Abs Are Built in the Kitchen

27 Mar

VMO[1]Well (regarding the title), I’m not sure that’s 100% true — at least some of the work has to be done in the weight room — but I do believe You Can’t “Out-Train” a Bad Diet.

Here’s an article, titled, 7 Eating Habits That Will Uncover Your Abs, that provides some helpful advice and insight about the relationship between diet and the quest for abs.

The article focuses on 7 areas:

  • Smart snacking
  • Avoiding hunger
  • Eating for your ideal weight
  • Eating a variety of carbs
  • Eating more veggies (and fish)
  • Post-workout protein and carbs
  • Drinking more water

Remember, balance and moderation is the key.  An extreme, fanatical approach to diet and nutrition (or anything else) rarely has “staying power;” slow and steady — consistency — is the way to go.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Getting Athletes to be Their Best

25 Mar

-678325aa59aad8ba[1]Eight years ago — after a 20-year career in the pharmaceutical industry — I began pursuit of a dream.  My dream was fueled by my four children, all capable student-athletes.  I wanted to help them train for their sports and improve their performance; teach them the value of working toward a goal; and help them develop a competitive edge.  I expanded my reach to their friends and teammates; interacted and learned from other trainers, coaches, and administrators; and got to work providing evidence-based Strength and Conditioning for anyone interested, willing, and committed to improving their athletic performance.  That was the beginning of what has now become my passion; working with hundreds of athletes in pursuit of stronger, faster, and better.  That was the birth of Athletic Performance Training Center (APTC).

Having recently expanded to our second facility, the APTC dream continues to grow.  We work (and have worked) with several hundred athletes as young as age 5, professional athletes, and everyone in between.  We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many dedicated clients.

Over the past 8 years, APTC has helped prepare athletes for the “next level” whether that is high school, college, or the pros.  We have been called upon to prepare athletes for college and professional pro days and combines.  If you are an aspiring athlete, and looking to go to the next level, here is some advice  — stuff that I’ve learned over the past 8 years in the industry.  There’s more to athletic performance than you think.

It’s More Than Just Hark Work

It’s important to work hard, but you’ve also got to work smart.  Most athletes believe if they work hard — in the weight room and on the court or field — they can be successful.  Unfortunately, this antiquated way of thinking is probably not going to get athletes to the top of their game.  Working hard in the weight room won’t get you far if your plan — including exercise selection, intensity, sets, reps, rest intervals, etc. — is not aligned with your goal.  Likewise, you can practice your ball-handling and shooting in the gym all day; but if you’re practicing with flawed form, mechanics, and technique, your improvement will be limited, at best.  And, of course, in addition to physical training, factors like nutrition, rest, and mental preparation will have a considerable effect on your performance.  This is where a knowledgeable strength and/or skills coach can be an asset by providing quality guidance and direction.

It’s More Than Just Off-Season Training

Training is not a “sometimes” thing; it is an “all the time” thing — it’s year-round.  You need to train during the off-season, pre-season, and in-season (with appropriate intensity, frequency, volume, and rest along the way); and it’s important to have a periodized, progressive plan to address each stage of training.  This can become somewhat complicated when athletes play multiple sports throughout the year (and claim not to have the time), but a knowledgeable trainer can develop an effective plan to address each cycle to ensure optimal performance.  If athletes are not training, they are not improving.  And if they are not improving, they are compromising their potential.  During the season, it’s important to incorporate one or two lifting sessions per week to maintain the gains they made in the off-season.  In-season training helps athletes enhance recovery from their sport practices and games; protects against getting “worn down” over the course of the season; and helps keep muscles and joints strong to prevent against injury.

It’s More Than Just the Bench Press and Bicep Curl

Don’t get me wrong, the bench press is a great upper body exercise, but your training shouldn’t revolve around your chest and arms.  Strength and power — for any sport — emanate from the core, specifically the lower core.  The hips, quadriceps, and posterior chain — lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings —  are crucial to your performance.  If you are strong throughout your core, you have the potential to be a strong, fast, and powerful athlete.  If you are not strong throughout this area, there’s nothing you can do to compensate for it.  Weakness in the muscles of your core and posterior chain also puts you at a greater risk for injury.  Squats, deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and Romanian deadlifts are excellent exercises for the core and posterior chain musculature.

Warmup is More Than Just Stretching

Prior to every strength and/or speed training session, make sure you warmup properly.  That means more than just a quick lap around the track or a few quick stretches.  The best, knowledgeable athletes, trainers, and coaches know that performing a dynamic (movement-based) warmup — before training, practices, or games — is the way to go.  Dynamic warmup involves movements that mimic and reflect the demands of your workout or sport-specific activity.  It increases temperature of and blood flow to working muscles; improves mobility and range-of-motion; and decreases the chance of injury.  Static stretching is an outdated mode of warmup that has been found to reduce strength and power production in the short-term; relax and elongate working muscles (thus not preparing them for force production); and it does not reduce the incidence of injury, nor does it help minimize post-workout soreness.  If you absolutely insist on static stretching, do it after practice and training.

