"DEMPSEY" by Jack Dempsey and Barbara Piatelli Dempsey, book review



By Mike James

Boxers come and boxers go. Those with exceptional skills capture the media lime light and crowd plaudits for a short time before drifting off into obscurity; usually via the fists of a new usurper for the throne.

Unfortunately many refuse to accept defeat and continue boxing in vain hope of reliving past glories. As they grow older, their skills and reflexes diminish resulting in more physical punislm1ent and sometimes permanent brain damage. To use the boxing vernacular, they become punch-drunk.

Indeed, there is no sadder sight in sport today than ex heavy-weight champion Muhammad Ali, in his prime a truly beautiful and gifted athlete who could 'float like a butterfly and sting like a bee;' today a mumbling incoherent shadow of a man with a shuffling gait and permanent tremor in his limbs. It is a picture all too common among ex boxers, and more fuel to fire the sentiments of the anti-boxing lobby.

There are individuals, however, whose lives belie this scenario and become revered as heroes by boxing fans and detractors alike. Jack Dempsey, world heavyweight champion (1919-26) is one boxer held in awe and regarded as a legend in American sports' history.

On a recent trip to an Adelaide book-shop I unearthed the now out of print autobiography of this famous sportsman. Simply titled "Dempsey", the book is written in collaboration with his step-daughter Barbara Piatelli Dempsey and describes the life and times of the man known in pugilistic circles as the Manassa Mauler.

Dempsey recounts his humble beginnings as a Colorado coal miner whose only way out of poverty was to capitalize on his greatest talent: the ability to punch with devastating power. None of these recollections are colored by introspective self-analysis. Barbara Piatelli Dempsey' s writing allows Jack's words to speak for themselves.

Intertwined within Dempsey's life is a colorful montage of characters and events (both in and out of ring). The Willard fight, the infamous long count, his trial for refusing to enter the army, his days as a movie star and restaurateur, are all told with disarming honesty.

More than a mere blow by blow description of a boxing career, Dempsey tells of the struggles of a simple honest man in difficult times. Through world wars, economic depressions and personal turmoil Jack Dempsey emerges as the archetypical American hero.

What makes the story even more appealing is its warts and all approach. Dempsey's foibles are exposed; his life is no sugar-coated fairy tale. For any sports historian or fanatic, "Dempsey" is essential reading. It is a timeless work which will ensure that the famous catch cry "I can beat any man in the house" will continue to be shouted by those seeking to emulate the fistic feats of the eternal symbol of American male machismo, the one and the only Jack Dempsey 

Violent to the Core

Report by Mike James

Krav Maga, a brutal but effective defense system is the hottest new fitness regime in New York health clubs.

It is 12 noon in Times Square. We are in the heart, or should we say core, of the Big Apple, New York City. Three doors up from 90th Street on busy Columbus Avenue. a small third floor dance studio is the site for some violence and mayhem that even native New Yorkers would find unusual. While one of the busiest cities in the world goes about its normal chaotic routine. lawyers, professors, teachers and office workers are exchanging punches, eye gouges, head butts and joint breaking wrist locks.

These new Yorkers aren't arguing over a company takeover, negotiating a Wall Street stock deal, or debating the merits of Seinfeld's last episode. They are practising the Israeli self defense system known as Krav Maga.

Classes in Krav Maga are now being held in health clubs and specialist teaching academies in a number of American cities. But this particular self defence system isn't just another gimmick to lure the trendy health club member searching for the eternal body beautiful, or the martial artist trying to be the next Bruce Lee. Many police and law enforcement agencies are also learning Krav Maga to help subdue suspects without resorting to weapons, and as a self defence system for their officers. Average citizens are learning the discipline to improve their confidence in dealing with physically threatening situations.

Krav Maga (pronounced khrav ma-gaah) literally means contact combat. Originally created for use by the Israeli self defence forces, Krav Maga originated 40 years ago when its founder Imi Lichenfield, an accomplished wrestler and boxer, sought to devise a simple, yet deadly form of self defence. The style itself is a hybrid of techniques using punches from boxing and escape and submission ground fighting skills found in wrestling and jui jitsu.

