Try Intervals on the Rowing Machine

24 May

If you’ve ever worked out on a rowing machine, then you know it provides a considerable challenge — both muscular and cardiovascular.  But, like exercising on a treadmill or elliptical, it can be a little boring.  Here’s a suggestion for making your rowing workout more fun and challenging.

Next time you’re at the gym, instead of rowing for your usual amount of time, try doing intervals instead.

  • Warm-up for 5 minutes
  • Row as hard as you can for 1 minute
  • Row slowly for another minute
  • Repeat, alternating between fast and slow, for a total of 20 minutes
  • Cool-down for 5 minutes

You can modify this workout by adjusting the interval time and/or the total workout time.  If one-minute intervals are too long, shorten them to 30 seconds.  You can also shorten or lengthen your workout time, depending on your level of fitness and desire to challenge yourself.

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Get Stronger with Isometric Exercises

22 May

Here’s a great strength-building strategy for your next training session.  At the end of your workout, perform a body-weight squat and hold it in the down position.  Aim for a goal of two minutes.  If two minutes is too difficult, initially, start with two 1-minute intervals and rest for 60 seconds between them.

“This kind of isometric exercise builds strength and improves mobility and has a low risk of injury,” according to BJ Gaddour, CSCS and creator of the Men’s Health DeltaFIT series.  Isometric exercises work by creating muscular tension while opposing the force of an immovable object or, in this case, gravity.  Studies have shown that that a 7 second muscle contraction increases your strength by about 5 percent.

Isometric exercises are not limited to body weight squats.  You can hold almost any exercise — such as a pushup in down position, or a calf raise in up position — and make it isometric.  Some exercises, like planks and side planks, are inherently isometric.

Please also see related articles:

Increase Time Under Tension to Get Stronger, Build Muscle

Add Isometric Exercises to Your Training Regimen

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Try a Better Chocolate Milk

19 May

About a year ago, a colleague introduced me to Fairlife 2% chocolate milk.  I’m a big fan (maybe too big) of chocolate, and I love chocolate milk.  I even mix my chocolate whey protein powder with chocolate milk.

An 8 ounce serving of Fairlife 2% chocolate milk contains 13 grams of high-quality, whey protein – 50% more than ordinary chocolate milk.

Compared to ordinary chocolate milk, Fairlife 2% chocolate milk also boasts 30% more calcium; half the sugars – only 12 grams per 8 ounce serving; 9 essential nutrients, including vitamins A & D; and it’s lactose free.

There’s lots of research to support chocolate milk as, perhaps, the ideal post-workout recovery drink, because it contains the right mix of carbs and protein scientifically shown to help refuel muscles.

The purpose of post-workout recovery is to replenish glycogen (sugar) stores in the muscle and start the process of protein synthesis (muscle rebuilding) so that your body is ready for the next workout.

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Cardio is Good, but Strength Training is King

17 May

Here’s a great article from Men’s Health titled, ​15 Reasons Lifting Is Better Than Cardio.  Using a food analogy, the article compares strength training to the main course and cardio to a side dish.

  • Strength training is better for building and strengthening muscle, and also improves joint and connective tissue strength.
  • Strength training is better for boosting your metabolism, and the effect persists longer into the post-workout (rest) phase.
  • Strength training is better for improving mobility and range-of-motion.
  • Strength training is better for reducing the risk of injury.
  • Strength training will make you look better.
  • Strength training provides way more variety.
  • Strength training helps us reverse the effects of aging and increase longevity.

If you love your cardio, stick with it.  You don’t necessarily have to do strength training instead of cardio.

Identify your goals, develop an exercise/workout plan that’s consistent with those goals, and get in the weight room.

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Finish Your Workout With Protein

15 May

If you train at my facility, then you know that every training session ends with a reminder to “eat and get your protein.”  And, although protein consumption can come from a variety of sources, whey protein shakes are a quick, convenient, and portable way to ensure that you’re getting an adequate quantity and quality of post-workout protein.

Drink a protein shake right after your workout to aid and facilitate muscle recovery.  Consuming protein, following your workout, “can increase muscle protein synthesis by 100% for up to 24 hours,” says Michael Roussell, PhD and nutritionist.

Additionally, keep in mind that protein consumption should not be limited to post-workout.  To maximize muscle protein synthesis throughout the day, aim to get some protein every three to four hours, including lean protein at every meal or snack.  Research shows that active individuals should get about 0.6-0.8 grams of protein, per pound of body weight, per day.  Competitive athletes may need as much as 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, daily.

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Celebrate the Small Victories

12 May

I saw this recently in Men’s Health, and really liked it.  It further resonated with me because of a recent conversation I had with one of my daughters.

A nutritionist and author offered “life” tips that were not necessarily limited to nutrition, including the title of this post.  His grandfather used to say, “Life is full of challenges, and when something good happens, you should pause to enjoy it.”  His grandfather’s advice reminds him to celebrate the small victories that lead to larger ones.

