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|| News Item: Posted 2000-04-27

Healthy Work habits for Sports Photographers v5.0
By Sam Mircovich

Every winter I go through a slump where I waste the last three months of my gym membership. Call it a winter malaise, but from December to March I don't step foot in the gym. Of course, I could have saved those last few hundred dollars and done something constructive, like pay my taxes. For better or worse I am accustomed to giving my body a three month rest from the stresses of pushing weights.

Of course, I am the last one to follow my own advice. Guess I'm stupid, but when I went back this week (it takes weeks of guilt to get me back in the gym) I didn't prepare as I normally do with the light weight/ high rep exercise required so as to not shock the muscle back into the growth phase.

HA HA. Let's just say when I woke the next morning, I couldn't move my arms. The temporary paralysis, and ensuing muscle ache, was a direct result of me trying to prove that Senor Mircovich Es Muy Macho. I used to be able to dumbbell press about 95 pounds each arm, and I was frustrated that 1/3 the weight left me panting and dazed. My inactivity left me with a marked loss in strength and muscle size. My biceps no longer stretch my shirtsleeves. I no longer look pretty.

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NOTE-- The April 24 issue of Time Magazine has a cover story on testosterone, and a side article on a new book "The Adonis Complex,' which studies why the male self-image is tied to body image. Further proof that bodybuilding has nothing to do with health but with pure VANITY. I could have avoided this pain if I followed my own advice, but I was eager to prove my masculinity and now I pay the price. Muscles have memory, and it won't be long till I feel pretty again HA HA! In the meantime lets look at way you can strengthen your arms to help you prevent injury. Don't worry, my ego is strong, I will be over myself next week.



The upper part of the arm contains one large bone called the humerus. It extends from the shoulder to elbow. Shoulder muscles, known as deltoids, are attached to the upper arm. Flexor muscles called biceps bend the arm at the elbow. The triceps muscles found at the back of the upper limb extend to straighten the arm. The lower part of the arm is called the forearm. The ulna and the radius are the two bones that extend from the elbow to the wrist. Attached to the forearm are 19 muscles that move the wrist and fingers.

We've already discussed the shoulder, its joint and the connecting muscles. Let's focus on the elbow (where my pain is located) If you missed that article, check Brad Mangin's website for the Sports Shooter archives at:

The elbow is the hinge joint, connecting the lower humerus with the upper ends of the radius and ulna. The elbow permits the arm to be bent by the biceps muscle and then straightened by the triceps muscle. The biceps and triceps thus form a pair of muscles, which have opposite actions. It is a general rule that the muscles of the body are organized into pairs or groups that have opposite actions.

The elbow also allows the forearm to be rotated without moving the upper arm. This is very important for some actions such as mounting a lens to camera.

Repetitive motions can strain the tendons of the elbow and cause pain. Tennis and golfers' elbows are common conditions resulting from overuse and strain of the elbow tendons. And don't tell me your elbows (or those of your assistants) haven't been sore from lugging a 400mm lens around a golf course. Most everyone has felt the pins and needles sensation caused by hitting the tip of his or her elbow. This is often referred to as hitting the "funny bone." The temporary pain is caused by impingement of the ulnar nerve, which travels through a narrow groove, close to the surface of the skin, as it passes over the elbow.

Further down the arm we come to the wrist, and hand, a source of many problems for photographers and reporters.

The hand is the most versatile part of the skeleton. It enables people to grasp and manipulate objects. The hand is comprised of the wrist (carpals), palm (metacarpals), and fingers (phalanges). There are three main nerves that travel to the hand: the median nerve, the ulnar nerve, and the radial nerve. Each of these three nerves connects with a specific part of the hand to permit movement and sensation.

Using the small muscles that are contained entirely within the hand (the intrinsic muscles), and the much larger forearm muscles achieve intricate hand movements. The forearm muscles are connected to the bones of the hand by long tendons.


The tricep is the largest muscle in the arm, extending from the deltoid to the elbow. Keeping the triceps toned is only part of the solution to strong arms, as it works in conjunction and opposite the bicep muscle. There are simple exercises you can do to tone the triceps and prevent that flabby blowing-in the breeze underarm.


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This requires no equipment other than a chair, a staircase, or the double beds pushed together as you watch the Spice channel at the Ramada in Boise. Plant your hands at your sides, elbows back, and raise your feet on an opposing surface of the same height. Lift your butt off the edge of the bed/chair, and slowly lower yourself until your arms form a 90-degree angle. Raise yourself to lock your elbows, and repeat. Feel that burn as you do three sets of 10 reps.

