Improve Your Cardiovascular Endurance and Fitness With This Workout

17 Sep

Here’s a challenging, efficient cardio circuit for you to try.  Basically, it’s a one-mile run consisting of progressively longer distances and rest intervals.  Please note this workout is not meant to be done at a “light jog” pace.  Push yourself to maintain as aggressive a pace as you can manage for each interval.

After an appropriate warmup, do the following:

8 x 50 yards — 15 second active rest interval (keep moving; walk, light jog, etc.) between sprints; 30 second rest interval upon completion of all 8 sprints

4 x 100 yards — 30 second active rest interval between sprints; 60 second rest interval upon completion of all 4 sprints

2 x 200 yards — 60 second active rest interval between sprints; 2 minute rest interval upon completion of both sprints

1 x 400 yards — cool down until breathing normally

You’ll notice I’ve described all the runs as “sprints.”  That may or may not be realistic, depending on your typical cardio routine and fitness level.  You’ll probably be able to maintain a faster pace running the 50 yard intervals than you will running the final, 400 yard distance.  That’s okay, as long as you’re challenging yourself to do your personal best.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?

10 Sep

When it comes to healthy dietary recommendations, there’s a lot of conflicting information from the world of medical science.  To complicate matters, there are about a zillion books, documentaries, and news reports that attempt to provide us with nutritional “advice.”

Despite a plethora of differing opinions from the “experts,” there is an issue on which they agree: Our country has an alarming obesity problem.  About 1 in every 4 health care dollars are spent combating the resulting side effects of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Physical activity is a big part of the solution.  Regular exercise is good medicine, both as prevention and treatment.

Diet and nutrition are the complement to exercise.  Here’s some sound nutritional advice for the masses (and about as close to a consensus as the experts get):

  • Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  The importance of reducing fat intake is a myth, and was never supported by any good evidence.  All it did was make people rush to replace fat with carbs.
  • Some fats are better than others.  Unsaturated fats — like those found in olive oil, nuts, and legumes — are good choices.  Too much saturated fat (red meat, cheese, butter) can be bad.  Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils,” should be avoided.
  • Choose your calories wisely.  Some forms of calories make you store fat more readily than others, and refined carbohydrates — white rice, pasta, crackers, cookies, candy — are at the top of that list.
  • A protein-rich diet may or may not be good for you.  If you’re physically active and eat lean protein sources (chicken and fish), it’s a good thing.  If you’re sedentary, it’s just a lot of extra calories from another source.
  • Sugar is bad, especially when you drink it.  Sugary beverages — even one a day — raise your risk of diabetes and obesity.  Sugar has adverse metabolic effects and virtually zero nutritional benefit.
  • Your body needs variety to function properly.  Every day, you should eat an assortment of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole-grains, and healthy fats.  Whole foods are better than supplements.  Aim for balance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Strength with Training Volume, Not Frequency

3 Sep

More is not necessarily better, especially as it relates to training frequency, according to recent research from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

In the study (Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training; Colquhoun, Ryan J., et. al.), the authors determined that “6 weeks of resistance training led to significant increases in maximal strength and fat-free mass.  In addition, it seems that increased training frequency does not lead to additional strength improvements when volume and intensity are equated.  High-frequency (6x per week) resistance training does not seem to offer additional strength and hypertrophy benefits over lower frequency (3x per week) when volume and intensity are equated.”

Bottom line: When you’re at the gym, train hard.  Push yourself.  Get your work done.  But don’t underestimate the rest/recovery process that follows.  There’s no need to be in the gym every day to get results.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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

27 Aug

If you want to increase your lower-body strength and powersprinting speed, and vertical jump, don’t underestimate the beneficial impact of strong hips and glutes.

When you don’t work your glutes, you miss out on working the largest muscle group in your body and burning a ton of calories and fat. You also aren’t as powerful or strong, since the bulk of your strength and power emanates from your core musculature — of which your hips and glutes are an important part — and not your extremities.

Additionally, when you’re not performing exercises that activate your hips and glutes, you also run the risk of injury because other muscles, that really can’t handle the load, take over.