Speed is More Than Just Running

Speed is a skill, and speed development starts in the weight room.  Speed requires strength and power training.  The stronger and more powerful you are throughout your core and lower extremities, the more force you can generate against the ground, which translates to speed, agility, and vertical jump ability.  Additionally, technique is a vital component of speed.  When speed training, athletes need to perform exercises and drills with perfect form and mechanics.  Head position, arm action, leg drive, stride frequency, and stride length are all factors that influence running speed.  Without an understanding of the right way to approach speed and agility training, it will be difficult to achieve your potential as an athlete.

It’s More Than Just You

Finally, if you are committed to being the best you can be, you won’t be able to do it without some help.  In addition to the support of your family and friends, you should look to find competent, qualified individuals with experience and expertise in the areas of strength and conditioning, and sport-specific skill development.  It’s important to have a plan, and equally important for your plan to be aligned with your goals.  There’s a big difference between activity and productivity; all movement is not progress.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Power of Positive and Possible

23 Mar

does-positive-thinking-help-you--20120811102240[1]A few months ago, I shared an article about “possibility thinking.”

I’ve also blogged about The Power of Positive Attitude and The Power of Positive Self-Talk.

There is a strong and undeniable link between POSITIVE and POSSIBLE.

Needless to say, I really believe in the power of positive thinking and a “can-do” approach to anything and everything — school, sports, work, and life.  In my business, I witness it every day.  Athletes with a strong belief in themselves have an uncanny knack for success.  They expect success.

These individuals demonstrate a willingness to work through adversity, “stay the course,” and follow their dreams.  It’s not that they don’t encounter obstacles along the way, they are simply too focused on and passionate about their goals to be sidetracked.  They believe in themselves and what they are doing.  They refuse to quit.

Positive people are much more likely to look for/see the success potential, in every situation.  They realize that there is good in every day, even if every day is not perfect.

Positive thinkers see the opportunity in every difficulty, and not the difficulty in every opportunity (to paraphrase Winston Churchill).

Positive thinking is a possibility creator and a door opener. It enables you to do virtually everything better than negative thinking will.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Schools Should Encourage Hydration for Kids

20 Mar

Drinking-fountain[1]Dehydration is the #1 cause of performance-related decline, but not just physiological decline.

Even mild-to-moderate dehydration in school-aged kids can adversely impact cognitive performance.  Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills, according to research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Many of the student-athletes we train tell us that water bottles are forbidden in their schools.  Perhaps there’s some safety/security issue that I just don’t see, but I don’t understand this policy.

Teachers and administrators should be encouraging their students to stay hydrated throughout the day.  I’ve read about schools whose teachers remind their students, at the end of each period, to get a drink of water between classes.  I’ve also heard about schools that set up “drink stations” in their halls to ensure that students have an opportunity to drink water between classes.

Improving education and awareness among administrators, teachers, and students — as is relates to proper hydration and its impact on daily physiological and psychological function — is a step in the right direction.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is AM Fasted Cardio for You?

18 Mar

early-morning-workout-tips-300x200[1]I’m a fan of morning workouts.  I think they’re the best, and there’s a lot of scientific research to support the benefits of morning exercise.  AM training sets the tone for your entire day — physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Exercising in the morning just feels good.

And, for our athletes whose goals include strength, speed, and power development, I recommend never training on an empty stomach (as is supported by the scientific literature).

But what if your exercise goals involve weight/fat loss?

There is a debate among exercise science cognoscenti as to whether or not to consume carbohydrates prior to fat-burning exercise.  In other words, should you do morning training on a fasted (empty) stomach or after breakfast?

During cardiovascular exercise, a significant portion of your energy production comes from burning fat. When your diet is higher in protein and fat, your muscle adapts by more effectively utilizing fat and sparing muscle glycogen (the stored form of glucose). Additionally, cardiovascular exercise improves your muscle’s ability to use fat for energy while sparing breakdown of muscle protein. The percentage of carbs used during cardiovascular exercise increases when your diet is high in carbs.

After a night of sleep, fat is available for energy because liver glycogen stores are somewhat depleted by the overnight fast. This means there is less available glucose to burn as fuel and your muscle goes to other sources of fuel — fat or muscle. During cardiovascular exercise, fat is released from stores, resulting in more fat to be available for working muscles. If a carb-rich meal is consumed prior to the workout, glucose becomes the preferred energy source and fat-moving enzymes are shut down by the rise in the hormone insulin, which facilitates conversion of absorbed glucose into stored fat and glycogen.

