Dr. Ken Kinakin, much like Dr. Mike Leahy, knows your pain. In fact, he’s made a living off of it. The doc is one of the best in the world at devising training protocols to help make you injury-proof. Yeah, he likes bodybuilding and powerlifting routines, too, but when it comes to figuring out how to fix what ails ya’, he’s one of the best.
This is the second part of our interview — Part 1 was posted last week.
T: You write a lot about treating the whole body when recovering from injury — not just muscles, but also nerves and joints. For example, guys don’t pay much attention to their nervous system when it comes to recovery. They think, “Hey, my chest isn’t sore anymore, time to hit bench again.”
KK: Exactly. And what they don’t realize is that the body’s ability to recuperate is also neurological. Even more importantly, is there a neurological dysfunction? I used to see these guys in the gym, and their right arms would lag behind their left when benching. These guys would do extra reps and one-arm benches, and nothing would ever occur.
T: What’s up with that, anyway?
KK: I’ve found that it’s usually due to a neurological weakness. The nerve supply for the arm, pec, delt, bicep, and tricep predominantly comes from the mid-cervical or lower cervical area. If that area has been injured, it will give a compression or actually an irritation onto the nervous system. In 1992, I wrote in the “Spine” journal that a compression of 10 mm — about the weight of a dime on the back of your hand — of mercury would cause decreases in action potential.
T: How much of a decrease are we talking here?
KK: The National Institutes of Health found that 10 mm of mercury — again, the weight of a dime — putting pressure on the nerve decreases the action potentials to 60% of its initial values. So it’s a decrease of 40% in nerve power strength that can definitely cause a weakness pattern. You can also have a problem with nerve supply if it is under tension. This is where Dr. Leahy’s work with ART (Active Release Techniques) comes in — if you have any compression or tension, your power just shuts right down.
I see this time and time again in people with chronic shoulder problems. It can be reversed quite quickly by getting the joint restored with what we call an adjustment. If the joint doesn’t move correctly, it can cause the muscle to spasm. A lot of people with a shoulder or neck problem will go to a massage therapist and get it massaged out without understanding why that muscle is in a spasm. A lot of times, the joint has been irritated and, basically, the brain sends the signal to lock up everything.
What’s needed here is the right treatment at the right time by the right person. If a person comes in completely locked up, I might send them to a massage therapist first or do a little ART. Then I can go in and get the joint moving correctly. Adversely, if the massage therapist keeps messaging it out without doing anything for the actual joint, the muscle will keep going back into a spasm.
T: You’ve written in one of your articles that we should be thankful for pain or a decrease in strength because our bodies are telling us something. What do you mean?
KK: Let’s say that the joint is unstable — you’re at full power and going to squat 500. You will totally tear yourself apart. The pain and the decrease in strength are protective mechanisms.
T: So athletes and bodybuilders make a mistake when they use pain medication?
KK: Yes, the pain is there for a reason, and when you mask it you don’t know how far you’ve taken it. So, yeah, you can induce more damage. Unfortunately, a lot of the professions out there have a limited “toolbox” as far as what they’re able to do. If all you have is pharmaceuticals in your toolbox, that’s all you’re going to prescribe. There are just so many things that you can do — from physiotherapy and acupuncture to microcurrent — the spectrum just goes on and on.
T: Speaking of toolboxes, ART is one hell of big tool to have in there, isn’t it?
KK: It’s probably one of the most powerful tools to come out in a long while. ART has really revolutionized my type of therapeutics. It’s incredible.
T: We know that overtraining can lead to injuries, so let’s talk about it.
KK: I find that most of my clients and patients are overtraining. When I do muscle testing on them, everything is weak — there’s not a single strong muscle. Usually, they can’t gain any strength and get colds quite frequently. Another sign of overtraining that most people don’t know about is postural hypertension. It’s when you get up quickly and feel a little lightheaded.
T: That’s a sign of overtraining?
