No-Bake Energy Bites

24 Oct

765f27dee17fb177f3ad5d021376c879[1]Here’s a simple recipe for a healthy, tasty snack — No-Bake Energy Bites.

I was introduced to this recipe about a year ago, by my colleague and business partner, who brought them to our strength and conditioning facility.  Since then, I’ve seen the recipe (and several variations) posted on Facebook and other social media sites.

N0-bake energy bites are easy to prepare (total prep time is about 10 minutes) and, once you and your family taste them, you won’t be able make them fast enough.

The original, basic recipe looks like this:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour
  2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week
  3. Makes about 20-25 balls

The recipe can be modified to your taste.  You can add, subtract, or substitute ingredients.  If you’d like, press the mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper, and you can make energy bars instead.

Give ‘em a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Chocolate Milk Diet

22 Oct

Chocolate-Milk[1]For years, we’ve advocated chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink — there’s always a jug of it in the fridge at our facility.  Backed by science, more than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout (to discover the science behind refueling with lowfat chocolate milk, click here).

Along those same lines, here’s an article from Eat This, Not That! titled, The Chocolate Milk Diet: No kidding, it really works.

The article touts calcium‘s role in building strong bones and the impact it has on blocking your body’s ability to absorb fat; the effect of vitamin D in calcium transport and its support of bone and muscle health; chocolate milk’s ability to provide a metabolic boost; and the relationship between protein (and muscle) and body weight.

As if any of us really needed a reason to drink more chocolate milk.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Eat a Rainbow of Power Foods

20 Oct

colorful_food[1]Here’s an excellent article and informative resource I found in Sports Illustrated.  The article links a variety of “multicolored” foods and the performance benefits they deliver.

Through lab testing, a dietician for a professional hockey team tracks the players’ organ function, blood counts, muscle function, and vitamin levels; then uses this information to provide a range of foods to help players prevent injuries, promote recovery, and maximize performance.

The spectrum of foods includes reds (watermelon); oranges/yellows (sweet potatoes, carrots, pineapples); greens (spinach, asparagus); blues/purples (blueberries, grapes, red cabbage); whites (Greek yogurt, garlic, onions); and blacks/browns (dried fruit, oatmeal, quinoa, nuts, seeds).

These foods provide naturally occurring phytochemicals and powerful antioxidants that help heal sore muscles and bruises, and support muscle health.Red Wings Power Diet

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Avoid These Strength Training Mistakes

17 Oct

too-much-weight[1]Of all the mistakes athletes make in their quest to get stronger and faster, most can be attributed to lack of education and awareness.

There are lots of mistakes we see, especially when we go “off-site” to work with athletes, groups, and teams at high school and college weight rooms, and recreational facilities.  This list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but here are some of those mistakes:

  • Too much weight.  It’s important that athletes challenge themselves with heavy weight.  That’s one of the ways to engage fast-twitch muscle and build strength and power.  And, although we don’t encounter this very often with our female athletes, it’s a common issue with the guys.  The result is poor technique (which could be added to this list) — bad form and biomechanics — and an increased risk of injury.  Lifting a challenging weight with proper technique, through a full range-of-motion, is more effective and safer than overdoing it.
  • Not enough total-body training.  Once again, more of a problem with the guys (sorry, gentlemen), who are enamored with exercises that focus on their chest and biceps (in fairness, we also work with some females who are more than a little preoccupied with exercises that focus on abs and butts).  Think of your body as one, big, interconnected (and inter-dependent) functional unit.  More of your training should be movement-based, as opposed to muscle-focused.
  • Lack of variation.  Traditional, iron-pumping exercises are still some of the best for building strength and power, but we also use tools like kettlebells, medicine balls, stability balls, TRX suspension trainer, Rip Trainer, and balance-focused equipment like the Airex pad and BOSU.  Diversify your program by performing different exercises — using a variety of equipment — for similar movement patterns.
  • Overtraining.  This includes too much frequency; too much volume; too much focus on the same muscle groups; and too little rest.  The result is often an increase in the potential for injury.  Be smart.  The goal isn’t to do as much as you can; the goal is to do as much as you need to in order to achieve your goal.
  • Bad nutrition.  Another area of improvement for most of our athletes.  Virtually everything we do is fueled by nutrition and adequate hydration.  Quality, quantity, and frequency of meals and snacks are key components of performance nutrition; and dehydration is the primary cause of fatigue-related performance decline.
  • Inadequate rest/sleep.  Remember, it’s the “rest” phase that provides muscle the opportunity for regeneration and growth.  You need to be training hard, eating right, and sleeping right to ensure continuous improvement.

