Save the Stretch for After

7 Dec

kobe_bryant_stretching[1]From the time I began playing youth sports through high school, college, and beyond, we were encouraged to stretch prior to exercising, practicing, or playing.  I guess we thought — and were taught — stretching before activity helped us to “get loose” in order to maximize our performance.  As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although I still see lots of athletes and teams stretching before practices and games, today’s research overwhelmingly advises us to avoid it.  Stretching elongates and relaxes muscle, reduces strength and power production in the short-term, and does not necessarily reduce the incidence of injury.

In a recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article titled, Experience in Resistance Training Does Not Prevent Reduction in Muscle Strength Evoked by Passive Static Stretching, Serra and colleagues state that “the passive static stretching program was detrimental to upper- and lower-body maximal muscle strength performance in several body segments.  The negative effects of stretching were similar for subjects participating in resistance training regimens.”

The study presented and confirmed 2 key issues:

  1. The detrimental effects of stretching extend to different muscle segments.
  2. Resistance training experience does not prevent the maximal strength reduction caused by stretching before exercise.

Dynamic warm-up (movement prep) — a strategy that involves utilizing the same types of movements during your warm-up that you will use during exercise, practice, and/or game situations — has been shown to better prepare muscles for activity, by actually potentiating force production.

But don’t give up on stretching, altogether.  Along with hydration and nutrition, a good stretch — or foam roll massage — is just what your body needs after your workout, practice, or game.


Your thoughts?

Add Peanut Butter and Banana to Your Breakfast

5 Dec

peanut-butter-banana-sandwich[2]It’s important to start your day with a healthy, nutritious breakfast.  Aim for balance, including muscle-building protein and high-fiber.

Adding peanut butter to your breakfast is an easy way to ensure that you incorporate protein into your morning meal, with minimal time-consuming preparation.

Nutrition guru Amanda Carlson-Phillips suggests the following breakfast ideas:

A peanut butter and banana sandwich can be prepared in only 5 minutes and requires three ingredients: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and 1 banana.  This sandwich delivers 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and 290 calories.

Peanut butter and banana oatmeal takes only a few more minutes to prepare.  You’ll need 1 cup of oatmeal (prepared according to package instructions), 1 sliced banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and a handful of nuts (your choice).  This recipe yields 21 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and 530 calories.


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Burn Fat Faster

2 Dec

Fat-Burn-rev1[1]Training longer and harder isn’t necessarily the best workout formula.  If you want to boost your metabolism and stoke your body’s fat-burning furnace, try reducing your rest time between sets.

According to researchers at Cal State, subjects who reduced their rest time to 30 seconds, between sets, burned nearly 10 percent more fat compared with those who rested for 90 seconds between sets.

Shorter rest intervals require your muscles to work considerably harder.  This means your body also has to do extra work repairing and regenerating, after your workout, which burns more calories.  As an added bonus, you’ll shorten your workout time and train more efficiently.


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What’s the Best Time to Exercise?

30 Nov

gym-weight-plate-clock[1]Generally, the best time to exercise is anytime you can drag yourself to the gym.  Life can be hectic, and most of us have to coordinate and manage schedules that include family, work, school, and other responsibilities and obligations.

However, depending on your training goal(s), there may be some logic to scheduling your workout based on the benefits you wish to achieve:

  • If you have a stressful event scheduled, like a test or meeting, exercising just before it can lessen your body’s physiological reaction to stress by helping your brain turn off its stress response.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, try exercising before bed.  Although some believe exercising before bed makes it harder to fall asleep, new research shows that people who exercise at any time of day or night sleep better than those who don’t (yoga seems to work best).
  • For injury prevention, exercise in the early evening.  If you’re prone to strained muscles and soreness, your “cold” muscles may not be ready to jump out of bed and workout.  Try exercising between 4 PM and 8 PM, when your core temperature is generally at its highest level.
  • If you want to lose weight, get your workout in before breakfast.  People who exercised before breakfast burned about 20 percent more fat compared with a group who ate breakfast first, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
  • If you want to improve your muscle tone, try exercising after dinner.  The increase in core body temperature later in the day can translate to an improvement in exercise performance.  Muscle strength increases slightly, coordination is better, and your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen delivered to muscles) rises.  It’s a small improvement, but these factors my enable you to work a bit longer and harder.


