice-over—as in series such as Magnum, P.I., Dexter, or Hung—or gradually connecting men’s private and professional lives even when the narrative primarily depicts only one of these spheres—as in Hill Street Blues or ER—such cases in which the whole lives of men contribute to characterization can be seen as antecedents to the narratives that emphasize the multifaceted approach to male characters that occurs in the male-centered serial in the early 2000s. Though these series offer intricately drawn and complex protagonists, their narrative framing does not propose them as “role models” or as men who have figured out the challenges of contemporary life. The series and their characters provide not so much a blueprint of how to be a man in contemporary society as a constellation of case studies exposing, but not resolving, the challenges faced.

The scholarly inattention to men on television is oddly somewhat particular to the study of television. The field of film studies features a fairly extensive range of scholarship attending to changing patterns of men’s portrayals and masculinities. While these accounts are fascinating, the specificity of film as a medium very different from television in its storytelling norms (a two-hour contained story as opposed to television’s prevailing use of continuing characters over years of narrative), industrial characteristics (the economic model of film was built on audiences paying for a one-time engagement with the story while television relies on advertisers that seek a mass audience on an ongoing basis), and reception environment (one chooses to go out and see films as opposed to television’s flow into the home) prevent these studies of men on film to tell us much about men on television. Further, gender studies and sociology have developed extensive theories of masculinity and have been more equitable in extending beyond the study of women. Although theories developed in these fields provide a crucial starting point—such as breaking open the simple binary of masculinity and femininity to provide a language of masculinities—it is the case that the world of television does not mirror the “real world” and that the tools useful for exploring how societies police gender performance aren’t always the most helpful for analyzing fictional narratives. Sociological concepts about men aid assessments of men and masculinity on television, but it is clearly the case that the particularities of television’s dominant cultural, industrial, and textual features require focused and specific examination.

Reprinted with permission from Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century by Amanda D. Lotz and published by NYU Press, 2014.

Related Content

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Real Story of How Women Evaluate Men’s Junk

This interesting article from Salon looks at women are now objectifying men in the ways they have often complained that men objectify them. This is especially true with a man's penis (aka, his junk).

The author notes the polar extremes of how women talk about a man’s dick — in praise of his virility and masculinity, and as a form of total and complete emasculation. Nice. Just sharing the love, now, aren't we?!


This [above] is the Jared Leto crotch-grab referenced in the subtitle.

The real story of how women evaluate men’s junk

From "Bachelor in Paradise" to Jared Leto's crotch-grab, reminders this week that women objectify men's bodies too

Tracy Clark-Flory
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

(Credit: Camrocker via iStock)

“He has an uh-mazing dick.” Those were the words of Michelle Money — yes, that is her real name — on this week’s season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.” She was referring to the appendage of Cody, her now-boyfriend, with whom she had just had an overnight date. Even before she saw the aforementioned member, she told the camera in a pre-date interview that she was excited to see what she would find that evening. “Like, sometimes I get the impression that guys with that big a body have a small dick,” she said, her mouth blurred on the final word, on top of an obscuring bleep. “But I could be totally wrong. Maybe his dick is very muscular, like the rest of his body. Like the hulk.”

I must admit, when she said this, I pumped my fists in the air. That’s not because I enjoy seeing men, or women, reduced to their genitals — quite the contrary! I don’t like it when sexual aptitude is conflated with penis size, either. I’m very pro-“motion of the ocean” thinking, for the record, and to any straight man concerned that his penis is not large enough, allow me to direct you to a diagram of the vagina and, importantly, the G-spot. But it was refreshing to see sex talked about so blatantly on a TV franchise that historically has only allowed allusions and metaphors — and a whole lot of slut-shaming. But beyond all that, here was a woman talking about a penis in public like I’ve only heard women talk in private.

That wasn’t the only time that happened in the show’s finale. Following an overnight date during which her beau Robert wore his jeans to bed, contestant Sarah told the camera, “I don’t even know if he has a penis.” In that two-hour-long season finale, we saw the polar extremes of how women talk about a man’s dick — in praise of his virility and masculinity, and as a form of total and complete emasculation. It also happens that this week Jared Leto inspired a bunch of penis-fawning by grabbing his junk during a performance, which Lauren Yapalater broke down on BuzzFeed via several stills and commentary such as, “WHOSITSWHATITSBALLOOGAAAHELGSKHGLSNDGMSD?????!!!” Just to fully convey her enthusiasm, know that I had to cut off the latter part of the exclamation points, along with special characters, to fit the quote on this page.