Here’s a related article from my friends at WeckMethod, Functional Training: Top 5 Mistakes.

Get some help.  An experienced, qualified strength and conditioning professional can provide expert advice, guidance, and direction; and make a big difference in your development.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Best Body-Weight Exercises

15 Oct

0903_ExercisePullupTwo_200x200[1]

Pullup

Strength training is an important component of athletic performance improvement, along with sport-specific skill development; nutrition; rest and recovery; and mental preparation.  And, while traditional weight lifting exercises should be part of every athlete’s strength and conditioning program, don’t ignore or underestimate the impact that body-weight exercises can have on your development.

Here are 3 of our favorite body-weight exercises:

  • Pullups work the entire upper body and — performed correctly — lead to improvements in strength.  If you can’t (yet) do a pullup, use a TRX, band, or spotter to assist.  Beginners can also start with the lat pulldown exercise.
  • Pushups are another great upper-body exercise, because they engage the chest, shoulders, back, and arms.  Master the basics first, then modify the exercise by placing medicine balls under your hands, use the TRX, elevate your feet, experiment with different hand positions, wear a weighted vest, or try them inverted (the inverted row is another of our favorite body-weight exercises, performed with a bar or TRX).
  • Lunges target the entire lower body, working the big muscles like the glutes and quads.  This versatile exercise can be varied by doing it stationary; walking forward, backward, or laterally; angled; and cross-over or cross-behind.

If you’re not already doing them, add these exercises to your regimen.  They can be performed virtually anywhere.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Up-Tempo Training is Best

13 Oct

45_2[1]

Seated Cable Row

One of our preferred strategies when training athletes (and virtually every other client) involves minimizing rest intervals among and between sets.  Maintaining an “up-tempo” pace  — keeping the heart rate up during a workout — results in continuous improvement, regardless of fitness level.

There’s no need to be in the weight room all day.  Most of our clients’ sessions are about 45-50 minutes in duration, and there’s very little “down” time.  They get in, get their work done, and get out (and recover).

We’ve found that agonist-antagonist paired sets (working opposing muscle groups — pushing and pulling — e.g., the bench press and row) are a great way to maintain an aggressive workout tempo, improve workout efficiency, and reduce training time, while not compromising workout quality.  This strategy strengthens and stabilizes joints, and helps prevent injury.  Our athletes and clients perform the paired exercises, back-to-back, completing all sets with as little rest as they can manage, then rest for one minute before proceeding to the next pair of exercises.

We also vary our training programs, changing exercises weekly, while ensuring that each session is a total-body workout.  Performing different exercises for similar muscle movements is important to keep workouts challenging.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another terrific way to maintain an efficient, up-tempo workout.  HIIT involves alternating high- and low-intensity exercise over a pre-determined period of time.  We like a ratio of 1:3, high-intensity to low-intensity, as a benchmark, depending on the athlete’s/client’s fitness level.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Weaknesses

10 Oct

athletes-collage[1]We train hundreds of athletes, and one of the things they all have in common is that they come to us with strengths and areas for improvement (I like that term better than “weaknesses”).  And, certainly, even their strengths can be improved.

The first step is identifying and understanding the athlete’s area for improvement and developing a plan to strengthen it.  A baseline assessment is a good starting point, and it’s also helpful to watch the athlete play his/her sport of choice.

