3 Tips to Increase Strength

5 Feb

3-Tips-to-Increase-Strength_46d1f626-d679-4457-ae40-360b6e724ece_1024x1024[1]If you want to increase — and continue to increase — your strength, you have to lift fast, lift heavy, and lift more (over time).  Our friends at ASD Performance provide a simple algorithm for building strength:

Lift Explosively

Speed lifts (e.g., box squats, speed deads & speed bench) are essential to increasing strength, acceleration and power. Loads around 60% 1RM should be used and moved as fast as possible. Accommodating resistance (e.g., bands and chains) can be applied to further challenge your ability to accelerate the load. Obvious explosive exercises that should come to mind are the Olympic lifts (e.g., clean & jerk and the snatch) however, medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings also fit into this category as well.

Lift heavy

If you want to get strong you have to lift heavy. Sure, using light weights for high rep sets may give you some tone but doing so will never make you strong.

Lifting heavy requires a large amount of tension. You will be forced to recruit muscle fibers in places not normally directly activated by the lift. Tension is strength. The greater the weight the greater the amount of tension required.

Progressive Overload

This means systematically increasing your work load. This is a very important concept as doing the same thing over and over for extended periods of time will eventually yield no additional benefit. Without progressive overload you will be spinning your wheels and moving nowhere fast!


Your thoughts?

The 30-Minute Stepup Workout

3 Feb

step-ups-leg-superset-cardio-workout-1[1]Here’s a workout from Men’s Health Fitness Director, B.J. Gaddour, that can help you boost lower-body speed, strength, and stamina—with one exercise.

The 30-Minute Stepup Workout incorporates three 10-minute segments. Each section features a new stepup variation to improve your speed (minutes 1 to 10), strength (minutes 11 to 20), or stamina (minutes 21 to 30).

Check it out and give it a try!


Your thoughts?

Morning vs. Evening Workouts

1 Feb

10-Reasons-why-Working-Out-in-the-Morning-Makes-You-Close-to-Divine-MainPhoto[1]Here’s a recent article from our friends at ASD Performance that lists advantages/benefits of working out in the morning and evening.


1. Consistency. Generally speaking, it is easier for an individual to stay on track with a fitness regime first thing in the morning because there is less time for family, evening plans, commuting, late nights in the office, and other distractions to get in the way. Fatigue from a long day can also lead to skipped evening workouts.

2. You might actually want to eat healthy afterward. As you started the day on such a good foot that the salad bar at the cafeteria might start to seem appealing!

3. Boost your metabolic rate. Regular exercise can boost your metabolic rate. Working out in the morning will help to boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the rest of the day.

4. Avoiding the crowds. Fitness centers see the most traffic between 5 and 8 p.m., making it difficult to get the machine or group fitness class you really want. Morning sessions are an obvious choice if avoiding crowds is high on your list of priorities.

5. Sleep. Knowing you have committed to an a.m. sweat session may be the motivation you need to hit the sack sooner, so those extra-early mornings may actually result in more sleep at night. Getting enough sleep is of utmost importance when it comes to weight loss. Research has shown that people crave unhealthy food when they are sleep-deprived because levels of leptin, a hormone that tells your brain that you are full, drops by 18 percent while levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, increases 28 percent. Lack of sleep also raises the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to overeating as well.


1. You can be more social. Morning exercisers aren’t exactly a chatty bunch, understandably. They’re on a mission to complete this A.M sweat session before class or an early meeting, there’s no time for chit chat. But evening exercisers often make the gym their sole evening plan, so they’ve got the time to be social. The increased social factor makes it easier to find workout buddies and weight-room spotters.

2. Strength. Hitting the snooze button a few times just before you crawl onto the treadmill might have you sleep walking on the machine, as opposed fully committing and making the most of your workout. This feeling of tiredness and inability to concentrate can lead to injury, which will ultimately keep you sidelined.

3. Lengthier sessions. Lengthier workouts provide both a physical and social benefit. Longer warm ups and greater rest periods allow for sufficient replenishment, time to decompress, de-stress, and socialize with training partners.

4. Stress relief. Studies have linked weight gain to increased stress levels, thanks to the release of cortisol. Further research has shown that this hormone can increase an individual’s desire to eat unhealthy food. Having an outlet, such as a kickboxing or personal training, at the end of the workday can provide a healthy way to release daily stresses.

5. Availability. Gyms offer a larger variety of classes after work than in the morning hours.

Ultimately, the best time for you to workout is the time that you will actually get it done.


Your thoughts?

Upgrade Your Diet With Beans

29 Jan

black-pinto-beans-i7[1]Want an easy way to improve the nutritional content of many of the foods you eat?  Add some beans — the starchy kind, like black beans (my favorite), pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas), white beans, or cannellini beans.

Health & Nutrition Benefits

Canned beans are an easy way to upgrade many of the foods and meals you eat every day.  I recommend rinsing and draining them first, to get rid of the high-sodium liquid in which they are packed.

Benefits of adding beans to your diet include:

  • Healthy, low-glycemic, slow-digesting carbohydrates.
  • High protein.  Beans provide 10-15 grams of protein per 1 cup serving.
  • High fiber:  12-15 grams per serving.
  • Low fat, and most of the fat is the healthy, unsaturated kind.
  • Vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B, folate, iron, and potassium.
  • Enhanced satiety (full-stomach feeling).
  • Added flavor and texture.