We’re used to hearing the kind of despicable “guy talk” that evaluates women according to their bra size or even … interior dimensions — but not so much women. So all these ladies talking about peen made me proud, it made me ashamed — and then I decided to talk to some of my lady friends about how we talk about penises.

My friend “Susan” says she started her sex life fooling around with guys who all had what she described as “very standard-issue schlongs.” Then in college, she started sleeping with men of all different sizes and shapes. ”It was neat, actually — a lesson in the depth of human variety,” she said. “I started to realize that the way people talked about penises — bigger is better, basically — was a symptom of shallow and unimaginative sex.” She did sleep with one man with an especially large penis and says, ”He practically broke my cervix. Oh god, it hurt. There is nothing good about a cervix-banger.”

Small penises are not an issue for her, she says. “I think that becomes more of a problem in a very standard, missionary-style sexual relationship. I know I’m old-fashioned, but I do think that good sex is less about genitalia and more about the way you feel when you’re together — your ability to let go, to surrender, to connect. The soul stuff.”

As for the recent reality-TV dick talk, Susan says, ”I find it funny how women have adopted the objectifying language that is so crude in men. The idea that a woman is ‘a good piece of ass’ or ‘a nice rack’ is pretty diminishing, but somehow, when I turn on reality TV, it seems to be crammed with women who want to ogle a guy’s six pack and talk about his junk.” And now I feel ashamed for cheering them on.

Another friend, the phenomenal sex writer Anna Pulley, is bisexual and in a committed relationship with a woman. “My straight friends always tell me about the penises of the guys they date,” she said, noting that I am the exception (leave it to someone who writes publicly about her sex life to be demure in real life). “‘He had a nice dick,’ has been used more than once as the sole reason to keep sleeping with someone, regardless of personality. Other friends have held up pinkies to illustrate their displeasure with a dude’s size.” Ah, the ol’ pinkie move!

What about men who are not well endowed but have the right moves, though? “I’ve literally never heard ‘he was small but knew how to use it,’” she said. “I think women are a lot more size-ist than they want to be.” Real talk from this one! Although now is a good time to mention that another friend of mine did enthuse to me about her boyfriend, ”It’s small but he knows how to work it!” Pulley added: “I personally enjoy smaller wangs because I am hella tight.” All around, good news for all sizes.

My friend “Georgia” tells me, “When I’m describing a man’s penis to my friends, I often find girth more impressive than length. Curve is often the thing that makes the penis unique. Does it curve up? To the right a little? All of these thing contribute to the experience and are important notes to be shared.” Usually she employs the measuring stick of “thick, thin or average.” A couple of women weighed in on my inquiry via Twitter: One said she once described a penis as “serviceable,” while another told friends of a particularly “huge” member, “I almost died when I first saw it.”

On the harsher side of things, my friend “Mary” tells me that she had a friend who broke up with her boyfriend and then began referring to him as “needle dick.” “We laugh every time,” she says. “She was, like, at one time describing it to me and she said she remembered thinking, ‘Is it in?’” On Facebook, responding to my call for women’s firsthand accounts of how they have talked about penises, a woman wrote, “Stubby. Sorry, Rob, but I was waiting for you to penetrate me and, um, you already had. Then you said your oral capabilities made up for it. They didn’t.”

I suppose it’s fair to conclude that the reality of how women talk about penises is both men’s best fantasy and worst nightmare.

~ Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News You Can Use

It's another Fitness Friday. Today we have Eric Cressey on the negative impact of sitting all day, Christian Thibaudeau on how hard do we need to work out, Tony Gentilcore on mastering the kettlebell swing, and Travis Pollen on adding static contractions to the end of our sets for added growth.

How Chronic, Prolonged Sitting Impacts Your Body – and What to Do About It

Written on September 9, 2014, by Eric Cressey

Last week, over the course of two days, I made the long drive from Hudson, MA to Jupiter, FL. Suffice it to say that all those hours in the car gave me a newfound appreciation (or distaste?) for just how hard sitting is on the body. As such, it was really timely when my friend Michael Mullin emailed along this guest post on the subject. Enjoy! -EC

I would like to have you read the scenario below and let me know if you would want this job.