Krav Maga teaches a beginner defences against punches and kicks and releases from bear hugs, chokes and shirt holds. When individuals become more confident and skilled, they are taught how to defend themselves against knives, clubs, guns and multiple attackers. At advanced black belt level, Krav Maga teaches strategies that deal with terrorist and hostage situations. Because of the deadly nature of these methods, Krav Maga is not considered a sport. It has no competitions nor is it suitable for tournaments like other martial arts.

Rhom Mizrachi, 30, principal instructor at the Krav Maga academy in New York. explains that the self defence techniques used are based on 5 major principles. First the style is designed around a person 's natural reactions. "We try to teach skills at the spinal level", he says. "That way a person will react to a threatening situation immediately without having to think about complex moves. It's no use teaching fancy high kicks to a person whose flexibility doesn't allow them to kick high."

Secondly, Krav Maga is not based on a person's strength and power. "A weak person should be able to beat a stronger person or a female beat a male if the correct techniques are used", Mizrachi explains.

Thirdly, a defensive motion is not executed without a countering offensive motion. "If you can avoid a threatening situation, by all means do so, but if you are cornered it's no good just defending, defence must combine with offence."

The fourth principle is fairly self explanatory. Attacks are launched at vulnerable areas such as the groin, knees and fingers. The fifth principal is not to use overwhelming force, only sufficient force to stop the attack and not cause disabling injury.

Katrina Koghe, 25, a keen cyclist and runner, began learning Krav Maga in 1995 after she learned about the brutal rape and murder of a female jogger in Central Park. "I had passed that area many times while doing my laps. I had also heard of 6 other rapes in that vicinity, so it got me thinking", Koghe says. She originally attended a weekend seminar on Krav Maga. After that she became so interested she is now studying to become an instructor. "It's a very easy art to learn and doesn't have the complex forms and many high flying kicks of other arts", she explains, "Krav Maga also has other benefits, It has increased my confidence and overall fitness level. My upper body strength has improved significantly and that has been a great help for my cycling and jogging,"

Haim Zout, 60, president of the Krav Maga Institute in Israel. is the highest ranked individual in this technique in the world, An amiable bear of a man, he has been teaching the art for 35 years, "It's not a pretty art", he explains, "It's designed to defend and attack in the minimum time required."

Even though Krav I aga is certainly not for the faint-hearted, health clubs throughout America are beginning to offer classes at beginner and advanced levels, People as young as 10 and as old as 72 attend the Krav Maga Academy in New York City, The continuous drills and emphasis placed on speed, endurance and co-ordination make for a great workout for people of all ages and levels of physical fitness.

Father and son, Rick and Matt Scheffer, have been learning Krav Maga for over 3 years, Rick, 45 and Matt, 16, look like a very average father and son, but their polite and courteous natures are forgotten once they begin practicing choke holds, joint locks and simulated eye gouges, They chose Krav Maga because of its emphasis on self defence rather than the sporting aspect. "It's a great way for us to do an activity together that doesn't rely on a lot of athletic ability", Matt explains, They had tried kick boxing before but were turned off by the emphasis on competing.

Haim Zout emphasises that the 'underlying philosophy is not one of all out attack to maim or hurt someone, "It is important to be a good person, and it's often better to walk away from a situation", says lout, a point he emphasises to all instructors and potential instructors, "If you are in an unavoidable combat situation, you should only use enough force to subdue your opponent, not to kill or maim them ," Nevertheless, attackers most often don't fight fair, so effective techniques often need to be very brutal. Hence the necessity for normally mild mannered people like Rick and Matt to practice lethal chokes and eye gouges, albeit in a simulated fashion.

During one of Haim Zout's demonstrations, a female student questions him about the effectiveness of a particular method he advises using if an attacker approaches with a club, "What if the attacker is huge and comes for you like this?", she asks, demonstrating a lethal downward swipe to Haim's head, Without flinching, Haim gently deflects the club by stepping in and pushing the "attacker's" elbow, Then within nano seconds, he simulates clawing the assailants eyes with a scooping motion of the fingers, For such a big man, Haim's movements are cat like, resembling a child pushing its mother's hand away while scooping out some extra ice cream with its fingers, the attack is diverted effortlessly.

Will Krav Maga follow Boxacise, Spinning and Muscle Fitness as the new must-do class at health clubs? With personal safety an increasingly important issue in most big cities around the world, Krav Maga is becoming more and more popular among people of all ages, male and female, Over 100 police departments throughout America are now learning the discipline and Krav Maga institutes can also be found in countries in Europe and South America.