Your thoughts?

Should You Skip Breakfast?

28 Nov

470_2677148[1]In the interest of balance, I thought I would share a recent article from Healthy Living titled, 5 Reasons to Skip Breakfast.  Obviously, I’ve extolled the virtues of breakfast in this blog — as well as in my personal and professional life — repeatedly.

This is the type of conflicting information that can make it confusing for people to make sound, educated choices regarding diet and nutrition.  Clearly, this article is more of an editorial than evidence-based research.

The article also lacks balance, as it only addresses a high-carb breakfast, and not the benefits of incorporating lean protein into your morning meal or snack.  There is a voluminous (and growing) body of research that supports eating something — anything — within 90 minutes of waking, especially for athletes.

A balanced, nutritious breakfast — along with smaller, more frequent meals and snacks throughout the day — can improve energy level and cognition, and help you reach your fitness, weight-loss, and/or performance goals.

Please see related article, Eat Breakfast!


Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Glutes to Avoid Injury

25 Nov

brewkendall_fullsize_story2[2]Here’s one for the baseball and softball players, quarterbacks, and shot put and discus throwers (and any other “throwing” athletes).  According to researchers at Auburn University, stronger glute muscles may help you ward off throwing injuries.

Athletes activate their glutes when throwing, stabilizing their core and reducing their risk of shoulder injury.  When you generate power from your lower-body, you reduce stress on the small, injury-prone muscles of the shoulder.

Ironically, these findings aren’t necessarily new.  There have been several studies showing that throwing and “hitting” athletes (baseball and softball players, hockey and lacrosse players, etc.) who are capable of generating large amounts of lower-body force can reduce the stress caused by upper-body rotational torque.

Strengthening your glutes has broad application, and can benefit athletes in everything from running and jumping to throwing to lifting.  Try exercises like deadlifts, hip extensions, and lunges.

Please see related articles:

Strengthen Your Glutes With Hip Raises

Strengthen Your Hips and Glutes with the Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle


Your thoughts?

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

23 Nov

dinner[1]Well, it’s that time of year… the holiday “weight gain” season.  And, although there is anecdotal speculation — via media reports, surveys, etc. — that the average American gains 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas, several studies now show that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is just a pound or two.  But here’s the real problem: Most people don’t ever lose the pound(s) of weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

Here are some healthy eating tips to help you stay on track and get through the holidays:

  • Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Stay committed to your exercise/training program. Physical activity can help relieve stress, regulate appetite, and burn up extra calories.
  • Be realistic. Perhaps the holiday season is not the best time to try to lose weight. Aim to maintain your current weight instead.
  • Portion control. Keep your portion sizes small. Eat small portions of a variety of foods rather than a large portion of one food.
  • Eat breakfast. Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. It jump starts your metabolism and helps to stave off hunger and cravings.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alternate cocktails with unsweetened iced tea or seltzer to reduce the quantity of alcohol consumed. Choose wine, light beer or spirits mixed with no calorie beverages.
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking water can decrease the chance of overeating by temporarily filling your stomach. Also, caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration which increases your need for water.
  • Snack sensibly. Choose fruits and vegetables and dip with veggies instead of chips. Limit fried foods, high-fat sauces and gravies, and cheese cubes.
  • Eat slowly and stop when you feel satisfied (not stuffed). Listen to your stomach! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’ve had enough. Pay attention to what it feels like to be satisfied and not full.
  • Prepare for temptation. Never go to a party or event hungry. Prepare yourself for distractions by eating before you go. Have a small meal or a snack which contains a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and a little healthy fat to fend off hunger, such as natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread or low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit.
  • Visualize success. Make an action plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with and what foods will be available. It’s much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you’ve already planned for it. Parties are a time to mingle with friends and loved ones. Focus on interaction instead of on the food and drinks. Food very often is center stage of any party but you can guarantee success by visualizing the enjoyment of the company and not just the food and drink.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t spend all your time obsessing over the not-so-healthy delicacy that you’re really craving. Instead, allow a small portion and savor every mouth-watering bite so that you do not feel deprived.