“Congratulations on being selected for the position of top minion here at Do Everything Against Design, Inc. (DEAD). Our company is a prestigious purveyors of thneeds—and a thneed is a thing that everyone needs (5). We pride ourselves on our commitment to being on the cutting edge of business and we use only the best, most up-to-date information possible to dictate how we run our business.”

“Let me start off by saying that this job will provide all kinds of potential benefits. It is up to you to decide how committed you are. The potentials are endless—overuse injury, chronic pain, depression, increased alcohol use, drug or medication use, cancer, increased general mortality, even bullying—that’s right, just like when you were a kid—are all very real possibilities here at DEAD, Inc.”

* * * * *

How Hard Do You Need to Work Out? 

by Christian Thibaudeau | 09/08/14

Here's what you need to know...
  • You need to train very hard to progress optimally, but if you train so hard that it affects the quality of your other workouts or causes so much stress that performance decreases, it's a bad move.
  • If you train a muscle only once a week, you'll be able to impose a lot more punishment without too many ill-effects than if you train each muscle several times in a week.
  • Testing your mettle with challenge-based workouts can be a great way to see how physically capable you are and preparing for those challenges can boost your training motivation significantly.
  • If you don't go borderline crazy from time to time you lose sight of what training hard means. An occasional lesson in pain in the gym will allow you to keep things in perspective.
  • Puking may make you seem hardcore, but vomiting during a workout simply means that you mistimed your food intake and training, which really doesn't make you that hardcore at all.
Feeling the burn. Driving yourself into the ground. Feeling crippling soreness. Puking. Not being able to walk after leg day. Not being able to drive after arm day.

All of the above are badges of honor for many lifters, but none of them guarantee that your workout was positive and will lead to improvements. Regardless, many of us prefer to focus on these elements rather than on objective progression.

Why? Because doing madman workouts makes you look hardcore, like a warrior. Your workout often turns into a test of how much suffering you can endure. But do you really need to drive yourself into the ground every single workout to make progress?

* * * * *

Master the Kettlebell Swing 

by Tony Gentilcore | 09/10/14

Here's what you need to know...
  • The hip hinge serves as a precursor to everything you probably want to improve, from athletic performance to body composition.
  • The ultimate hip hinge or hip snap movement is the kettlebell swing... and you're probably doing it wrong.
  • Many lifters and athletes make the mistake of breaking with their knees first and making it more of a squat pattern. This is wrong. You want to hinge with the hips first, "attack the zipper," and keep the kettlebell as close to the body as possible.
Hip Hinging for Strength and Fat Loss

The hip hinge is a crucial ingredient for pretty much every lower-body movement you'll perform in the gym that doesn't involve a machine or sitting down. Get it down now and it makes everything easier down the road.

The hip hinge is nothing more than any movement which involves flexion/extension originating at the hips and which also involves a posterior weight shift. Breaking it down more, it's important to note that the hip hinge is in no way associated with a squat pattern.
Hip Hinge = maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend.
Squat = maximal hip bend, maximal knee bend.
While grooving both patterns is important, I'll place more emphasis on the hip hinge because, well, most people move like shit and don't perform it properly. As a coach, the sooner I can correct the pattern and get an athlete or weekend warrior to perform it right, the sooner I can introduce any exercise I want. The hip hinge makes the learning curve infinitely smaller.

* * * * *

6 Ways to Bring the Pain

Deadly Dynamic-Static Compound Sets
by Travis Pollen | 09/10/14

Here's what you need to know...
  • Static holds have long been known to build impressive amounts of mass, if you can stand the pain.
  • By pairing a static hold performed at the hardest part of a bodyweight exercise with a heavy compound lift for the same muscles, you have yourself a time-effective - and brutal - way to gain size.
  • Advanced lifters can ramp it up again by performing a third static hold.
When it comes to building muscle, time under tension (TUT) is king, or at least a big part of the royal court. Historically speaking, many bodybuilding greats have used isometric training to help build their imposing physiques, sometimes doing sets lasting upwards of three minutes. The trouble is, most of us neither have the time nor the patience to hold an isometric lateral raise all damn day. Fortunately, there's a way to reap these same muscle-building benefits with iso holds lasting a third of the time. I call it the dynamic-static compound set.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The 10 Best Movies About Becoming a Man (via Esquire)

Esquire has assembled their list of the 10 best male coming of age movies, beginning with this year's instant classic, Boyhood.

The original version of Lord of the Flies is a classic bit of weirdness and a deep look at the savage still lurking within all of us.