Mike James is Manager, Fitness Center, Health Services Department, The World Bank, Washington, USA.

True or False?

Facts, fallacies and falsehoods from the world of physical fitness. Mike James breaks the shackles of age old husband and wives tales.

If you stop weight training your muscles turn into fat! Saunas and rubberized clothing will help you to lose weight! Grapefruit will burn up fat! ... Words of wisdom? No, absolute hogwash!

Ever since man has exposed the benefits of regular exercise and proper nutrition, there have been many myths which have somehow translated into facts in the minds of many people.

We can even look back as far as the turn of the century where an American named Horace Fletcher gained prominence by claiming that the full nutritional benefit could only be gained by chewing food 32 times. Fletcher's theory was based on the fact that human beings have 32 teeth and thus should masticate their food 32 times before swallowing. His theory came to be known as "Fletcherism" and apparently gained some prominence among fitness fanatics of the time.

Today with greater medical and scientific research we can look back and laugh at the folly of such theories. Yet even today it is still surprising to see how many of these age old myths and misconceptions still exist.

Let's examine 5 of the more commonly held beliefs:

Myth 1: When you stop weight training your muscle will turn into fat.

The origins of this myth can again be traced back to the early part of the 20th century. During this time travelling circuses often had a resident "moustache twirling" strong man who lifted heavy weights and performed amazing feats of strength.

Weights in these days were rather cumbersome and usually consisted of cast iron globes joined by a heavy welded piece of iron. Plate loaded barbells and dumbbells did not come into existence till circa 1920. These circus strongmen were usually large, bulky men devoid of any athletic prowess who trained on beer as much as exercise.

So the popular myth of weights leading to a bulky, clumsy physique was born. The advent of the plate loaded barbell and systematic weight training programs has helped to demystify weight training. Today weight training is an integral part of training for people of all sports and for the general fitness enthusiasts.

The error of this claim is not merely a result of people's misguided perceptions. The fundamental concept of muscle turning into fat is a physical impossibility. Muscle and fat are two different cellular structures. One cannot miraculously turn into another. This would be akin to wood changing into metal.

What often happens is that people upon stopping weight training or exercise decrease their energy expenditure. If there is not a corresponding decrease in calorie intake, there will be an increase in adipose or fat tissue. This is particularly apparent with weight training where a complete stop in training will result in muscle atrophy (shrinkage). This loss in muscle size when combined with increased fat tissue will add to the misconception that muscle has turned into fat.

Myth 2: Saunas and rubberized clothing enhance weight loss.

Saunas and the wearing of rubberized clothing while exercising have frequently been used by jockeys, wrestlers and boxers as a means of getting down to a prescribed weight limit. The increased sweat loss leads to an immediate loss in weight.

This weight loss is not permanent and the practice can prove to be very dangerous. When jockeys and boxers weigh in for their event they are often in a dangerously dehydrated state. Once they are declared "correct weight" they are usually rushed away and given copious amounts of water to replenish their vital bodily fluids.

The wearing of rubberized clothing can be particularly dangerous. This type of clothing doesn't allow sweat to evaporate and so hinders the body's cooling process. The resulting dramatic increases in body temperature can cause excessive dehydration and ultimately heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Myth 3: The concept of spot reduction.

Many people believe that by exercising a specific area, for example, the hips or buttocks, the fat in that area will disappear. Prime examples of this are people doing high repetitions of sit ups, leg raises and single leg lifts to selectively decrease fat of the stomach and thighs.

Although this will tone up the desired areas, there is no evidence to suggest that fat will be selectively utilized from these areas. Research indicates that fat is burned up from fat stored all over the body.

To reduce body fat you should decrease calorie intake and increase your energy expenditure with a combination of aerobic and muscle toning exercise.

Myth 4: Weight training can lead to the development of excess muscle bulk in females.

For years coaches and athletic trainers eschewed the benefits of weight training for females claiming it would lead to increased muscle bulk and hence slower athletes.

Again extreme examples like Olympic shot putters and competitive body-builder were seen as the norm for the average person. However, recent research has shown that muscle bulk is dependent largely on the presence of the male hormone testosterone.