The Mini-Band Lateral Shuffle is a great exercise to get your hip and glute muscles activated and firing.  Here’ how to do it:

  • Place the mini-band around both ankles (if you place the band higher up the leg, the exercise will be easier; if you place it around your ankles, it will be more difficult)
  • In starting position, your feet should be about hip-width to shoulder-width apart; toes should both be pointing forward and your feet should be parallel
  • Keep your hips low (butt down) and knees bent; you should assume a half-squat position
  • Step laterally with one foot, as far as you can (stretch the band), and then step in with the other foot (resist the band); always keep tension on the band when you are stepping and don’t let the feet come together
  • Remember, every time you step try to step as far apart as possible to really work the glutes
  • Do not drag the back foot when you step back in (also, try not to rock as you shuffle)
  • Perform 10 repetitions in one direction, rest 30 seconds, and repeat in the opposite direction

You can do one set or multiple sets.  We like our athletes to do one set of this exercise (both directions) as a “finisher,” at the end of each workout.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Upgrade Your Diet With Blueberries

20 Aug

Several months ago, I published a blog post encouraging readers to Eat Protein and Produce at Every Meal.  Eating lots of produce — fruits and vegetables — is beneficial to our health and wellness.

Some fruits, such as blueberries, are higher in nutrients than others.  Blueberries actually contain more antioxidants than any other fruit.  Antioxidants help prevent damage to the body’s cells and strengthen its immune system.

Some of the health benefits of eating blueberries include:

  • Very rich in vitamins C, B complex, E, and A
  • Also rich in minerals like selenium, zinc, and iron
  • May help reduce belly fat and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a new University of Michigan study
  • Helps promote urinary tract health
  • Proven to help preserve vision, and prevent or delay macular degenerationcataracts, and myopia
  • Improves brain health by preventing degeneration and death of neurons, brain-cells, and also by restoring health of the central nervous system
  • The vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose, and acids improve digestion
  • They contain compounds that can inhibit cancer cell proliferation and reduce risk for certain cancers

In season, fresh blueberries are great — in cereal, oatmeal, salads, and blended into smoothies and shakes.  I keep a big bag of frozen blueberries (from the local wholesale club) in my freezer all year-round.  They’re every bit as nutritious as fresh blueberries, according to the experts, and convenient to use however and whenever you choose.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s In Your Protein Powder?

13 Aug

Protein powder is a great way to supplement your daily protein intake.  Most protein powders promise about 20-25 grams of protein, per serving, give or take.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not appropriately regulated (the FDA doesn’t stipulate how manufacturers report a product’s protein content) and, as a result, you may or may not always get what the label promises.

Independent testing confirms that some protein supplement brands use added ingredients to “spike” their protein test results, making it appear that the product contains more protein than they actually do.

Here’s an informative article, originally published in Nutraceuticals World, that provides the “how to” as it relates to calculating a product’s protein content.

Look for independent, third-party quality control and purity testing when choosing your protein supplement.

As a general rule, if it takes more than one scoop of protein powder to get the 20-25 grams promised on the label, find another protein powder — it’s got too much unnecessary “stuff”  in it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Complement Your Bench Press with the Inverted Row

6 Aug

Everybody loves the bench press.  It’s a great exercise for building upper-body strength, engages multiple joints and muscles, and can be performed with several different variations.

But many athletes neglect the equally important opposing muscle groups engaged by upper-body pulling exercises, like those that employ the rowing motion.  This “push-pull” strategy — also known as agonist-antagonist paired sets — is beneficial because it improves strength development, joint stability, musculoskeletal balance, and injury prevention.

The inverted row is a multi-joint, upper-body exercise that can improve and increase shoulder and back stability, upper-body muscular pulling strength, and relative upper-body strength.

