Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dynamic Abdominal Health, Part One - E.M. Orlick

Dynamic Abdominal Health, Part One (1944)
by E.M. Orlick, M.A., DIP. M.S.P.E.
and Joseph E. Weider (Editor-in-Chief of Your Physique Magazine


Many books and courses on the development of the abdomen have been written before this one. Some of them aren't worth the paper they are written on. Others are a mixture of fact and unadulterated bunk. Most of them have been written by 'muscle men' who professed more knowledge than they actually possessed. A number are merely conglomerations of sentences. Too many are simply epistles of self-glorification. Nearly all of them sell for three or four times more than they are worth.

Facts such as these led to the writing of this book. In it you will find none of the negative features mentioned above. There is no self-glorification, no padding with unnecessary words, no pet theories, no fictional hokum, no hidden advertising. It is a clear-straight-forward treatment of a subject of vital importance to you. Every statement is backed by the most up-to-date medical and physiological knowledge available. All information contained within its pages has its roots in scientific fact. Each exercise has been tried and tested and conforms to the best anatomical, functional and practical knowledge it is possible to obtain.

This book is a direct protest against the inferior type of books which have been appearing in this important field. It will undoubtedly set a new standard for health writers.

-- Stephen Armstrong, Y.M.C.A. Physical Director.

Cornerstone of Physical Fitness

There is perhaps no part of the human body which is more important to health and physical fitness and certainly no part which is more neglected than the abdominal region. For this reason, this book will be devoted almost entirely to this region with due regard being given to its relation to the physical fitness of the body as a whole.

One of the first and most obvious signs of physical deterioration and loss of youth is the sagging waistline. Most men, including many ex-athletes have flabby abdominal muscles by the time they reach 35 years of age. A combination of physical inactivity, overeating and often intemperate drinking soon starts the middle-age bulge on its way. These unfortunates soon find themselves the butt of harmless jokes on the part of their more youthful or more physically fit friends. Those who are sensitive about their appearance and alarmed that the thought that old-age is creeping up on them look around for something they can do. The solution for many is a superficial one, they take to wearing straps or waistbands to hold the mid-region in. Though this might well help to preserve their youthful figures and enable their clothes to fit for a while longer, the end result is more harmful than good. Giving artificial support to muscles already losing their tenacity simply gives these muscles less work to do and weakens them still more, with the result that either tighter of larger belts must be used.

On the other hand, there are those who seek to remedy the condition at its source by cutting out excess drinking and eating, or by doing setting-up exercises in the privacy of their bedroom. In so far as the imbibers are concerned the intentions are good but frequently the habits are stronger. For the over-eater, a combination of honest-to-goodness hunger, as well as habit, upsets his most resolute resolutions. Usually, this is due to the fact that he prescribes his own diet and, unless he is somewhat of an expert in this matter, denies himself foods which his body not only craves but actually needs in order to function efficiently. The tendency to put on weight is in all probability due to lack of exercise and overeating but it may also be due to some glandular disorder. Consequently, a physician would be the best-qualified man to determine the cause of putting on weight and also to prescribe any diets that should be followed.

In addition to cutting down on drinking and attempting to follow a restricted diet, the man who is developing the proverbial 'pot' often looks to exercise as his cure-all. Here again he runs into difficulties. If the exercises are of the wrong type or not strenuous enough, little or no results are forthcoming and, after a few weeks of this, even the most patient man gives up in disgust. On the other hand, he might do the right kinds of exercises but so overdo them that he suffers extreme discomfiture for days after, and again we have discouragement and finally a slump into the much easier path of letting nature take its own course.

Where the mid-line spread, or for that matter, overweight in general is due to overeating, there is only one sane way of reducing and that is through a combination of proper dieting and proper exercising. As already suggested, the dieting problem can be easily solved by a visit to your doctor or at least by following a system of dieting which has the approval of the medical profession. For the sake of convenience, such a system will be dealt with in a later chapter but only those persons who are certain that they are absolutely free from glandular disorders should hope to get any positive benefit out of such a dieting scheme.