The 10 Best Movies About Becoming a Man

By Nick Schager on July 11, 2014

Richard Linklater's Boyhood.

Shot over twelve years in order to capture its headlining newcomer Ellar Coltrane's literal aging from a precocious 6-year-old kid to a lanky 18-year-old teen, the exceptional Boyhood, in theaters today, takes a unique approach to the coming-of-age saga. But despite the clever gimmick, it follows in a long line of films concerned with male maturation, a process that can be at once funny and awkward, tumultuous and traumatic, depressing and euphoric. Whether somber or comic (or both), these stories plumb adolescent and young-adult experiences in order to locate the ways in which we confront early challenges, encounters, and triumphs, and then use those incidents as stepping stones on the path to adulthood. In honor of Boyhood, we present ten great movies about becoming a man.

Stand by Me (1986)

A truly great American coming-of-age film, this gem directed by Rob Reiner (based on Stephen King's short story "The Body") tracks four friends as they embark on an odyssey to find the corpse of a missing friend. It's an alternately joyous and haunting tale, and one marked by its mature, unsettling snapshot of kids coming face-to-face, for the first time, with their own mortality.

The 400 Blows (1959)

François Truffaut's debut remains the genre's standard-bearer, depicting the adolescent bumps and bruises suffered by young schoolboy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) with piercing empathy and acute attention to detail. Though Truffaut and Léaud would revisit the character four subsequent times, The 400 Blows' legendary final close-up speaks silent volumes about Doinel's transition from naïve boy to young man.

Say Anything... (1989) 

The definitive '80s romantic comedy as well as a sly coming-of-age tale, Cameron Crowe's Say Anything... is rooted in the amorous quest — and concurrent, hard-won maturation — of John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler, the endearingly funny, sensitive high-school guy no one could resist.

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Steven Spielberg's period drama focuses on the ordeal of a young British boy (Christian Bale) living in Shanghai who, during WWII, finds himself a prisoner of war after the city is occupied by the Japanese, and is separated from his parents and forced to contend with the horrors of war. It's one of Spielberg's most quietly evocative depictions of childhood's end.

Lord of the Flies (1963)

Peter Brook's adaptation of William Golding's famous 1954 novel concerns the harsh lessons learned by a group of British schoolchildren stranded on a remote island. Left to fend for themselves, their efforts to survive — and establish some sort of law and order in the process — result in an unforgettable allegory about the alternately kind and cruel nature of both boys and men.

Hope and Glory (1987)

Like Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (released the same year), John Boorman's Hope and Glory charts the difficult childhood of a young boy during wartime — in this case, a ten-year-old named Bill (Sebastian Rice-Edwards), whose turbulent attempts to make sense of the world while London is wracked by the Blitz during WWII is based on director Boorman's own harrowing experiences.

Walkabout (1971)

Stranded in the Australian outback after their father loses his mind and kills himself, a young brother and sister are compelled to survive off the land with the help of an Aboriginal boy in Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout. It's a film of tremendous beauty and terror about the clash between civilization and untamed nature, and how that conflict shapes — in ways both predictable and unexpected — these siblings' transformation into adults.

Big Wednesday

John Milius's unsung surfing movie follows three friends (Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, and Gary Busey) as they grow up during the late 1960s, as the Vietnam War escalates. A rowdy saga of riding waves and enduring tragedies, it's a surprisingly poignant film about seemingly invulnerable men coping with the inevitable loss of youthful innocence.

Swingers (1996)

Unemployed actors enjoy the L.A. and Vegas nightlife — and ladies — in Jon Favreau's Swingers, an amusing ode to getting busy and moving on with your life. Via the fumbling and bumbling of Favreau's mopey Mike Peters, it captures how a broken heart can be the unlikely catalyst for finding your true, grown-up self.

Straw Dogs (1971)

Sam Peckinpah's controversial character study/home-invasion thriller revolves around a wimpy mathematician (Dustin Hoffman) whose very masculinity is challenged when a group of roughneck locals begins terrorizing him and his beautiful wife at a rural English cottage. Noted for its incendiary rape scene, it's fundamentally the story of a coward learning, through violence, to embrace his powerful, ultimately destructive manhood.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Don't More Men Go Into Teaching?

I wonder if there is some kind of schedule that news organizations follow that allows them to know when it is time to rehash an old idea as though it were brand new. Just saying. If so, it's time for the annual hand-wringing about the lack of male teachers.