Try adding different kinds of beans to salads, soups, dips, salsa (add a can each of black beans and corn to your favorite salsa), pastas, and eggs (make a quick, easy breakfast burrito by adding black beans and shredded cheese to a scrambled egg on a soft burrito shell or flatbread; garnish with salsa).


Your thoughts?

Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart

27 Jan

work-smart[1]“More is better” is a philosophy that applies to a lot of different situations.  When it comes to strength training, though, more (reps, sets, days) is not necessarily better.  As a matter of fact, research indicates that more can be associated with a diminishing return.  Don’t gauge the effectiveness of your exercise routine by the amount of time you spend in the weight room.  Instead, take a closer look at what you accomplish — in both the short- and long-term.  Effort is important… you’ve got to work hard.  But hard work without a purposeful plan won’t get you very far.

What is Your Goal?

First of all, have a goal.  There are several different reasons for strength training.  Most people who workout want to realize improvement in one or more of the following areas:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Athleticism
  • Hypertrophy (size)
  • Endurance
  • General fitness
  • Weight management

It’s important to understand what you want to accomplish, since different strategies are necessary to achieve different results.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you sort out things like exercise selection, intensity level, sets, repetitions, rest intervals, and days per week.  Make sure to align your plan with your goal(s).

Commit Your Plan to Writing

Once you’ve decided on the plan/strategy that’s right for you, put it on paper (or, I guess, in your smart phone).  Create a workout chart to track your activity and progress.  Refer to them frequently.

Be Aggressive but Realistic

You should challenge/push yourself a little more with each subsequent workout — add a little more weight, one or two more reps, or the speed at which you progress through the exercise.  Don’t allow yourself to plateau.  Your body will adapt to your current level of activity, so variety and progression is the key.


Don’t leave your workout for when you “have” time.  You’ve got to make time for strength training.  Treat it as you would any other appointment or priority — schedule it in advance.


Your thoughts?

Improve Hip Drive with Kettlebell Swings

25 Jan

1009-swing[1]If you’re not already doing them, kettlebell swings are a great exercise to add to your training routine.  At Athletic Performance Training Center we use this exercise as part of our warm-up, because it builds glute power and helps to prepare the hip muscles for heavy lower-body “push” exercises (squat, deadlift, etc.).  Explosive hip power is the foundation for movements like running and jumping.

How to Do it

  • Feet about 1.5 times hip width, knees slightly bent
  • Keep core tight
  • Keep arms straight and heels on the ground
  • Push hips forward to drive kettlebell up in front of your chest
  • Extend hips and knees completely
  • Arms should not exceed horizontal plane (kettlebell no higher than shoulder height)
  • Squeeze glutes at top of movement
  • Push hips backward at bottom of movement
  • Focus of exercise should be on hips and legs, and not arms and back
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions at a steady, rhythmic pace


Your thoughts?

Keep Junk Food Out of Sight

22 Jan

junk-food-300x2251[1]What do you see when you look around your kitchen?  When it comes to junk food, if you see it you’re more likely to eat it.

If you keep junk food (cookies and other “sweets”) on the kitchen counter — or visible elsewhere in the kitchen — there’s a good chance you’re overweight, according to a study in Health Education & Behavior, cited in Men’s Health.

According to the study, 39% of men who kept baked goods visible in their kitchens were obese; while only 6% of guys who kept sweets in sight were slender. (Healthy snacks like fresh fruit or nuts was more typical for the slim guys.)

Here’s why: When you’re hungry, you tend to grab the first quick, convenient snack you see.

To avoid this trap, keep healthy, low-calorie options — like preportioned bags of fresh fruit or nuts — where they are quickly and easily seen and accessed.


Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

20 Jan

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!


Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.


Your thoughts?

Chase Your Dream

18 Jan

martin-luther-king-i-have-a-dream[1]What’s your dream?

Dream Big.


Make it happen.

Believe in you.

Carpe Diem.


Your thoughts?

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

15 Jan

failure[1]“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” – Morihei  Ueshiba

“Success is 99% failure.” – Soichiro Honda

“I  can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not  trying.” – Michael  Jordan

There are lots of inspirational, motivational quotes on the subject of failure — more than I can include in this blog post.  If you view success as a process (and I do), and not aresult, then failure is a step in that process.  If you’ve ever tried or worked at anything, you’ve experienced failure.  No one gets is right the first time, every time.  Since failure is an inevitable consequence of effort, you’ve got be willing to learn from it and deal with it. Remember, in baseball, the best hitters “fail” 70% of the time; in basketball, the best shooters “fail” 50% of the time. The most important at-bat — or shot — is your next one.

Here are some tips to provide perspective on dealing with failure:

  • Change your point of view; don’t view failure as negative. Think of it as a learning experience that will help you grow and improve.
  • Separate the action from the person —  just because your efforts didn’t meet with success doesn’t mean you are a failure.
  • Realize that not everything is under your control. Understand what you can control, and what you can’t. Impact/influence what you can, to the best of your ability, and don’t stress about the rest.
  • Take some time to reflect on what have you learned, how you will improve, and what you will do differently next time.
  • Avoid blaming anyone or anything else. Be accountable and consider what you could have done differently.
  • Don’t get caught up worrying about what others say or think. Believe in you. Stay positive.
  • Have a plan and write it down. Be specific about goals and action steps.
  • Try again… don’t give up. Give 100% effort; work hard and smart.
  • Be patient. Change takes time. This, too, shall pass.


Your thoughts?


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