Females, in most cases aren't able to develop large muscle bulk as their bodies do not produce testosterone in sufficient enough quantities. A properly constructed weight training program can help in toning up the body and improving posture, strength and muscular endurance. Many of today's leading film and recording artists like Cher and Linda Hamilton, see weight training as an essential part of their fitness regime.

Myth 5: Grapefruit helps in weight loss by burning fat.

Over the years, many foods such as grapefruit and protein drinks have gained notoriety as being exclusive foods which help burn up fat. Why food like grapefruit have been singled out is not clear. Perhaps grapefruit's acidic nature gave rise to the notion of burning up fat.

Many foods which have from time to time claimed "fat burning" abilities are low in calories and may be used as a substitute for more calorific foods, thus helping in weight loss. As the term implies, this food would have to enter fat cells and burn them away -clearly a false concept indeed.

The Stretch


Flexibility is one of the most neglected aspects of physical fitness. Michael James explains why we should want it and how to get it.

Most of us can remember being exhorted to sit up straight, put our shoulders back and stomach in for the sake of a better posture, or touch our toes and bend to the side to improve our body's suppleness. We were usually cajoled into doing these sorts of things by an enthusiastic Phys. Ed teacher passing down age-old wisdom from yesteryear.

It is only in recent times that flexibility has come to be regarded as an essential component of our physical fitness and well being. Preevent warm up and body stretches were often regarded as annoying, particularly by Aussie Rules Footballers who saw it as an imposition and a nuisance, curbing their enthusiasm to get out and "have a kick". Indeed many regarded flexibility as solely the realm of the nimble, agile ballet dancer, high flying gymnast or circus contortionist, twisting his body into grotesque shapes. Mae West was heard to say "I was engaged to a contortionist once, but I broke it off because I couldn't see things from his angle".

While the average person won't need to aim for the agility and suppleness of a Nureyev nor the bodily twists and turns of Mae West's fiance, flexibility is still vitally important. Flexible muscles and joints enable us to move freely, increase our range of motions and lessen the likelihood of soft tissue injuries to vulnerable areas like the lower back, hamstrings, groin and calves.

Flexibility not only helps in performing sporting skills but can also aid in everyday tasks like gardening, lifting, household chores or the need for sudden bursts of energy like running for the bus. Flexibility is not the ability to touch the toes, do the splits or perform the can-can. What we are referring to is the ability of joints to move through their full range of motion.

It is important to realise that there are a number of inherent limitations to one's range of motion. This is so because muscles, ligaments, joint capsules and tendons are limited by their anatomical structure. A good example is the elbow which is a hinge joint. The associated limbs and muscles of the forearm move only in flexion/extension with no hyperextension or lateral movement. In contrast the hip -a ball and socket type joint, can move forward and backwards, laterally and in full rotation.

Range of motion also varies greatly between individuals. Some people's inherent anatomical structure makes it easier for them to bend and stretch. Bear this in mind when introducing a flexibility component to your exercise program. You should only stretch to your own limitations -don't try and compete with people who have a much greater degree of muscle and joint elasticity.


There are three common methods of stretching:

  1. Static Stretching. Here the muscle is stretched slowly to its full range and is held for 15 -30 seconds. It is important that you breathe freely. Do not hold your breath.
  2. Ballistic Stretching. Ballistic stretching is -done with a bouncing, jerky movement. This form of stretching is not recommended as it can lead to a tear in the muscle fibres.
  3. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (P.N.F.) P.N.F. Stretching refers to partner assisted stretching. Here the joint is stretched to its full range of motion until the person senses tightening. This position is held for 8 to 10 seconds. As soon as this is completed the muscle relaxes and is challenged by the partner gently forcing additional movement. This movement is continued until tightening, whereupon the stretch is again held for 8 to 10 seconds.

This type of stretch is particularly useful for sports performers. It should be done with care and control by an experienced person as P.N.F. can lead to injury by pushing a joint past its limit too quickly and forcefully.

For the beginner, static stretching is recommended because it is done in a controlled fashion, so decreasing the likelihood of injury.


It is important to warm up prior to stretching, to enable blood to flow to the extremities, ie. arms and legs, to get the body ready for physical activity. Stretching a cold, tight muscle could lead to muscle tearing. Brisk walking, light jogging and cycling are ideal warm up activities.