For what it's worth, this IS an issue, but it's an old issue.

Want to solve this problem?

Pay teachers a wage commensurate with the responsibility they hold in helping shape our children into adults. When being an elementary school teacher pays $75K a year, there will be a LOT of men applying, and there will be so much demand for those jobs that we will be able to get rid of the teachers who are little more than daycare workers.

Why Don't More Men Go Into Teaching?

AS Tommie Leaders, 22, approached college graduation last spring, his professors told him he would have no trouble getting hired. “You’re a guy teaching elementary, ” they said.

Mr. Leaders, who earned his education degree from the University of Nebraska in June, started teaching fifth grade last month in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is the only male teacher in the building.

Across the country, teaching is an overwhelmingly female profession, and in fact has become more so over time. More than three-quarters of all teachers in kindergarten through high school are women, according to Education Department data, up from about two-thirds three decades ago. The disparity is most pronounced in elementary and middle schools, where more than 80 percent of teachers are women.

Educators, advocates and lawmakers fight bitterly about tenure, academic standards and the prevalence of testing, but one thing most sides tend to agree on is the importance of raising the status of teaching so the profession will attract the best candidates.

A change in the gender imbalance could sway the way teaching is regarded. Jobs dominated by women pay less on average than those with higher proportions of men, and studies have shown that these careers tend to enjoy less prestige as well.

Although teaching was once a career for men, by the time women began entering the work force in large numbers in the 1960s, teaching, along with nursing, was one of very few careers open to them. But despite inroads that women have made entering previously male-dominated fields, there has not been a corresponding flow of men into teaching and nursing.

“We’re not beyond having a cultural devaluation of women’s work,” said Philip N. Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. “So that if a job is done primarily by women, people tend to believe it has less value.”

Although teachers have more time off and, at least for now, better benefits and job security than many other professions, their pay has remained essentially stagnant since 1970 in inflation-adjusted terms. The median pay for an elementary school teacher is now about $40,000.

According to Maria Fitzpatrick, an economist at Cornell University who analyzed census data, women who work outside of teaching have seen their pay rise by about 25 percent since 1970 while average men’s wages in nonteaching jobs have actually fallen, also in inflation-adjusted terms. Still, men can earn much more, on average, outside of teaching, while women’s teaching salaries more closely match the average pay for women outside of education.

Because they are still the primary caregivers in families, women may be more attracted to the profession than men in part because they can work the same schedules as their children. Teachers can take a few years out of work to stay at home with babies or toddlers and return to the profession easily (although if they do, their salaries may lag behind those who don’t take time off). And although the recession caused many school districts to hand out pink slips, teachers generally have lower levels of unemployment than other college-educated Americans.

With so few men currently in teaching, other men may be less inclined to view it as a desirable option. “It will be less and less in their head that this is an occupation for males,” said Richard M. Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who has analyzed education department data on the demographics of teaching. “There’s a snowball effect.”

Of course there are other reasons teaching may be devalued beyond the fact that so many women do it. After all, in countries like Finland and Singapore — where students tend to perform better on academic tests than students in the United States — teachers are more highly regarded despite the fact that the gender imbalance looks similar at the front of the classroom. In the United States, where 42 percent of high school teachers are men, high school educators do not enjoy a higher status than those in elementary school.

Teachers unions argue that the swift adoption of new academic standards, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers’ job performance and efforts to overhaul tenure all make teaching a less attractive career for anyone.

“The reality of teaching right now is that it’s always been a hard job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union. It’s “harder now than ever before, with less and less respect,” she said. 

Deans of education departments lament the lack of men, but are not sure what to do about it. Susan H. Fuhrman, president of Teachers College at Columbia University, said she was puzzled by the persistent absence of men in elementary education programs, where women outnumber them nine to one. “I do think it’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “Women went into it without other options and it was a low-status profession that was associated with women, and the fact that it’s now dominated by women inhibits the status from increasing.”

Simply recruiting more men into the profession is not likely to raise the quality of the teaching force.

And at a time when teachers are nowhere near to representing the racial diversity of America’s students, many educators argue that increasing the number of African-American and Latino teachers is a higher priority than simply bringing more men onto the job.

Both Teach for America, the group that places high-achieving college graduates in low-income schools for two-year stints, and Teach.org, a newly formed partnership between the Department of Education and several companies, teachers unions and other groups, have recently introduced initiatives aimed specifically at recruiting more racial minorities.

