Ask Scott: Weak upper body, chicken legs and breathless going upstairs
Top rugby coach Scott Pearson answers your health and fitness questions...
I am 21 and have a couple of problems. I am healthy but my upper body, except the abdomen is quite weak. As compared to my hips, thighs, stomach and calves, my shoulders, arms and forearms are too skinny. My chest has little fat but is not so broad. Why is it so? I don't work out but that should not lead to weakness only to my upper body.
There are many reasons why this could be so, but without speaking to you directly I think the two most obvious reasons are likely to be genetics and lifestyle (nature and nurture).
Different people are genetically predisposed to certain traits passed down through your parents, grandparents, etc. These include everything from height and hair colour to the size and shape of your nose. Physical abilities and characteristics are also passed on in this way and it may be that you have been passed genes that have given you a relatively stronger, larger lower body in relation to your upper body.
Another reason for your shape is simply how you live your life. Muscles adapt to the stimulus they are placed under, so if some muscles (eg. your legs) are worked and others (eg. your arms and shoulders) aren’t, then the worked ones will develop and grow, while the unworked ones will contract and shrink! This could happen due to your training routine, if you have one, or through your job. If you are a postman, for example, you will probably have to walk long distances carrying a postal sack. This would account for your strong lower body and core, while your upper body, which isn’t used as much has become under developed.
The likelihood is that it is a combination of your genetics and your lifestyle. If you want to do something about it I recommend starting an exercises that focuses on the whole body, working each part equally and in conjunction with other body parts, so that over time you will develop even strength and size. I would not recommend a body building approach to training, where you focus solely on the parts you feel are smaller and weaker as this will inevitably lead to further imbalances and injury.
If you would like ideas on workouts please see some of my previous articles including 18 exercises every man should know.
I am an 18 year old male with concerns over both my 'chicken legs' worrying about them taking the weight of my rather rotund belly. Do you have any advice for either the legs, the belly, or both?
The issue with this question is much the same as the one above in that the areas you have increased size (stomach) and where you have decreased size (legs) is a combination of your genetics and your current lifestyle. Without knowing any further information I would hazard a guess that you don’t exercise very much and that you don’t have the best diet, which may include drinking quite a bit of alcohol!
Therefore I would tackle your problem in two ways; firstly I recommend that you take care of your diet (see my previous articles on the right) and generally eat more for breakfast, have a moderate sized lunch and a smaller dinner. Try to have some good quality protein with each meal (white meats, beans and pulses) and concentrate on slow release carbohydrates (wholegrain rather than processed white products). Avoid carbohydrates as much as possible after 4:30pm and try to limit binge drinking sessions (alcohol has the highest calorific content of any food group – all those calories get stored as fat!).
The second part of the answer is to exercise. From your question it is unclear whether you currently do any exercise or not, but my advice either way is to do something that uses your body as a whole, rather than bodybuilding type sessions that focus on specific areas. Obviously you want to increase the size and strength of your legs, but I believe that placing your attention on just your legs will lead to weakness and imbalances elsewhere.
Put simply you can do anything that gets you moving, but some good examples would be activities such as dancing, or playing sports like tennis. If that’s not your thing then I would recommend Kettlebell work, combined with bodyweight exercises (such as burpees – see my article 18 exercises every man should know) as these will work your lower body, upper body and mid section together as well as having cardiovascular and fat burning benefits.
I'm 50 and haven't exercised in a while. I'm breathless going upstairs and know I need to do something. Got any suggestions that don't involve going to see my GP or walking? I can't see me joining a gym either.
Put simply...you are going to have to do something! If you haven’t exercised for a long time and get breathless merely going up some stairs it is clear that you are out of shape and need to get moving.
I would strongly recommend that you see someone adequately qualified to give you a full health check (blood pressure, etc), this would usually be a GP or fitness professional (if you don’t want to go to a gym many freelance personal trainers offer this service). The next thing to do is to find something that you enjoy, which is also active enough to get you out of breath; this can be anything from gardening to swimming, dancing to household chores. The key is to do something and to do it regularly (about 30 minutes, three times a week is usually enough).
This year's Men's Health Week in June is just for you. The MHF is hoping to get a million more men exercising. Don't miss your chance. There's more information on the MHF website.
Unfortunately there is no quick fix to keeping fit and healthy, as the old saying goes 'if you don’t use it – you’ll lose it', so you’ve got to use it.
Page created on March 22nd, 2010
Page updated on March 23rd, 2010