Typically, we all gravitate toward our own comfort zones, and athletes are no different as it relates to their training.  The average athlete will avoid certain exercises when that should be his/her focus.  We don’t ignore or neglect areas of strength, but we focus on exercises in which athletes are the weakest (exercises they typically avoid).

Some athletes may need more attention to improvements in balance and stability; others may benefit from core strengthening.  They all have areas they can improve.

Regardless of the athlete’s area for improvement, our focus is on training movements, and not just muscles.  Some of the athletes we train are already pretty strong.  We want to help them better leverage and apply their strength in a way that’s relevant to the sport they play.

Our goal is to try and make them faster; more explosive; more balanced and stable; and more mobile and flexible.  And this isn’t limited to just running and jumping.  We want to make all their muscle movements faster and more powerful.

Although we use a lot of “traditional” weight training exercises (sometimes, they’re still the best), we also favor stuff like suspension training, anti-rotational training, and body-weight exercises.

The key is to emphasize speed, agility, quickness, acceleration, power, and metabolic conditioning along with strength and flexibility.  All of these aspects combine to create a better athlete.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Build More Strength With These Strategies

8 Oct

superman[1]Here’s a nice article from Men’s Health titled, 5 New Rules of Super Strength.  The five training “secrets” discussed in the article echo our training philosophy at Athletic Performance Training Center.

Getting stronger means not only working hard, but also working smart.  These five strategies can help any athlete take his or her training — and results — to the next level.

  1. Fuel your body with fat.  High-quality fats are a more efficient source of energy than carbs.  (please see, Fat is not the Enemy)
  2. Quality trumps quantity.  A longer workout is not necessarily a better workout.  Keep your intensity level high by minimizing rest intervals and using supersets (we favor agonist-antagonist paired sets).
  3. Learn to react faster.  The ability to react and respond quickly can be a game-changer, and can be developed and improved with practice.
  4. Add contrast training.  As stated above, high intensity workouts are best.  Follow a strength exercise with an explosive movement (e.g., perform a set of squats, immediately followed by a set of squat jumps) to recruit more motor neurons and trigger a surge of muscle-building hormones.
  5. Finish fast.  You won’t build fast muscle-memory by moving slowly.  Finish your workout with speed work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

It’s (almost) All About Speed

6 Oct

STFSpeed is a (insert cliché) difference maker/game changer/game breaker in virtually every sport.  It can be the difference between starting and sitting; winning and losing.

And agility, or “quickness” (which is basically the speed at which an athlete is able to accelerate, decelerate, change direction, and react), may be even more important than “straight-line” speed (and certainly more relevant in most sports).

I hear a lot of people talk about sport aptitude/IQ and sport-specific skills (e.g., ball-handling and shooting, in basketball), and both are important.

But, as you ascend through higher levels of sport participation — middle school, high school JV, varsity, college, one thing is certain: If your opponent can outrun you, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.  Conversely, if you can outrun your opponent, the advantage becomes yours.

Not everyone has the potential to be fast, but everyone has the potential to be faster.

If you’re serious about improving and developing your speed, you’ll need to incorporate these three components into your training plan:

  1. Strength training
  2. Plyometrics
  3. Technical training (running form, mechanics)

It’s also a smart idea to consult with an experienced, qualified strength and conditioning professional, to ensure that your plan is well-designed and -supervised.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Low-Carb or Low-Fat?

3 Oct

low-carb-vs-low-fat[1]A new study from Tulane University in New Orleans corroborates that a low-carbohydrate diet is better for losing weight and may also be better for lowering the risk of heart disease than a low-fat diet.

In this article from Newsmax Health, study authors found that “those in the low-carbohydrate group had lower levels of fat circulating in their blood and had lower scores on a measure often used to predict the risk of a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.”

Please see related blog posts, Fat is not the Enemy and Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat.

Above all, remember that moderation — portion control — is the key.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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