You should concentrate on total body flexibility, not just one body part. Naturally if you are participating in a specific high powered activity like sprinting, squash or Aussie Rules, it is advisable to devote more time to stretching specific muscles like the hamstrings, thighs and groin. If you are playing a racquet sport, some upper body stretches will be useful.

There are many different stretching exercises. Some of the traditional exercises like toe touching are not recommended. Consult with a qualified Physical Educator prior to embarking on a stretching programme to ensure you are exercising within safe limits.

Today you will notice sporting teams and individuals practising pre and post event stretching drills as an integral part of their participation. These exercises are considered so essential that many Australian Football League clubs actually fine their players if warm ups are not completed.


Abdominal strength is another factor which is necessary for good flexibility. Weak stomach muscles can lead to a protrusion of the abdomen or the commonly called "pot belly". This pot belly can result in the pelvis tilting out of alignment causing the lower lumbar vertebrae to impinge. This often leads to localized muscle soreness in the lower back and in acute cases a painful nerve impingement condition like sciatica. A strong set of abdominal muscles will not only look more appealing, it will also result in improved posture and less likelihood of back problems.

To help strengthen the back a few abdominal exercises should be incorporated into your routine. Bent knee sit ups and abdominal curls are good exercises for the waist area.


The inclusion of a flexibility component in your exercise programme need not be a long, drawn out public performance. A few static stretches for upper and lower body prior to and after activity should take only 10 to 15 minutes. This short space of time will not only help improve your range of motion, it will also aid in warming and stretching the muscles before activity and cooling the body and preventing blood pooling in the legs after activity.

Remember to walk or jog or cycle lightly prior to stretching. Follow these simple guidelines to flexibility training and you will be able to reach for the sky and make ends meet without stretching your fitness beyond the outer limits.




A kicking, punching new exercise that has taken the US by storm has its fans and its critics.

By Mike James

Australia has its fair share of sincere, neatly coifed presenters on late night television, enthusiastically endorsing everything from kitchen appliances and weight loss devices, to memory enhancement systems and fool proof ways to improve your golf swing. In America, however, with its abundance of cable television stations, infomercials absolutely saturate the airwaves. The fitness industry is a prime target for infomercial producers trying to promote the new 'must have' piece of fitness equipment, dietary supplement or exercise regime.

The newest fitness craze to sweep American is Tae-Bo. In the five years I have lived in the United States I have never seen as much publicity given to an exercise program or fitness product. The Tae-Bo publicity machine is not confined to infomercials. The tae-Bo publicity machine is not confined to infomercials. The creator of this exercise system, seven times world karate champ Billy Blanks, has recently appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show and nearly every other major program on broadcast television. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars have jumped on the band wagon with comedian/actor Sinbad, singer Paula Abdul and General Hospital star, Real Andrews, eagerly espousing the benefits of Tae-Bo. Add to this a list of devotees that includes Ryan O'Neal, Goldie Hawn, Pamela Anderson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Shaquille O'Neal and a host of others from the world of sport and entertainment

So what the heck is Tae-Bo? Basically it is a form of exercise which combines the skills, moves and drills of Tae Kwon Do and Boxing. What makes it different from boxing, kickboxing or other martial arts is the intensity and the variety of movements used.


Billy Blanks has created a work out system set to hip-hop music. A typical class lasts 60 to 75 minutes and provides both an aerobic and strength workout. The continuous movements, like kicking and combination punching, utilize large muscle groups and keep the heart rate elevated. The various boxing drills require strength and muscular endurance of the upper body as the arms are held at shoulder height. The Tae Kwon Do kicking movements require balance, co-ordination and leg strength.

Kareem Abdul Jabar is an experienced martial artist who has been practicing Tae Kwon Do for over 26 years competing at national level, and has a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Illinois. He is one of only 16 instructors certified and approved by Billy Blanks to teach Tae-Bo. Kareem says that one main difference between Tae-Bo and other boxing based classes is that there is no equipment required. "You don't need hand wraps, gloves or heavy punch bags hanging from the ceiling. Tae-Bo classes are also low impact, effective and fun.

While Billy Blank's boxing and martial arts skill is obvious, it is his personal charisma which provides the main motivation. He has a great body, a personable manner and a teaching style that caters to people from all walks of life and levels of physical fitness.

