In Russia, we have two things that are sacral: ballet and space flights. Both can not go without sport. However, ballet is of art sphere, while space flights are of science. Since first space tests were conducted, sport started to be an object of scientific research. 

We met Olga Vinogradova, Doctor of Biology, MSU professor and she gave us advice on keeping fit and on effective gym sessions. 

- Some people told me, that electric stimulation substitutes abs exercises. Is it true? 

- These days numerous companies make such appliances. However, the appliances’ stimulation modes are inadequate. You only feel tickling, but the effect is missing. 


Electric muscle stimulation was invented by Soviet physiologist Yakov Kots. His methodology is informally called Russian. It helps to increase muscular strength greatly. Yakov was not tickling muscles. His principle was to exercise your patience. And it actually worked. In the course of male artistic gymnastics, there is an incredibly difficult exercise where a man hangs on flying rings on his stretched hands. When I was young, there was only one person who could perform it, as it requires great strength and coordination. So, after Mr. Kots worked with members of the Soviet team, six of them could already perform it. Coaches just could not believe it. 

- How does that electric stimulation work? You just hang on the flying rings while being shocked electrically? 

- Not quite. The electric stimulation session happens before the actual training. It requires special exercises. The key to this method is the right stimulation mode and high intensity. 


- Does that mean that the person exercising is literally being tortured? 

- The stimulation goes within the tolerance limit. The limit is gradually growing. Thus, the voltage needs to be increased to activate as many muscle fibers as possible. The treatment is really intense. It increases the muscular strength be means of growing both types of muscular fibers. 

The two types of these fibers are phasic and postural. Phasic ones are fatigable, while postural ones work for long periods of time. Phasic fibers work anaerobically, i.e. they receive energy with no oxygen required which is very efficient. However, such resources run short rather quickly. Postural fibers, in turn, receive energy through oxidation processes. Thus, they work continuously. Jogging and walking are almost fully powered by the postural fibers. 

The aim of electric muscle stimulation is making the phasic fibers work longer. They are, so to say, lazy, as they are rarely involved and fatigue too fast. 

- Do they still apply the method? 

- Not regularly. However, it still works and works well. It is strange to me, why it is so rarely applied. So, do you do morning exercises? 

-Yes, I do. 

- Nice. I do not. I tell my students about how healthy it is, but I am too lazy for them myself. My favorite lecture is on healthy lifestyle. I know everything about it. What I also know is that it requires much time. If you are always working, it is not for you. Same goes for the electric muscle stimulation. It is also the matter of fashion which tends to change. 


- What about the stimulation of postural fibers? 

- That is what our institute is proud of! When a cosmonaut is in zero gravity, his position changes to the half-embryo one. (Olga stands up, stretches her hands straight and slowly arches her back, slightly bending her knees.) 

It is widely known, that postural fibers are concentrated in postural muscles. These muscles work against the gravity force. In the great scheme of things, landliving animals including humans should lie down and not move. However, over the course of evolution the repelling developed. We are the erect-walking and we need to keep the pose in the context of gravity. 

As a result, a theory developed. It stated, that shutting down the special receptors, which sense weigh (mainly situated on feet), causes the shutting down of postural muscles. Considering that, the muscles atrophy. The percentage of postural fibers in them decreases and the fibers themselves are replaced with phasic ones. Literally, a different person from who went to space returns on Earth. Did you see how cosmonauts learned to walk after returning? The stimulation of low frequency makes postural muscles return to functioning. 

- Would we need postural muscles if we live in space? 

- When such a colony is comprised, people who will live in space will not need their postural muscles. A man adapts to new conditions. 

- How long can the electric stimulation’s effect last? 

- In cases when a person stops training or trains less while stimulating his muscles less, they revert to the original state rather fast. 

- Is that a natural form of doping? 

- That is using the additional methods for enhancing work’s efficiency. 

- Does it mean that a scientist is a future coach? 

- We cannot train. We are not qualified for describing a proper training. What we do is designing the methods of testing. I give recommendations on how to train efficiently. 

We also optimize the training process to tell how to do your best. We can tell you, for example, how to increase your muscular strength without injury risks.


- What should I do for it? 

- You should train in a focused mode. If we train a muscle anaerobically, while tightening it, blood supply is limited. So, that is efficient. Such a mode promotes muscle growth. That type of training does not require maximum effort, which is good. Weight training always has injury risks. 

- I did not get it. Should I just tighten my muscles with duct tape, food wrap or elastic bondage? 

- There is a natural way. Imagine yourself doing leg press. You toughen your muscles, then relax, then toughen, then relax. That way the motion with heavy weight works. Then try to cut some weight and perform the same exercise. You will get static stress throughout performing. Your muscular tension develops. I can tense the muscle so that both venous and arterial vessels in my body would tighten. It is important to know, that static exercises are counter-indicative for people suffering from vascular diseases. It is not related to the quantity of muscles. I can toughen thumb muscles intensively and my arterial pressure will rise greatly. However, if you are healthy and need to develop muscular strength, that method is for you. 


