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Supramaximal Athlete Building Exercise Regimen (SABER) to Increase and Maintain Healthy Bone Density

Your Primitive Ancestors Had Denser Bones, And You Can (Should), Too…
There is no shortage of evidence and research surrounding the decrease in bone density in present-day humans vs. that of our ancestors. Some of this is attributed to diet, but most is attributed to less physical activity on the part of modern humans. Some researchers even conclude that even the most physically active people alive are unlikely to be loading their bones with enough frequent and intense stress to allow for the increased bones strength seen in traditional hunter-gatherers. 

There's good news, too. Optimal bone density is well within the reach of everyone via SABER training. SABER, in short, is a series of sets of an exercise(s) involving short bursts of maximal, flat-out, redline effort followed by a rest period.  Short Sprint, Recover, Repeat.  Frequent and intense stress is the basis of the protocol. It’s what your primitive ancestors did, and this is why they had impressively dense bones. Well, not just dense bones, but that’s the focus of this article.

There’s seven million years of hominid evolution geared towards action and physical activity for survival, but it’s only in the last say 50 to 100 years that we’ve been so sedentary - dangerously so,” said co-author Dr. Colin Shaw from the University of Cambridge’s Phenotypic Adaptability, Variation and Evolution (PAVE) Research Group.* Shaw continued, “You can absolutely morph even your bones so that they deal with stress and strain more effectively. Hip fractures, for example, don’t have to happen simply because you get older if you build your bone strength up earlier in life, so that as you age it never drops below that level where fractures can easily occur.”

Intense Exercise Boosts Bone Density…
Dr. Joseph F. Signorile writes in Bending the Aging Curve: The Complete Exercise Guide for Older Adults, “Bone adapts best to dynamic rather that static mechanical stimulation...If a bone is to respond to training, the stimulus must be at a suprathreshold level.”  “Supramaximal” by definition exceeds the bar set by “suprathreshold.”  Signorile goes on to state, “It appears that intensity is the name of the game for making positive physiological changes in bone.”  He continues, “The response that any bone has to a mechanical stimulus such as exercise is proportional to the loading cycle, which is how frequently the stimulus is applied…The response of bone to exercise is improved by brief  but intermittent exercise. Short, intense exercise bouts build bone more effectively than longer sessions do.”**

If you think about it, this exactly what our ancestors did to survive on a daily basis—short, intermittent bouts of high-intensity activity. A few examples include the following:
·         Creating enough friction to start a fire.
·         Running down, catching, and killing prey.
·         Evading predators.
·         Fighting one another.

Go Faster…
Yes, your ancestors did plenty of walking and even “persistence hunting,” but at their core they were sprinters. Many prehistoric Australian aboriginals could have outrun 100 and 200 meter record holder Usain Bolt in modern conditions. What? Yes! An analysis of the footprints from a fossilized clay lake bed show that humans reached speeds of 37 kph in the mud.*** Bolt has reached a top speed of 42 kph on a hard track, with a specialized covering, a starting block, and specialized shoes with cleats. Bolt probably was better rested, too. This is important because, it is well documented that individuals that perform sprints, have better bone density than sedentary individuals or distance runners. It’s also reassuring to know that you are highly capable of tapping that same power and superior performance…you carry the same genes!

The Physics…
In general, stronger muscles lead to denser bones. They go hand in hand. Why? The muscle’s role is to generate force. The stronger the muscle, the more force it can generate. Force = Mass (weight down here on Earth) x Acceleration. A muscle trained to generate a lot of force requires a skeletal system capable of withstanding those forces (dense bones). SABER is highly effective in the development of strong muscles (dense bones) with body weight or light resistance, because while the Mass is low, the Acceleration is much higher, so the amount of Force is equal or greater to that achieved with weights. A bullet doesn’t weigh (Mass) more than a few grams, but due to the huge Acceleration that it undergoes, it generates a deadly amount of Force.

But Wait—There’s More….
OK, you get it… an increase in bone density is “good.” Here’s a nice statistic to back that up: when it comes to resistance to fracturing, bone density has the greatest positive influence (50-80%).

Keep in mind that the benefits of SABER on one part of the body do not confer to “untrained” bones. It is important to perform SABER training using a wide variety of motions to engage every part of the body. Bones are living tissue, which react to stress by becoming denser to better handle that stress. More stress = denser bones. Oh, the benefit doesn’t just apply to your bones. Sprint (supramaximal) training enhances ligament weight and the weight to length ratio.****  Also, a study involving horses demonstrated that the individuals trained with high intensity had significantly thicker cartilage than the horses trained at low intensity.*****

**Bending the Aging Curve: The Complete Exercise Guide for Older Adults, Dr. Joseph F. Signorile, 2011
****Exercise and Sport Science, edited by William E. Garrett, Donald T. Kirkendall, 2000
*****Equine Exercise Physiology, By David Marlin, Kathryn J. Nankervis, 2002