"The classes are not combat or self defense oriented. You may learn a few things about how to punch or kick effectively, but this is not the main focus of Tae-Bo. It is just a great way to get fit and have fun," says Kareem.

But even with the avalanche of publicity and endorsement from Hollywood celebrities, Tae-Bo has its critics. Many fitness experts claim that these classes are primarily for those of advanced skill and physical condition. Others argue that it takes a solid foundation of flexibility, strength and endurance to attempt many of the complex movement patterns and rigorous punch-kick combinations. They also point to a number of potential problems with over crowded classes and lack of individual attention for members that could lead to serious injury.

The American Council of Exercise (AC E), a respected group of fitness professionals who set standards for the fitness industry, is concerned about the chance of injury not only in Tae-Bo but also in all boxing or martial arts classes . In a recent policy statement they listed the common mistakes beginners make in kick boxing style aerobic classes. These include "over extending kicks (kicking too high), locking the joints when throwing punches or kicking, exercising beyond fatigue and wearing weights or holding dumb-bells while throwing punches."

Many traditional martial arts experts are also concerned that some of the more elaborate kicks and punches are taught too quickly with very little emphasis on correct technique. Moves' like roundhouse kicks (where the person's leg circles high in a circular motion) often take six months to teach in a traditional martial arts setting. In some Tae-Bo classes beginners learn roundhouse kicks in the very first lesson. This type of kick places a great deal of strain on the lower back and hamstrings for even the fittest and most flexible of participants.

Billy Blanks and his organization are aware of these criticisms and have begun offering beginners classes at many of the health clubs where Tae-Bo is offered. Kareem is also aware of the problems that can occur with this type of class. "What sometimes happens is you have a person teach a class who may have martial arts or kick boxing experience. They may be great at teaching technique, but have no idea of exercise intensity. For them, everything is done at high speed with no thought for a beginner, or with an over emphasis on technique which can quickly bore a person who is just after a good workout. On the other hand, you may get a person who is knowledgeable in the area of intensity and exercise science but with little idea of how to perform or teach the skills", Kareem adds.

Organizations like the American Council of Exercise are not totally critical of classes like Tae-Bo. "The high intensity level that makes these classes difficult for novices is also what makes them an effective, rewarding exercise for the very fit," says spokesperson and chief exercise physiologist Richard Cotton. ACE also offers a list of safety tips for beginners thinking about joining a Tae-Bo or kick boxing type of class which include: picking a qualified instructor, avoiding over  crowded classes, going at your own pace if you are a beginner and choosing only a beginners class, not extending your kicks beyond flexibility and strength levels and not locking your arms when punching and your legs when kicking. Turn on your television set anywhere in America and chances are you will see Billy Blanks or one of his Hollywood pals practicing Tae-Bo. It is also beginning to make its presence felt in Australia. Give it a try. It may just give your exercise program a kick-start for the new millennium.

Mike James is Manager, Fitness Center, Health Services Department, The World Bank, Washington. USA.

Model Kitty Chiller. Photographs Lisa Saad. Garments New Balance

Stength and Endurance

Mike James examines two important but often neglected aspects of physical fitness

To many people, the terms strength and muscular endurance seem interchangeable. Both evoke images of strong, muscular bodies straining sweat glistening torsos of Schwarzeneger proportions while furiously pumping iron.

Although closely related, there is a subtle difference between the two. Strength may be defined as the force a muscle or muscle group can exert against resistance in one maximal effort. A weight lifter pressing a heavy barbell above the head, Dean Lukin style, is a classic example of strength.

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to perform repeated contractions against a light load for an extended period of time. A person in the gym performing high repetition bench presses or high speed extended drill on a speed-ball is demonstrating muscular endurance. In a sporting context Olympian Stephen Moneghetti displays excellent levels of both aerobic and muscular endurance in completing the gruelling 42 kilometres marathon run.

So by their strictest definitions, strength implies a short maximal effort and muscular endurance requires repeated efforts over an extended duration. While our two examples (Dean Lukin -(1984 Los Angeles version, not the 1992 svelte model) and Stephen Moneghetti, are extreme opposites, the average sports performer requires a balance of both strength and muscular endurance. This balance will depend on the nature of the event.