In so far as exercise itself is concerned, there are again precautions which must be taken. The individual intending to do the exercises should know first of all that he is free from constitutional defects, particularly heart ailments and hernia, and, as stated before, only a physician is qualified to determine this. Having obtained the physician's approval, the overweight individual, or, for that matter any person who desires to obtain or maintain a strong, healthy, well-formed mid-region can begin to take the necessary exercises. These should be suited to age and physical condition of the individual, should be sufficiently varied to hold the interest of the exerciser and should be of a type which will bring the best results in the shortest possible time. Such a system of exercises, graded according to difficulty and accompanied by profusely illustrated descriptions, is included in the latter chapters of this book.

The importance of the abdominal region to health and physical fitness cannot be overemphasized. As already mentioned, there are superficial disadvantages to the bulging waistline including such things as an ungainly appearance, ill-fitting clothes, self-consciousness, and so on, but there are many far more serious disadvantages which are not quite so obvious. The overweight person by the mere fact of putting on extra weight of no worth puts more work upon his muscular structure thereby decreasing his physical endurance and decreasing his physical endurance while increasing his proneness to fatigue. The extra weight also impairs his muscular coordination, reduces his physical efficiency and decreases the speed with which he can make rapid bodily adjustments to various situations. The increase in fatigue and decrease in speed, skill and relative strength renders him far more liable to accidents and injury than he would be in a more normalized physical condition. In fact, the added fatty tissue itself, considered from a purely physical standpoint, becomes a liability, for in falling, tripping or failing with a physical exertion the pull of gravity on the fat man is relatively greater than when his physique was built of a healthier construction. Consequently, the force with which he strikes the ground is greater and, since the bones are no stronger and the muscles, relative to the bodyweight, are inevitably weaker, the possibility of more serious damage is considerably increased.

The putting on of excess weight and the gradual deterioration of muscle tone tend to set up a vicious cycle from which it becomes increasingly difficult to escape. The decrease in speed, skill, strength and endurance, and the increase in susceptibility to fatigue make the individual less capable of participating in physical activities of any duration, take the joy out of participation and eventually destroy even the desire itself. As can be readily seen, when this happens more weight is put on and the muscles become flabbier still, and so it goes, on and on.

A great deal of the pleasure in life comes through recreational activities of a physical nature that we participate in. Much of our relaxation from the constant pressure of work, study business and everyday living comes through the same source. Many of our social activities and hence the development of acquaintances and friendships are associated with such activities as golfing, boating, swimming, hiking tennis and other forms of 'unwinding' activities, as well as the more competitive team and individual sports. When we allow our muscles to become flabby and put on excess weight we not only kill the joy in these activities but dampen our enthusiasm for them and, because of physical limitations, may eventually have to cease participating in all or most of them. Needless to say, this will have certain negative repercussions on our personality as a whole and hence in our relationships with the many individuals with whom we live, work, and play.

The psychological implications in the above sentences are many, but there are others which are not so apparent. Physical weakness and physical deformity, even in the form of being underweight or overweight, can and often do lead to inferiority complexes of various intensities. The 'fat' person is almost always sensitive about his excess weight and, particularly so when this develops after reaching physical maturity. He becomes the butt of numerous quips and jokes and though he may put on a good front and laugh them off, they nevertheless leave their mark. His obviously poor physique, ill-fitting clothes, ungainly appearance, loss of grace, poise and dignity all have some negative mental effects. The knowledge that he is definitely inferior to others and even to his own previous standards, in any sphere of physical activity, tends to undermine his his self-respect, weaken his self-confidence and take the edge off his normal aggressiveness. Such a combination of negative factors might well warp his personality and eventually give rise to an inferiority complex with far reaching detrimental consequences.