It is reasonable to infer that eating glucose (carbohydrates) prior to exercise intended to burn fat (i.e., cardiovascular exercise) is counterproductive. Research supports that fat burning is greater in a fasted state vs. a fed state and that fasted cardio improves the contribution of intramuscular fats used in energy production during cardiovascular training.

In other words, research supports that fat burning is greater in the fasted state than in the fed state.

Fasted training improves the muscle’s ability to burn fat more than similar exercise done with prior carb intake. Perhaps more crucial for the low-carb dieter, fasted-state cardio prevents the drop in blood glucose seen in exercise after a carb meal. This avoids the crash that can occur when training after eating sugars or carbs.

Please keep in mind that fasted cardio is just that: It only applies to cardiovascular exercise and not to high-intensity strength and power training.  Athletes who are training to improve performance should always eat prior to a workout, and never train on an empty stomach.

If you’re an athlete who wants to get stronger, faster, and more powerful, make sure you eat appropriately prior to training.

However, if your goal is to burn fat, give fasted morning cardio a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Pre- and Post-Workout Carbohydrates

16 Mar

high-carbohydrate-foods[1]Carbohydrates are important before your workout, to provide fuel for your exercise session; and after your workout, to replenish glycogen (the stored form of glucose) stores in your working muscles.

But, what are the best types of carbohydrates to consume before and after your workout?

The glycemic index (GI) is a way of measuring the body’s response to food.  A high GI food will cause a rapid and high elevation in blood glucose and a commensurate rise in blood levels of insulin.  Conversely, low GI foods will lead to a slower, more sustained blood glucose concentration.

Processed foods and foods with added sugar tend to have higher GIs; while less processed foods — including whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrates — usually have lower GIs.  Foods with carbohydrates that also have protein and/or fat also tend to have lower GIs, such as milk and dark chocolate.

Although the quality of your pre-workout meal or snack may not always significantly impact performance, studies lean toward a rationale for low GI carbohydrates before a workout, especially if the workout is longer in duration.

To accelerate restoration of glycogen stores following a workout, high GI carbohydrates may be a better choice.  High GI carbs are also appropriate between games of a double-header, or at half-time of a sporting event.

Here’s an informational article about the glycemic index that describes the differences and effects of high and low GI carbohydrates.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

3 Simple Rules in Life

13 Mar

Here’s a nice follow up to Wednesday’s blog post.

You can’t wish for things to happen, and you can’t wait for things to happen.

You’ve got to go after what you want and make things happen.

Pursuing your dreams and goals may not always result in getting exactly what you want, but not going after what you want will never help you accomplish or achieve anything worthwhile.

984281_406394946186783_4644553816838639229_n[1]Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

7 Rules of Life

11 Mar

1234769_627884243933743_1031619130_n[1]Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Should We All Be Drinking Honey Lemon Water?

9 Mar

I_Drank_Warm_Honey_Lemon_Water_Every_Morning_for_a_Year._Here_s_What_Happened[1]Here’s an article about the health benefits of drinking honey lemon water, daily.  (there’s also a plethora of stuff on the internet about the health benefits of drinking [warm] lemon water)

Honey boasts some well-documented health benefits, including: cancer and heart disease prevention; gastrointestinal health; anti-bacterial/anti-fungal; athletic performance enhancer, via maintenance of glycogen levels and improved recovery time; soothes cough and sore throat; blood sugar regulation; heals wounds and burns; probiotic; beautiful skin.

Likewise, the health benefits of lemon include: rich in vitamin C; great for the gastrointestinal system; neutralize free radicals linked to aging and disease; promotes brain health; anti-bacterial; strengthens blood vessels; improves breathing and oxygen intake; promotes eye health; anti-cancer properties.

I started last week… gonna give it a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Tips for Post-Workout Recovery

6 Mar

How%20to%20prevent%20this%20post-workout%20pain[1]Post-workout muscle soreness (pain and stiffness that peaks 24–72 hours post-workout), also known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a mostly normal after-effect of exercise or exertion.  DOMS is less related to the intensity of a workout, and more attributable to the “newness” or variety of movement.  New and different exercises, drills, and movement patterns seem to have greater potential to induce post-exercise soreness than familiar exercises, even at higher intensity levels.

And, while experts agree that there’s nothing you can do to completely alleviate post-workout soreness, there are some strategies that may improve treatment and recovery of sore muscles — before, during, and after your workout.

Here’s a resource titled, Fuel Your Sore Muscles, that provides some insight and tips for managing post-exercise soreness.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that rest is a vital component of the muscle- and strength-building process.  Sore muscles need time to heal and recover.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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