Australia's Gold Medal 1500 metre swimmer Kieran Perkins requires strength to spring powerfully from the starting blocks and to surge ahead at various points of the race. He also requires great muscular endurance to maintain his stroke while resisting fatigue. The same applies to our gold medal winning "Oarsome Foursome" rowing combination.

Strength and Muscular Endurance for the Average Person.

While strength and muscular endurance is necessary for these elite olympians, what about the average person just looking for a little bit of extra fitness and conditioning?

In today's highly automated society, it appears there is little need to be physically strong. For many of us the only time we require minimal levels of physical strength is when we hang out the washing or take out the garbage. Some people claim to get enough strength by pilling up bills and jumping to conclusions!

Why then should we include a strength and muscular endurance component into our fitness program? Isn't aerobic and flexibility work enough? After all who ever dies from a small bicep anyway? True enough, but there are practical situations where strength and muscular endurance can be very important. Let me illustrate this with a personal anecdote.

My brother's job as an airline pilot requires him to be in good physical condition. Like all pilots he has to pass a yearly medical examination which monitors his weight, blood pressure and aerobic fitness. While he is not a fitness fanatic, he jogs regularly and watches his diet.

For years he ridiculed the pursuit and maintenance of strength via weight training and traditional exercise like push ups and sit ups. "Why do people waste their time doing those things?", he would say. "That's only for mirror watchers, all you need to get fit is a pair of runners and two legs".

Strong sentiments -however, sentiments he was to rue dearly one day after taking his outboard motor boat out to sea for a spot of fishing. About one kilometre from shore the automatic motor stalled. To start it again he needed to pull the motor's rip-cord. While the strength required to do this is only minimal, my brother simply couldn't find the upper body strength to start the motor.

After five or six attempts his shoulders, arms and chest were fatigued. Suddenly he was in a life threatening situation. On dry land the kilometre back to shore would have been comfortably covered with a five or six minute jog. But out at sea, he was in a sink or swim situation. Even though he was a good swimmer in his youth, he was now too tired to attempt a one kilometre swim. Fortunately he was spotted by a passing fisherman who started the boat manually with one swift pull of the rip-cord.

Even though this is a fairly extreme example it indicates the practical implications of including strength and muscular endurance components into our personal fitness program.

On a daily basis, manual tasks are made easier by this form of training. You will be able to tackle jobs like painting, gardening and moving furniture without suffering undue aches and pains in muscles you didn't know existed. You only need to visit a doctor's or physiotherapist's waiting room on Monday mornings to see how people suffer from these traditional weekend activities.

How to Improve Strength and Muscular Endurance

Research indicates that the best way to increase strength and endurance is by some form of progressive resistance training (P.R.T.) The most common and effective form of P.R.T. is weight training. A properly structured weight training program can increase strength by employing heavier weights with a lower repetition range ie: 4 to 8 reps. Muscular endurance can be improved by utilising lower weights with higher repetitions ie: 10 -20 reps.

The advantage weight training has over other forms of strength training is it's capacity for progressive overload. This means that once a muscle or muscle group adapts to a particular weight and repetition range, the weight can be increased thereby overloading the muscle and causing it to work harder, resulting in increased strength levels.

The best way to increase strength and endurance is by some form of progressive resistance training. The most common and effective form is weight raining.

This is not meant to totally decry pushups, sit-ups, chinups and the more traditional forms of strength training. These can prove a very useful adjunct to a fitness program, particularly for people with a limited time-frame or no access to weight training equipment.

The traditional boxer's speed-ball is another very useful training apparatus. Patience is required for beginners but once you establish a rhythm it is an excellent way to improve hand/ eye co-ordination and power in the arms and shoulders. The speedball also has many other sporting applications and is used extensively in training by sprinters requiring faster arm action and by racquet sports people to improve reflexes and timing.

The extent to which you train for strength and muscular endurance will depend on the time you have available and your specific fitness/sports goals. For the average person, 10 -20 minutes of weight training, speed-ball or calisthenics done in a cross-training format with aerobic and flexibility work three times per week, will provide a good balance approach to physical fitness.

Before embarking on weight training or any type of strength program, consult a qualified physical educator who is experienced in progressive resistance training. He or she will be able to set realistic goals for your body type and ensure that you balance muscle groups using correct exercise techniques.