However important these mental aspects might be, there are the even more obvious physical aspects to be considered. In the abdominal cavity are contained such vital internal organs as the stomach, spleen, liver, kidneys, pancreas, suprarenal bodies, the small intestine, the large intestine (with the exception of the rectum), the inferior vena cava, the abdominal aorta and its branches, the beginning of the thoracic duct, numerous lymph nodes, the vagi, sympathetic ganglia and nerves.

Even to list the possible diseases and ailments which are associated with these vital organs would be a lengthy tack. They are not by any means all caused by poor physical condition or a sagging abdominal wall. Nevertheless, the general state of health and particularly the muscular health of the abdominal region does influence susceptibility to disease and dysfunction and plays an important part in the speed and effectiveness of recovery.

The main function of the abdominal muscles is to hold the viscera in place. When the abdominal muscles become weak and saggy a prolapse, or falling down, of the viscera takes place and we have what is commonly called visceroptosis. The individual who has become the victim of such a condition almost invariably begins to complain of indigestion, gas on the stomach, constipation and whatever else his untrained mind can pick on as the root of his frequent attacks of discomfiture and pain. It is possible that one or more of a number of these things might be the immediate cause of his suffering but it would be wiser to look upon these as symptoms of something even more basically wrong.

Unfortunately, the average person rarely does this. If he suffers pain in the mid-region and discovers that his bowel movements are difficult and infrequent, he invariably turns to some kind of laxative for relief. In most cases, the laxative has the desired effect and the sufferer is satisfied that the cause of his constipated condition has been effectively dealt with. In due time he suffers another attack and more laxatives are used and so it goes with the attacks gradually occurring more frequently and with increased severity. The sufferer, due to lack of knowledge and high-pressure advertisement, has become the victim of another vicious cycle. The constipation is temporarily relieved by laxatives and cathartics; the laxatives and cathartics weaken the muscle tone of the intestines; this leads to severer and more frequent attacks of constipation; to relieve these the sufferer must use stronger or larger doses of laxatives and cathartics; these in turn weaken the muscle tone of the intestines still more until chronic constipation, with any number of accompanying complication, may result.

To the uninformed all this seems to have little to do with obesity and visceroptosis or with weak and flabby abdominal muscles but there is a very close connection. To understand this relationship one must know something about the make-up and action of the intestines. Any good textbook on anatomy and physiology will give the reader a very complete picture of the part that these organs play, but for our immediate purpose a brief description should suffice.

When we partake of some food, it is masticated and insalivated and then passes down the esophagus into the stomach where a good part of the digestive process takes place. On leaving the stomach the contents go through the pyloric orifice and pass into the small intestine. For about 10 inches this is known as the duodenum proper. This is a tube-like structure with a diameter averaging about 1.5 inches. It is laid in the middle of the abdomen and looks like a series of tangled loops. The small intestine leads into the cecum, which is actually the beginning of the large intestine. The large intestine, like the small one, is tube-like in form. It is five feet long and is divided into the cecum, the colon (ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid flexure), and the rectum.

The two intestines have one very important feature in common. The walls of both contain a muscular coat made up of one layer of longitudinal and one layer of circular muscles. The contents of the intestines are moved by means of the latter layer of muscles. These ringlike muscles contract one after the other setting up a peristaltic wave which literally squeezes the food along the tube. In the small intestine this is doubly important for it not only moves the food along but also brings it in contact with the digestive juices.

By the time the the contents of the small intestine reach the beginning of the large intestine all or most of the digestible material has already been absorbed. The materials which remain, namely water, undigested food, parts of the bile, certain mineral matters and the mucus from the inner lining of the tube, go to make up the feces. Then these enter the large intestine they are carried along to the middle of the transverse colon by the peristaltic action already described. Then a backward peristaltic wave results and the feces are carried back toward the cecum. The resulting backward and forward movement not only mixes the contents thoroughly but allows most of the water to be absorbed, changing the feces from a liquid into a soft tissue.