Still, some educators say that boys, who tend to struggle in school more than girls, could use more male role models, or simply people who understand them, in the classroom.

Some say the notion that boys need to be taught differently or by men simply underscores gender stereotypes.

Rafe Esquith, a 32-year veteran who teaches fifth grade at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles and has written two books on teaching, hopes to show his students — a vast majority of whom come from poor families — “a guy who lives a different life than a lot of the male role models that they see.” Other than that, he said, the value of a man in the classroom “depends on the man, I think.”

Then again, some women may not be eager to open the profession to more men. Men who do become teachers tend to be promoted more quickly into senior administrative positions, said Christine L. Williams, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas who has studied the so-called glass escalator. Nearly half of all school principals are men. If educators are determined to get more men into classrooms, Professor Williams said, the best way would simply be to upgrade the conditions and pay of the job. “And that,” she said, “would positively impact the job for women as well.”

~ Motoko Rich is an education reporter for The New York Times.

Monday, September 8, 2014

10 Health Benefits of Being in a Relationship (via Men's Journal)

Men's Journal has assembled 10 health benefits from being in a [healthy] relationship (they left out the healthy part, which is important - an unhealthy relationship is BAD for your health).

Judge for yourself whether you need to be in a relationship to get these benefits in your life (although, men in relationships live longer than those who are not and, generally, report greater life satisfaction).

10 Health Benefits of Being in a Relationship

Men's JournalTaylor Kubota

10 Health Benefits of Being in a Relationship

Romantic relationships, no matter their length, can be complicated, frustrating, and demanding. Although every couple has their issues, overall, partnering can actually give our physical and psychological well-being a big boost.

“I think the big picture is pretty straightforward: Good relationships are good for our health and bad relationships are not,” says Christine Proulx, associate professor at the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri.

Some of the advantages of being in a relationship are straightforward, like having someone to talk to and share financial burdens with. Others are more surprising, like the fact that men in long-term relationships live longer. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of coupling and how they work.

Click the links below to read more on each topic.

Increased Dopamine and Testosterone

Longer Lifespan

Emotional Support

Greater Wealth

Gain a Confidant

Avoid Loneliness

More Leisure Time

Reduced Stress

Get Taken Care Of

Long-Term Happiness

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Doing The Hard Work Of Becoming A 'Real Man'

From NPR's All Things Considered, Saeed Jones reviews the intriguing book from TC Cooper, Real Man Adventures (2012). The reason this book is interesting to me, and likely anyone who is interested in how masculinity is socially constructed, is that the author is a trans man, a man born with a female biological body but a male sense of self.

Here is the publisher's ad copy for the book:
A few years ago, the novelist T Cooper wrote his parents a letter telling them he “wasn’t their daughter anymore.” And that was the “good news.”

Real Man Adventures is Cooper’s brash, wildly inventive, and often comic exploration of the paradoxes and pleasures of masculinity. He takes us through his transition into identifying as male, and how he went on to marry his wife and become an adoring stepfather of two children. Alternately bemused and exasperated when he feels compelled to explain all this, Cooper never loses his sense of humor. “Ten Things People Assume I Understand About Women But Actually Don’t,” reads one chapter title, while another proffers: “Sometimes I Think the Whole of Modern History Can Be Explained by Testosterone.”

A brilliant collage of letters, essays, interviews (with his brother, with his wife, with the parents of other transgender children), artwork, and sharp evocations of difficult conversations with old friends and puzzled bureaucrats, Real Man Adventures will forever change what you think about what it means to be a man.
I look forward to reading this, and sharing it with my trans men clients who are still working to develop a comfortable sense of a being man without the socialization cis males get simply by being born male. The way that trans men construct their masculine identity is informative for all of us.

Doing The Hard Work Of Becoming A 'Real Man'

by Saeed Jones
September 01, 2014

All Things Considered

3 min 10 sec

Real Man Adventures
by T Cooper
Paperback, 275 pages

Here is something I wish I'd been taught when I was still a limp-wristed little boy: Any man who says that the performance of red-blooded masculinity comes naturally and is easy to pull off is either lying to you, or worse, himself. Being a man, or, constructing manhood is damn hard work.

Some of us just give up and eventually settle into an easier, more breathable version of ourselves. Others resort to all sorts of desperate shows of sexism, violence and general havoc in an attempt to convince ourselves and our culture that we are up to measure.