Eating a bit too much one day is not the end of the world! It takes consecutive days of unhealthy eating to gain weight. If you slip up, put it behind you and return to your healthy eating plan, just don’t allow it to become a habit. You are in control of your lifestyle choices so choose wisely. It’s all about lifestyle changes, not diets.


Your thoughts?

The Sports Drink Trick You Probably Don’t Know

21 Nov

Sports-Drinks[1]Found recently, in a Men’s Journal article…

The Sports Drink Exercise Trick

Swishing a sports drink around in your mouth and then spitting it out might sound like a nonsensical way to boost performance, but it’s been nearly a decade since research first suggested that rinsing improves your workout. A study by sports scientists at University of Central Lancashire last April found that during an hour-long workout, cyclists who swished carbohydrate-rich sports drinks for longer covered more distance and felt less tired than after a five-second rinse or rinsing with water.

How the trick works may surprise you. Brain scans show that specific regions light up when carbs are in your mouth. The longer you rinse, the more time the carbs have to stimulate sensors in your brain, says study author Lindsay Bottoms. “The concept of mouth rinse supports the idea that the brain is very much playing a key role in fatigue,” says Bottoms.

Swishing is most beneficial during relatively short, intense workouts. Not only can the rinse give you a performance boost of about 2 percent, but it also helps avoid indigestion from swallowing carbs during workouts. “When performing high-intensity exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, using a carbohydrate rinse for 5-10 seconds can improve performance,” says Bottoms. “It could potentially allow you to train harder.” If you’re doing a couple hours of exercise, however, rinsing will start to lose its effect since your muscles really do need more carbs.


Your thoughts?

Don’t Skip In-Season Strength Training

18 Nov

9070245-large[1]Once again, the fall season was a blur and the winter-sports season is upon us.  Hundreds of athletes have spent the off-season at my facility, working hard to get stronger and faster, in order to improve their athletic performance on the court, mat, or in the water this winter.  And, invariably, many of them will make the same mistake as they begin their competition season: They will suspend their training until the season is over.

Some will say they don’t have time, due to the rigors of school (homework, studying, etc.).  Others assume that practices and games will keep them in  shape throughout the season.  All are mistaken.

The nature of muscle is this: Use it or lose it.

In-season strength training isn’t about having time… it’s about making time.  Working out during your season will help you maintain the strength you developed during the off-season.  Additionally, three or four months of practices and games — five or six days a week — will wear you down.  In-season strength training can help your body withstand the physical stress of a season’s worth of sport-specific activity.

Research has shown that one strength training session per week is adequate to maintain strength and speed, during the season.  The key is to maintain the intensity (weight) of your workout, while decreasing the volume (frequency, sets, reps).  Also, focus on exercises that work multiple muscle groups and joints, like the squat, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, bench press, and row.  You can resume assistance and impact exercises once your competition season is over.

Get in the weight room, get your work done, and get out.  The duration of your in-season workout should not exceed about 30 minutes.


Your thoughts?

Coffee, Caffeine, and Exercise

16 Nov


Coffee sometimes gets a bad rap.  It’s full of antioxidants and essential nutrients, and has been linked with potential health benefits including: protecting against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer, and promoting a healthy heart.

Additionally, coffee (caffeine) can improve energy levels, cognition, and physical performance.

Caffeine is one of two (legal) supplements documented to improve athletic and exercise performance (creatine being the other).

Athletes and active individuals routinely ingest caffeine to facilitate improvement during athletic activity, and resistance and endurance exercise.

Although the research regarding the relationship between caffeine and aerobic exercise performance is mixed, the majority of studies corroborate an improvement in resistance exercise performance after caffeine ingestion.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “Coffee (0.15 g/kg) and decaffeinated coffee plus caffeine (5 mg/kg) have the ability to improve performance during a resistance exercise protocol.” (Richardson, D,  This effect was especially significant in the short term.

The findings of this study include:

  • Caffeine increased contractility and force production of skeletal muscle
  • Caffeine enhanced neuromuscular transmission and maximal muscle activation
  • Increased calcium release and sodium-potassium pump activity
  • Inhibited negative effects of pain perception
  • Improved reaction time, cognition, and mood

Please see related articles:

Caffeine Reduces Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness

How Does Caffeine Affect Athletic Performance?


Your thoughts?

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