When the feces eventually leave the transverse colon, the peristaltic action carries them through the descending colon and finally into the sigmoid flexure where they remain stored until their presence excites a desire for expulsion. When this takes place the peristaltic action in this particular part of the intestine is again set into motion and this, coupled with the aid of the diaphragm and the muscles of the abdominal wall, forces the feces into the rectum, past the external ring of voluntary sphincter muscles and out through the anus.

When food in excessive quantity is taken, its stay in the intestine is prolonged. This gives the many bacteria which can be found here an opportunity to work and, as a result, either fermentation or putrefaction take place. Though this is bad enough, the excess food leads to excess fat which in turn places a great deal of extra work on the kidneys. How important this is is apparent at once when we learn that the kidneys are responsible for maintaining the normal composition of the blood, not only in regards to sugar and salts, but also in respect to the nitrogenous wastes.

Excess fat in the abdominal region and any displacement of the viscera (visceroptosis) also tend to slow up or impede the movement of the feces in the large intestine. Besides allowing fermentation or putrefaction to take place this causes a bulking of the feces and places an extra strain upon the muscular walls of the intestines. When the circular muscles are stretched beyond their normal limits they tend to lose their tonicity and with it their contractibility. Consequently, the peristaltic action, which is so all-important in moving the feces, is greatly weakened and we have a general slowing down of this part of the waste-eliminating process. As with excessive eating, this leads to an abnormal degree of fermentation and putrefaction with well-known detrimental results.

In addition to all this, flabbiness of the abdominal muscles, whether or not accompanied by obesity and visceroptosis, has a two-fold detrimental effect. The abdominal muscles are of importance in the movement of the feces and in the act of final evacuation. When these muscles are weak, the above mentioned actions are considerably slowed down and again we have bulking, fermentation and putrefaction. Finally, the normal everyday actions of the abdominal muscles are also important to internal health for through these the internal organs receive a thorough-going daily massage. Where the abdominal muscles are weak and flabby this beneficial toning up effect is greatly reduced and there is a tendency toward what might well be called visceral sluggishness.

Among the lesser evils associated with visceroptosis, sagging abdominal walls, and obesity in the abdominal region is a postural condition which might be called functional lordosis. This is, in effect, a hyperextension in the lumbar region, in simpler words an increased inward curve of the spine in the hollow of the back, together with an increased tilt of the pelvis. In some rare cases this condition is the result of a definite structural defect, but in the cases which we are considering it is merely an artificially assumed position which has certain compensatory advantages. This in visceroptosis and abdominal obesity, we have excess frontal weight which tends to throw the sufferer out of his accustomed balance. To compensate for this he leans further back, with the result that he not only increases his lumbar curve but develops a duck-like waddle in his walk. Where the abdominal walls are sagging there is not only a tendency toward an increase in the tilt of the pelvis but also a tendency for the individual to lean backwards thus tightening his abdominal walls by simply stretching them to a point where they actually feel taut. This simply adds to the artificially exaggerated curve in the lumbar region and in no way strengthens the abdominal walls.

By now even the most skeptical individual ought to be convinced that the abdominal region is truly the cornerstone of physical fitness. However, lest even the slightest doubt to this effect be entertained, we present a few conclusive facts culled from statements emanating from the Unites States Public Health Service: "There is a great excess of mortality among overweight persons, whatever the age. Heart disease deaths among persons over 45 years of age who are 50 pounds overweight are 18% higher than those of normal weight. Kidney disease deaths take the heaviest toll of persons 50 pounds or more overweight irrespective of age. Cerebral hemorrhage or apoplexy occurs much more frequently among those who are overweight." In support of this we have the following statement from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company: "It's an unfortunate fact that excessive fat places a great deal of extra work on the heart, kidneys, and lungs; work from which there is no relief." That is why overweight can be a threat to health. Figures show that people over 45 who are 20% overweight have a death rate 50% above average.

From the above facts and those which preceded them, it can be readily seen that not only health and physical fitness but even life itself may depend to a great degree upon our desire and ability to fend off the related evils of obesity, sagging abdominal muscles and visceroptosis.

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