While I believe it’s important to keep your eye on the big picture, it’s equally important to remember that it’s the day-to-day, step-by-step successes that enable the big victory.  Ultimately, there are no big victories without practice, preparation, and a fair amount of small victories.  Take a moment to appreciate and enjoy the smaller accomplishments, along the way.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Just a few years ago, my youngest daughter was a basketball player on our local high school team.  She was fortunate to play on a team that earned and experienced a good deal of success during her playing days.  She and her teammates were focused on achieving goals like winning a conference and district championship.  In talking with her over the years (and before I ever saw the Men’s Health piece), I encouraged her to take a moment after each victory and reflect upon how special that particular moment was.  I didn’t necessarily want her to spend a lot of time dwelling on what soon became the past (good or bad), I just wanted her to absorb, cherish, and learn from the moment because I know how fleeting success can be — and I certainly know how quickly time passes.  I also know that, sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the “end justifies the means” mentality.  Championships may or may not happen, but you can’t always let that define your season.  Additionally, although the core of her team played together for three years, there was no guarantee that they would replicate the success of any given season.

Take a moment to savor your daily accomplishments, no matter how small they seem.  Develop an appreciation of the small victories and their cumulative effect on your larger victories and accomplishments.

We may never pass this way again.” – Seals and Crofts

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An Injury Prevention Program for Athletes

10 May

The physical demands of sports increase as the frequency and intensity of participation increase.  A structured injury prevention program should be a component of every athlete’s strength and conditioning training.  And, while it’s impossible to prevent every injury, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (among others) supports preventative training as a way to potentially reduce the incidence and severity of sports related injuries.

Balance training can be performed, in socks, on a stable (floor) or unstable (Airex balance pad) surface.  Athletes should balance on one leg, with no knee flexion (and no movement in the upper body), for 30 seconds, then switch leg after 30 seconds.  Balance training should progress by increasing the amount of time spent balancing on each leg or adding an activity like catching and throwing a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg.

Functional (movement-based) strength training for athletes should incorporate agonist-antagonist paired sets (opposing muscle groups) to strengthen and stabilize joints.  In addition to more traditional lower-extremity exercises, like the squat and leg press, posterior chain exercises that focus on the lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings can easily be added to any athlete’s strength training regimen.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we favor bilateral exercises like the glute-ham raise (Nordic hamstring curl) and unilateral exercises like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.

Core stability training is useful to develop strength and stability through the entire core — shoulders through hips.  Exercises like the 4-point plank, 3-point plank (arm or leg raised), and side plank can be performed with minimal space and do not require any equipment.  We also like rotational exercises like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings; and anti-rotational exercises, which require dynamic limb movement with isometric core contraction.

Mobility training is important to develop and increase range of motion, especially through the core and lower-body.  Exercises like linear and lateral leg swings, forward and backward walking lunges, and hurdle walks (alternating legs, forward and backward, over a hurdle) are recommended as an adjunct to traditional strength training.

A well-designed Yoga program can incorporate all of the aforementioned training components, improving balance, functional strength, core strength and stability, and mobility.

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Agility Training Improves Cognitive Performance

8 May

The influence of agility training on athletic performance and general fitness is well-documented.  A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that agility training is more effective than traditional physical training for improving cognitive performance, including reaction time, dichotic listening, and memory.

In the study, traditional physical training consisted of calisthenics and running.  Agility training included non-linear exercises and drills that focused on foot-speed, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and reaction.

Agility training seems to have the ability to positively affect several regions of the brain, resulting in improvements in cognitive function and performance.

The study authors suggest that agility training be incorporated into existing physical training programs as a way to improve physical and cognitive performance. The benefits of agility training are likely to occur in various populations, and are not limited to any one specific demographic.

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Get Motivated for a Morning Workout

5 May

I’m a morning workout person (actually, I’m a morning person, period). Training in the morning sets the tone for the rest of my day, and ensures that my workout will get done.

Although the benefits of morning workouts are well documented, I don’t necessarily think training in the morning is the best, right, or only way to workout, but it works for me.

Lots of my customers ask me about the “best” time to workout, and my answer is always the same: The best time to train is the time the workout will actually get done.  It’s also helpful to factor in training goals, availability, other commitments and obligations, etc.

From our friends at ASD Performance comes a nice resource titled, 10 Ways to Get Motivated for a Morning Workout.

Ever notice that when you exercise in the morning, you feel more alert and productive all day? It’s no coincidence — a morning workout has several advantages for your body and your mind. First, exercise jump-starts your metabolism, and keeps you burning calories at a higher rate all day. Also, you get your exercise out of the way and don’t have to worry about not having time for your workout routine, should something unexpected come up during the day.