T Cooper's recent book, Real Man Adventures, examines manhood's precariousness through the lens of his own experiences. The memoir opens, after an epigraph from Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man, with these three sentences: "I am a visible man. By all appearances white, middle-class, heterosexual. Male."

Cooper, a happy married man with two young step daughters, is also transgender. His identity as a transgender man is not and should not be regarded as a paradox. And through the book, via essays both humorous and heartbreaking, lists, illustrated diagrams and interviews with family members and friends, Cooper strives and ultimately succeeds in illuminating what he has learned about manhood on the way to becoming himself.

One chapter is a list of changes he and his wife have noticed since he first started taking testosterone, among them: "I am angry more frequently. Or: it takes way less to make me blazing mad." And, "People defer to me more." And, "I say less to strangers." Later, there's a chapter in which Cooper interviews a trans friend's mother. He begins the interview by admitting: "I'm asking you these questions because I'm too much of a wimp to ask my own parents. Or maybe I'm not ready to hear their answers."

Cooper writes with intelligence and vulnerability as he grapples with the idea of being or becoming a "real man." And in doing so, he gets to an essential truth that we'd all do well to heed: Manhood itself is a work of art, you might say. The stoicism, the toughness, the strength are like a painter's brushstrokes on a self-portrait: "This is who I am. This is who I want you to see." If we are real men, Cooper seems to say, it is because we are real to and with ourselves.

What he has accomplished with Real Man Adventures was not achieved without risk or sacrifice. He weighs the possible consequences of writing about his personal life and thus exposing himself and his family. For all the progress America has made regarding acceptance of transgender people, there is still a great deal of work to be done. But the necessary change, the breakthrough we seek and need begins here in this book, with the honest questions answered and the self laid bare.

I would have loved to read Cooper's book when I was still a boy, but I suppose — since being a man is an ever ongoing process — his brilliant writing has arrived right on time all the same.

  • Saeed Jones' next book of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, comes out next month.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News You Can Use

It's Friday, so it's time for another Fitness Friday. This week we have a primer on the pull-up vs. the chin-up, and a breakdown of the bodybuilder squat vs. the power lifter squat. We also have a report on the state of strength and conditioning coaching. There's an article on "Hellfire Reps." And finally, an article on using complexes for 20-minute workouts.

From Breaking Muscle:

Pull Up vs. Chin Up: A Comparison and Analysis

Amber Larsen - Contributor - Biology, Gymnastics, CrossFit
Chin ups are not really pull ups. Well, according to some Internet debates, that’s the case, but I contend that chin ups are in fact pull ups.

I suggest that pull ups is an umbrella category, and there are several different variations within that category including the overhand grip (traditionally called the pull up), reverse grip (the chin up), and opposing grip. In this article, we will explore the chin up in depth and how it activates our muscles, as well as how it differs from the pull up.
Note: Throughout this article, when I say pull ups, I am speaking about strict pull ups.
Left: chin up; Right: pull up.

* * * * *

From T-Nation:

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Squat

The 10 Components You Need to Know 
by Rob King | 09/01/14 
Here's what you need to know...
  • After the newbie stage, you need to pick between getting stronger or getting bigger and squat accordingly.
  • Mix lower rep squats and higher rep squats for hypertrophy (8-12 and even sets of 25 or 50) and use lower rep squats for strength (1-5).
  • Tempos with a slow eccentric are often useful for bodybuilding squats but usually have no place in powerlifting squats.
  • A longer time under tension is great for hypertrophy, but not so great for strength.
  • Generally speaking, use a high-bar placement for bodybuilding squats and a low-bar placement for powerlifting squats.
  • For building muscle, mix up short rest periods and long rest. When training for strength, have a minimum of three minutes rest between sets to maximize recovery and strength.
  • A bodybuilding squat requires a narrow stance while a powerlifting squat is best approached with a hip dominant stance.
To maximize results from the squat, it all comes down to reverse engineering the movement and asking yourself the question, "What's my current training goal?" During your first year or two of training you can squat every Monday and get results with no problem. But after a while those gains will slow no matter how hard you bust your butt. When this happens it's time to take a step back and pick between the following two goals:

1. Get Stronger
2. Get Bigger

Sure, there's always a carryover in size and strength while squatting, but what we're talking about here is squatting to maximize either strength or size. Why is this important? Well, for the bodybuilder, what he squats really doesn't matter. What matters is the development of his legs. For the powerlifter, no one judges the size of his legs, only how much he lifts. As such, he has to squat with his goal in mind.