KK: The adrenal glands can’t produce enough epinephrine and norepinephrine — adrenal substances — to actually create vasoconstriction. So if you come up quickly, a lot of the blood rushes down out of the head and down further into the body. In the clinic, we take someone’s blood pressure while they’re sitting or lying down and then have them stand up. Technically, their blood pressure should go up when they stand. Vasoconstriction will cause an increase of actual blood pressure. A lot of times, it will actually decrease because the adrenal glands are so overstressed from overtraining that they just can’t produce enough.
T: So how do we combat this?
KK: The biggest remedy is definitely vitamin C. The highest repository of vitamin C in the entire body, apparently, is in the adrenal glands.
T: We hear a lot about taking megadoses of vitamin C for recuperative reasons.
KK: Absolutely, and part of it is for the adrenal glands. The others are pantothenic acid and B6. You need to use fairly high dosages of these and, if you use a lot of B6, you’ll need to include magnesium.
T: How much of each of those?
KK: Everyone is different with vitamin C. You can go from one to five grams — some even use ten grams a day. It depends on the size of the person. Just use the bowel tolerance test. Take vitamin C until the bowels become loose, and then just back off. For pantothenic acid and B6, use about 50 mg. You can take that in multiple dosages. If someone is really overtrained, I’ll prescribe up to 500 mg of pantothenic acid for about a week just to try and turn them around. But you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Now you’re using vitamins as a drug in pharmacological dosages, so I’d only suggest it under the guidance of someone who knows what they’re doing.
T: Got any more unusual signs of overtraining?
KK: Sure. Someone who’s overtrained can’t tolerate sunlight. That’s a sign of being overtrained and over-stressed, in general. In fact, I use a test in which I shine a bright light into the eye. If the pupil constricts but then opens up again while the light is still shining on it, I know that you’re not producing enough of the hormones in order to allow the pupil to stay shut. So, if you’re always squinting and just have to wear sunglasses, that could be a sign of overtraining.
Another major product that I’ve seen to help with overtraining is tyrosine, an ingredient in your neurotransmitter formula Power Drive. That’s a phenomenal one to help prevent overtraining.
T: What do you think of the Swiss ball? First everyone thinks that it’s a moronic infomercial device, then everyone loves it and uses it for everything. Now people are saying that overuse could cause you to get weaker. What’s your take?
KK: I think that it’s a great tool, but I also agree with Ian King. I see guys in the gym putting a Swiss ball on the hack squat machine, the leg press, they’re even squatting on top of it. Yes, it does make a difference, but I always look at exercise in terms of risk:benefit ratios. If you’ve got one on a leg press, doing 300 pounds, and your foot slides off to the side, I don’t care how much benefit you got out of that — you’ve just basically wrapped your leg around your head! You’re going to induce a massive injury.
T: What else do you see in the gym that makes you cringe?
KK: In the leg press, some people are coming too far down.
T: Really? I do that. I just don’t want to be one of those losers who piles on the plates and only brings the sled down a couple of inches. Can you go too far?
KK: Yes, the interthoracic pressure is so high that you can induce a disc injury extremely quickly, probably more quickly than you can with the squat. In fact, there was a study a couple of years ago in which they measured the blood pressure of some lifters who were doing five sets of five in heavy leg presses. Normal is 120/80. These guys got it up to 450/320, the highest ever recorded. If you increase the interthoracic pressure that much, along with being in a very susceptible position, you’re asking for trouble.
T: I’m convinced. How do we fix that problem?
KK: All you need to do is put your hands on the side of your hips. As soon as you feel your hands shift upward, that’s low enough. A safe bottom position looks almost like a full squat. Will you get more benefit if you bring the weight down? Yes, but the risk increases exponentially. When I owned a gym, I saw many more back injuries with the leg press than with the squat.
T: Where else do you see guys screwing up in the gym?