My dirty mind being what it is says that is a fun way to have a good time with your partner. We want to be motivated to stay in shape, and a healthy sex life helps. Get your partner to assist you in any creative way you can envision as you do these dips. For those of us without a life, find that heavy blunt object I mentioned in the shoulder workout ( It shouldn't weigh more than 10 pounds to start out, and it can be a candlestick, a 300 mm lens, or your cat (declaw him first). Raise the object above your head, and with your elbow forward; lower the weight behind your head to a 90-degree angle; following the same set/rep count. Do both arms. If you have a long heavy object that you can get both hands on, you can do these in this fashion. Just keep your elbows forward and be sure not to bounce the weight at the mid- point. You want to keep tension on the muscle and not sprain the tendons of the elbow.

As the candlestick gets easier to use, move up to something heavier, or invest in some portable dumbbells. I think I once saw a set of travel dumbbells you fill with water or sand and can be packed empty in your suitcase. Or maybe you should fatten your cat to keep the exercise challenging.

Also good for the triceps is the good old pushup. The theory is that some exercises work a primary muscle (here, the chest) and a secondary, opposite muscle group (the triceps). I will cover the pushup next time when we get to chest exercises. Again, I don't have to tell you the advantages of having a partner to help explore a new avenue in exercise/foreplay. Figure it out for yourself.


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It helps to have strong biceps when you have to lift lenses, Cabbage Cases or your ego out of the gutter when you get beat on a photo. Your basic bicep curl has many variations, each working a different part of the muscle. Let's just work the entire muscle rather than any one part.

Take your blunt object. If your cat is protesting then try one of those Nikon LS 1000 scanners you have lying around but don't use anymore. Sit in a chair and rest your elbow on your knee. Raise the weight toward your chin, squeezing your biceps at the top of the movement. Try to feel the bicep contract at the top of the move. Do the regular 3-set/10-rep routine, and do both arms.

A chin up bar offers a good bicep workout, as well as strengthening you back muscles. Here again is the primary/secondary muscle theory. Chin-ups tone the back muscles (primary) and the biceps (secondary). You can purchase a bar at any sporting goods store, and they usually screw into a doorjamb. The bar slides into the two holders, and you're good to go. Place your hands 8-12 inches apart, and lift yourself chin high to the bar. If you lack a strong back, you won't be able to do many of these. But that's the point isn't it? Keep at it, and you will gain strength quickly with repeated use.

If you have difficulty with this exercise, just do a half motion. Every little bit counts.


You can strengthen the wrist and the forearm at the same time, using a light weight such as a 5-pound plate or that 70-200 zoom. In a seated position, rest your wrist on your knee palm down and slowly raise the weight back. The motion should be slow and steady. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps each arm.

Now do the opposite, with the palm up. Lower the weight, the curl up. You should have a light but firm grip on the object. Perform the same sets and reps.

Finally, with your wrist still on your knees, slowly rotate the weight in a circular motion as far as is comfortable.


The median nerve and the flexor tendons for the phalanges, or fingers, in your hand, all travel through a narrow space in the wrist called the "carpal tunnel." A ligament called the "flexor retinaculum" which connects the carpal bones at the front of the wrist forms the roof of the carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when repetitive hand and wrist motions cause swelling of the flexor tendons and squeezing of the median nerve. This impingement of the median nerve is the primary cause of the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgical treatment involves cutting the ligament, which forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This makes extra space and frees up the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be treated with braces, which prevent excessive wrist motion.

Carpal tunnel syndrome hits photographers, reporters and anyone else prone to repetitive movement. Minute mouse movement in PhotoShop, caption (or Sports Shooter article) writing, holding you zoom for long periods of time all put stress on the wrist.

There is some medical opinion that weight training in an attempt to heal CTS will worsen the problem. If you are a sufferer, you should consult a physician for relevant treatment. Surgery may be required to alleviate the swelling.

Self-massage may help relieve the pain. One web site I found offers these massage techniques. Here's the link: and:
"Recent studies have indicated that the small muscles in between the metacarpal bones of the hand may contribute to the problems of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when they are excessively tight. You can massage these muscles by pressing them in between your thumb and fingers and holding for a three count. Start near the fingers and work down toward the wrist. Start in the web space in between the index and the middle, the middle and the ring, and the ring and the small fingers. "

It also details a muscle stretch for the fingers, with an animated GIF. Basically you curl on finger in while using the opposing thumb to push the digit backward-Check out the GIF for a more detailed example.

That's all for now. I hope someone is reading this stuff. I don't want people to fall asleep bored by too much technical jargon. If you have any comments you can contact me at:

(Sam Mircovich is a contract photographer for Reuters News Pictures based in Los Angeles.)

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