One recent study found that exercise before breakfast can counter the ill effects of overeating. The researchers compared groups of active young men who ran or biked before breakfast with those who didn’t exercise and with those who exercised after eating big meals. Only the group that exercised before eating gained little or no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. Science aside, if you find getting up and exercising in the a.m. is easier said than done, try these 10 tricks.

1. MOVE YOUR ALARM CLOCK

Instead of sleeping with the alarm next to your bed, move it to the other side of the room. That way, you’ll have to get up and get out of bed to shut it off. Once you’re up, it’s that much easier to stretch, put your workout clothes, and head out the door for a brisk walk around the neighborhood or to the gym for a morning workout. If you use an alarm that plays music, set it to a song from your workout playlist to help get you in the mood for exercise.

2. MAKE A DATE

Having a workout buddy is a great motivator. Make plans to meet your exercise partner at the gym at 6 a.m. or on the tennis courts at 7 a.m. You’re less likely to poop out if you know someone is waiting for you. Just make sure you choose a workout buddy that is as motivated, if not more motivated than you!.

3. MAKE FRIENDS AT THE GYM

If you don’t have an exercise buddy yet, chances are you will make one after a few weeks of sticking to a morning workout routine at your gym. You’ll become familiar with the regulars who also exercise there that time of day. It does inspire you to get up and move because you know they’re there and will wonder where you are if you miss a day or two, It’s a social factor that can help motivate you in the morning.

4. HAVE A SET GOAL

Every Sunday night, create your workout schedule for the coming week. Tell yourself, for example, “This week, I’m getting up at 6 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and running three miles before work.” Schedule your morning workout just as you would an appointment. You’re more likely to follow your morning workout routine if you write it down. If you don’t make it, write a note in your calendar to explain why. Later, you can analyze your exercise excuses and look for ways to overcome them.

5. LOAD WORKOUT MUSIC ONTO YOUR IPOD

Music is a good motivator in the morning, If you have a great playlist, it can be enough to get you out of bed in the morning. Research has shown that listening to music when you exercise can produce positive thoughts and help offset fatigue.

6. PREP THE NIGHT BEFORE

To follow through on a morning workout routine, it helps to lay out your exercise clothes and equipment the night before. That way you don’t waste any time getting dressed and ready for your workout. One possible disadvantage of exercise in the morning is that your time may be limited — overcome this limitation by having a set routine and not wasting time looking for your sneakers or your weights.

7. REWARD YOUR EFFORTS

If you meet your exercise goals and get up early four out of five days to work out for an hour, do something nice for yourself at the end of the week, like getting a manicure, seeing a new movie with a friend, or going to a baseball game. Buy a new workout outfit, take a well-deserved soak, or cozy up to your eReader — find what motivates you, and use it to give you that push out of bed each morning for your workout routine.

8. TELL THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR PLANS

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, you can tell everyone you know about your morning workout routine. Post your exercise plans on Facebook. Once you do so, it’s harder not to follow through with it. You also can use social media to boast of your accomplishments — tell your friends that you swam 16 laps (about a mile) or ran three miles before work. They surely will be impressed, and it will motivate you to keep up your workout schedule.

9. TOO SLEEPY? GIVE IT TIME

At first it may be difficult not to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, rather than jump out of bed to exercise at the gym or go on a 30-minute walk. But after about a week or two, your body will adjust to your early workout schedule and it will be easier to get up and out of the house and head for the gym. Here’s why: When you exercise regularly, you sleep better at night. When you sleep better at night, waking up to exercise is easier to do.

10. LOOK FORWARD TO A BETTER BREAKFAST

You may want to eat something quick, like a protein shake or a handful of almonds, to give you a boost of energy before your workout routine. Then after you cool down, have your real breakfast — and make it special as a reward for your efforts. But don’t sabotage your exercise efforts by eating a high-fat muffin or fried eggs and bacon. If you promise yourself a healthy, satisfying breakfast, such as eggs with veggies or oatmeal with fruit and nuts, when you get back, that will motivate you as well.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Soccer Players, Get in the Weight Room

3 May

Volumes of research have established that a well-designed, appropriately supervised strength training program can help any athlete improve his or her performance, regardless of the sport.  A recent study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, examined the effects of a resistance exercise program on soccer kick biomechanics.

The study followed a 10-week resistance exercise program, mainly for the lower-limb muscles.  The training program included progressive high-weight, low-repetition exercises that focused on hip abduction and adduction; knee flexion and extension; and ankle plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.

Results included measurement of leg strength and power through the entire kicking phase — backswing and forward swing — before and after training.

As expected, “maximum and explosive force significantly increased after training…” (Manolopoulos, et. al.)

“These results suggest that increases in soccer kicking performance after a 10-week resistance training program were accompanied by increases in maximum strength and an altered soccer kick movement pattern, characterized by a more explosive backward-forward swinging movement and higher muscle activation during the final kicking phase.”

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