KK: Well, the squat has the highest “screw up” potential. A classic example is ankle inflexibility, so you see people throw a block underneath their heals. There are receptors in the bottom of your foot, and if enough pressure is placed on the front of the foot, they neurologically shut down your back erectors. These are the people who you see locking up in pain while bending down to pick up a pencil. Other examples of poor form in the squat include knees buckling inward, unstable backs, and bars being held too high on the back.
T: Too high?
KK: Yes, the amount of surface area that the bar rests on is about four inches. That’s sitting right on C7 and T1, which could set up a whole bunch of neurological problems. If you drop the bar just an inch — or do like powerlifters and put it across the traps and posterior delts — you get 12 inches of surface area. That equates to fewer problems.
T: You’ve done bodybuilding and powerlifting. What do you think that bodybuilders can learn from powerlifters?
KK: Powerlifters know that the nervous system actually contracts the muscle. Look at Joe Bradley who squats 700 pounds but only weighs 148 pounds. He’s taught himself to contract all of his muscles at the same time. You’ve got to train the neurological system with lower reps, of which Poliquin is a big advocate. You do this to train more of the muscle fibers to fire, then you can go into a high-rep phase for more of a hypertrophy effect.
And then you can get into what is known as capillerization where you focus on blood volume with 100 reps. This method is based on gorging the entire body with blood. With all three of these, you end up training the nervous, muscular, and vascular systems. If you train all three, the body will continually adapt in different areas, and you’ll end up getting more hypertrophy. At his peak, Frank Zane trained powerlifting-style. Arnold and Franco powerlifted. Sergio did powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Dorian Yates was just a machine as far as being able to lift heavy, heavy weights.
T: Since you’re switching things up so much, could this prevent overtraining?
KK: Yes, powerlifting is a tremendous tool in the off-season because it allows the muscle to recuperate. When you get into the bodybuilding phase, you allow the nervous system to recuperate. It prevents overtraining and injuries.
T: Once and for all, what’s the best way to increase our bench?
KK: Probably the best method is a periodized training program. But also remember that it’s not muscular at all, but more neurological. Your bench will go up as you develop the neurological system. Using periodization, you’d start out at a higher rep range of, say, sets of ten reps. Do that for two or three weeks, then drop it down to a week or two of eights, then a week or two of fives, threes, and then down to one rep. Take a week off, and go back up. That’s how all of the top powerlifters have done it. The key is to find out how long of a cycle you can handle. Some do better with an eight-week cycle, some with a four-week cycle.
T: The theme of individualization rises again!
KK: Yes. In fact, Arthur Jones conducted a study in which he put 660 soldiers on a Cybex machine and measured how fast they could recover. He hooked the machine up to a computer so he could see how fast they fatigued. After a one-max set, one group only recovered 8%. It took them 72 hours to get to 100% recovery. Another group recovered 108% after only one hour! Their strength was up after an hour. I’ve trained with guys like this — I call them genetic mutants.
T: No kidding!
KK: These guys just can’t overtrain. The ones that I trained with weren’t on drugs, either. What these guys are capable of is scary.
T: Dr. Kinakin, this has been an eye-opening interview. Thanks for taking the time to talk with T-mag.
KK: You’re very welcome. You guys are doing some great stuff down there.
My head was spinning after our interview. The scariest thing for me was that I only scratched the surface of what Dr. Kinakin has to offer. If you’d like to learn more about his Society of Weight-Training Injury Specialists, call 877-220-7947. For more info on his “Encyclopedia of Weight-Training Injuries” book, call 905-812-0644. You can also read some of Dr. Kinakin’s articles at the www.powerlifting.ca website.
At the beginning of this article, I told you about a huge symposium with speakers like Dr. Leahy and Dr. DiPasquale that took place in September. Dr. Kinakin arranged for the entire symposium to be videotaped, down to the last presentation. Call 905-812-0644 for more information on how to pick up the tapes. If you read Testosterone, you probably already train hard. With Dr. Kinakin’s help, you can train smart, too, and keep growing well into the next century.