Let's break down ten components of the squat and discuss the differences between a powerlifting squat and a bodybuilding squat.
* * * * *

The Current State of S&C Coaching 

by Mark Rippetoe | 09/03/2014

Here's what you need to know...
  • Some of the worst strength and conditioning coaches in the industry are found at the D1 university and professional levels. Hiding behind the innate talents of the genetic phenoms handed to them by skilled recruiters, these coaches bask in glory as they squander the talent of their athletes.
  • The ability to display power is largely controlled by genetics. Explosive athletes are born that way. Athleticism is not very trainable, but strength is. An increase in strength increases the ability to fully display athleticism. So why aren't "strength coaches" focusing on strength development in 2014?
  • What detracts from effective, sport-applicable strength training? So-called functional training, stability work, agility training, incorrectly coached and applied Olympic lifting, machine exercises, corrective exercises, core-specific exercise, and an overemphasis on conditioning.
  • Barbell training with progressively increasing loads on the basic exercises increases strength, power, and all of the other dependent characteristics – for everybody, and for several years.
Note to Future Readers

This essay is about the state of the strength and conditioning profession in 2014, most of which is practiced in high schools, colleges and universities, and at the professional sports level.

Those of you reading this in the distant future, while you drive your flying cars (please be careful), may observe with amusement that all these problems have long since been corrected – if I have even described them accurately here in 2014 – and my concerns turned out to be about as relevant to your advanced civilization as global warming.

From atop your glacier, you may look down on a landscape devoid of weak, overtrained athletes, and wonder just what in the hell I was so concerned about. I hope so.
* * * * *

Hellfire Reps

Fire Up Your Gains! 
by Ben Bruno | 09/04/2014 
Here's what you need to know...
  • Weight and form are often inversely proportional: the higher the weight, the worse the form.
  • Descending eccentrics clean up poor technique, encourage using a full range of motion, and also ensure that you're selecting a weight you can control. They're also great for hypertrophy and better tolerated by lifters with joint issues.
  • However many reps you're doing (5 or 6), the eccentric phase of the first rep should last that many seconds and decrease by one second on each subsequent rep. For example, do a six-second eccentric on the first rep, a five-second eccentric on the second rep, etc.
  • You can apply the idea to virtually any exercise you want – bench press variations, glute-ham raises, pushups, or inverted rows, but not deadlift variations, free-weight rowing variations, and overhead pressing variations.
Getting clients and athletes to use good form is one of the ongoing struggles of any trainer or strength coach.

You can tell your athletes to go all the way down on chin-ups until you're blue in the face. If you're lucky, you may get them to comply with your demands for a few reps, but the minute you turn your back, they'll inevitably start cheating in an effort to crank out more reps.

You'll see the same thing with squats and Bulgarian split squats. If you don't demand a full range of motion and stick to your guns – almost to the point of being a dick – you'll almost never see it. And even if you do demand it, you'll often see people start the set with good form and a full range of motion and then start to cut the reps short as pain and fatigue set in.

You'll also see people try to increase the weight too quickly and just start using a reduced range of motion and sloppier form. In fact, weight and form are often inversely proportional: the higher the weight, the worse the form.
* * * * *

From Bodybuilding.com:

20-Minute Muscle: Better Gains Through Shorter Workouts

Short workouts aren't for beginners anymore. Ramp up your intensity and you can still build muscle and torch fat with this series of high-octane workouts.

by Dan Blewett | Sep 02, 2014


Some days you're so rushed for time that it's nearly impossible to get your regular workout in. But rather than write off the day altogether, consider slotting in a condensed 20-minute training session.

That's for beginners, you say? Not if you use the most of your time by increasing the workout intensity. All you have to do is follow the plan, move quickly, and work hard. You still need to accumulate volume over the course of those 20 minutes if you want to make physique gains. One or two short workouts per week won't make you fit.

The "get in, get out" mentality can pay great dividends if you keep the frequency and intensity up. You'll aim for 4-6 short intense workouts per week, chosen from the following categories, all of which give great bang for the buck.

  • Mid-Range Strength Workouts (3 to choose from)
  • Complexes (3 to choose from)
  • Challenges (2 to choose from)
  • Conditioning (3 to choose from)