- Does static yoga count here? 

- Static yoga exercises are performed without any tension, so no, they do not. 

- As for me, such methods are for sportsmen and cosmonauts. But what should others do? 

- As I mentioned before, static tension leads to the instant rise of arterial pressure. If I ride a bicycle for a long time, my arterial pressure will not rise that much. Same goes for one intense dash. Continuous static tension, however, would rise your pressure instantly. The main rule of gym-goers is keeping track of the static element, lowering it as possible. 

Whenever you develop strength, especially with barbell, do not try to lift as much as you can. Try to estimate the strength you need throughout any tempo. It is very useful. Your speed matters more than the weigh you lift. One should exercise all sets of muscles dynamically. 

Secondly, it is important that power pack equipment is better than with disk weight. The first one has load patterns, so that you can never get injured. 

The advantage of such equipment is that you do not have to lift any weight. It responds to your effort. Harder you push, stronger it responds. 

Isokinetic method is a very convenient one. According to it, moves’ speed is constant. Can you imagine the force we apply while swimming? Water creates strong resistance due to its density and the force we apply is directly proportional to it. Thus, moves we make in water are of constant speed. 

All-in-all, working out in gym keep track of your arterial pressure, lower the static element, choose isokinetic equipment if possible. Swimming pool is the best, though. 

- What will happen, if I exercise strength after aerobic training? 

- This issue is very complex. Roughly said, there are two types of training – strength and stamina ones. Strength exercises represent small amount of reps with almost all-out effort. Aerobic or stamina training represents, in turn, not so intense but continuous exercises. Powerlifters and marathoners look very different. Scientists still argue why stamina sportsmen lose muscle mass. The most popular theory tells, that so the distance between blood capillaries and muscle cells minimizes. Thus, oxygen and nutrients deliver faster. 

Strength training is very hard and you cannot perform it on an everyday basis. It is just physically impossible without resting properly. Two or three strength trainings a week are enough. However, the rest of the week should be spent training other muscle groups. 

As we are studying muscles molecularly, we concluded that a complex succession of protein molecules should start to work so as muscles could develop. Stamina and strength trainings are mutually deleterious. Thus, it makes no sense to combine them. 

- So, if I want to become thinner, should I lift weight or not? 

- It is always individual. However, that does not mean, that you should not perform any strength exercises while becoming thinner or performing stamina ones. 

It is also true, that when a person performs stamina exercises, their muscles lose their mass. Their protein synthesis is constantly slowing. If you want to keep your muscle mass without any strength exercises, train aerobically and then train your strength to suppress it. That way your protein synthesis will activate. 

- OK, I understand. So, what about food then? What should I eat? 

- The main thing here is to stop trying keep fit for the occasions. That is mostly about women. When I was younger, before holidays I hungered to fit some dress. Do not do that! Human body is perfectly able to resist hunger, not obesity. If it lacks food, it will increase its digestibility. Girls, who hungered before, cannot understand why they get fat without eating more. The reason here is increased digestibility. We should pinch ourselves in our food. A person who eats without gluttony will have normal weight. Speaking about illnesses, things are different. A normal person should move and eat healthy to lead a healthy lifestyle. Out in the wild, animals do not suffer from obesity. People no longer have to produce food for themselves. Unfortunately, I have already forgotten that feeling of slight hunger after dinner. I know the theory, but no longer eat like that. However, I will not become obese. 

- What about the notion of a big-boned man? 

- Have you ever seen a fat cell? It is like a big beautiful drop with a black dot. The drop itself is fat and the black dot contains bioplasts, nucleus and mitochondria. That cell can grow. According to an unsupported hypothesis, some people are born with the large amount of fat cells, others are lucky enough to have the normal amount. When a person gets fat, their body does not increase the number of fat cells, they are growing themselves. It is a problem if you have plenty of such cells and a good appetite combined. The theory is based on the fact, that some people lose their weight easily while in special clinics, and the others lose only several kilos. 

- If my leg is broken, should I train the other one? 

- Of course. You should do it intensively and long enough. That way your broken leg will train exactly like the other one. 

- How does that happen? 

- It happens with the help of our brain. 


Here is one more way our body tricks our muscles. When you go downstairs, your leg muscles deform and stretch simultaneously. That helps your body with protein synthesis, which is healthy. That is why you should go downstairs. You can use an elevator to get upstairs, though. 

- I am starting to admire you. I cannot but ask, how did you start to work there? You do not even like morning exercises that much. 

- I like what I do now. It all started with my thesis on blood supply and its influence on working efficiency. 

I could not stay at the institute and thus decided to work with Yakov Kots. The place where I went was packed with muscular people! It was a shock for me. I felt horrible for a couple of years. Yakov once told me that smart people are everywhere and in every section too. That is how I entered the world of physical education. 

We are not only working with space. Our sphere is human state under various extreme conditions: Antarctic expeditions, Everest or desert ones, or such when a person creates them themselves. 

Agata Korovina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Boykov