The inverted row is a versatile exercise that can be modified in intensity to accommodate athletes of varying training experience and proficiency.  It can be performed with a straight bar or with suspension-type exercise equipment (TRX), and can be regressed or progressed by changing feet position, elevating the feet and/or adding weight via weight belts, vests, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Exercise Spotlight: Kettlebell Thruster

30 Jul

The kettlebell (KB) thruster is a total-body, multi-joint exercise designed to improve strength and power performance.  This exercise can improve your ability to transfer energy from the lower to upper extremities, and serves as a great general muscular conditioning exercise for the whole body.

Because many sports involve multiple movements that require high-power output, the application of the KB thruster into an athlete’s training program may be beneficial.  Additionally, KB training is a space- and time-efficient method of training that can be used with a variety of age groups and experience levels.

The benefits of the KB thruster include:

  • combines two multi-joint exercises
  • provides more of a challenge (greater muscular demand) than if each exercise was performed alone
  • mimics sport-specific and functional movement patterns

Here’s a video that demonstrates proper exercise technique for the kettlebell thruster exercise.

Variations of the KB thruster exercise include performing the exercise with two kettlebells, dumbbells, or resistance bands with handles.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Power of Action

23 Jul

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they do not quit.” – Conrad Hilton

What do you want to accomplish?

Maybe it’s sport-related.  Perhaps you want to improve your strength, speed, agility, and/or athleticism.  Or, maybe it’s something even more sport-specific, like your shooting percentage or batting average.  Or, it could be that you aspire — quite simply — to make the team.

Maybe it’s school-related.  Your goal could be to improve your grade point average or perform better in a particular class or course, or the next time you take the ACT or SAT.

Work-related goals are important, too — promotions, increases in pay, and performance improvement, among others.

Ultimately, some of our goals involve interpersonal communication and relationships.  We seek to improve upon our relationships with family, relatives, and friends.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish, develop a plan of action and take the first step toward your goal today.  Make sure your action is purposeful — not random or arbitrary — and do something that moves you along the path toward your goal, right now.

Then, no matter how effective your first action step was in moving you toward your goal, keep moving.  If appropriate, repeat the first step.  If necessary, take the next step.  Just don’t stop.

You may surprise yourself by how much you can accomplish by just “inching” toward your goal, with steadiness and consistency.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you’re persistent and keep moving forward.

Action is empowering.  It’s invigorating.  It’s gratifying.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Basketball 101: The ABCs of Shooting

16 Jul

I’ve always been a big believer in defense, as it relates to team sports.  If you can limit your opponent’s scoring opportunities, you will always be in the game — you’ll always have a chance.

Conversely, I understand the importance of offense — you’ve got to shoot if you want to score, and you’ve got to score if you want to win.

Basketball shooting is built on repetition — quality repetition.  Great shooters understand that there are a few basic principles that guide their desire to become proficient.  Here are a few tips — ABCs, if you will — to consider as you prepare for your upcoming season:

Accuracy

You’ve got to be able to put the ball in the hoop.  Great shooters are accurate.  They don’t make all their shots, but their shots are always around the basket.  That means shooting with the proper releaserotation, and arc, for any given shot.  Technically correct form is a must.  If you practice with poor shooting mechanics, all you’ll succeed in doing is reinforcing poor shooting form.

Belief

If you’re going to be a great shooter, you’ll need an unwavering belief in yourself.  You’ve got to have confidence that borders on (but doesn’t manifest itself in) cockiness, and confidence leads to success.  You must want the ball in your hands, want to take the “big” shot, and believe in your ability to make it.

Consistency

As previously stated, release, rotation, and arc are important components of shooting.  The ball has got to come off your hand the same way — consistently — for any given shot.  It’s all about muscle-memory.  Once again, technically correct repetition is the key — doing it the same way, over and over again.

As long as we’re at it, there are a few “Ds” to throw into the mix: DependabilityDedication, and Desire.  Great shooters are dependable, and can be counted on to produce, consistently.  Great shooters are also dedicated to self-improvement, and have a strong desire to be the best they can be.

To get the most out of your practice, make sure your shooting drills reflect game conditions and game speed.  As much as possible, you want to be able to simulate conditions similar to those you’ll encounter in competitive play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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